So after yet another week of beautiful weather here in the UK, this week we decided to visit somewhere practically on our doorstep. Hull, formerly known as Kingston-upon-Hull but everyone refers to it as Hull or ‘Ull if you’re a local, is approximately 30 miles away from us in Scunthorpe.

Hull is located in the East Riding of Yorkshire and is located between the River Hull and the Humber Estuary. For us, it is just a short drive down the motorway and a crossing over the Humber Bridge, the world’s longest single suspension bridge when it opened back in 1981. I have visited Hull on multiple occasions throughout my life, albeit always passing through so I have never been able to experience the mighty cultural heritage the city offers.

Why Hull?

You might be wondering why Hull? What’s so special about it? Well, you may be flabbergasted to discover that Rough Guides listed Hull as the eighth best city to visit in 2016.  That’s not in the UK or Europe, that is out of all the cities in the World! This must have been a fantastic achievement for Hull to gain such recognition when other cities in the top ten included Reykjavik, Iceland; Amsterdam, Netherlands and Mexico City.

Marina outside Princes Quay – Credit: Hull Scene

Further to this, in 2013 it was announced that Hull was to be the UK City of Culture in 2017. A fantastic achievement to have beaten Dundee, Swansea, and Leicester to the podium. With this new status the maritime city has been heavily invested in with lots of revitalised public spaces and has Hull has been singing about its cultural heritage from the rooftops offering 365 days of cultural events.

Being issued with the City of Culture title has enabled major development from the Marina to The Old Town and Museums Quarter. There has also been a welcomed redevelopment of Queen Victoria Square as a result of a £25 million facelift, with added “dancing fountains” which the kids seem to love. In addition to lots of new cafes opening up in once empty units. Furthermore, Hull City Council is also looking to develop The Old Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, Hull has so much more to offer beyond 2017 for visitors.

Getting There

So, as I said earlier it was a short motorway drive and a crossing of the Humber Bridge for us to get to Hull. The Humber Bridge is tolled, and costs £1.50 for a car or goods vehicle less than 3.5 tonnes to pass over one way, you can find out more about toll prices here. Then to access Hull City centre it’s relatively easy thanks to Clive Sullivan Way bypass (A63). I had decided to park in Princes Quay Shopping Centre as it was the cheapest all day parking I could find. If you park, and leave again, between 0930 and 1530 it is just £2.

First Impressions

After parking up we made our way towards Hulls City centre. Whilst walking through the city I was taken back by the beauty of the buildings. The Georgian and Edwardian architecture really is beautiful, and I can clearly see why this city was voted as the city of culture last year. Queen Victoria square proudly occupies a statue of Queen Victoria with the backdrop of City Hall and the Ferens Gallery. Each building has so much character, even Caffe Nero, where we stopped for a quick coffee before starting our day, was housed in the old Natwest Bank and oozed character.

Queen Victoria Square

Hull Maritime Museum

Our first visit of the day was to Hull Maritime Museum which is located within Queen Victoria Square just a short walk from the Marina and Princes Quay. The museum is housed in the Victorian Dock Offices and displays artefacts from Hull’s maritime activities from the late 18th century to the present day. The museum had so much to offer with different sections each allowing me to discover more about Hull’s maritime heritage; whaling, fishing, and merchant trade.

Hull Maritime Museum

Before visiting this museum I had never read anything about whaling, nor did I know anything about Hull’s maritime heritage so it was a fantastic opportunity for me to soak up some knowledge and educate myself on such a prominent part of the countries culture. The first part of the museum introduced me to whaling, what it was, where it took place and showcased various elements of the trade. There are harpoons and tools displayed on the walls surrounding the museum, some small and some larger than me! It amazed me how many different tools there were and it was great to see their evolution over time.

Have I piqued your interests yet? Well how about this for the main attraction, a full sized whale skeleton. Yeah, you heard that right. Not a replica, or a ‘not to scale’ model, an actual skeleton. But more specifically a North Atlantic Right Whale Skeleton of a young female, who was approximately two years old, and not fully grown, when killed back in 1907. The name ‘Right Whale’ originated because whalers considered them the ‘Right’ whale to catch as they swam slowly and floated when killed making them the perfect target. I cannot believe that this is the skeleton of a whale which is not even fully grown. I can’t even imagine how big it could have grown up to be.

