A History of the County of York East Riding: Volume 1, the City of Kingston Upon Hull. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.
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There is no reference to defences round the town until 1321, when Edward II licensed the building of a ditch and a crenellated wall of stone and lime. (fn. 1) The licence was supported by a grant of murage for five years, and in 1325 murage for three years was granted for the completion of the work. (fn. 2) The king is said to have been highly pleased with the fortifications when he visited Hull in 1332. (fn. 3) These defences apparently lay on the south side of the town, as well as the north and west, for as early as 1339 there is mention of 'the wall of the town towards the Humber'. (fn. 4) Further grants of murage were made in 1341, for five years, (fn. 5) and 1348, for seven years, (fn. 6) for the inhabitants 'to wall in their town'. Both grants were also 'to complete a wall, begun by them for the safety of the town and the parts adjacent, on the water of Humber', and in 1355 murage for sixteen years was granted 'to finish their wall begun on the water of Humber'. (fn. 7) These may well be references to a sea-wall along the Humber bank, rather than to the town fortifications. Thus it seems likely that the defences were first built in the 1320s, and that they were strengthened in the 1340s and 1350s. The east side of the town was to have no defences for some two centuries more.
Despite the words of the original licence, there is no reason to suppose that the defences were built of stone. The exact nature of the work carried out in the 1320s is difficult to establish. The only surviving chamberlains' account, for the period 1 January 1321 to 1 January 1324, is much concerned with receipts and expenses connected with the defences. Digging and similar work cost £110 and included the construction of a bank and a ditch (magnum fossatum and le mote). The cost of timber, boards, and stakes or piles ([pro] pilis) was £142, and iron for nails cost £14. A further £40 was spent on stone, tile (i.e. brick), lime, and sand, which were used for North Gate 'and elsewhere'. Wages were paid to both carpenters and masons, and payments were made in compensation for damage done to property in the course of the work. (fn. 8)
In the interpretation of these details much depends on the use to which the timber is thought to have been put. The timber, boards, and stakes were needed pro pela. This most likely referred to a palisade, erected on the bank and serving until the walls were built. The stone and brick recorded in 1321–4 would thus have been used only for such key points as the gates. It is possible, however, that pro pela may refer to the piling that was necessary as a foundation for walls, and that a brick wall was completed in the later 1320s. (fn. 9)
Whatever the nature of the initial fortifications, it is clear that subsequent work involved much building and rebuilding in brick. The next surviving chamberlains' account, for the year 1353–4, shows that about 67,000 'waltighel' were bought, together with lime and sand, and that wages were paid to masons and their men working on the walls. (fn. 10) Nothing was spent on the defences in the following year (fn. 11) and there are then no chamberlains' accounts until 1394–5.
A grant of murage for five years was made in 1376, and in the following year, when a French invasion was feared, the king ordered the walls and dikes to be surveyed and repaired. Five years' murage was again granted, and later in 1377 a licence for the recruitment of all necessary workmen within five leagues of Hull. (fn. 12) Grants of murage were made in 1382, 1391, and 1396, all for five years; in 1399 for four years; and in 1404 for two years. (fn. 13) The only surviving chamberlains' account for this period, that for 1394–5, shows no expenditure on the defences. (fn. 14)
The walls were thus built of brick, and not of stone. (fn. 15) In the early 16th century Leland found the walls, towers, and gates to be all of brick. (fn. 16) There may, however, have been stone dressings in the gates and elsewhere, which would explain an order of 1566 that brick or stone should not be removed from the walls. (fn. 17) In 1610 a bricklayer was paid for work on the walls and gates, and an annual payment was agreed upon for his future maintenance of them; he was to provide his own bricks and mortar. (fn. 18)
