Monday, 8 July 2013

A Journey to Hull and Back

A dull, grey day today, so I took myself off to Kingston Upon Hull, a port on the River Humber, to go around its numerous museums and art galleries. Entry to them all is FREE, unlike Berlin, and they are mostly really rather good.

The Maritime Museum on Queen Victoria Square in the centre of Hull is a good place to start. It tells the story of Hull's important links with the ocean and in particular its whaling industry. Whatever you think about the trade of chasing and hunting down gargantuan creatures across the oceans of the world (and I think it was and is a despicable thing to do), there is a romance in the tales of sailors from the tiny city of Hull travelling on small vessels across vast distances of stormy seas to frozen places I can barely imagine. Well, the Maritime Museum is the place to let your imagination wander with them.

Hull doesn't have a fishing industry any more, let alone a whaling industry, but you can see Hull's last surviving sidewinder trawler over in the Museum Quarter, moored desolately on the River Hull, behind the Streetlife Museum.

The Arctic Corsair, Hull
The trawler is named the Arctic Corsair. Built in 1960, she was in service until 1998. During that time she took part in the Cod Wars with Iceland, and in 1973 broke the world record for the landing of cod and haddock from the White Sea, way up on the Arctic North-West coast of Russia.
She is now a museum ship and not going anywhere, and sits there in an air of melancholy and the miasma from the River Hull at low tide.

Funnily enough, I have a friend from Hull called Holmes.
Hello dere Ian, if you are reading this!

And it definitely was low tide as well!

Tide's Out for the Summer!
I wonder where they were going?
The Streetlife Museum nearby is a bit more fun. It has certainly improved a lot since I was there last, many moons ago, when Hull's collection of vintage transport was housed in a large warehouse. The staff were friendly and helpful, though that might have been to do with the fact that I was about the only visitor there at the time. They asked me where I had come from, and when I said Berlin in perfect English, I could see them do a double-take. They then insisted that I have a good look at their German BMW bubble car, which I of course did.

A 60's BMW Bubble Car!
Precursor to Daimler Smart Cars no doubt. The Germans always were ahead of the curve in car design.
Looking at old transport might not be everybody's idea of fun, but I passed a pleasurable hour looking around.

The museum curators have gone to a lot of trouble creating imaginative scenarios with mannequins dressed in period costume and accompanied by a looped sound-track, like this:

A gorgeous dress, but I'd have thought not very practical for travelling in a Hackney Carriage
It is also the first and only time that I have experienced a stage-coach simulator! True! Okay, you sit in a small box whilst a machine jiggles it around and you listen to a recording of horses and the driver somewhere supposedly in front of you talking to them, but hey ho, it brought a smile to my face.

If vehicular transportation ain't the way you roll, then there are reconstructions of Victorian shops to tickle your fancy. The old pharmacy in particular took my interest:

Hmm, liquorice!

Nearby to the Streetlife Museum is Wilberforce House, birthplace of the famous slave trade abolition campaigner, philanthropist, liberal politician, and all-round good guy, William Wilberforce.

In a garden between the two is a nice little garden named after Nelson Mandela. For some reason, though I am sure it is a worthy one, there is a bust there to Mahatma Gandhi.

It's always hard to recreate spectacles in cast bronze
Outside Wilberforce House is a statue to the man himself:

William Wilberforce
And the only statue around here where the subject is fully dressed. Hmm.
Because this is a museum that includes a lot of information about Wilberforce's anti-slavery campaign, here there is a reproduction of the much reproduced poignant image 'Am I Not a Man and a Brother'

Of course, there wouldn't have been a slave trade to abolish if people like the rich merchants of Hull hadn't started it in the first place
I was surprised to also find in the museum an old poster for a Hull Rock Against Racism disco. Surprised, because I could well have gone to it back in the 80's!

Hull Rock Against Racism poster
Takes me back!
It was still grey outside, and even the golden statue of King William III was looking a bit dull.

King Billy
Or Golden Willy
The inscription on his plinth says it was erected in memory of 'Our Great Deliverer' rather than 'Dutch Conqueror of England and Scotland who Deposed Our Sovereign King', so I guess it was put up by protestants. Whatever, there are some rather curious grade II listed public toilets below it, where I was told as a kid they had goldfish in the glass water flush-cisterns. I have never been in so don't know if that was ever true, and today they seem to be closed down so I will never know.

I visited a few more museums and the Feren's Art Gallery. The latter is great if you are a lover of sentimental Victorian melodramas. I'm not, so I was soon back out again, and making my way back to Hull station.

But before returning to Brid, I had to visit The Land of Green Ginger, just so I could say that I had been there!

The Land of Green Ginger
A favourite of pub quizzes

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