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A History of Kingston on Hull
from Bulmer's Gazetteer (1892)

Part 7


The Humber district, known in Scandinavian Sagas as Humra, and equally well known in the literature of the Cymry, was, from a very early period, an important seat of trade with the districts of northern Europe. Mr. Frost has shown clearly that Hull was a town of great commercial importance long before it received its charter from Edward I., and the present is not the only century in which it has been placed third in the list of the seaports of the kingdom. The town of Hull is mentioned by name in connection with commerce so early as 1198, when Gervasius de Aldermannesterie accounted for 225 marks for 45 sacks of wool seized and sold there. From this circumstance, Mr. Frost inferred that it was then not only a seaport, but also one of the chosen places from which the great native commodity of wool was allowed to be exported; and the same writer has brought forward various proofs, founded on the authority of the Pipe Roll and other records, of the early mercantile importance of the port. Of these, one of the earliest and most important is the Compotus of William de Wroteham and his companions, collectors of the duty called Quinzime, from which we find that Hull ranked, in 1205, as the sixth port in the kingdom, being exceeded only in mercantile importance by London, Boston, Southampton, Lincoln, and Lynn. In 1281, the trade of Hull had increased so largely that, judging from the customs collected here in that year on wool, woolfels, and leather, it was then, as it is now, the third port in the kingdom - Boston and London alone exceeding it. The amount of duty collected in Boston on the above articles was £3,599 is. 6d.; in London, £1,602 16s. 6½d.; and in Hull, £1,086 10s. 8d. The following summary of the duties taken on these goods for three subsequent years, at Hull and all other ports, shows that the duties received at Hull amounted to nearly one-seventh of the aggregate sum taken throughout the whole kingdom : -
                         At Hull           Total Receipts.
                         £ s. d                 £ s.d.
15 to 16 Edward I      1,222 18 10½          8,960 3 10¼
16 to 17 Edward I      1,520  5  6            9,976 6 1¾
17 to 18 Edward I      1,289  6  8           10,358 3 2½
The import trade of Hull, particularly in wine, was at this time very considerable. In 1290, Jordicus de Fleming was appointed to take the king's recta prisa of wines coming to the port of Hull. From the great Pipe Roll of the following year, it appears that the Sheriff of Yorkshire paid, in obedience to the king's warrant, £78 2s. 10½d. in that year for the carriage of 415 doles and two pipes of wine, forwarded from the town of Hull (a villâ de Hul) to Burstwick (Brustwyk) and other places.

Such was the state of commerce in the port of Hull immediately preceding the year 1293, when it became royal property and assumed the name of Kingston.

The commerce of the port increased with great rapidity, and in the 25th Edward I., the receivers stood charged upon their compotus for duties on wools and leather exported from Hull during the 23rd, 24th, and part of the 25th Edward I. with £10,802 10s. 1d., a sum which exceeded the aggregate amount of the duties received at all the ports in the kingdom only seven years previous.

Enough has been said to prove that Hull was a most important port in early times, and we will now glance at what was one of its chief branches of commerce in later times - though it is so no longer. The merchants of Hull were the first who fitted out ships for the Whale Fishery. This they did as early as 1598. This trade became very extensive, and reached its height when 64 vessels were engaged in it - 1818-19. In 1820, there were 60 vessels sailing from Hull in this trade, and they earned no less a sum than £318,880, or over £5,000 per ship. In the next year 61 vessels were fitted out, but of this number 10 were lost. Owing to the number of shipwrecks only 40 vessels were despatched in 1822, and they were fairly successful. From this time until 1831, the fleet ranged from 26 to 40 ships; the vessels lost during the time numbering 14, of which six were wrecked in 1830. 1834 was the last year in which the fleet was a considerable one, the number then being 25. In the next year the number was reduced to 15. In 1837 only three vessels were despatched. The trade gradually declined, and for some time only one vessel represented Hull in the Arctic seas. In 1846 an attempt was made to revive the trade, and several brigs and barques, nearly all of small size, embarked in it. Varying success, however, attended the voyages, and the number of vessels declined until 1869, when only one vessel, the "Diana," sailed to Greenland, and she was lost on the homeward journey off Doona Nook. From 1772 to 1852 Hull vessels shipped 85,644 men, an average of 1,070 per year; and brought home 171,907 tons of oil, an average of 88 tons of oil per ship per annum, which sold for £5,158,080, being an average of £64,476 per year. Many of the fortunes now possessed by Hull people were earned by the whale fishing.