The four principal gates through the walls were North Gate, by the River Hull, Beverley Gate, near the north-west angle, Myton Gate, on the west, and Hessle Gate, by the Humber. There were also several posterns: one on the north, sometimes called Low Gate, at the end of the street of that name; one between Beverley and Myton Gates, at the end of Posterngate (street); a third leading to the Humber foreshore at the South End; and a fourth at the end of Blackfriargate (later Blanket Row). There is some uncertainty as to the number of towers in the walls. Leland spoke of 12 between North and Beverley Gates, 5 between Beverley and Myton Gates, 3 between Myton and Hessle Gates, and 5 facing the Humber. The undated early plan of Hull (fn. 19) shows 14, 5, 3, and 8, with in addition a chain tower at the mouth of the haven. Hollar's plan and view show 13, 5, 3, and 6 or 7, together with the chain tower. A tower may have been built on the east side of the haven about 1380. (fn. 20)
The exact nature of the walls is best suggested by the undated plan and by that of Hollar. (fn. 21) On the south the wall rose from the foreshore and for much of its length was lapped by the tides. (fn. 22) On the west and north it was backed by a substantial bank, and it ended at North Gate. Between the gate and the river was a gap which on occasions was ordered to be stopped up: in 1585 with a mud wall, and in 1630 with an earth wall topped by a fence and faced with brick. (fn. 23) Outside the walls ran the town ditch, which was filled with fresh water and was therefore connected with the Humber and the River Hull by sluices. (fn. 24) Bridges crossed the ditch outside Low, Beverley, and Myton Gates, and Hollar also shows piles for bridges outside the posterns at the end of Posterngate and Blanket Row. A bridge was ordered to be made outside the first of these in 1559, and the planks of the posterns to be taken up as a precaution in 1587. (fn. 25)
The walls had horizontal battlements between the towers according to Hollar, but the undated plan, while showing the Humber wall in this way, has a curious stepped arrangement on the west and north. This plan also shows, on the inside of the north wall, flights of steps leading up to the towers and arched openings in the towers themselves. Hollar shows an arcade of similar openings running the whole length of the Humber wall and carrying the wall-walk. On the west and north the wall-walk may have been sited on the earth bank behind the wall. Most of the towers were square, but Hollar shows several as round or half-round.
By Hollar's time both North and Hessle Gates were substantial structures spanning the town ditch. Hessle Gate, however, does not do so on the undated plan (see below). This plan also shows Beverley Gate with a spire, a feature which had disappeared by 1640 though Hollar's oddly-shaped gate appears as if it might have been truncated in this way. This gate contained at least one room under it and one above it; two such rooms were let by the corporation to the keeper of the gates in 1606, and a room over the gate was let to several trade companies in 1607. (fn. 26) Myton and Low Gates were both less substantial, taking the form of large towers in the walls, and the two posterns on the west side of the town were both in wall towers. These posterns were at various times stopped up. Low Gate, then described as 'the postern against the Charterhouse', was apparently filled in as part of the defensive precautions taken about 1460; it was open in 1459 but in 1465 it was agreed to make a postern there for the convenience of the Duke of Suffolk. (fn. 27) The postern at the end of Posterngate was reopened in 1559 and again in 1602 so that rubbish could be carried out of the town to the Tilery. (fn. 28) The final postern, that leading to the foreshore at the South End, is shown by Hollar to have been in a large square tower which was arched across the street inside the walls.
