It seems quite apparent that the port of Wyke upon Hull (often referred to as either Wyke or Hull) was established quickly after Meaux abbeys acquisition of Myton. It would also be fair to say it quickly attracted a good trade. First mentioned in 1193, when the wool gathered together through a number of monasteries for the ransom of Richard I was collected at ‘the port of Hull’. Then in 1197–9, there is record of 45 sacks of wool being sold in Hull. The export of wool became one of the main trades from the port. When the east and south coasts ports were taxed by King John in 1203–5, Hull’s was the sixth largest contribution with £345; only London, Boston, Southampton, Lincoln, and King’s Lynn paid more. Thereafter, Hull often appeared among the ports to which royal mandates were directed.
The next chance we get to look at the position of Wyke among the other ports begins in 1275. Here customs duties began to be collected on exports of wool, woolfells, and hides. Theobald Janiani was the deputy for the merchants of Lucca who were appointed to receive the customs. The first account in 1275–6, shows 67 cargoes leaving the port, with 4,172 sacks of wool, 4,704 woolfells, and 39½ lasts, 75½ dickers, and 103 hides. The amount of wool exported was unusually high and this target was not reached again until 1288–9, when 4,517 sacks went out. Normally between 2,084 and 3,983 sacks were exported annually. Hull now making the third largest contribution over a number of years to the royal customs revenues, being exceeded only by Boston and London.
Imported wine was the other main branch of Hull’s 13th-century trade, this is also recorded early on. Royal wine was being transported from Hull to York as early as 1204. There are references to wine ships reaching Hull in the 1220s. Archbishops of York were among others who bought their wine in Hull. In 1291 415 tuns of royal wine were distributed from Hull.
Murder most horrid
The archbishops had long claimed the right of passage along the River Hull, as lords of the town of Beverley but during the 13th century they extended their claims to the appointment of coroners on both banks of the river and to the levying of duties on imported goods. Around the year 1213 the archbishop’s men are said to have attempted to take over the tolls for measuring and weighing normally done by Saer de Sutton as lord of the manor of Sutton. Saer’s men, went to taste the wine on a ship entering the port. The ship was found to contain treasure and, on Saer’s instructions, they killed the crew and took it. Saer was charged for this offence and to secure the favour of Archbishop Gray he gave him all his rights in the river.
Rights to tax
When Giffard was called to uphold his claim in 1275–6 the charter seems to have been ignored. It was recorded that there was no known authority for the appropriation of the port. A new king’s chamberlain and gauger of wine was appointed in 1278. Wyke was one of the ports which received writs in his favour. Archbishop Wickwane, like Giffard before him, failed to produce authority for the archiepiscopal rights in Hull. The levy was taken into the king’s hands.
In 1286–7 Wickwane disclaimed any right to customs taxes, though he maintained his claim to first taste and preemption of wine. Levy and gauge money were in 1287 being collected in Hull, on the king’s butler’s behalf, by Hamon Box, and in 1290 by Joricius the Fleming. When Archbishop Romeyn in his turn was called to substantiate his claim, in 1293, he too disclaimed the right to levy; but he insisted on his right to first taste and preemption, and to have coroners for the River Hull, all of which the archbishops had, he said, enjoyed ‘of old’. It was to be some years before an archbishop again laid claim to prisage at Hull. (fn. 58)
There aren’t many references to the buildings and streets of the early town. After Meaux’s destruction of the chapel of Myton there seems to be no provision for worship in Wyke until 1285. A chapel is said to have been founded there, still in Hessle parish. Two priests were licensed to work there in 1291. The first religious house in Wyke was founded around the same time. It is not known whether the monks erected any buildings in Monkgate; they were soon to leave this for a larger site. The building in Hull Street where the abbot occasionally heard pleas, mentioned in 1293, may have been only a dwelling-house. The location of Meaux’s gaol, the other place where pleas were held, is not known.
It was not until 1279 that Meaux acquired the right to hold its weekly market and fifteenday annual fair. These may have been held in Marketgate, though one site was reserved for a fair and apparently never used.