Having finally settled on a header for this blog I feel the need to explain its significance.

It shows a (partial) panoramic view of the town of Kingston upon Hull from the River Humber, its southern border. The picture is a decorative addition to a plan of Hull made in the year 1640 by Wenceslaus Hollar.

The beflagged structure on the right is one of the blockhouses that punctuated the eastern defences of the town. The wall and blockhouses were situated on the eastern bank of the River Hull, eponym of the town, and were not in Hull but in the parish of Drypool. More on the blockhouses and their use later.

The church towers prominent on the skyline are of Holy Trinity church (the larger) and the church of St. Mary. Hull had two parish churches lying within a couple of minutes walk, a result of the town’s early origins.

The settlement of Wyke upon Hull grew up on land belonging to two distinct monastic establishments, and, when the population was large enough to need a chapel of ease, rival churches were provided by the monasteries. Holy Trinity, cathedral-like in its size and splendour, is said to be the biggest parish church in England. St. Mary’s, though far more modest, has much of historic interest within its walls.

During the post-Reformation Tudor period Hull’s blockhouses were used to imprison popish recusants (i.e., Catholics). Those confined suffered terribly and often died of maltreatment. As a result of this the town of Hull got a reputation for persecution of Catholics which it did not deserve. Firstly the blockhouses were not under the town’s control and the jailers were appointed by the Tudor government, and were enacting government policy. Secondly I have found no instance of a citizen of Hull being held in the blockhouses. The town and its people were, on the whole, firmly Protestant. Yet there is evidence of some persistent adherents of the old religion living in Hull during the Tudor period, and being protected by the town’s administration.

By the mid-seventeenth century a visiting poet was able to declare that “not one papist this town doth hold”, and returns of papists for the Diocese of York bear this out.

The old defences on the Garrison Side, no doubt in a state of decrepitude, were demolished sometime in the early nineteenth century. It’s possible that the stones went into the walls of the docks then under construction.

The archeologist Mary Kitson Clark suggested that dressed stone from the ruins of the Roman settlement at Brough (Petuaria), near Hull, was used in the constuction of Hull’s defenses. So perhaps a little of Roman Britain survives within the city boundaries.

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