Parks and Gardens
Gardens significantly pre-dated Hull's first municipal park, first
opening in 1812 on a site of approximately 6 acres in Linnaeus
Street. The Hull born botanist P. W. Watson (1761-1830) and Adrian
Hardy Haworth (1767-1833), an entomologist and botanist who
attended Hull Grammar School, were involved in its
In 1877 the gardens were removed to a 49 acre site near Spring
Bank, purchased from the North Eastern Railway Company. They
remained here until their closure in 1889 following financial
difficulty, with Hymers College opening on the site in 1893. The
curator of the gardens, James C. Niven, also lectured on Botanical
Science at the Hull School of Medicine and was previously employed
at Kew Gardens. He would later design the layout of Pearson
Now comprising approximately 120
acres on the north side of Holderness Road, this is the largest of
Hull's parks. The park was laid out both on land purchased from the
Trust of Mrs Anne Watson for the sum of £117,000 and the
Corporation-owned Summergangs Farm. As with West Park, the design
was conceived by Borough Engineer Joseph Fox Sharpe. The official
opening on 21 June 1887 coincided with Queen Victoria's Golden
Jubilee, with a procession headed by the Police Band marching from
the town centre. During the ceremony, Alderman W. F. Chapman
suggested that the city's newest public space should in fact be
named in honour of the Queen. However, as local historian Mary
Fowler points out, a certain economy of expression prevails locally
and it is often referred to simply as 'park'.
In the years preceding the First World War, the site was
enlarged by several gifts of land from T.R.
Ferens, including that which was utilised for the excavation of
a boating lake. A watchtower from Hull Citadel was also moved close
to the entrance of the Khyber Pass, and part of a tower from
Cuthbert Brodrick's old Town Hall (demolished 1911) relocated to
the park. The park is today an English Heritage Grade 2 listed
site. This includes a rare water chute dating from 1929, designed
by Messrs. Chas. Wicksteed & Co. Ltd. Latterly, the park
underwent a £10.3 million refurbishment which was completed in
Hull was a rapidly developing
city in the mid-nineteenth century, with its population rising from
22,161 in 1801 to 239,157 in 1901. However, widening participation
in global trade, coupled with cramped inner-city living conditions,
left it susceptible to the spread of a number of contagious
diseases. With major cholera outbreaks in 1832 and 1849, issues
surrounding sanitation, public health and town improvements figured
prominently on the agenda of politicians and journalists alike.
Following the Corporation's failed attempt to purchase land at
the former site of the Citadel, the attendant need for higher
quality public amenities and open spaces was addressed by Zachariah
Pearson, Lord Mayor and highly successful shipbuilder. In 1860, at
a cost of £7400, Pearson purchased and presented to the Board of
Health 27 acres of land, with a further 10 acres around its
perimeter to be retained for private development. Thus, located
between the Beverley Road and Prince's Avenue, Hull's first public
park, a 'People's Park', came to fruition.
Notably, a top floor flat at 32 Pearson Park was home to
Philip Larkin, University librarian and poet,
from 1956 to 1974. It was during this eighteen year period that his
poetic output was at perhaps its most prolific. Larkin would write
most of The Whitsun Weddings and all of High
Windows whilst working from this address.
The 50 acre Pickering Park in
Hessle Road was presented to the corporation by Christopher
Pickering, opening on 13 July 1911. Having co-founded Pickering and
Haldane's Steam Trawling Co., Pickering would go on to make
numerous charitable donations to the people of Hull.
The Museum of Fisheries and Shipping opened in Pickering Park in
Thomas Sheppard had obtained a building in Pickering Park from
a local trawler owner. It later moved to the Town Docks Museum
building in 1974, where it is now known as the Maritime Museum.
Hull Corporation purchased
Queen’s Dock from the North Eastern Railway
Company in 1930 for the sum of £117,000. The dock was subsequently
filled in, with Queen’s Gardens opening on 19 September 1935.
