The Port of Hull sits on the banks of the River Humber estuary where it meets the River Hull about 35 kilometers inland from the North Sea. Although humans have lived in the River Hull valley since around 10,000 BC, the town of Kingston upon Hull was not settled until the 13th Century AD.
Today, the Port of Hull is an important seaport serving much of east central England and a host of international shipping lines. It is the entry point for imports of grain, foodstuffs, oilseed, timber, and wool and the exit point for exports of manufactured products. Most local industries support the port and the North Sea oil fields. In 2005, almost 250 thousand people lived in Kingston upon Hull.
The Port of Hull was used in the 12th Century by the monks of Meaux Abbey to export wool. King Edward I acquired the hamlet in 1293 who then granted it a royal charter in 1299, renaming the village King’s Town upon Hull. The town was incorporated by charter in 1440 when it gained a mayor, sheriff, and aldermen. It flourished as a seaport for centuries, but it did not begin to grow until the late 18th Century.
Edward I used the Port of Hull as a base in the First War of Scottish Independence in the early 14th Century. Exports of wool and woolen cloth and imports of wine brought economic strength and, as part of the Hanseatic League, the Port of Hull had strong commercial relationships with Baltic ports. After the discovery of the New World, trade increased, making the Port of Hull an affluent seaport.
The Port of Hull played an important part in the English Civil War. King Charles I and the newly-formed Parliament named different nobles to govern the seaport. When the Parliament-named Sir John Hotham closed the town to the king, a siege began that the open conflict between Royalists and Parliament’s forces.
Until the middle of the 1800s, whaling was important to the Port of Hull’s economy and the town reached its economic peak in the years before World War I. It received status as a city in 1897. When the whaling industry began to decline, fishermen shifted to deep-seal fishing in the North Sea. The Anglo-Icelandic Cod War of the mid-1970s, disputing the extent of Iceland’s territorial waters and its ability to limit over-fishing, ended with limits on the number of English trawlers and began the Port of Hull’s economic descent.
Located near mainland Europe, the port and industrial community made the Port of Hull an important target during World War II. In fact, it was the second most bombed city in England after London, and as much as 95% of the homes there were destroyed or damaged. Almost 200 thousand people lost their homes due to the bombing. It took decades to rebuild the town.
Despite the damage, several historic buildings survive in the medieval city. Limited communications prevented growth south of the Humber until the Humber Bridge was opened in 1891. The bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the UK, and it expanded the reach of the Port of Hull and raised its importance as a cultural and commercial center for the region.