Bridging the centuries: sea the change in Hull

A new iconic footbridge linking Hull city centre with its historic marina area is set to open this spring, as work continues on a separate £27m, four-year project to transform the 2017 UK City of Culture into a world-class ‘Maritime City’ destination.

Building on the legacy and success of its big year in the spotlight, Hull is redefining itself as a key city of the North with a huge investment that will see some of its most historic maritime attractions expanded and improved.

Making Hull’s 800 years of seafaring history even more of a key part of the city’s tourism offer, the ‘Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City’ project will create a new route guiding visitors through the city to the River Hull, highlighting its outstanding maritime heritage.

Ever since medieval times Hull’s people and ships have played a role in the opening up and exploitation of the world’s waters. The Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City project will see visitors guided from the revamped Maritime Museum, through Queen’s Gardens – a former dock and now green space – to North End Shipyard, with ’hidden history’ links to Robinson Crusoe and HMS Bounty, where a new visitor centre will be built.

And part of that new route is taking shape, with a long planned Highways England funded £12m footbridge now in place across the busy A63, which splits the main city centre from the historic waterfront and Fruit Market regeneration area.

Measuring 60 metres in length and weighing 150 tonnes, it was delivered to its final position last November and manoeuvred through closed streets into position during a single night. With a striking, eye-catching design – likened to a ship or a whale, both important symbols of Hull’s maritime heritage – the bridge will have sheltered viewing balconies at each end, offering stunning views across the waterfront and city centre.

Due to open this spring, the pedestrian and cycling bridge has been named the Princes Quay Bridge, and will be a key element of the new maritime route.

Over the next four years, the project will see the refurbishment and preservation of four historic maritime sites and two historic ships. Once completed, Hull will invite visitors to chart a course through the city’s history, exploring its connections and contributions to the UK and the world.

Hull’s popular Maritime Museum closed its doors in January for three years for an £11m refurbishment to the Grade II listed building, which was originally the Victorian head office of the Town Dock Company. When the museum reopens in late 2023 the city will have world-class displays matching Hull’s internationally renowned collection, revealing the lives and stories of the people and places that made Hull the city it is today.

During the closure a range of maritime-themed activities are planned, while four touring exhibitions will also be launched in the city centre before travelling around the area.

Next to the Maritime Museum, Dock Office Chambers, which date from the 1890s, will be reconfigured to house maritime collections not on display to the general public as well as becoming a bespoke research centre, while the top floor of the museum will be redesigned and reopened to the public.

Hull’s two historic ships are also now undergoing major restoration before being unveiled as improved visitor attractions in early 2022.

Listed on the National Historic Ships Register, and a part of the National Historic Fleet, the Spurn Lightship guided vessels navigating the notorious Humber Estuary and it has moved from its former berth in Hull Marina to be renovated, Built in 1927, it will return to the Marina with Increased access and new interpretation.

The Arctic Corsair – the sole survivor of Hull’s distant-water sidewinder trawler fleet and a key part of the nation’s maritime heritage – sailed along the River Hull for the first time in 20 years last year to temporary storage. It will return to its new home at a regenerated North End Shipyard.

That shipyard and Dock Office Row, which is located on High Street one of the oldest streets in Hull, are at the very heart of Hull’s maritime and trade history. Reflecting 400 years of shipbuilding history, this is the place where both HMS Bounty and HMS Boreas, once commanded by Horatio Nelson, were built. Few people also realise that it was from the port, in a novel published 300 years ago, that Robinson Crusoe set sail on his epic voyage only to get shipwrecked on a remote island.

This hidden gem – close to Queens Gardens, which is also planned to be improved creating a stunning urban green space, including new plants and trees to increase biodiversity – will have its rich story told for the first time, not only becoming the new home for the Arctic Corsair, but also a new visitor centre.

For more details about visiting Hull, see: www.visithull.org

For more information about Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City see https://maritimehull.co.uk

Photo credit: Hull_Yorkshire’s Maritime City project

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