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Monday 21 November 2016

Fact 80. Albert Dock was the first Western Dock.

As Trade increased, and vessels got larger there was already calls for dock space in Hull as early as the 1830's. Even when Railway Dock in 1846, and Victoria Dock in 1850 opening more space was still required. In an effort to start the ball rolling The Hull Corporation, North Eastern Railway Co. and Hull Trinity House formed the West Dock Company. They drew up plans for a dock 1000 yds long and 14 acres in area. The tactic worked and The Hull Dock Company also formulated a bid to be considered by Parliament. In 1861 an Act was passed favouring the Hull Dock Company bid. This was for a dock 2500 yds long

1956 Hull Old Dock
This picture shows Humber Dock on the right and Prices Dock in the top right. Railway Dock extension is behind the tall warehouse above the station. The station is the original Manor House Street Station that was the original terminus of the Hull and Selby Railway in 1840. Once Paragon Street was built this station became goods only. Albert Dock entrance lock can just be seen in the bottom left corner. The area with the small boats, just south of the station was known as 'Paraffin Creek'.

Construction started in 1862. The site engineer was J.C. Hawkshaw. The plan was for the southern wall, next to the Humber, to be constructed on reclaimed land and a series of cofferdams were built to enable that work to be undertaken in three stages. A foundation stone was laid on the more easily constructed north wall in 1864 by the Chairman of the Hull Dock Company, William Wright. The walls of the dock were built of sandstone brought from Horsforth, near Leeds. These were fixed by sand lime mortar sat on a 10 foot thick concrete foundation. The whole sitting on a strata of clay. To reach this level clay and sand had to be excavated. These levels caused problems during the construction with 'boils' being fairly frequent. This was when fresh water that had found it's way along the sand level from the Wolds aquifer burst through. Work was delayed a month in 1866 when a boil caused a breech of the southern wall and the excavation was flooded. In 1867 there was further problems with boils and this time the work was put back eight months. This difficulty also led to the length of the dock beeing reduced form 400' long to 320' and a width of 80'. On completion it was still one of the largest locks in the country. The depth in the dock was to be maintained between 29' at spring tides and 24'6" at neap tides.

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Showing the lock entrance and the turning basin inside the lock and the length of the dock looking west.

The dock machinery including the capstans and lock gates, were powered by hydraulics with the system using 3 boilers supplying steam to a 40 HP steam engine that supplied the pressure of 700 psi via an accumulator. The North Eastern Railway had to re-route their track when the dock was constructed by then laid at least a double track down both sides of the dock with a track passing over the lock entrance via a swing bridge that was also hydraulic. That seems to be have been removed but I'm not sure when. The cost of building was £556,479, of which about £111000 was for the excavations, and about the same for the dock walls and £88,600 for the lock, not including the gates and machinery.  It was officially opened in 1869 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, Albert Edward, (who became Edward VII) and Alexandra. And was called 'Albert Dock' in his honour.

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Tug 'Salvage' assisting the Danish vessel 'Freesia', registered in Aarhus, through Albert Dock Lock in 1962.

In 1972 it was closed to traffic whilst it was altered to accommodate the Hull deep sea fishing fleet as they were to move from St. Andrew's Dock, a little further west. The move was completed by 1975 and officially re-opened in 1976 by  Rt. Hon. Frederick MP, Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. However soon afterwards the deep sea fishing declined rapidly after fishing grounds were lost following the Cod Wars.

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An unusual item is that there is a public right of way runs along the Humber bank by the dock. At the west end, near to the city centre, this has been led on a walkway over the warehouse. This gives good views of the dock and the Deep, Pier etc. The fact that the hydraulic swing bridge has been removed means access is over the lock gates that again is unusual. A little hidden gem for visitors to the City that is not much of a walk from the Marina area.

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The dock is very exposed to the wind, from just about any direction and  with it being comparatively narrow for larger modern ships it was always quite 'hairy' passing down it's length with any wind blowing. In recent times the dock has been used for laying offshore vessels during the downturn due to the oil price fall. Commercial shipping still uses the dock though.

In December 2013 a spring tide and tidal surge caused Cyclone Xaver an over topping of the Humber at Albert Dock and consequent flooding of the City Centre. The remedial work was brought forward two years and was completed in November 2015.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Fact 79. John Enderby Jackson, impresario.