The defences were not thought adequate by Henry VIII when he visited Hull in 1541 after the suppression of the Pilgrimage of Grace. He ordered, in October, that various improvements should be made. A bulwark was to be built at 'the Watergate' (i.e. the South End postern). The little round brick tower on Holderness side was to be 'enlarged to bear the chain and to beat the haven' and was to have a guard established in it. (fn. 29) The brick gate at North End (i.e. North Gate) was to be 'mured up and made platform' to beat the flank of the town and the haven. The corner tower was to be made 'larger out' to answer to North Gate and the gate 'where Constable hangeth', (fn. 30) and the latter gate was to be provided with a barbican; the corner tower was presumably that at the north-west angle of the town and, from this description, the gate where Constable hung was perhaps Beverley Gate, though that was never in fact provided with a barbican across the town ditch. (fn. 31) 'Milgate' (i.e. presumably Myton Gate) was to be left open because it was convenient for access to the ferry at Hessle and to the townspeople's pastures. The town ditch was to be scoured and the sluices were to be renovated so as to 'drown about the town' if required. The ramparts were to be made up with soil and, finally, all gates not already mentioned were to be 'mured up'. (fn. 32)
In 1542 it was further ordered that, until the new fortifications (see below) were finished, Hessle Gate, 'the Water Gate', and 'the Brickgate towards Holderness' (i.e. North Gate) should be locked at night. The tower of 'the Water Gate' was to have ordnance set upon it, and all other gates and posterns were to be 'closed up and dammed'. (fn. 33) Later in the year it was agreed that the gate where Constable hung might remain open and Myton Gate be blocked. (fn. 34)
The walls on the north, west, and south sufficed for the defence of the town until the 16th century. In 1541, however, Henry VIII ordered not only that the walls should be strengthened but also that a 'castle' and two blockhouses should be built on the east side of the haven. (fn. 35) The work was to be under the oversight of Sir Richard Long, the newlyappointed captain of the town, and Michael Stanhope, the lieutenant, and the surveyor was John Rogers, lately the king's master mason at Calais. (fn. 36) Between October 1541 and December 1543 a total of £23,144 was expended by 'the paymaster of and for the fortifications'. (fn. 37)
The new works were built partly of brick and partly of stone taken from St. Mary's Church, Hull, (fn. 38) and from Meaux Abbey. An estimate of wages to be paid to over 500 workmen and labourers, made in February 1542, mentioned 20 masons at Meaux 'to see it taken down' and at Hull 'to hew', and 60 bricklayers at the fortifications. (fn. 39) At least some of the bricks were made on the spot, in a kiln 'of ten holes' near the castle. (fn. 40) The works consisted of a blockhouse near the Humber, at the mouth of the haven; another near the river, across from the town's North Gate but a few yards further north; a 'castle' roughly midway between the blockhouses; a curtain wall connecting these three; and a ditch outside to the east. (fn. 41)
The castle had a three-story inner keep, measuring 66 by 50 feet, a surrounding courtyard, 28 feet wide on two sides and 20 feet on the other two, and an outer wall 174 feet square. The walls of the keep were 8 feet thick and those of the outer wall about 19 feet, with a 5-foot-wide corridor within them all round the building. Projecting from the east and west sides were apartments measuring 45 by 40 feet, each with a gallery above a lower room. Platforms above the courtyard carried the guns. Each blockhouse was roughly trefoil-shaped, with rounded apartments on three sides measuring 34 by 27 feet, and a square projection on the fourth containing the entrance; the inner courtyard was 37 feet square. The walls were 15 feet thick. The blockhouses were two stories high and there were again upper platforms for the guns. (fn. 42)
Because of the high cost of maintaining the garrison, Edward VI granted the fortifications to the corporation in 1552. The corporation entered into a bond of £2,000 to keep them in repair, but received a grant from the king, to support the work, of £50 a year out of the manor of Myton. (fn. 43) Later that year, when letters patent were issued in fulfilment of the grant, Edward further granted the 'manor' of Hull, the manor of Tupcoates with Myton, and a sixth part of the manor of Sutton. (fn. 44) By 1576 the corporation nevertheless found the upkeep of the works so burdensome that it sought relief from the Privy Council. Surveys were made and although the walls were found to be in good repair the platforms were much decayed and the ditch was filled with earth; in addition a new jetty was thought necessary to protect the south blockhouse. (fn. 45) Henceforth the condition of the fortifications was to be a constant source of dispute.
