I have to admit visiting Hull was a last minute decision. I had never heard much about the city nor given a reason that visiting the city was a must. After immersing myself in the world of Brutalism and historical architecture under threat Hull was suddenly on my radar, and for unlikely reasons a must visit destination.
The conversation around the Three Ship mural in the city centre was reaching a critical point and the buildings future was in trouble. Visiting a friend in Yorkshire I knew I would never be closer. Even though Hull was a four hour detour I had to go and I must say the city impressed me.
Its architecture was diverse, from the historical buildings that surround Queen Victoria Square to the modern glass and steel design of The Deep. And of course there was plenty of concrete.
Tidal Surge Barrier
Coming across the Tidal Barrier was a happy accident. I had taken a route from the car to take in The Deep which I knew about already due to its unique shape and striking presence next to the sea.
Hull has always had trouble with flooding as the city is barely above sea level. After the devastating floods in 1969 it was clear that something had to be done but it took another decade before the solution was found.
Since then the Tidal Barrier has been protecting the city, being deployed around thirty times a year. In 2009 and 2010 the barrier underwent a £10 million refurbishment project and since 2017 it has been Grade II listed.
Not only was finding the tidal barrier a great surprise, the shots I took of the structure were among my favourite from my time in Hull.
The view from Queen’s Gardens to Hull College and the Wilberforce Monument is quite striking. At the time I didn’t know the importance of what I was looking at but I soon found out once I had returned from Hull.
The Wilberforce Monument stands 31m over Queen’s Gardens, where it was relocated to in 1935. William Wilberforce was a British politician who was born in Hull. Throughout his career he worked to abolish the slave trade. He died three days after the Slavery Abolition Act was passed and buried in Westminster Abbey.
In the foreground is a fountain, that was out of use during the winter, and an untitled concrete mural of birds in flight designed by Robert Adams. If you look closely at the facade of Hull College you may be able to spot a panel by William Mitchell representing nautical and mathematical instruments.
It was the reason for me being in Hull. I had to see the building the internet had been talking about before it was demolished. At the time I had written about Alan Boyson’s Three Ships Mural and the battle that was going on to protect it.
I still can’t see why the city planners couldn’t see the historical significances to the mural, maybe the fact that it was attached to a piece of potential prime real estate may have played a large part in their decision making. It seemed that the last thought on their mind has how it could be preserved rather how it could be developed.
Development of the site has been complicated and hit a few problems along the way. Since my visit to Hull there has been increased pressure, primarily from Save Hull’s BHS/Co-Op Murals Twitter account, which has finally resulted in the mural being granted Grade II listed status and more recently the council committed to plans that will ‘save and restore’ the Three Ships Mural. A decision they have been forced into but a decision that they should have made in the first place.
The Humber Bridge
Leaving the city I had to stop off and look across the Humber and the impressive bridge that spans the estuary. For seventeen years after the Humber bridge opened in 1981 it was the longest of its type in the world. The addition of the bridge cut 50 miles off of the drive from Hull to Grimsby on the other side of the Humber.
I wrote about by reasons behind my visit to Hull and the mission to Save the Three Ships.
Since writing BRUTAL Oxford I have wanted to highlight other cities for their unique architecture and hope to publish a few more in the future. Next up Bristol.
A deeper look at the architecture and its history by Municipal Dreams.