About 1733, the government offered a bounty of £1 per ton on the tonnage of all British vessels above 200 tons which should engage in this trade. This was increased in 1749 to £2 per ton, but in 1771 it was reduced to 30s. per ton, and in 1776 it was reduced to its original figure of £1 per ton. This reduction caused the trade so to decline that petitions were presented to parliament by Hull and other towns with the result that the government, in 1786, increased the bounty to 30s., limiting it to vessels above 300 tons. From first to last 210 Hull vessels have been engaged in the whale fishery. About 90 of these were lost, including six captured by foreign enemies, while two, the "Clapham" and the "Fame," were burnt at sea.

The prosperity of Hull was greatly increased by the introduction of steam navigation, and the following table shows the gradual increase in the tonnage of the port, upon which dock dues were paid : -


In 20 years, 1862 to 1882, there was an increase in the tonnage which arrived at London, of 83 per cent.; at Liverpool, of 97 per cent.; whilst at Hull it increased by 130 per cent. The trade of Hull is, of course, principally shipping, which brings it into intimate commercial relation with nearly every part of the world. An idea of the magnitude of the trade of the port may be gathered from the fact that there are no fewer than 843 vessels, with a tonnage 235,587, registered at the port, and of these 217 are steamships, which, if placed end to end, would extend a distance of over 11 miles. The largest steamship owners in Hull, and the largest private owners in the world, are Messrs. Thomas Wilson, Sons, & Co., Limited, of which firm Mr. C. H. Wilson, M.P. for West Hull, is the head. They own 88 vessels, of which the "Francisco," 4,582 tons gross, built in 1891, is the largest.

Some idea of the trade carried on through this port may be formed from the following statement of the principal imports and exports of the year 1891. During that year the following quantities were imported : - Wheat, 2,420,084 qrs.; barley, 476,808 qrs.; oats, 390,392 qrs.: beans, 182,459 qrs.; peas, 41,537 qrs.; maize, 444,932 qrs.; tares, 13,066 qrs,; linseed, 729,914 qrs.; rapeseed, 122,350 qrs. ; cottonseed, 184,678 tons; oilseed cakes, 24,033 tons; flax and hemp, 9,910 tons; iron, 96,448 tons; timber, 165,107 loads; deals, 371,607 loads; staves, 1,695 loads; tar, 19,088 barrels; and olive oil, 5,788 tuns. During the same year there were imported 426,663 cwts. of bacon, 4,546 cwts. of beef and pork, 59,200 cwts. of hams, 24,596 cwts. of meat, 747,844 cwts. of butter and margarine, 46,910 cwts. of cheese, and 294,012 cwts. of potatoes. Of some other articles we must take the returns of 1890. In that year the imports of wool amounted to 20,817,681 lbs., and of wool rags, 28,461,440 lbs. In the same year 18,064 cattle, calves, sheep, lambs, and pigs were imported. Of oranges, 576,767 bushels, and of other fruits, 573,383 packages, 1,208,381 cwts. of refined sugar, and 50,559 baskets of yeast were brought here in 1890. A large trade is also done in wines, spirits, tobacco, cigars, nitrate of soda, turpentine spirits, resin, hides, bark, bones and ash, glass, glass beads, ice, locust beans, metal ore, zinc, vegetables, &c. The principal exports from Hull consist of coal, calico, cotton yarn, thread, linen, woollen, and worsted yarn, linseed and cotton oils, paints, colours, and machinery. During 1891 14,826 tuns of cotton oil, 4,448 tuns of linseed oil, and about 180,000 packages of machinery were exported from here. Of calico, plain and printed, 117,916,400 yards were sent abroad in 1890. Of cotton yarn and thread the quantity exported was 44,613,686 lbs.; of woollen and worsted yarns, 14,470,700 lbs.; and linen yarn and thread, 1,461,400 lbs. The value of the woollens and flannels exported was £619,383, and of worsteds, plain and mixed, £616,477. The coal trade of Hull has made strides since 1877. In that year the export of coal from this port amounted to 473,109 tons, and in 1888 it was 808,386 tons, whilst in 1890 it had increased to 977,172 tons, and last year it was 1,372,490 tons. The amount of coal which arrived in Hull in 1888 was 1,795,392 tons, in 1890 it was 2,196,696 tons, and last year (1891) it reached 2,386,024 tons. Further shipping facilities are in contemplation at the Alexandra dock to meet the growing trade, which gives every indication of still further development, and steps are new being taken by the Hull Chamber of Commerce to get Hull declared "a coal port."

