Georgian Society for East Yorkshire

The Birth of Hull's Great Docks

For most of the eighteenth century, ships coming into Hull would dock at wharves at the river. The "Staithes" of High Street extend down to this area, which is now a pleasant walk away from the noise of the city.

But in the mid eighteenth century the area was crowded and bustling, and merchants would soon be demanding more space. In fact the Hull merchants had the support of their competitors at Beverley and Driffield, whose shipping had difficulty navigating the crowded river at Hull to deliver their cargoes.

In 1773 the corporation founded the Dock Company, the first statutory dock company in Britain. The Crown gave the company the land upon which the city walls stood for the construction of their docks, an Act of Parliament in the following year allowed the Dock Company to begin raising funds.

Construction was begin in 1775 of a dock then simply called "The Dock", later "The Old Dock" and finally "Queen's Dock", the site of which is now occupied by Queens Gardens and Hull College. The dock was completed in 1778, and opened out onto the River Hull.

When access to the dock through the River Hull was still found to be troublesome, in 1781 the Dock Company considered the construction of a canal to link the dock with the River Humber. Over the course of 21 inactive years these plans became a proposal for a second dock directly connected to the Humber. An Act of Parliament in 1802 allowed construction to begin in 1803, and the Humber Dock opened in 1809. This is now part of the marina. Mud from the excavations was used to create new land on the banks of the Humber; Humber Street marks the northern boundary of the new ground.

The 1802 Act of Parliament stipulated that, should the tonnage unloaded at the two docks pass a certain limit, a third dock would be constructed linking the other two. This was Junction Dock, construction beginning in 1826 and the dock opening in 1829. It was later known as Princes Dock.

By the end of the Georgian period, what had once been the 17th century town of Hull was now an island, ringed by the Rivers Hull and Humber and three interconnected docks. The prosperity that these docks brought in allowed Hull to expand far beyond their limits, while preserving for posterity a visible outline of the historic walled town.

In this section

See also