Religion has played an important role in the life of Hull, whether through churches, chapels or synagogues, or through individuals inspired by their religion. Many of the city’s social institutions were driven by individuals of faith, whether Christian or Jewish. Here we look at the religious records held by the Hull History Centre and how they can aid the researcher. Please use this in conjunction with the Discovering Religious Records guide (PDF, 0.9MB).
For many years, the parish has been the lowest tier of local administration in England. Even when the Church of England (also known as the Anglican Church) split from the Roman Catholic Church, it retained the parish as the lowest tier. In the 1860s, however, the functions of the civil parish were split from those of the ecclesiastical parish. Thus the civil parish became essential for local government while the ecclesiastical parish remained for religious functions.
For Hull, this means that while many of the surviving civil parish records are kept at the Hull History Centre, the records of the Anglican Parishes are at the East Riding of Yorkshire Archives in Beverley. The History Centre has records, for example, for the civil parishes of Drypool (C PRD) or Holy Trinity and St. Mary’s (C PRH), while the records for the ecclesiastical parishes of Drypool St Andrew (PE109), and Holy Trinity (PE158) can be found at the East Riding Archives.
The Protestant Non-conformist churches
Yorkshire, and Hull in particular, has a strong tradition of religious non-conformity. That is, religious movements which broke away from the established Church of England. These groups had their origins within the Puritan movement of the Anglican Church in the 16th and 17th centuries. For example, the Rev. Andrew Marvell, father of the poet and politician Andrew Marvell, was a moderate Puritan.
For Hull, it was the Methodist Church that would become quite significant. Growing out of the work and preaching of John Wesley (1703-1791), the Methodist Church split from the Anglican Church and would develop into a number of distinct strands. These included the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the Methodist New Connexions, United Free Methodists (UFMC), and particularly important in Hull, the Primitive Methodist Church. The United Free and New Connexion Churches merged in 1907 to form the United Methodist Church, which then came together with the Wesleyan and Primitive Churches in 1932 to form the Methodist Church we know today.
The movement was particularly strong within the middle class and with skilled workers. Each of these different strands developed their own structures, based on circuits, similar to the Anglican parish. The UMFC and New Connexion Churches had one circuit each, covering Hull, but the Wesleyan and Primitive Churches had multiple circuits covering the area. The Wesleyans named their circuits after the lead church in the area. For example, in 1913 the Waltham Street Circuit included the churches on Waltham Street, Beverley Road, Prince’s Avenue and Argyle Street. The Primitive Methodists, for which the History Centre has some important records, both nationally and locally, numbered their circuits. The Third Circuit, for instance, covered parts of east Hull.
As the different strands grew or contracted, these circuits altered, becoming more numerous as congregations expanded and then reducing as the different movements merged or as churches closed. It is also important to remember that many of the churches in the surrounding villages were included within Hull circuits as well, such as North Cave, which was part of the Trinity Circuit before that merged with the West Circuit.
These different circuits can perhaps make researching events, like a baptism, confusing. In the past, an Anglican baptism would usually take place in the parish where the family were resident. A baptism into the Methodist Church however may not have occurred in the nearest church to where the family lived. That church may have been Primitive Methodist while the family preferred the Wesleyans.
The records for the Hull Methodist Church can be accessed through various references. The main historical series for the Primitive Methodist Church can be found at L DCP. The circuit and church records for the East Hull Church are at reference C DCE and the Trinity Circuit records are at C DCT. This circuit later merged with the West Hull Circuit, whose records are at C DCW. The Mission Circuit records can be found at reference C DCM. However, a search can also be made via the online catalogue through the name of the church.
Society of Friends (Quakers)
Up to 1837, the Society of Friends (also known as the Quakers) were the only group outside the Church of England, who had the right to perform marriages, and this is reflected in the records of the Pickering and Hull monthly meetings, which are held at the History Centre. The Society grew out of the work of George Fox (1624–1691) and arrived in Hull during the 1660s. Details of these records can be accessed through the reference U DQR and through the Society of Friends research guide.