The fishing trade is also a very prosperous one. The St. Andrew's Dock is devoted to the especial accommodation of this industry. In 1845 the smacks in the port numbered only 21, and their tonnage varied from 23 to 30 tons; in 1855 there were 110 smacks, and their tonnage had increased to between 30 and 34 tons; in 1875 the number of smacks had increased to 330, and their tonnage to from 60 to 65 tons; and in 1880 there were 420 smacks, with an average tonnage of 75 tons. At the present time the old fishing smacks are becoming obsolete, and a new class of steam-trawlers is doing the business. There are now 373 smacks, with an average tonnage of 78 tons. These vessels steam as far north as Faro for line fishing, and they are also to be seen trawling in the Belt and the Sleeve, on the coast of Denmark and Sweden. Frequently, many of these craft, after having been only out about a week, return with a catch of the gross value of £300. In 1890, 326,067 cwts. of coarse fish, 10,128 cwts. of fine fish, and 12,334 score of cod-fish were caught at sea, besides which 47,926 boxes of fine and coarse fish were landed from cutters. Of foreign fish imported into Hull in 1890 there were 782,917 cwts., consisting chiefly of mussels, mackerel, &c. The turnover of the fishing trade here is over a million per annum, the number of men and boys employed on the fishing vessels is about 3,000, and it is estimated that there are not less than 20,000 persons in Hull who depend for existence on the fishing business. Much of the fish taken by the Hull fleet is sent direct from he fishing grounds, by fast steamers, to London.

There is a very large miscellaneous trade conducted between Hull and all parts of the world. With Germany, both directly and indirectly, Hull does a larger trade than with any other country. The inward and outward tonnage from and to Germany, in 1891, was 597,223.

Manufactures. - Though Hull does not claim to be a manufacturing town in the ordinary sense of the term, some of its manufactures are of considerable magnitude. As a shipbuilding port Hull holds an important position. For centuries this business has been carried on here, and many fine specimens of marine architecture have been launched from Hull yards. From the latter end of the 17th century up to the beginning of the present - about 120 years in all - no less than 33 wooden warships are known to have been constructed in the shipbuilding yards on the banks of the Humber. The following list, commencing with the launch of the Humber in 1693, records the various "wooden walls" that have first found the water on the Humber : -

     Ships.          Guns. Built at.         Builder.

1693 Humber           80    Hessle           J. Frame
1739 Success          20    Hull             H. Blaydes
1740 Adventure        40    Hull             H. Blaydes
1741 Anglesea         40    Hull             H. Blaydes
1743 Hector           40    Hull             H. Blaydes
1743 Shoreham         20    Hull             J. Reed
1744 Pool             40    Hull             H. Blaydes
1745 Raven (sloop)    40    Hull             H. Blaydes
1745 Alderney         20    Hull             J. Reed
1747 Tavistock        50    Hessle           H. Blaydes
1749 Grampus          16    Hull             J. Reed
1752 Glasgow          20    Hull             Hodgson & Bryan
1753 Scarborough      20    Hull             H. Blaydes
1744 Rose             20    Hull             H. Blaydes
1754 Tweed(frigate)   36    Hessle           H. Blaydes
1755 Nautilus         16    Hull             Hodgson & Bryan
1756 Emerald          32    Hessle           H. Blaydes
1758 Mermaid          32    Hessle           H. Blaydes
1759 Temple           24    Hessle           H. Blaydes
1762 Ardent           64    Hessle           H. Blaydes
1766 Glory            32    Charlestown      Blaydes & Hodgson
1766 Diamond          36    Charlestown      Blaydes & Hodgson
1767 Boreas           32    Charlestown      Blaydes & Hodgson
1774 Shark            16    Hull             Thomas Walton
1803 Otter(sloop)     18    Hull             Peter Atkinson
1804 Combatant
       (corvette)     24    Paull or Thorne  T. Steemson
1805 Oberon(brig)     16    Hull             J. Shepherd
1808 Owen Glendower
      (frigate)       36    Paull or Thorne  T. Steemson
1812 Anson(frigate)   74    Paull            T. Steemson
1815 Hecla (bomb)      1    Hessle           Barkworth & Hawkes
1815 Infernal(bomb)    1    Hessle           Barkworth & Hawkes

