With the River Hull offering a harbour for the import and export of goods and the Humber estuary being connected to other major rivers the town of Wyke upon Hull became established and thrived. In 1279 under the reign of Edward the first (Edward Longshanks of the house of Plantagenet) Hull was granted the right to hold markets and a fair. (A fair was like a market but was held only once a year and lasted for several days). People would come from all over Northeast England to buy and sell at one. That fair continues to thrive once a year (with the exception of 2020’s lockdown) and is known as Hull fair, which stakes a claim as the oldest travelling fair.
The arrival of Edward 1st
The Church of the Holy Trinity was built around 1285. Then in 1286 a new abbot took over but found a heavy burden of debt at Meaux. Almost immediately decided to farm out both the town of Wyke and the grange of Myton in order to recoup some lost money. They were let for 20 years to William de Hamelton the Dean of York he paid the whole rent of £533 6s. 8d. in advance. The value of the area ensured Hamelton a good profit on what was essentially a loan. There was no doubt that it was due to the terms being in Hamelton’s favour that the following year the abbot tried to recover the lease by offering Hamelton £100 a year until his rent should be repaid. There’s a possibility that they had heard of the king’s intention to purchase the area, and Hamelton drove a hard bargain.
Hamelton later became Edward’s chancellor, and the king was to say of him that there was ‘no one else in his realm so expert in its laws and customs’. After five years of discussions he reached agreement with the abbot. Hamelton was to have £5 a year and the grange of North Dalton, which was worth £10 a year, for life. When account was taken of dilapidations and repairs at Dalton, amongst other expenses, Meaux reckoned that it had lost over £1,000 on the whole transaction.
Edward I’s interest in Wyke may be due to his need of an adequate supply port in the north. In 1293 the lordship of Holderness, including the ports at Hedon and Ravenser, were returned to the Crown. Both ports, however, had their disadvantages, one was two miles inland along a winding creek, the other exposed on Spurn Head where it was destined before long to be destroyed by the sea. Wyke was a better proposition, and there the king planned ‘to develop a port suitable for ships and merchandise’.
Edward was twice in the area in 1292. It was perhaps during his visit of September that final plans for the purchase of Wyke were made. In November he ordered a valuation of Wyke, and this was done in the following January. By the end of that month Meaux had granted all its rights in the town to the king. In March Edward took ownership of both Wyke and Myton.
Life under Edward
The development of Wyke after the king’s acquisition was limited, though some changes were made. The streets, with their grid pattern typical of new towns of the time, already existed and was largely Meaux’s work. Some westerly streets may have been improved. Two of which were apparently named after royal officials who took part in the transactions of 1293, Peter de Champagne and Roger de Lisle. The plots in this part of the town were certainly not soon built upon. It may be doubted whether the existing houses of 1293 that were then thatched were duly roofed with tiles within two years and a day, as was stated in the rental of 17 March. Among the plots which failed to be developed were the site which Meaux had reserved for the horse fair, and the Hales, both of which remained vacant during the time covered by Oysel’s accounts.
In July 1293, the king gave permission for two weekly markets and a six-week annual fair. The prompt taking of three plots into the king’s hands for the building of a new quay, later known as King’s Staith, on the south side of Kirk Lane was, however, apparently not followed by any construction. The making of the quay was ordered as late as 1297; £10 was spent on the work that year, and the plots were not returned to their owners until 1302. Also in 1297 the king ordered Oysel to build ‘suitable houses for the stay of his bailiff and others necessary for the custody of that town.’ It was to have hall, chambers, and chapel, various domestic buildings and a well, a ditch around it with a bridge for entry. The location was to be ‘at Myton near that town’, £50 was spent on the work in 1296–7.
Hull, like one of its local rivals, Ravenser, which received an almost identical charter on the same day, had petitioned for the charter to be granted, asking for all that was in fact given. It had also offered to pay a fine of £66 13s. 4d. for the charter, which in due course it did, whereas Ravenser paid as much as £300. This may be regarded as one further expression of royal favour towards Kingston upon Hull. This gave Hull its independence. From that date Hull had a mayor the first was Richard De La Pole, a rich merchant. Prior to this Hull was run by a steward appointed by the king.