John Enderby Jackson was born in Hull in 1827, Myton Gate. His father was a tallow chandler and soap manufacturer and as the business had been run by several generations, right back to south sea whalers on his mother's side, the Enderby's, he assumed that his son would follow in his footsteps. John went to Hull Grammar School and helped out when he could. The business supplied wax and tallow candles to one of the four theatres in Hull at the time, the Theatre Royal. Whilst lighting, adjusting and snuffing the candles in the theatre John was beguiled by the music.

Photo credit to Hull History Centre, via the
The Theatre Royal opened in 1810 midway down Humber Street, half way between Queens Street and Humber Dock, about where 'Fruit' is now, but I'm not sure what side of the street it was on. It must have been quite a prestigious theatre as it was granted a Royal Patent by Act of  Parliament. This meant that top London stars would be attracted to Hull. This is the reason for the title Theatre Royal. It burned down in 1859 and was rebuilt on the same site in 1865, but again burned down in 1869. A new theatre was built with the same name, on Anlaby Road, the same year.

His father forbade him from learning an instrument at first so John learned to read music and study composition etc. He remembered Paganini playing at the Theatre Royal in 1835 and was further resolved to take up music. he  would talk to the musicians in the orchestra pit as he carried out his chores. By the time he was 12 he was quite an accomplished player and by 15 he could read, arrange and compose small pieces for orchestras. He was also making contacts all mover the country.

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John Enderby Jackson.

The coming of the railways proved to be the conduit for the growth of brass band competition and their growth. In 1847 the Leeds Temperance brass band won work for the season at Scarborough and after a visit to London and conversations with other John went round the railway companies asking for concessions for brass bands moving on the railways, which he managed to obtain. He became focused on bring music to the working people, and it was this he was honoured by Queen Victoria after he had organised the music for the visit of Her Majesty to Hull in 1853. In that year the first brass band competition was run in Manchester but in 1855 John organised one at the Zoological Gardens in Hull and 21 bands competed. In the next four years he arranged competitions in nearly twenty cities in England and also composed various test pieces to be played at them.
The Davy Paxman Standard Iron works Band, 1890's

About this time he had married Elizabeth and they were living in Prospect Street, Hull. Next came the first National Brass Band Competition that he helped organise at Crystal Palace. He also assembled 12 teams of hand bell ringers to compete against each other to. On the first day 72 bands took part and on the second 98! John's fame spread from Yorkshire and Lancashire to the Midlands and bands were formed in many factories and mines. Having conquered Britain he traveled to Australia with his family on a three year tour. he was actually offered the job of managing the Melbourne Opera House but ill health brought him home. On return the family moved to Scarborough and their son, Edmund, was born. Unfortunately he was killed in WWI in 1918. After a rest after his return from the southern hemisphere John set about managing tours of plays and concert parties around the country. His 8 year old daughter acted as pianist on the concert party tour. He then composed music for his talented daughter, traveled abroad promoting music for workers and took up painting. He never failed to keep busy and died aged 76 in April 1903. He lies buried at the Manor Road Cemetery in Scarborough.
The Hull Postmans Band 1910.

There can't be many people who have not heard of the Grimethorpe Colliery, Black Dyke Mills or the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Bands that have been famous throughout the land. Despite the loss of many colliery  and works bands over the last few decades, brass bands are a live and well and still extremely competitive with leagues and promotion and many competitions. It is still music for the people played by the people as can be seen in the photos above as I was struck by the mix of old and young in the bands. The Salvation Army Bands are always welcome to raise a tune and smarten your step. A name of another unsung hero from Hull that has made the world a little more cheerful for all of us. Remember him when you listen to the music of brass as we approach Christmas. 

Thursday 10 November 2016

Fact 78. Seven Sea started in Hull.

It had long been known by fishermen that cod liver oil was very good for the treatment of bone disease, rheumatism and malnutrition, but the oil of those days was very different to today's. It tasted ghastly, was a very dark colour and smelled of rotten fish, as basically that was what it was! After catching the fish the livers were placed in a barrel and left to rot until the oil separated. It wasn't until around 1850 that steam was applied to heat up the livers and this gave a higher yield and a 'cleaner' oil. It was still, what they would today call, a niche market.

In the 1890's nine out of ten children in the UK had rickets, a bone disease similar to osteoporosis in older people. This indicated that much more research was needed to find the cause. By the 1920's it was found that it was caused by a lack of vitamins A and D.

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Classic signs of rickets.