*A silver tankard, drum shaped, and larger at the top than at the base, still in the possession of the Trinity House, at Hull, was presented by the Admiralty, in the reign of William and Mary, to commemorate the launching of the "Humber." The following inscription is engraved upon it: - " At the launching of their Majesties' Ship, the "Humber," March 30th, 1693. Built at Hasel Clifts, by John Frame. Burthen, 1,209 tons; men, 490; guns, 80."

Three of the largest of the above vessels were the "Humber, "* the "Temple," and the "Anson." The first-named was of the burthen of 1,205 tons, and carried 490 men; the "Temple," of 1,421 tons, costing £22,392; and the "Anson," of 1,741 tons, costing £140,000. From this it will be seen that the Humber bank had some title to being considered a shipbuilding centre of no small importance centuries prior to the introduction of steam. In 1617, the governing body of the town, relying on the position gained as a shipbuilding port, contracted to fit out three men-of-war, of 200 tons and with 12 guns each. This was, probably, the first Government contract given to Hull at all remunerative to the builders, for previously the town had had to provide the ships supplied to the king's use, out of their own pockets and by their own hands. It is recorded that on one occasion when the town was commanded to build a ship for the navy, they petitioned to be relieved on the ground of their poverty and the previous detention of their ships.

Hull comes prominently forward in the history of steam navigation. The first steam packet constructed in England was built in 1786, in Wincolmlee, in a yard on the south bank of the Hull. Hull shipwrights and Hull engineers assisted in the process of development, and many improvements subsequently made in maritime engines have been made by resident engineers, as, for instance, Mr. Witty, whose invention of oscillating cylinders was much thought of.

The works of Earles' Shipbuilding and Engineering Co., Limited, are amongst the most extensive and complete in the kingdom, occupying upwards of 25 acres. They face the Humber eastward of the town, and have been placed in the first-class list of the Admiralty. In 1876 and 1877 this company first executed work for the British Government, then building the composite gun-boats, "the Mallard," the "Firm," and the "Forrester," and the composite corvettes, "Turquoise" and "Ruby," all of which have been employed in various parts of the world. The company had previously accepted orders to build two ironclads for the Chilian Government. Amongst other contracts, Earles' built a flotilla of boats for the Nile Expedition for the relief of General Gordon at Khartoum and the belted cruiser H.M.S. "Narcissus," and constructed machinery or engines for H.M. ships "Immortalite," Blanche," "Blonde," "Centaur," "Andromache," "Appollo," "Pearl," "Philomel," "Magpie," "Redbreast," and "Redpole," and completely refitted the well-known Indian troop-ship, the "Malabar." The latest contract executed by this company for the Government was H.M.S. "Endymion," launched on the 22nd July, 1891. The company has every facility for executing expeditiously ship and engine repairs of any magnitude, having, in addition to their varied and powerful machinery and appliances, three slipways and two tidal docks, which are furnished with steam sheers adapted for lifting boilers, masts, and other heavy weights into or out of ships. The largest of the slipways, situate at the east end of the shipyard, was designed and constructed on the establishment, is worked by hydraulic gear of the most improved principle, and is capable of taking up vessels of 3,500 tons gross register and about 2,800 tons dead weight. These works were established in 1852 by Messrs. C. and W. Earle, under whose management they prospered greatly. In 1871, the business was converted into a limited liability company, on the death of the senior partner, since which time the concern has greatly developed.

The following are the ships launched by Earles' Shipbuilding and Engineering Company during 1891 : -

     Name.       Tons.    I.H.P.     Engines.         Hull.     Belonging to

H.M.S. Endymion   7,350   12,000   Tw.Sc. Triples     Steel.     Portsmouth
S.S. Lutterworth  1,002    1,600       Triples          "         Grimsby
 "   Leicester    1,002    1,600          "             "            "
 "   Weelsby        120      350       Compound       Iron.          "
 "   Rector         120      350          "             "            "
 "   Rodney         120      350          "             "            "     
 "   Hesto          135      330       Triples          "            "
 "   Naalso         135      330          "             "            "
 "   Brothertoft    155      300          "             "         Boston
 "   Wigtoft        155      300          "             "            "
 "   Restless       125      350       Compound         "         Grimsby
 "   Resolute       125      350          "             "            "
 "   Rex            125      350          "             "            "
 "   Regina         125      350          "             "            "
 "   John Bull      140      300       Triples          "            "
 "   Britannia      140      300          "             "            "
 "   Kymric         125      300          "             "            "
 "   Lyric          125      300          "             "            "
S.S. Josephine      155      300       Triples        Iron.       Grimsby
 "   Grampus        155      400          "             "         Boston
 "   Porpoise       155      400          "             "            "    

