Sunday, 27 October 2013

Day in the Museums

High Street, Hull in autumnal sunshine
The City of Kingston upon Hull (to use its Sunday name) has much in the way of history with activity going back for certain to the thirteenth century. Its connection with the sea through its exports and imports of salt, wine, wool, whaling and fishing amongst many other commodities make this a rich place for history to shine through with those influences into the modern city it is today.

I took advantage of a day off and took a friend Linda to just two of the many museums and exhibits in Hull - The Wilberforce Museum and the Street Life Museum, both on the historic High Street in Hull, one of the oldest and once the busiest part of the town. Sadly no longer does it have the kudos it once had when it had busy wharves, shipping and trading offices, homes of the wealthy and bustling inns and hostelries.

The entrance to Wilberforce House Museum, William's head can be seen poking over the wall to the right
The cobbled street remains and upon it is the Wilberforce Museum. This is the original birth place and home of William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833), to whom the world can be rightly proud to one of the movers of the abolition of slavery, although if you visit the museum in Liverpool Albert Dock, he hardly gets a mention.  

The grand staircase with beautiful mouldings
The house is in a good state of repair having been built in the 1600s and despite bomb damage during the war, the house retains much of the original features and includes a garden backing onto the River Hull in which the visitor can relax. The entry is free as with all the Hull museums but the visit was tinged with slight disappointment. If you are a first time visitor, the new style museum masks the house with dozens and dozens of information boards and precious few exhibits. You may like that and indeed it is very interesting and informative.
A beautifully restored fireplace with a placard in front of the focal point - the equipment used to hold the cooking pots! GET RID OF THE PLACARD Mr or Mrs Curator.
However as a child, I visited the museum and the artifacts of slavery, Wilberforce's office and bedroom were fully furnished and kitted out - all that has long gone and with it the atmosphere of what was once a family home. That's a real shame. Is it worth a visit? It certainly is, but get your reading glasses out and be careful not to miss many of the original features of the house, almost all overshadowed by the plethora of written information.

A street scene taken from the level crossing
Next door is the more modern Street Life Museum and this, ladies and gentlemen, is a gem. You don't have to come from Hull or the environs to appreciate this feast of old vehicles of every sort, trams, buses, cars, a bicycle workshop, mock ups of real life size shops that actually existed, a refurbished signal box from my home village of Cottingham, a railway crossing to name but a just few  of the exhibits, a lot of which you can get on and experience.
The old signal box from my home village of Cottingham.
This is a must see and again it is free entry with very helpful guides and members of staff. This isn't a squeaky clean - don't make a noise type of place - its fun and informative and its hands on.
A Corporation bus
So if you have a few hours to spare one wintry day now the nights are drawing in - go pay a visit and if you go by car, park in a multi-storey near by (on street parking is only two hours) and walk to the museums in just five minutes. There are plenty of cafes in the old town just a couple of hundred yards away.

Chat soon



  1. Well, I spent the first few years of my life in Hull and have fond memories of it, but visits back in the 90s showed somewhere that was decidedly shabbier than I remembered. Good to see that there are some parts that still retain that charm, and where it's gone, it has been replaced with the museum of Street Life to recreate those memories. I know Cottingham - my late husband's Grandmama lived there, and Grand with a capital G!!! And I'm a sucker for old buses and trams, though these days have to be content with the tiny models on my husband's railway layout! Another interesting post, thank you.

  2. Hi Edwina
    Thanks for your kind comments and interesting observations. Unfortunately Hull is still a mixture of shabby and new and therein lies the problem, the balance has yet to be created. I replied to an e-mail today from a lady in Australia, Katie, who is an ex-pat who used to re-visit the city and last came in the early nineties, and in part, this is what I said to her in a reply today:
    "I have to say Hull has changed tremendously in so many ways in the last 20 years. These are positive changes too although there is so much room for improvement and still need for bringing the city into the 21st century. The old town has changed too but much of the land of Green Ginger and around Holy Trinity is very much the same. In Ferensway there is a huge new shopping complex called St Stephen's which essentially covers the area that used to be the old ABC cinema and the bus station has been completely revamped and upgraded. The downside to this is that Whitefriargate, once a hub for shoppers is now very quiet with a lot of empty shops. It's only the nightime economy that is keeping it going down there with some of the old banks converted into pubs.
    "Being a northern town, it's a lot of people's perception that it's been left behind somewhat by Government in the south and it could certainly do with some investment, but with Hull City being in the Premiership and a revitalisation of the old Humber Street area, things are looking up."

    I would be interested to know if I knew your Grandmama's family.

    1. If I could remember my late husband's Grandmama's surname, I would gladly tell you, but it was the dragon-in-law's mother, fraightfully posh, made a thing about having known Amy Johnson before she died (well, obviously not after!!), served the typical afternoon tea with tiny sandwiches and tea in a silver pot, with water jug and everything! I was in awe of the family anyway, this did nothing to make me feel any more at ease. Thankfully my late husband had no 'side' to him at all, otherwise we wouldn't have married in the first place! Her first name was Melanie, she lived on a street where there were large semi and small detached Edwardian (I think) houses, bay windows, leaded diamond panes, french doors out to the garden, lots of roses and pretty front gardens. Very pretty.

  3. I didn't know about the Street Life Museum. Will definitely pay it a visit sometime.