“... 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.