The main export from hull was wool. Much of the exports heading to towns in what is now the Netherlands and Belgium, where it was woven and dyed. Some salt was also exported, along with grains and hides. The main import into Hull was chiefly wine (the drink of the upper class). Hull also saw imported; wood and iron from Scandinavia, furs, wax and pitch.
The trade of the port was little affected by the changes of 1293. Wool exports continued to run at a high level, averaging about 2,950 sacks a year in 1295–9. In a typical year, 1299–1300, 95 cargoes left Hull with 3,922 sacks of wool, 7,122 woolfells, and 89 lasts, 25 dickers, and 12 hides. Besides its normal trade, however, Hull was soon fulfilling the role of a supply port and base for Edward’s Scottish campaigns. Wine was sent from Hull to the king at Norham (Northumb.), as well as to religious houses as far distant as Durham. In 1297 the king called for provisions from Hull, for an expedition to Scotland, to be sent north. The town was also required to provide ships for such expeditions. Such a demand had been made in 1296. In 1298–9 a barge made at Hull and sent to Scotland cost £28.
There were also many fishermen in Hull trawling the cold waters around Iceland. A trade that would continue to grow and flourish eventually giving a famed reputation as a fishing city.
In the Middle Ages there were friars in Hull. Friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach. Carmelite Friars (known as white friars because of the colour of their habits) arrived in 1293. They live on, of course, in the street name Whitefriargate. From 1303 there were Augustinian friars (known as grey friars) in Hull. The street name Blackfriargate indicates there were Dominican friars (known as black friars because of their black costumes). The church also ran ‘hospitals’ for poor people. In the Middle Ages there was a Carthusian priory (a small abbey) and a ‘hospital’ run by the monks.
By 1293, and therefore within a century of its foundation, Hull had grown to a town of some 60 households. There is little other than the evidence of some of their names to suggest when the inhabitants had come; but topographical surnames are common and some point to an origin in the surrounding countryside and in north Lincolnshire. Thus there were apparently migrants from Ousefleet, Cottingham, Barton, Risby, Aldbrough, Drypool, Anlaby, Ruston, Newland, Riplingham, Bainton, Rowley, Middleton, and Malton. Others seem to have come from further afield: Bedford, Stamford, Warwick, Newark, and Lincoln.
In 1300, a mint and an exchange were established. Work on houses for them costing £24. A churchyard for Holy Trinity was consecrated in 1301, and enlarged from the Hales in 1302, to obviate the dangerous journey along the Humber shore to the mother church at Hessle. Also in 1302 discussions were being held about new approach roads to the town, and work was in progress a few years later. In 1303 Oysel was ordered to make a new water-mill on the Old Hull; timber costing £61 was brought from Sherwood Forest for the work, and part of the pasture of Suthwik was used for the site. Finally, a large new site for the Carmelite Friary was provided by the king in 1304.
In the early 14th century, Hull was given a stonewall and a ditch. There were 4 main gates, North Gate, Beverley Gate, Myton Gate and Hessle Gate. Hull’s first grammar school was also built in the 14th century. Like all other towns Hull suffered from the Black Death of 1349, which probably killed about half the population. But it soon recovered. By the late 14th century Hull may have had a population of 3,500. By the standards of the time it was a large and important place. The streets of Hull were paved but no doubt were very dirty, full of animal dung and other refuse.
Trinity House began as a guild. In the Middle Ages skilled workers were organised into guilds that looked after their members interests. The seamen were organised into a guild, which met in Holy Trinity church. They ran a ‘hospital’ (actually an almshouse). They also controlled navigation in the Humber.
Although a great deal of raw wool was exported from the city some wool was woven and dyed in the town and exported. By 1365 there was a weigh house where bales of wool could be weighed. The only other substantial industries were brick making and tile making. Outside the walls of Hull were brickyards and tile yards. There were also the same craftsmen who would be found in any town, blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, bakers, brewers and butchers.
Hull was important as a port, and in its early years an arsenal at one time second only to London. It’s importance caused walls with battlements and towers to be initiated in 1327. Followed by blockhouses on the east bank of the River Hull in 1542. And finally a Citadel, again on the east bank, in 1681. Although all these have long gone their imprint on the old town along with the subsequent docks can still be appreciated.