Medieval Hull

1300 – 1400 AD

Kingston Upon Hull was founded by King Edward I.   On 31st January 1293 Edward acquired (from the monks of Meaux Abbey) what was then Wyke upon Hull and also many acres of land surrounding the port.  Kings-town-upon-the-river-Hull was born.

Who was King Edward I?

Edward I

Edward became King of England at the age of 33 in 1272, at the death of his father, Henry III.  He was on the Eight Crusade at the time and returned to England determined to conquer and rule.  He invaded Wales and eventually killed the Welsh king, Llywelyn ap Gruffyd.  He built castles throughout Wales and in 1301 he made his son the Prince of Wales; a ‘tradition’ still occurring to this day.

Later he sought to conquer Scotland and the Scots united under William Wallace, who was in turn captured and killed (hung-drawn and quartered) by the English in 1305.  The Scottish Rebellion regrouped in 1306 under Robert the Bruce and Edward died on the journey back to Scotland the following year.

To put that into context, around ten years after the death of the Welsh king, Edward was scooping up land and property to call his own, and this included Hull.  It was, no doubt to hold strategic places around the kingdom to establish his power and foothold over the land.  Of course Hull is mid way; half way up England and on an important river with direct access to the North Sea.  With the invasion of Scotland in his sights, Hull was an important port that he could utilise to his benefit.  Also, the port was one of the most profitable in England at the time.

hull charter 1The Charter

In April, 1299 Edward granted Hull its first (of many) Charter, which cost Hull £66: the equivalent of around £2.4 million today.  For this fee, Hull was granted the status of a Free Borough, which meant that traders were exempt from paying tolls and custom duties throughout England, which in turn boosted profit and trade.  The Hull Burgesses (i.e. upper society men/wealthy merchants), were also granted some rights to self-govern and elect their own leaders, although they still answered to a Keeper of the Town who was elected by the King.   The Charter also included the right to hold a market two days a week and an annual month-long fair, although the monks of Meaux had been holding a market fair since 1279 in the market place to the east of Holy Trinity, where the King William III statue is now.

medieval fair 1

Having its own brick and tile works located just outside the town, Hull’s houses would have been made with timber, brick and tile.  Paths were made with brick and chalk mined from Hessle.  Animals were kept in pens when not roaming freely.  There was a market in Marketplace and rows of shops, such as the Butchery, and much later, the fish shambles and the Dings.  There was a Guildhall for official business as well as St Mary’s Church and Holy Trinity, which began construction in 1303.

In the early 1300’s, Hull was no doubt a thriving port and it was also a busy building site in some areas.     Traders came in for the markets from across the surrounding countryside and villages such as Hessle, Anlaby, Cottingham and Beverley and many of these folk bought the newly built houses in the prosperous new town of Hull.

However, because of its expanding population and the nature of everyday life, Hull would no doubt have been pretty grimy and damp; the streets littered and stinking with chucked out offal and animal dung clogging up the open sewer which ran through the town.

4513678There were alehouses packed with rowdy sailors, miscreants and pirates, and those who got caught up to no good could end up in gaol or in the pillory, high above a shop in Marketplace for the passing throngs to judge and yell at, throwing rotten food at their faces.

The pillory was used mainly for petty crimes and its aim was to humiliate rather than torture, and they were left for a couple of hours to be seen by all.  But if the crime was bad they might be left there for days or even have an ear nailed to the board, which ripped when coming away.

Hull’s gallows stood in the vast open fields outside the city walls.   Did the townsfolk wander along the river to observe a public hanging or two?  Probably!

Hull’s Water Supply

In the beginning, the good folk of Hull had to transport their water in from a distance, with Hull being situated on ‘salt-soil’.  In 1376 Hull petitioned the king for a fresh-water dike to be cut from what is now Springhead in Anlaby, which met with many disputes from the people of Anlaby, Hessle and Cottingham, who obviously didn’t want to share.

In 1392 a band of angry, armed protesters from Hessle, Anlaby and Cottingham marched on Hull and the leaders were captured and sent to York, where they were hanged.  Protests occurred over the next two decades and the villagers were eventually threatened with excommunication by the Pope if they continued to harass Hull.

In 1402 work began on the construction of a dike, 12 foot wide and 5 foot deep from the Julian Well in Anlaby to the Beverley Gate at Hull.  It was known as Julian or Derringham Dike.