North Atlantic Right Whale Skeleton

Something which really hit home whilst walking around this museum for me was the blubber pot. I’m sure you can imagine what this was used for, placed in pairs on the whaling skips and filled with the blubber of whales caught with the intention of extracting oil from the blubber. It gives me shivers just thinking about it. The weight of all that blubber, and the smell I cannot even imagine what that must have been like.

Blubber Pot



After learning about the history of whaling, the next part of the museum looked at all the different kind of whales there are (I didn’t realise how many there were!), and allowed me to discover some new knowledge about these whales which were caught during the whaling trade. The ‘whale room’ I’m going to call it, was very relaxing with the sound of a Male Humpback whale singing being played into the room.

The Whale Room

The whale room was very good for children and was very well thought out with the pictures of each whale on the wall, numbered, and a correlating information chart accompanying it. There were also skeletons overhead including a Narwhal Whale and a False Killer. Just outside the whale room there was also a big basket of dress up clothing and wellies so children could pretend to be whalers.

Whale skeletons overhead in the whale room

As a little fun fact for the day, there was a poster on the wall showing comparative sizes of whales to each other, and to man. My how we are so small in comparison.

Comparitive Whale Sizes

The whale room also included lots of beautiful scrimshaw artefacts. What is a scrimshaw you might wonder? Well they were the folk art of the whaler. They were decorative pieces made from whalebone, teeth, baleen and walrus ivory. They are very pretty to look at, however, the story behind them makes it very sad to see so many of them on display. Hull has the largest collection of scrimshaw this side of the Atlantic.

Below the scrimshaw artefacts you will find ‘unicorn horns’. No, not real unicorn horns, this is a maritime museum. However, the Narwhal whale is a small type of whale and the males have a long single tusk. These tusks used to wash up on beaches and were brought back by travellers. This is believed to have given rise to the myth of the unicorn.

Scrimshaw Artefacts
Whale bone model of an igloo

The museum has a fantastic little section dedicated to inuits. There are lots of artefacts from when whalers visited Greenland and Canada and crossed paths with the inuits. A great exhibit well worth a visit to discover more about their heritage.

There is so much more in this museum that I haven’t covered here. Including a polar bear, and a skeleton of a young polar bear which were both killed and brought back to Hull by whalers. But I don’t want to tell you everything or you won’t go and visit for yourself. A word of advice though, the museum is not flat, there are some very steep ramps throughout. Although there is a lift making each level of the exhibit accessible to all, just be careful with your footing, and do pay attention to the no running signs on the wall. I will leave you with one last thought to ponder with about this museum. There was a display box in the museum with a mermaid in it, was it real? was it fake? I guess you will have to go and find out for yourself.

Real or fake? You’ll have to go find out for yourself

After we had finished our tour of the museum we stopped at the little gift shop which offers a variety of maritime gifts from children’s toys through to nautical themed gifts. A perfect place to pick up a memento of a visit to this very interesting museum.

Intermission

Having spent the best part of two and a half hours in the Hull Maritime Museum we had worked up an appetite. We decided to try Wings International Cuisine for lunch, an all you can eat global buffet. After lunch, we took a leisurely stroll from Wings towards the Museums Quarter of Hull’s Old Town walking through Queens Gardens en-route leading us straight to Wilberforce Way and into the Museums Quarter. The Queens Gardens were very picturesque and would make an excellent stop off for a picnic or just a leisurely sit down.

Queens Gardens – Credit: Hull City of Culture

Hull Museum Quarter

The Museum Quarter in Hull consists of four museums;

They are all within walking distance of each other and are all free to enter. Although they are all free, donations are welcomed at each museum to allow for continual development and the purchasing of artefacts to be displayed in the exhibits. Each museum has the same opening hours;

Museum Opening Hours Monday – Saturday Opening Hours Sunday Last admission Bank Holiday Opening Hours
Wilberforce House Museum 1000-1630 1100-1600 1030-1630 Closed Good Friday
Streetlife Museum 1000-1630 1100-1600 1030-1630 Closed Good Friday
Hull and East Riding Museum 1000-1630 1100-1600 1030-1630 Closed Good Friday
Arctic Corsair 1000-1630 1100-1630 1500 Tours available;

Easter Monday, May Day, Spring and Summer Bank Holiday

For up to date information on any of the museums visit the Humber Museums website.