The scale of the work done after the disclosures of 1577 is indicated by the gift of 60 trees from Duchy of Lancaster woods in 1581. (fn. 46) In 1583 the corporation was summoned by Burghley to answer for its neglect, and it claimed that £624 had been spent on the works in the seven years from Michaelmas 1576. (fn. 47) In 1588 a suit was unsuccessfully brought against the corporation by John Blagrave, Hull then claiming to have spent £948 since Michaelmas 1576, and £2,893 in all from 1552 to 1587. (fn. 48) In or shortly before 1601 the Crown brought another suit against the corporation, which then claimed to have spent £3,522 between 1552 and 1599. (fn. 49) The suit was apparently dropped, but yet another was brought in 1634, and the total spent on the fortifications between 1552 and 1635 was put at £11,367. (fn. 50) Eventually, in 1639, the proceedings against Hull were stopped. (fn. 51) It was frequently alleged that much of the decay stemmed from the use of green timber when the fortifications were built, and that they were already in poor repair when the corporation received them in 1552. In addition to annual accounts of money spent, there are frequent orders for work to be done, (fn. 52) and the corporation appointed keepers for each of the blockhouses and the castle. (fn. 53) Some profit was made by letting out the grazing of the ground called the Garrison, lying between the haven and the fortifications. (fn. 54) The buildings themselves were used for the imprisonment of numerous recusants during the 16th and early 17th centuries. (fn. 55)
During the earlier 17th century much work was done on the existing defences and some new fortifications were built. The first of these works were undertaken after the Privy Council ordered in 1626 that the town should be fortified against the Spaniards; by 1627 'several fortifications and bulwarks' had been built. (fn. 56) It seems likely that these bulwarks included a battery of guns near the south blockhouse, facing the Humber, and a fort or battery on the foreshore at the South End. The latter fort was strengthened by the rebuilding of walls and foundations in 1629. (fn. 57)
The defences were examined by the Privy Council in 1638, with the approach of campaigns against the Scots, and consequently the town ditch was cleaned out and the drawbridges over it repaired. (fn. 58) Early in 1639 it was proposed to construct works outside Beverley, Myton, Low, and Hessle Gates, but it is not known whether any of these were actually built. (fn. 59) In preparation for the king's forthcoming visit the ramparts along the town walls were put in good order, (fn. 60) and Charles expressed satisfaction at the way the works of fortification had been carried out. (fn. 61) In 1640, when the town was ordered to be fortified against the Scots, Hessle Gate was stopped up. (fn. 62) In 1641 various repairs were carried out, (fn. 63) and between 1642 and 1645 constant attention was given to the state of the walls. (fn. 64)
The Civil War also saw a new line of defences completed around the town, perhaps begun after the proposals of 1639 and probably finished in 1642 when Sir John Hotham was preparing to withstand the first Royalist siege. (fn. 65) In front of each of North, Low, Beverley, Myton, and Hessle Gates was built a battery, often referred to as a 'half-moon' or a 'hornwork'. That in front of Hessle Gate had double ramparts. (fn. 66) Connecting the batteries was a 'breastwork', and along the entire length ran a wide ditch over which there were drawbridges at Beverley and North Gates. The ditch was, at least in part, later known as Bush Dike. (fn. 67) For several miles around the town the low-lying land could be, and was, flooded by cutting the banks along the Humber; only a few places lay too high for this to be effective, and to protect one such point on the west by the Humber a 'fort royal' was built. (fn. 68) There appear to have been extra works thrown up near the river outside North Gate, and on the east side of the haven there were works near the north blockhouse and near the sluice on the Humber which was used to let in flood water. (fn. 69) Phillips's map of 1725 shows all these works as well as any. (fn. 70) There is little evidence as to the exact nature of these new fortifications, though the breastwork was described in 1685 as being higher than the town walls, which were 14 feet high, and as having a parapet and rampart. (fn. 71)
The sieges left the defences in need of extensive renovation. One of the most serious defects was a collapsed section of wall, 50 yards long, between Myton Gate and the postern to the north; the weight of guns fired from the wall, the pressure of earth heaped behind it, and excessive rain were all thought to have contributed to the fall. (fn. 72) Additional earth had been placed behind the walls between Hessle and Beverley Gates in 1645 and 1646, and those between Beverley and North Gates were ordered to be similarly strengthened in 1647, (fn. 73) but this may again have had a weakening effect. (fn. 74) Late in 1646 a survey was made of all the damage done to the town, and its repair was estimated to cost £6,605; this included work on the north blockhouse, which was accidentally blown up during the second siege, on the south blockhouse and the castle, where there had been a fire in 1642, and on the walls and Hessle Gate. (fn. 75)