Independents, Unitarian, Congregational, Presbyterian and other Churches
The first churches to break away from the Church of England were what became known as Independents. Some of these would remain as Independents whilst others would develop into other denominations. One such Independent chapel, on Bowlalley Lane (c.1680) would become the Unitarian Church in 1802. The records for this church are at C DCU.
Other groups developed into the Baptist, Congregational or Presbyterian Churches. In 1769 dissenters from the Dagger Lane Independent Chapel would eventually build a place of worship on Fish Street. This chapel became part of the Congregational Church movement, and from Fish Street emerged other Congregational churches. The Fish Street Church records are located at reference L DCFS; Hope Street (1797) and Cogan Street (1833) at C DCN; Albion Street (1842) at C DCC and L DCC; Wycliffe Chapel on Anlaby Road (1868) at L DCWC and the Hull and East Riding District of the Yorkshire Congregational Union (Y.C.U.) at L DCCU.
The Presbyterian Church would go on to establish congregations at St. Andrew's Church, Prospect Street (1868), on Holderness Road (1874) and at St. Ninian's Church, on Chanterlands Avenue (1931). Records for these are located at reference C DCP. In 1972, the Congregational Church in England and Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England came together to form the United Reform Church (U.R.C). At reference C DCUR are records relating to some of the churches already listed above as well as other churches: Hessle Road, Newington, East Hull, the Memorial U.R.C. on Prince's Avenue, Hornsea, North Frodingham and Barrow upon Humber. This last church, despite being in north Lincolnshire, was part of the Yorkshire District.
Other churches in Hull for whom the Centre has records include: the East Hull Baptist Church (C DCBE); the Fig Tree Gospel Mission; (C DCFT) and the German Lutheran Church (C DCGL).
Many churches and chapels would run their own Sunday school, providing religious knowledge, and often some basic education. The Centre’s catalogues will give details of these, usually within the records of the individual churches or chapels, or the synagogues for Jewish children. Furthermore, the Centre has records of organisations supporting Sunday schools, such as the Anglican Sunday Schools Association at L DSSC and the Hull and District Sunday School Union at L DCSS.
Records of individuals of faith
The Hull History Centre holds the records of many individuals of faith which may be useful for researchers. The clergy in the past were often at the centre of their communities. Copies of their sermons were sometimes published for general consumption and the History Centre holds some of these, many at reference L.252.03. More details can be found by searching our online catalogue just by using the term 'sermon’.
Some clergy took an antiquarian interest in the world around them and collected records accordingly. These include, for instance, Abraham Pryme who catalogued Hull’s records in around 1700 and John Roberts Boyle, Records Clerk in Hull. Other antiquarian clerics, such as the Reverend Carus Vale Collier left us transcriptions of various documents (U DP135) while the Rev. P Roytson wrote about Rudston in the East Riding (L.9.55 RU). Details of these, and others, can be accessed through the Centre’s catalogue.
Furthermore, the Centre has records of many individuals for whom their faith was a significant factor in their lives. This includes the records of the Reverend Thomas Perronet Thompson (1783-1869) at U DTH, the Christian socialist Reverend Canon Stanley Evans (1912-1960) at U DEV and local politicians such as Honorary Alderman Frances Brady (1916-2013) at C DIFB and Alderman Leo Schultz (1901-1991) within C DJC. Details of these, as well as biographies and other religious tracts, can be found through our online catalogue. Very often using terms like ‘reverend’ or ‘rector’ will bring up such records.
The Records of the Hull Jewish Community
There has been a Jewish Community in Hull for over 300 years and their religious life is reflected in the records, at C DJC, which they have deposited at the Centre. See our Hull Jewish Community research guide and our brochure Religion, Culture and History: The Shaping of Hull's Jewish Community (PDF, 10MB).