Hull, UK City of Culture – Kings, Queens, Churches, Public Conveniences and Statues

“... Hull has its own sudden elegancies” – Philip Larkin

In a previous post I told you about my visit to the Museums of Hull and how I have recently become rather a fan of the 2017 United Kingdom City of Culture –  such a fan in fact that I quickly made a return visit to see some of the things that I had missed.

I had missed quite a lot as it happens because on the first visit I was accompanied by my three young grandchildren and as this is rather like herding cats my full attention was not always on the City or its Museums.

I began the visit in the centre of the city in Queen Victoria Square, flanked on all sides by grand Civic buildings and in the centre a grand statue of the stoic figure of Queen Victoria rather like those that I had seen previously in Birmingham and Belfast.

This prompted me to find out how far the name Hull has spread throughout the World because this is one of my measures on just how important a place is.  Well, there is a Hull in Quebec in Canada and ten in the USA, in Florida, Georgia,  Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and two in Wisconsin which must be rather confusing especially as they seem to share the same ZIP code.  Interesting that only one of these is on the coast and could have something to do with fishing and the sea.

This is the Weeping Window of Poppies, part of the programme for the First World War Centenary Commemoration…

Hull as it happens turns out to be  a city of statues but I hadn’t walked all this way to see Queen Victoria (I have seen her before) but to visit something below the ground because down a flight of well-worn stone steps beneath the statue is a cool underground world that evokes a more relaxed and elegant time. The public toilets, built in 1923 with tall arch-backed urinals and tiled old-fashioned cubicles it is a tourist attraction in its own right.

Back in Victorian and Edwardian days the British were always rather coy about natural bodily functions and had a preference for building public conveniences out of sight and underground so they didn’t cause offence.  This was in stark contrast to the French of course who had the streets of Paris cluttered up with the totally indiscreet pissoirs!

I don’t make a habit of hanging around public toilets let me make it clear but I had to wait a few minutes for everyone to leave before I could get this picture and I have photo-shopped out the contraceptive machine as not being historically accurate.

Back at street level I visited the Maritime Museum. Formerly the Town Docks offices, the impressive building houses a fine collection of paintings, displays and models as well as whaling, fishing and trawling exhibits. It was Saturday morning and it was quite busy and I was a bit disappointed by the museum because model boats don’t especially thrill me so I didn’t stay long and returned to the City streets and made my way to the Old Town and the Museum Quarter.  I will go back one day when it isn’t so busy.

On the way I took a minor detour to see the statue of Andrew Marvell, born near Hull in 1621,  a seventeenth century English metaphysical poet, satirist and politician (all round clever-dick) who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1659 and 1678 during both the Commonwealth and the Restoration and who was a friend and colleague of the more famous poet John Milton.

Incidentally Marvell  gave his name to the Marvell Press, which published the more recent famous poet of Hull, Philip Larkin who has his own statue at the City Railway Station.

Close to the statue of Marvell is the Holy Trinity Church which along with a number of others claims to be the largest Parish Church in England.  I have heard this before and lots of places can make this claim because they choose whichever criteria supports their case – tallest, longest, widest or whatever and this makes every competing claim a valid one and satisfies local bragging rights.

Hull Holy Trinity Church basis its claim on the fact that it is the largest parish church in England by floor area.  In May 2017 it will be upgraded to the status of Minster.

I couldn’t get a good picture of the church so I settled for this mirror image in a glass fronted office block opposite…


Just a short walk from the soon to be Minster is the rather grand gilded equestrian statue of another English Monarch – King William III which wouldn’t look out of place in Westminster.  During the reign of the King James, the merchants of Hull were victimised by the Catholic King as they refused to bow to his will to fiddle elections in favour of Catholics (History teaches us everything but no one learns – Trump, Erdogan, Putin etc.) and were so relieved when he was overthrown in 1688 that the erected a statue in honour of their Protestant Saviour, King Billy.

Beneath the statue is a historic part of Victorian Hull that cannot presently be visited because the underground toilets have been closed since the 1990s because of structural damage to the walls and safety concerns because of their location in the middle of a busy road. Despite the closure, thanks to their ornate tile work and a number of glass-panelled cisterns, the toilets are protected under planning law and officially recognised for their historic importance as a listed building.

Rather a shame I thought, I would have liked to have seen those.


47 responses to “Hull, UK City of Culture – Kings, Queens, Churches, Public Conveniences and Statues

  1. To Hull and back is a bit of a trek from Oakham but following your description I am tempted. I think that the Times recent poor rating of Hull was unjustified.


  2. When I went racing through Hull at 5.00 am on my way to Spurn for a rare bird ,I always thought what an interesting place it was, and how it would repay a couple of days as a tourist. I think that marketed well, it could soon become a Liverpool of the east for long weekend visitors. Love the toilets by the way.


  3. I am tempted to devote a post to Melbourne’s toilets.


  4. Do you need a discreet talk with your doctor? It happens to lots of men as they get older. Nothing to be ashamed of. It can be treated.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t been to Hull but if I go, I will definitely check out those public toilets, not that I typically hang out there either. I admit I’m a bit fascinated with the self-cleaning sanisettes in Paris. Lively post; I look forward to reading more.


  6. Should be City of Public Conveniences they are that good.

    You didn’t quote This be the verse. My favourite Larkin.


  7. Now having a grandbaby who is walking I am totally coming to understanding how having three would require cat herding skills and a revisit to places traveled with them!
    The memorial display of the poppies is extraordinary, I got the giggles thinking of you hanging out in the restroom awaiting everyone’s departure. Oh the things we do for a great post. Good job on the photo shopping too!


  8. John’s Storybook is following your lead with a post on public toilets, so I’ll have to mention here too that I can’t come up with a single potty joke this early in the morning!!


  9. There’s the exact same statue of Queen Victoria also on the seafront in Hove. She must have had many made.
    The first post I’ve read about public toilets, but they certainly knew how to build them back then. No wonder some of them have become listed buildings.


  10. I tried looking for a photo of the one on Hove seafront but only got one taken at night where the statue is in the background. There are probably a few more scattered around the world. Who knows?


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  14. I don’t think I’ve ever given Hull a real chance. It has some lovely buildings and features, but somehow always looks so unloved and shabby, which is a shame. I’ve several friends who loved their university years there. But like you, I’ve used that office block to photograph Holy Trinity to good effect..

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I missed this first-time around so am glad to have caught up with it as I’m always pleased when a poet is featured in a blog. Marvell isn’t high up on my list of favourite poets but thanks for the picture of the statue anyway. Might you have one of Larkin? Or has Hull not honoured him yet?


  16. Sorry, of course there is one at the railway station, but could that be it (non-captioned), the walking figure?


  17. Both informative and entertaining

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I like the bit about finding how far a city name has travelled around the world – did you opt out of including Kingston (as well as Hull) in that research because it would have taken up the entire blog post?!


  19. Good old King Billy. The locals will tell you he gets down off the horse at midnight and goes for a drink in one of the local pubs. They’ll also tell you that the statue is missing its stirrups because the sculptor forgot to include them, and was so overcome with remorse that he committed suicide. There’s not a word of truth in it, the ceremonial get up he is in didn’t have or need stirrups, and I gather the sculptor lived a decently long life afterwards. But hey, it makes the natives happy (and being one I can of course say that)!


  20. All the underground toilets in Glasgow have been closed off, but you can still see the exterior fencing for some of them. Pity!


  21. Nothing quite like historical urinals, Andrew. 🙂


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