12 March 2007


A "hull" is the bulky underbody of a boat. Hull is a place in Canada just across the water from Ottawa. But mainly Hull is a place in northern England - once winning the accolade of being England's crappest town. Except that it isn't Hull at all! It's Kingston, Kingston-upon-Hull. The Hull is a river that loiters down from the Yorkshire Wolds above Driffield. Where the Hull meets the estuary of the River Humber - that is where a settlement grew up in the twelfth century. It was known as Wyke-upon-Hull. Later it became Kingston-upon-Hull for its strategic significance was recognised by King Edward I. He granted the town a royal Charter in 1299 and this ancient document is still cherished by the city's archivist.
I like Hull. I went to school there. I saw bands there like Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, Free, The Who and Family. I provoked a skirmish with Phill Collins of Genesis there. I seduced several Hull girls. I became a lifelong supporter of Hull City AFC. I met Philip Larkin there. When I go back to Hull, I feel (please excuse the rhyme) a pull. It's a bit like going home even though I never actually lived in Hull. I was from a village just north of the city.

Hull is at the end of the railway line, at the end of the road. It's out on a limb. Hull is fiercely independent. You don't go through Hull, you go to it. Between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, Hull was England's second port after London and in the sixties it was the world's number one fishing port in terms of the sheer weight of fish landed annually at Hull's docks.

I am so pleased that our daughter Frances may end up going to university in Hull where they have an excellent American Studies course.

This was a good weekend for Hull. City beat Preston 2-0 and I was there to watch this joyous event. Hull Kingston Rovers beat Leeds in the rugby and Hull FC beat Huddersfield. Overshadowing all of this is the gathering momentum behind an international celebration of the life of William Wilberforce - Hull's most famous son. He was the local MP and for twenty years he worked tirelessly to bring an end to the Slave Trade. His leadership brought about The Slave Trade Act of 1807 which finally began to see an end to England's involvement in this barbaric activity.

Hull is a place with character. Many wealthy people live there in fine style but many others live in abject poverty. It is a tough city, quite different from Yorkshire's other cities. It was England's worst bombed city in WWII and partly because of that there are many wide boulevards and open spaces. Best of all is the old town that used to be walled and moated. Here you will find King Billy's golden statue, The Land of Green Ginger, "The Black Boy", "The Bluebell" and down by the river where the ferries used to chug over to Lincolnshire, "The Minerva" - of course this was all before they built The Humber Bridge.

Hull isn't England's crappest town, it's England's best kept secret. You can keep your Canterbury, your Solihull and Richmond-on-Thames - give me Hull any time. It's real, it's honest and it's unique.

Pictures - Humber Bridge from beneath and painting of William Wilberforce.


  1. Hull is a wonderful and unique city which your post sums up beautifully. You have left me feeling very nostalgic.

    Great place to be a student in, and I do hope Frances gets there as she will have the best three years of her life.

  2. I think the only time I went to Hull, was when I fell asleep on a train from Manchester to Huddersfield!!

    I actually quite liked your rhyme, and you shouldn't feel the need to excuse it.

    You've painted a pretty damn fine picture of Hull.... and also managed to tie in, beautifully, the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slave trade bill - on March 25th.

    Very well done.

    Gold star, 1 merit and all that.


  3. Beautifully written piece.

    The phone boxes still white?

  4. I spent three happy years there as a student and I'm sure your daughter will too.
    (So you were the famous seducer of young females in the areas!!!)

  5. "I seduced several Hull girls." Aye, right YP, and I'm the most gorgeous and sexy man in London ... hold on a minute, actually, now that I think about it, I am!! Good on you, mate!

  6. MUTTERINGS - Yes the phone boxes are still white - well creamy white.
    JENNYTA & JJ - Now I know you were BOTH at Hull University, I understand why your blogs are so engaging and intelligent!
    ARCTIC FOX - Thank you for my gold star sir!
    REIDSKI - Envy is not an attractive human trait. In the seventies I was sent by MI5 to Scotland with a mission to singlehandedly improve the gene stock in the Central Lowlands and please no comments about my choice of the term "singlehandedly" - no innuendo present.

  7. Anonymous4:11 pm

    Never been there, so I can't judge, but in the second 'Crap Towns' book [which is excellent, by the way] the accolade of crappiest town went to Luton. You may not like the idea of disparaging places. But as much as anything 'Crap Towns' seeks to fight back for the residents of those crap towns who had a great community and sees that dispersed by idiot 'town planners' who want to spoil it by turning it into a soulless 'retail environment' or such-like.

  8. Anonymous10:36 am

    I went to Hull quite a few times when I was at school, usually to go and see bands playing. It definitely had a buzz - different from the gigs in Leeds or York - far more exciting, especially to a young lad didn't get out much!


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