The cod liver oil produced at the time was not largely of medicinal quality, and what there was came mainly from Norway. By the 1930's trawler owners in Hull were looking to get more value from their fishing and experimented with fitting their trawlers with steam boilers to render the livers down at sea, whilst they were still fresh and store the oil in tanks to be landed when landing their fish. This gave a better quality, colour and with a less fishy taste and smell. The oil was pumped to the Hull Fish Meal Company and it was largely used for adding to animal feed stuffs and for vetereniary oils, as well as oils used in things like steel rolling mills and tanneries to make leather, especially for furniture and chamois leather.

The enterprise that became Seven Seas was conceived by Owen Hellyer and Tom Boyd, both Hull trawler owners. Owen had a great understanding of business and was keen to learn about the chemistry and technology required. He was a keen sportsman, but shunned publicity. Tom was a forceful character building his fleet from nothing, and also a keen sportsman. Along with Ernest Dawson, who had worked for Isaac Spencer & Co. in Aberdeen who produced fish oil, they set up British Cod Liver Oil Producers. (Hull) Ltd. Initialy the company took over the oil facility of the Hull Fish Meal Co. on the south side of St. Andrew's Dock. There was always a plan to build a new factory, and originally this was to be just west of the north end of where the Humber Bridge is now. However it was finally built at Marfleet, hygiene and cleanliness was the by-word, and opened in 1935.

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The factory at Marfleet in it's final guise. 

'Solvitax' was the first trademark used, and it is still in use today for veterinary products. In 1936 Earnest Dawson returned home and Kenneth MacLennan joined the company from Lever Brothers where he had been working of vitamin technology. He also set the company down the advertising road by pushing to build a decorated float for the Lord Mayor of Hull's parade. The idea of a cod on a lorry playing 'A Life on the Ocean Wave' became a well known sight all over the country, and abroad.

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Advertising float for Seven Seas. It became known as 'King Cod'

At this time their main market was still non medical. It was Maclannan's plan to move into the higher quality field. It was he who came up with the brand name 'Seven Seas', and it was also his idea to put cod liver oil in capsules to make the oil easier to consume. The great expansion could have been halted by the coming of WWII as trawling was severely curtailed due to enemy action and the taking up of the trawlers by the Royal Navy. However the company were able to import oil from Iceland, and the Ministry of Food gave free cod liver oil to all children under 5 and pregnant and nursing mothers as a supplement to the rations. There were 400 hundred ladies involved in the bottling line. The bottles were returned from clinics and cleaned in Marfleet. Both of these ensured a good supply and market after the war was won, and the plant expanded by over 50% in 1948.

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Cod Liver Oil being given to orphans of WWII. In fact the subsidy for cod liver oil did not cease in the UK until 1971 as the Government realised that the generation that the children of the war were the healthiest ever in the UK.

After the war the company's range extended further. As wealth increased around the world meat production increased and fish oil was added more to animal feed to cope. The company also started to hydrogenate the oil for use in margarine and normal fish oil was used for 50% of margarine. They also became involved in refining vegetable oils too, and soon realised that being known as the British Cod Liver Oil Co was a bit of a hindrance and the name was changed to the Marfleet Refining Company in 1955. The British Cod Liver Oil Co continued to be used for the supply of cod liver oils however.

The company invested in research and sort to itemise the beneficial components of fish oil in order to market them separately as well as combined. The factory was producing 50 to 60 tons of oil a day. By 1965 they were processing about 100 million livers each year and sold their products in around 100 countries. Research started to show that fish oils assisted in lowering cholesterol, and also supplied 'brain' lipids and they started to separate these out and market them as well as Vitamins A and D. However they could not prove that cod  liver oil was a medicine. This led them to start marketing into the health products business.

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Time has moved on from rotting livers in a barrel and skimming the oil off the top!

In 1974 Imperial Foods bought the company and it changed from a cooperative company to 'big business'. However this did supply the capital to take advantage of the trend of health supplements etc and in 1982 the name Seven Seas was used to start the Seven Seas Health Care Ltd. supplying such products as vitamins, garlic oil, ginseng, wheatgerm and lecithin. Cod liver oil was still doing well in less developed markets. In 1996 Seven Seas was bought from Imperial by the German pharmaceutical and chemical company Merck. They were able to take advantage of further research into Omega 3 and fatty acids for health benefits and  now supply a range of products from mineral supplements to joint care and everything in between.

The factory on Hedon Road closed in August 2015, and the remaining Sales and Marketing office was moved to Merck's head office in London. This was almost the last industry that could be connected with the once great deep sea fishing from Hull. On the other hand it could be said that every time the names Seven Seas is seen on the shelves it is a reminder of Hull and the company's roots.