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The History of Hull

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Kingston upon Hull is a large port and industrial town on the north bank of the Humber Estuary . It lies at the mouth of the River Hull where it issues into the Humber. Archeological finds suggest that the valley of the River Hull has been inhabited since the early Neolithic period. However, as yet little evidence has been found to suggest significant settlement in the area where the town of Kingston upon Hull was eventually established. The monks of Meaux Abbey are credited with developing the area as a new settlement. They are said to have named it Wyke upon Hull after John Wyke, the Archbishop of York. However, the locals didn’t use the name Wyke for the town and Hull, the name of the river, gained favour in its place. The River Hull proved an excellent haven for the ships calling at the abbey to export its wool, the main source of income for the abbey estate. In 1293 the abbey was passed to the townsfolk by King Edward I , who granted the developing town with further favour in the form of a royal charter on 1 April 1299. The charter renamed the town as King's Town upon Hull, which soon became Kingston upon Hull. The original charter is preserved in the archives of the city's Guildhall. Another charter, dated 1440, incorporated the town allowing it to appoint a mayor, a sheriff, and twelve aldermen.

J.C. Craggs, writing in his Guide to Hull (1817) tells that the King and a hunting party frightened a hare which "led them along the delightful banks of the River Hull to the hamlet of Wyke”. He adds that the King “charmed with the scene before him, viewed with delight the advantageous situation of this hitherto neglected and obscure corner. He foresaw it might become subservient both to render the kingdom more secure against foreign invasion, and at the same time greatly to enforce its commerce." Craggs continues and tells how Edward bought the land from the Abbot of Meaux, and built his own manor hall there. He then issued proclamations to encourage development there and gave it a royal name as King's Town.

The King’s judgement proved accurate and he used the port as a base during the First War of Scottish Independence. Kingston upon Hull continued to expand and prosper, mainly by exporting wool and woollen cloth. The port was also importing wine from continental Europe. As a member of the Hanseatic League, Hull established a busy trade with the Baltic ports. During the Civil War , Hull was seen as strategically important because of a large arsenal located there. Early in the war, on 11 January 1642, the king appointed the Earl of Newcastle as governor of Hull. However, Parliament refused to accept the King’s authority and nominated Sir John Hotham and instructed his son, Captain John Hotham, to secure the town without delay. Sir John Hotham and Hull corporation declared support for Parliament and prevented Charles I and his troops from entering into the town. The King responded by besieging the town. This act of open war had the effect of causing even more open conflict between the soldiers of Parliament and their enemies, the Royalists.

A prosperous merchant Sir William de la Pole became the town's first mayor and the de la Pole family subsequently became prominent in government. Bishop John Alcock, who founded Cambridge University's Jesus College and was a patron of the grammar school in Hull, is another famous son of a Hull merchant family. The town’s fortunes continued upwards during the 16th and early 17th centuries. The affluence of the port at these times can now be seen in the form of several well-maintained buildings dating from the period. Buildings such as Wilberforce House , now a museum documenting the life of William Wilberforce .

In second half of the nineteenth century and until the First World War , The Port of Hull acted as an important conduit for Northern European settlers heading to the New World. Thousands of emigrants sailed to the city for administrative purposes, before heading to Liverpool where they departed for North America.

Hull is also a fishing port and whaling was important to the town’s economy until the mid-19th century. Hull was granted city status in 1897, at the time of its peak. Deep sea fishing filled the void left after the decline of the whaling industry, but this suffered badly in the Anglo-Icelandic Cod War of 1975–1976. During World War II ; much of the city centre was totally destroyed by heavy German bombing. 95% of the towns housing stock was damaged or destroyed during air raids, leaving 192,000 of the 320,000 population homeless. Although substantially redeveloped after the WWII, Hull failed to regain the prosperity it enjoyed at the turn of the century and has struggled with a slow decline ever since.

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