Parliament agreed in 1648 to the granting of £6,000 for repair work, (fn. 76) and by 1651 £2,000 appears to have been actually expended. (fn. 77) The cost of the work done during subsequent years included £600 for one of the blockhouses and for the boom. (fn. 78) Hull petitioned Parliament for more relief in 1658. (fn. 79) In 1662 £500 was ordered to be paid over. (fn. 80) In 1663 some of the materials of the ruinous north blockhouse were ordered to be sold to pay for the repair of part of the building, (fn. 81) and as late as 1681 the Ordnance Office was investigating charges of the misappropriation of materials from this blockhouse by the governor and deputy governor of the town. (fn. 82) Finally, mention may be made of repairs for which the corporation advanced £200 to the governor in the mid-1660s. (fn. 83) At least part of that money was apparently used for the drawbridge at Beverley Gate; (fn. 84) all the drawbridges had been ordered to be repaired in 1662. (fn. 85) The 'out-bridges' over the Civil War ditch were all repaired in 1676. (fn. 86)
In the late 17th century one of the towers in the wall facing the Humber was known as the Mallow or Mally Tower. Prisoners were apparently confined there in 1662. (fn. 87) It was occupied by ropemakers in 1663, and in 1684 a lease of the Ropery included all the 'loops and places' in the wall, together with the tower. (fn. 88) This may have been the tower later called Harry Ogle's, after a prisoner who was confined there. It has been suggested (fn. 89) that the tower was the 'cold and uncouth' prison, to which a man suspected of being light-witted was committed in 1632. (fn. 90) The chain tower, or South End Tower, contained at this period three chambers one above another over a room called the chain house, and there was a shed over the windlass. (fn. 91)
The fortifications on the east side of the haven underwent a complete transformation in the late 17th century with the construction of the Citadel, or Garrison. The work is said to have followed a Crown survey of the defences made in 1680 and to have cost over £100,000. (fn. 92) It was certainly under way in 1681 and considerable progress had been made by the end of 1682, (fn. 93) though it was not finished for some years more. (fn. 94) In 1681–2 the Crown had bought 29 acres of land to be taken into the new fortifications. (fn. 95) The Crown survey made before work began was probably that of Maj. Martin Beckman, who wrote a lengthy but undated description of the condition of the defences; Beckman reported on Hull again, briefly, in 1685, when he said it was fit to be 'fortified as a citadel'. (fn. 96) Fourteen years later it was reported that the Citadel 'were it finished would undoubtedly be a very strong fortification', and it was recalled that Beckman's estimate for the work had been £74,425. (fn. 97)
The Citadel (fn. 98) encompassed the south blockhouse and the castle; the curtain wall between them was removed, as was the southernmost half of that between the castle and the north blockhouse. The north blockhouse lay outside the new works but was apparently maintained for some time. The Citadel was broadly triangular in shape, with projecting bastions at each corner. The lengths of the curtain walls between the bastions were 266 yards on the south, 258 on the west, and 100 on the east. The south-west bastion incorporated the old south block- house; its sides were 141 and 50 yards long. The north bastion included the magazine (the old castle) and had sides 133 and 100 yards long. The sides of the south-east bastion measured 133 and 108 yards. (fn. 99)
On early-18th-century maps the buildings within the Citadel included soldiers' and officers' barracks and the governor's house, and these may have been built as part of the original work. A wide moat extended round the Citadel, with a narrow bank on the west separating the moat from the River Hull; a sluice connected the moat with the river. In 1725 the 'great entrance' to the Citadel was still on the north-east side, with a wooden bridge over the moat and a 'designed ravelin' at the landward end. By 1735 this entrance was apparently disused and the bridge had gone. Near this point in 1784 was a building for French prisoners, and at that time the former governor's house was the officers' prison. The entrance was by this date at the south-west bastion. (fn. 100)
The corporation's responsibility for the works on the east side of the haven had been given up at the beginning of the Civil War and never re-assumed. But the town was still responsible for the jetties and other timber-work about the haven, and in 1693 it attempted to have such work on 'the Garrison Side' transferred to the Crown. In return Hull offered to give up the legal right, which it still claimed to have, to the fortifications themselves. (fn. 101) In 1699 the corporation asked the Ordnance Office either to give up the Citadel or to repair the jetties and breastwork, (fn. 102) again apparently without effect. (fn. 103) The ownership of the Citadel was not again contested for 160 years.