The building of a Town


medieval gallows1302 – Town Gallows first mentioned.  Towns folk would have travelled to watch the hangings.  This was last used in 1778.  A pinfold was nearby for rounding up stray animals.

1303 – The road between Anlaby and Hull was constructed, which was also used by travellers from Hessle.  Holderness Road was constructed as the ‘King’s highway’ from Hull to Hedon.

1303 – Guildhall first mentioned, which was located roughly north of where the A63 meets High Street.

1300’s – Pillory and stocks in Marketgate, stood over a large shop (on the roof?)

1303 – Work on Holy Trinity began; knocking down the old chapel and rebuilding over it.  The large church was being built to negate the arduous journey along the foreshore from Hull to the mother church in Hessle.

1303 – A water mill was built on the Old Hull.

1307 – Carmelite Friars establish a friary off what is now Whitefriargate.

1313 – Prison (gaol) next to the Guildhall – Four story brick building with tower.

1315 – A ferry from Hull to Barton began on the King’s orders to carry across men, horses, beasts and carts after people complained that the Hessle ferry constantly over-charged.

1316 – Austin Friary – Augustinian (Black) Friars – Large rectangular building with gardens, built on what is now Blackfriargate.

1321 – Slabs of chalk mined at Hessle foreshore were shipped up the Humber to Hull and used as paving stones for the newly constructed streets.  Bricks and tiles were made just outside the town’s defences.

1321-24 – First defences of Hull built, which consisted of a long ditch around the north, south and west with long clay mounds topped with a wooden palisade.

1330’s – Chalk from Hessle was used for the gradual building up of Hull’s new defences, along with brick made at the brickworks just outside Hull (now the site of Princes Quay).   Paid for by the townsmen.

1321-24 – North Gate (runs along the river), Beverley Gate (main road to Beverley), Myton Gate, (traffic from Myton), Hessle Gate (North of Humber Street along the foreshore to Hessle) and Humber Gate/Water Gate (controlled access to the foreground) were built.

1340's Edward III Royal Navy, fighting frenchFrom 1324 onward – Hull was a port for the wars of Scotland and France, shipping men, food, lead, wine and wool, flour and salt amongst other things to help in the war effort.  Hull was always there for the king.  The king acquisitioned ships for the navy and for his own quests and the town paid him heavily for the privilege.  William de la Pole built and manned a warship, ‘The Kings Galley of Hull’.   He also raised money for the cause.

During this time, the king and his court stayed at York, which was the hub of his war administration and Hull was his principle supply port.

1327 – St Mary’s Church, Lowgate.  Chapel of ease.

1330’s – Southern end of Marketgate – Long, narrow row of shops called the Butchery or Fleshmarketgate.

william de la pole
William de la Pole, First Mayor of Hull

1331 – William de la Pole became the first Mayor of Hull.  At this time, Hull had its own mint and two MPs.

1332 – The king (Edward III) passed through Hull and was entertained by William de la Pole.  He was so impressed with the building of the defences and port, and by his charming entertainment that he knighted him on the spot.

1337 – Salthouse on Salthouse Road west side of High Street

1340 – William de la Pole was arrested and charged with ‘abuses perpetrated as head of the English Wool Company’.  He was held for two years at Devizes Castle, fined £56,083 and his lands taken from him.  In the end his fines were written off, he was released and he bounced back into the world of business.

1349 – Black death kills half the population.

1350’s – Folk were moving from Hessle, Beverley and surrounding area, and from further afield such as Malton and Lincoln to properties in Hull.

1365 – Weighhouse for weighing wool.  Butchers, brewers, bakers and blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, traders, sailors and fishermen.

1369 – First mention of Anchor House/Chain House, to control the River Hull, i.e. to stop ships entering or leaving the river if needed.  Huge chain from one side to the other, blocking access.

Archery Butts at Butcroft (Now the Marina) and Buttfield Road in Hessle.

1377 – Fear of French invasion led to the repair of the defences and the gathering of troops.  The king issued license for 3000 barrels of ale to be shipped from Grimsby to Hull for 1377-78, which reflects the large number of men stationed there at the time.

1381 – William de la Pole claims his business records, accounts etc are burned in the late insurgence of The Peasants Revolt.

1399 – Henry of Lancaster lands at Ravenspur and visits Hull.  Hull lends him money (along with York); support for Richard II ends.