Having become an obstruction to traffic, the statue of William
Wilberforce, atop a 90 foot tall doric column, was re-sited from
Queen Victoria Square to its current location at the garden's
eastern end. The statue was re-dedicated by Mrs Arnold Reckitt, the
great-granddaughter of William Wilberforce.
Following the Second World War, it was envisioned that the
gardens would form a new civic heart of the city, bordered by
museums, galleries and fine municipal buildings. This scheme was
presided over by Patrick Abercrombie and Edward Lutyens (Ref L.711
A), though never carried out in its entirety.
The gardens were remodelled between 1959 and 1961, with
Frederick Gibberd, a prominent post-war civic designer and
architect of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, appointed as
consultant. Gibberd would also design the Hull College building. A
plaque located close to the Mick Ronson Memorial Stage bears a
quotation from Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe,
published in 1719; 'Had I the sense to return to Hull, I had been
The land on which West Park is
now situated was acquired by the Corporation from the North Eastern
Railway Company in 1878 at a cost of £1400 per acre. However, a
portion of this was initially let to a Mr Johnson and used as
grazing pasture, bringing in a revenue of £200 per year. It was not
until 1885 that the 'Western Disctrict Park', as it had been
initially referred to in the minutes of the Parks (Special)
Committee, was officially opened by the Mayor, A. K. Rollit. The
park encompasses 31 acres and was designed by Mr Joseph Fox Sharpe,
Borough Engineer, with the project providing work for 200
Adjacent to the entrance gates is the Carnegie Heritage Centre,
built by Joseph Hirst in 1902 as the Carnegie Free Library - the
result of a £3000 donation from Andrew Carnegie, a renowned
philanthropist who had acquired a vast wealth as a steel merchant.
The park is today dominated by the KC Stadium, home of Hull City
AFC and Hull FC. Construction began in 2001 and it remains the only
major stadium in the country built in a parkland setting.
The Zoological Gardens,
comprising about 7 acres at the northern end of Spring Bank, were
opened during Hull Fair week in 1840. Both the grounds and
buildings were designed by H. F. Lockwood.
In a Hull Times article of June 3 1916, Joseph Henry
Hirst cites a formidable list of attractions - lions, tigers,
kangaroos, polar bears, eagles, owls, monkeys and an elephant, as
well as a typorama of Naples and a 15 foot long model of the
Crystal Palace. The entrance fee was one shilling and the gardens
were purported to be the most popular in Yorkshire. Fetes were held
there regularly, including a yearly gala sponsored by Messrs
Wolfenden and Melbourne, proprietors of the Queens Theatre Paragon
Street (see our history of Theatres in Hull), which provided tea and
entertainment for 500 of the town's oldest poor women.
Having proven to be financially unsustainable, the gardens went
to public auction in 1861. Mr Henry Rivett, a hosier and outfitter
of 9 Whitefriargate, purchased the trees and shrubs, gifting them
to the Board of Health. A number of these were incorporated into
the newly laid-out Pearson Park. The land itself was eventually
purchased by the Albion Building Society, with a continuation of
both Hutt Street and Peel Street built upon it.
- Much of the material relating to parks can be found within
larger collections which are searchable using our online catalogue.
Relevant material includes Plans Relating to Parks, 1860-1977 (Ref
C TBD) and Pictoral Record of the Transformation of Queen's Dock
into Queen's Gardens, 1935 (Ref C DMX/39).
- The Renton Heathcote collection (Ref L RH/1-3) consists of
postcards largely dating back to the 20th century. Many of these
depict early scenes from Hull's parks and gardens.
- Though dating from a later period, the photographs taken by the
Health Department (Ref C THD/3) offer an insight into the living
conditions which typified many working class areas of Hull. Such
conditions informed the debate which eventually lead to the
creation of the Public Health Act 1875.
- Other information may be found in Council Minutes [Parks and
Recreation Committee (to 1898), Parks and Burial Committee (from
1899)], buildings plans and Ordnance Survey maps. These can be
found in the History Centre's Searchroom.