Looking beyond the displays: A history of The Hull and East Riding Museum


Museums provide us with insight into history, but we rarely get a glimpse of the story behind the collection or building.

Today, thanks to the help of Hull Museums, we look at the story of the Hull and East Riding Museum.

The building stands at 36 High Street, right in the heart of the city’s Old Town. This was originally quite a busy spot, close to the first port of Hull, which often had lots of ships docked and bringing cargo into the city.

The High Street itself serves as a reminder of the significance that this part of the city once held. The road curves along the same course as the old River Hull. During the Middle Ages this would have run right alongside the water.

However, in more recent centuries we built jetties and claimed back land, so the river has shifted further to the east.

In 1856, number 36 became Hull Corn Exchange. The beautiful, grand building with stone frontage was designed by Bellamy and Hardy of Lincoln.

Intricately detailed with carvings of harvest motifs and agricultural implements, the Corn Exchange also sported a huge arch, bolstered by Corinthian columns.

During the late 1800s, however, the stunning premises were underused and unfortunately fell into disrepair. They were repurposed briefly, housing troops during the First World War, but afterwards quickly deteriorated again.

In the mid-1920s, curator Thomas Sheppard came to the rescue. He used his fantastic powers of persuasion to encourage local firms to refurbish the building for free.

Once completed, he installed several exhibits featuring products that represented the variety of industry in Hull. He named it the Museum of Commerce and Transport.

Visitors could view almost every type of vehicle, from stagecoaches to sedan chairs, cycles and even an aeroplane.

Fast forward to the years following the devastating Second World War and we see the museum damaged by the air raid bombings. Nevertheless, the building was renovated and reopened in 1957 as The Transport and Archaeology Museum.

A strange mix of natural history along with the pre-existing transport displays made the museum truly unique.

Shortly after, the Streetlife Museum of Transport was constructed next door and the original vehicles were transferred.

In 1989, the museum at number 36 was renamed the Hull and East Riding Museum. It told the fascinating story of the region, beginning with the Cretaceous period and journeying through over 10,000 years of Yorkshire archaeology.

In the past two decades, The Hull and East Riding Museum has had some major improvements. In 1988, the Hasholme Boat was installed and a couple of years later the Celtic World and pre-historic displays were put up.

In the early 2000s, galleries focusing on the later periods of Roman conquer and Anglo-Saxon life were curated.

A particularly popular attraction is the opportunity to take a #museumselfie with a mammoth. Why not pop down and join in the fun?

You can visit the Hull and East Riding Museum for free 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am-4:30pm on Sundays.

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