In the meantime the defences on the west side of the River Hull were in constant need of repair. Beckman's report recommended that five sections of the town walls, measuring 235 yards in all, should be rebuilt and buttresses made in many other places. Work was also needed at the South End fort, on the Civil War batteries and breastwork, and on various gates, drawbridges, and guard-houses. (fn. 104) During the late 17th century and the first 70 years of the 18th the town frequently carried out work on the walls, ditches, gates, and drawbridges. (fn. 105) Two of the more significant changes were the removal of the ruinous tower over Beverley Gate in 1735 (fn. 106) and the unblocking of Hessle Gate in 1761. (fn. 107) The corporation unsuccessfully tried to have work on the bridges over the ditches done by the Crown in 1751, and in 1754 appointed a committee, which was still sitting three years later, to attend the Ordnance Office about the inconvenience of buildings on the walls. (fn. 108) The poor state of the defences at this time was remarked upon by John Wesley in 1752: they were in a 'miserable condition . . . far more ruinous and decayed than those at Newcastle, even before the rebellion'. (fn. 109)
In 1770 the corporation laid a claim to the town walls and ditches, (fn. 110) but in 1772 it was petitioning the Crown for a grant of them. (fn. 111) In 1774 the walls, ramparts, and ditches on the north and west of the town, and the wall on the south from Hessle Gate to Ogle's Tower, were indeed granted to the Dock Company for the construction of docks and harbour works. (fn. 112) A year later the corporation was considering making a petition for the Artillery Yard, including the old South End fort, (fn. 113) but in 1801 it was obliged to pay the Crown £2,400 for part of it. (fn. 114)
The town's next major acquisition was in 1802 when the Crown granted 37 acres, including the north blockhouse, on the east side of the haven to the corporation and Trinity House for £8,000. (fn. 115) Various lots of ground were staked out and sold in 1803; the north blockhouse fetched £820, and both it and the old curtain wall running southwards towards the Citadel moat were demolished. (fn. 116)
In the later 18th century much of the fortifications was demolished. The north wall went during the making of the first dock, opened in 1778, and with it Beverley Gate, said to have been demolished in 1776. (fn. 117) Between 1784 and 1791 the defences between Beverley and Myton Gates were removed. (fn. 118) The remainder of the west wall was taken down by 1800 (fn. 119) and most of the wall along the Humber was demolished soon after the turn of the century. (fn. 120) Harry Ogle's Tower had, for example, gone by the end of 1805. (fn. 121)
By the early 19th century little remained of the fortifications except the Citadel itself. This is said to have ceased to be used for military purposes in 1848; (fn. 122) it was transferred from the Ordnance Office to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests in 1858, and was let for commercial purposes. In 1859 the Crown called for tenders for the purchase of the Citadel, fixing £100,000 as the minimum price. Hull promptly decided to contest the Crown's right to the grounds and brought a suit in Chancery to recover them. It was obliged to limit its claim to the area originally granted by Edward VI and not to contest the 29 acres acquired by the Crown in 1681–2. Eventually, in 1861, the court decided against Hull in view of the Crown's possession of the Citadel since 1700; the purchase of 37 acres from the Crown in 1802 was held to be especially damaging to the corporation's claim to ownership. (fn. 123) In 1863 the Crown completed its sale of the Citadel, and in 1864 all was swept away to be replaced by dock and harbour works. (fn. 124)
There are no remains in situ of any of the town's fortifications, though the areas of the walled town and the Citadel are still clearly demarcated by docks on the west and east and by Queen's Gardens on the north. A bartizan from the south-west bastion of the Citadel is preserved in East Park. (fn. 125)
In 1964 an interval tower in the Humber wall was revealed by excavation. The tower, situated between Ogle's Tower and the South End postern, makes its appearance on maps later in date than the 17th century. The excavation confirmed a 17th-century date for its building, both from the nature of the brickwork and from the occurrence of 16th- and 17thcentury pottery in the refuse layers through which the foundation trench had been cut. (fn. 126)