                 11,789   21,210

                                  NEW MACHINERY.

H.M.S. Pearl               7,500   Tw.Sc. Triples                 Pembroke
  "    Philomel            7,735          "                       Devonport
  "    Andromache          9,050          "                       Chatham
  "    Appollo             9,225          "                          "

Messrs. Cook, Welton & Gammell, another firm of shipbuilders here, built 21 vessels in 1891, principally for Hull owners, in connection with the fishing trade. They also built a tug for an Antwerp firm. The average gross tonnage of the 22 vessels was 140 tons.

The Hull Central Dry Dock and Engineering Co. have large works in Humber Street, facing the river, where extensive repairs and other works are carried out. Their dry dock is 350 feet long from head to gate; its width at the top is 72 feet 6 inches, and at the entrance 47 feet 6 inches. The depth on the sill at spring tides is 21 feet. It is lighted at nights by Wells' lights.

The manufacture of linseed and cotton-seed oil and cake is the most important of which this non-manufacturing town can boast. More linseed and cotton-seed are imported into Hull than into all the other British ports put together, and most of it is manufactured in the town. There are a great many very extensive mills, which are fitted up with the most improved machinery.

Another important industry is the manufacture of oils and colours, the largest firm being that of Blundell, Spence & Co., Limited, which is said to be the largest colour manufactory in the world. Their principal works are at the corner of the Beverley Road and Spring Bank, and occupy an extensive area, which is filled with costly machinery - interesting and ingenious appliances of every sort. The casks are entirely made by machinery, even to the splaying, cutting, and rivetting of the hoops. About 400 men are employed at these works. The firm has also extensive works on Bank Side, and a large establishment in London.

The celebrated firm of Reckett & Sons, Limited, of London and Hull, have also extensive starch, blue, and black-lead works here, in Dansom Lane, and employ a large number of hands. The Kingston Cotton Mill Co., Limited, have large works in Cumberland Street. The principal building is a lofty red brick structure, 501 feet long, 80 feet wide, and five stories high. The chimney was originally 245 feet high, but some years ago about 20 feet at the top became loosened by being struck by lightning, and was taken down. Its diameter inside its base is 19 feet. When these mills are in full operation, it requires about 2,300 tons of raw cotton and about 7,800 tons of coal to keep them going.

The importation of wood goods has, irrespective of the building requirements of the town, been favourable to the development of the furniture trade, and for many years first-class cabinet making firms have produced goods fully equal to the best made London furniture. The principal firm is that of Messrs. Richardson & Sons, in Bond Street, reputed to be the largest in the kingdom. There are also several large ironworks and foundries, amongst the largest of which are the Hull Forge Co., in Cannon Stecet; King & Co., Limited, in South Church Side and Vicar Lane; and Messrs. Amos & Smith, English Street. The manufacture of nautical instruments is largely cultivated, and it may be mentioned that the mariner's compass was perfected at Hull, and a Hull ship was the first navigated by its means, through a long voyage.

There are some good music warehouses, and an organ factory - Messrs. Forster & Andrews, in Charlotte Street, said to be the largest and most complete in the kingdom; their organs have long since acquired a world-wide reputation, and are to be found throughout England, and even at the Antipodes. One of their largest organs (in Temple Church, London) has 3,643 pipes.

Printing and lithography of the highest class is executed on a large scale in Hull, and a considerable trade is done in books. There are several large breweries, tanneries, paper mills, sail lofts, &c. Machinery of every description, chains, chain cables, rope, canvass, hemp and flax, earthenware, cattle food, mustard, tobacco, artificial manure, Roman and Portland cement, &c., are also extensively manufactured in Hull. These several works, with the shipping, timber, fishing, and other trades employ many thousands of hands. So much for the industrial operations of Hull.

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