Kingston upon Hull, frequently referred to as Hull, is a city and unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It stands on the River Hull at its junction with the Humber estuary, 25 miles (40 km) inland from the North Sea. Hull has a resident population of. The Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) population stands at 573,300.
Renamed Kings town upon Hull by King Edward I in 1299, the town and city of Hull has served as market town, military supply port, a trading hub, fishing and whaling centre, and industrial metropolis.
The city is unique in the UK in having had a municipally owned telephone system from 1902, sporting cream, not red, telephone boxes.
After suffering heavy damage during the Second World War (the 'Hull Blitz'), Hull weathered a period of post-industrial decline, during which the city gained unfavourable results on measures of social deprivation, education and policing. During the early 21st century spending boom prior to the late 2000s recession the city saw large amounts of new retail, commercial, housing and public service construction spending.
Established tourist attractions include the historic Old Town and Museum Quarter, Hull Marina and The Deep, a city landmark. The redevelopment of one of Hull's main thoroughfares, Ferensway, included the opening of St. Stephen's Hull and the new Hull Truck Theatre. Spectator sporting activities include professional football and two rugby league clubs. The KC Stadium houses the football club and one rugby club.
Kingston upon Hull stands on the north bank of the Humber estuary at the mouth of its tributary, the River Hull. The valley of the River Hull has been inhabited since the early Neolithic period but there is little evidence of a substantial settlement in the area of the present city. The general area was attractive to early developers because it gave access to a prosperous hinterland and navigable rivers, but the actual site was not good, as it was remote and low-lying with no fresh water. It was originally an outlying part of the hamlet of Myton, named Wyke. The name is thought to originate either from a Scandinavian word Vik meaning creek, or from the Saxon Wic meaning dwelling place or refuge.
The River Hull was a good haven for shipping, whose trade included the export of wool from Meaux abbey. In 1293 the town was acquired from the abbey by King Edward I, who on 1 April 1299 granted it a royal charter that renamed the settlement King's town upon Hull, or Kingston upon Hull. The charter is preserved in the archives of the city's Guildhall.
In his Guide to Hull (1817), J.C. Craggs provides a colourful background to Edward's acquisition and naming of the town. He writes that the King and a hunting party started a hare which "led them along the delightful banks of the River Hull to the hamlet of Wyke … [Edward], charmed with the scene before him, viewed with delight the advantageous situation of this hitherto neglected and obscure corner. He foresaw it might become subservient both to render the kingdom more secure against foreign invasion, and at the same time greatly to enforce its commerce". Pursuant to these thoughts, Craggs continues, Edward purchased the land from the Abbot of Meaux, had a manor hall built for himself, issued proclamations encouraging development within the town, and bestowed upon it the royal appellation, King's Town.
The port served as a base for Edward I during the First War of Scottish Independence and later developed into the foremost port on the east coast of England. It prospered by exporting wool and woollen cloth, and importing wine. Hull also established a flourishing commerce with the Baltic ports as part of the Hanseatic League.
From its medieval beginnings, Hull's main trading links were with Scotland and northern Europe. Scandinavia, the Baltic and the Low Countries were all key trading areas for Hull's merchants. In addition, there was trade with France, Spain and Portugal. As sail power gave way to steam, Hull's trading links extended throughout the world. Docks were opened to serve the frozen meat trade of Australia, New Zealand and South America. Hull was also the centre of a thriving inland and coastal trading network, serving the whole of the United Kingdom.
Sir William de la Pole was the town's first mayor. A prosperous merchant, de la Pole founded a family that became prominent in government. Another successful son of a Hull trading family was bishop John Alcock, who founded Jesus College, Cambridge and was a patron of the grammar school in Hull. The increase in trade after the discovery of the Americas and the town's maritime connections are thought to have played a part in the introduction of a virulent strain of syphilis through Hull and on into Europe from the New World.
During the English Civil War, Hull became strategically important because of the large arsenal located there. Very early in the war, on 11 January 1642, the king named the Earl of Newcastle governor of Hull while Parliament nominated Sir John Hotham and asked his son, Captain John Hotham, to secure the town at once. Sir John Hotham and Hull corporation declared support for Parliament and denied Charles I entry into the town. Charles I responded to these events by besieging the town. This siege helped precipitate open conflict between the forces of Parliament and those of the Royalists.
Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century and leading up to the first World War, the Port of Hull played a major role in the transmigration of Northern European settlers to the New World, with thousands of emigrants sailing to the city and stopping for administrative purposes before travelling on to Liverpool and then North America.
Parallel to this growth in passenger shipping was the emergence of the Wilson Line of Hull. Founded in the city in 1825 by Thomas Wilson, by the early 20th century the company had grown – largely through its monopolisation of North Sea passenger routes and later mergers and acquisitions – to be the largest privately owned shipping company in the world, with over 100 ships sailing to different parts of the globe. The Wilson Line was sold to the Ellerman Line – which itself was owned by Hull-born magnate (and the richest man in Britain at the time) Sir John Ellerman.
Whaling played a major role in the town's fortunes until the mid-19th century. Hull's prosperity peaked in the decades just before the First World War; it was during this time, in 1897, that city status was granted. After the decline of the whaling industry, emphasis shifted to deep-sea trawling until the Anglo-Icelandic Cod War of 1975–1976. The conditions set at the end of this dispute initiated Hull's economic decline.
The city's port and industrial facilities, coupled with its proximity to mainland Europe and ease of location being on a major estuary, led to extremely widespread damage by bombing raids during World War II; much of the city centre was destroyed. Hull had 95% of its houses damaged or destroyed, making it the most severely bombed British city or town, apart from London, during World War II. More than 1,200 people died in air raids on the city and some 3,000 others were injured.
The worst of the bombing occurred in 1941. Little was known about this destruction by the rest of the country at the time, since most of the radio and newspaper reports did not reveal Hull by name but referred to it as "a North-East town" or "a northern coastal town". Most of the city centre was rebuilt in the years following the war, but as recently as 2006 researchers found documents in the local archives that suggested an unexploded wartime bomb might be buried beneath a major new redevelopment, The Boom, in Hull.