Wilberforce House Museum

On our visit, we only visited the Wilberforce House Museum which is the birthplace of William Wilberforce, Hull MP and slavery abolitionist. He was a very famous campaigner against the slave trade and this museum tells the story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its abolition. In addition to dealing with contemporary slavery.

William Wilberforce Statue
William Wilberforce Statue Plaque

You might be wondering what’s there, well in this museum you will find an array of permanent displays including journals and items of William’s clothing. The museum is laid out with the ground floor providing information on William himself, and the origins of the house in addition to other names who have lived in the house. The first floor of the museum features information regarding the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its abolition and it set out in a very logical timeline format. The exhibits also allow for a fascinating glimpse into West African culture. The museum also shares an outdoor garden with The Streetlife Museum making it very easy to access if you wish to visit here afterwards. The garden is quite picturesque and has a couple of benches where you can sit, and hopefully enjoy the sunshine.

For me, prior to visiting this museum, my knowledge was extremely limited on the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I also did not know who William Wilberforce was, which is why my curiosity encouraged me to visit this museum. Having now visited I can say that I am much more knowledgeable about the history of the slave trade as well as contemporary slavery. If like me you are naturally inquisitive and wish to understand more of Williams family history, journey to becoming MP and his role within the abolition of slavery then please do go and visit the museum for yourself.

Other museums in the museum quarter

As I mentioned earlier, there are four museums within the museums quarter and unfortunately, on this occasion, we only visited the one. However, here is a brief overview of each of the other museums which are on offer.

Streetlife Museum:

“Climb aboard at the Streetlife Museum of Transport and enjoy all the sights, sounds and smells of the past. Experience 200 years of transport history as you walk down a 1940s high street, board a tram, or enjoy the pleasures of our carriage ride or vintage car ride”

Streetlife Museum – Credit: Humber Museums

Hull and East Riding Museum:

“Enter a world where more than 200 million years of history is brought to life. From majestic mammoths, to Saxon warriors, visitors to the Hull & East Riding Museum can look forward to an experience that is unique, educational and above all fun”

Wooly Mammoth at Hull and East Riding Museum – Credit: Hull Culture & Leisure

Arctic Corsair:

“Come aboard Hull’s last surviving sidewinder trawler, and let the crew take you on a guided tour. You’ll hear all about life at sea and the dangers deep sea trawler men faced in the Icelandic fishing grounds. Visitors can stand in the wheelhouse and see 1960s state of the art technology used to navigate the vessel and hunt for fish”

Arctic Corsair – Credit: Humber Museums

What would I do differently next time?

When I was planning our day out in Hull I had such optimism that we would be able to see everything in one day. Unfortunately that was not the case. We didn’t arrive in Hull until around lunchtime, had we arrived earlier and visited the four museums in the quarter first then I think we could have visited them all. However, as there is so much culture to take in I don’t think I would have absorbed as much information if I was rushing through the museums. There is also the risk of having information overload and losing concentration.

Summary

Whilst in Hull I had a very enjoyable time, the Georgian and Edwardian architecture throughout the city is remarkable and the city just oozes heritage and culture. Yes, there are shiny new parts to the city to explore, but for me, the biggest attraction is the heritage and culture behind it all. Getting to know the story of Hull was a great experience, and although we did not get to see everything my knowledge of Hull has definitely enhanced and we will be returning to visit the other museums which we did not get chance to visit. If you are after a great day out for yourself, the kids, the whole family then Hull has something to offer whether that’s the culture, shopping or The Deep.

If you’re planning a visit to Hull and would like some tips, advice or recommendations please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll do my best to help you out. You can also find out more in two handy guides published by Visit Hull and East Yorkshire;

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