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Sunday 16 November 2014

Fact 45. The Lion of Hull was Sir Leo Shultz, OBE.

Joseph Leopold Shultk was born in 1900 to Polish Immigrant parents. His father Solomon had come over in around 1880. His mother was a Hiller. They eventually had a pawnbrokers shop on Holderness Road.

Leo was recognised as a boy genius when he attended Craven Street School. He obviously had already started on the road of helping others too as there is a story that he gave his boots to another lad as he didn't have any. But like all boys he got up to mischief and using the school's chemistry labs he developed an explosive cocktail that when placed on the nearby trams lines went off with sufficient force to derail the front of the passing tram!

Perhaps Leo's socialist leanings were cemented when at 15 he sat for a scholarship to Oxford University. The Hull Education Authority had one to award every year. Leo came first and was given two expensively bound and inscribed works of literature. However he was advised that a 'boy like you can not live and work in Oxford' and the prize was awarded to the second placed lad. It is said that he was the son of the Chief Education Officer. It was suggested that Leo became a pupil/teacher at Craven Street and he remained there for two more years.

In 1917 he lied about his age and joined the Durham Light Infantry as a volunteer. He was eventually promoted to Sergeant and served in Italy with his Battalion. After demobilisation he started out as a pupil accountant, but it seems that he was set on improving the lot of the working class by education and opportunity and soon became a prominent member of the local Labour Party. He soon started work for himself.

He was introduced to his wife by a friend when she was working in York in 1919. He was smitten by the beautiful Kate (Kitty) Pickersgill and tried to impress her by gate crashing a party she was attending. Leo became a Councillor for the Labour party representing the Myton ward in 1926. Kitty and Leo married in 1928. It was obvious that Leo's energies were more into representing the people than his accountancy work as every March and April there were rows between the married couple as Kitty tried to get him to sort out his clients tax returns etc so as to bring some money into the family as there were no expenses paid councilors in those days. They had a son, christened Lionel in 1931.

Kitty joined the Jewish faith and also joined her husband as a councilor, maybe just to see more of him! She was at one stage the Chair of the Cultural Services Committee and was instrumental in having the New Theatre built.

Leo Shultz foresaw the coming of WWII and wanted Hull to be ready for the conflict. He managed to persuade the Hull City Council to have built 4000 shelters in readiness for the anticipated air campaign. The Council had no funding to cover the £1.5 million outlay and by the time they had managed to convince the Government of their argument the air raid shelters were under construction. By his efforts the shelters were ready prior to the Blitz and saved many lives. The Anderson shelters were made of sheets of corrugated sheet steel that were sunk into the ground a couple of feet to provide a shelter 6'x6'x 4'6" and provided shelter for 4 to 6 people. The the house owners earnings were less than £250 a year they were provided free.

Like many other cities a committee for refugees was set up and with his background Leo did not hesitate in getting involved. He took on all liabilities for a young lad who had escaped Vienna in Austria on the Kindertransport along with his sister. Robert Rosner aged just under 9 was taken in by Leo and Kityy and fitted in well with their son Lionel. His elder sister, Renate 13, was taken in by another Jewish couple that were greengrocers and lived on Anlaby High Road. After the war it was found that Their parents had survived the war and Renate chose to return to Vienna. Robert was eventually adopted and became a successful architect in the city.

Sir Leo Shultz.

Kitty worked tirelessly for the civil defence of the city as she was up every night. Leo was working within the Air Raid Precautions branch and was awarded the OBE following the war for his efforts. He also became the Lord Mayor for 1942/43. Following the war Leo through himself fully into council work and politics and was the leader of Hull Council from 1945 until 1979. This was the period that saw the rebuilding of the city after the devastation of the war years when Hull was the most badly bombed city outside of Hull but was only talked of as a 'North East coastal town'. He oversaw the rebuilding of the housing with the creation of new estates such as Bilton Grange, Greatfield, Longhill, Boothferry, Orchard Park and Bransholme. He became known as 'Lion of Hull' for his steadfast work for the benefit of Hull through this period.

Leo Shultz tried to become an MP and was said to have been prevented from becoming the parliamentary candidate for the labour held North Hull constituency by trickery. The winner was found to be wanted by the police in Australia for bigamy. He later stood for election twice in the Tory held seat of Holderness where he was beaten both times. He then concentrated on his work for the benefit of Hull. In the 1950's the y lived on Duesbury Street off Prices Avenue but their adopted son designed and built a house for them on Newland Park which was beneficial to Kitty as she was suffering badly from arthritis.

Sir Leo Shultz.

Leo enjoyed a game of cricket and indeed there is a photograph of the young lad playing cricket in the bottom of the under construction king George Dock. He used to watch the cricket at The Circle and played wicket keeper and captained the council side into his early 50's.

He was for many years the Chairman of the finance committee and was well known in Whitehall for his expertise. He was also on the committee of the National Association of Municipal Authorities that also had much contact with government and civil servants. He was knighted in 1966 for his services to local government. He also was honoured by the french Government for his work during the war.
Kitty died in 1975 and Leo passed away in 1991. In later years of his work for Hull he became known as Mr. Hull.

On 9th May 2011 a bronze statue was unveiled of Leo Shultz. It  is found in a niche in the walkl of the Guildhall on Quay Street, Queen's Park. In was designed by Nigel Boonham and cost £86000. The unveiling was attended by civic dignitaries and members of his family.

Sir Leo Shultz, OBE. Guildhall, Hull.

'Mr Hull' or 'The Lion of Hull' often used to state something that was alluded to in the City of Culture bid video, ' Some may think that Hull is at the end of the line, but I know, and can tell you that the line starts from Hull.'


  1. Lots of typos in this article - eg Prices should be Princes. Suggest someone proofreads to catch all the mistakes.

  2. Very interesting, a relative of mine somewhere along the line 👍👍👏👏

    1. He is my grandfather's brother - so you and I are somehow related.