Paul Gibson’s Hull and East Yorkshire History

There's no pubs in Scully' Lane - the lost pubs of Air Street

For a road of such age, it’s surprising to find that there has never been a public house in Sculcoates Lane. There was a Hull Brewery off-licence at no.16 for a short while, but that’s as near as it ever came (I wonder why – no, no that’s a whole different story ­– I’ll leave that for now…). However, just up the road it was a different story. 

It is difficult, if not impossible without the benefit of some historical background information, to imagine the area of Hull known as Sculcoates as a village distinct from Hull and separated by open fields. Mentioned as early as 1166, the name Sculcoates is probably derived from old Scandinavian, thus what was probably ‘Skuli’s cottages’ has become corrupted with the passage of time to the present day, where it survives primarily as the street name Sculcoates Lane, and the name given to the large parish that has spread around it. The origins of Sculcoates Lane stretch so far back in time that records of its beginnings are almost non-existent, and all I can do is speculate using the scant information that is available. It is very likely that it originated as part of a route between the village of Sculcoates and the village of Cottingham to the west of Hull, possibly taking-in an old footpath that ran along the alignment of what is now Queen’s Road and Newland Avenue.

The lane originally joined the Beverley Road just south of the point where the Cottingham Drain crosses, a point approximately 15 yards from its present junction with Queens Road. This may possibly have been the line of the present Melwood Grove. A plan from a survey in 1691 showed the lane to have run a more direct, straighter line, than the winding route that developed during the 18th Century. The section of the 1853 Ordnance Survey plan shown here illustrates the diverse community that Air Street was in the 19th Century.

Entering Sculcoates Lane from the Beverley Road around 1800 one would be faced with a brick and tile works later to belong to Siminson & Co. The boundary of their land caused the lane to turn almost immediately to the right or south (having crossed over the Cottingham Drain, which also had to divert around the boundary of their works) past a small pinfold to the left. Then after a left turn it continued its easterly route to the next field boundary. All of the land occupied by the brick and tile works is now the site of terraced housing in St. Leonard’s Road, Folkestone Street etc.). Having crossed over the Beverley and Barmston drain, and then the small bridge over the Beverley and Skidby drain, another ancient field boundary forced another turn south. At this point the lane joined Air Street, and then ran east to the River Hull. It is very interesting to note how a simple route can be caused to twist and turn because of old boundaries and rights of way. It would seem likely that the two ends of Sculcoates Lane originated at the same time. The eastern end became Air Street, likely to have been named after being built upon following the construction of the Beverley and Barmston Drain circa 1798. 

A church was first mentioned at Sculcoates in 1232 and it can be deduced that there must have been a large enough population in the area to warrant its foundation there. The engraving of the church shown here, dates from the 1830s. Air Street, the eastern end of the old Sculcoates footpath, would originally have been little more than a track that ran west from the river Hull through the settlement that grew around the church of St. Mary. The street name was probably a simple observation of the open situation that it once enjoyed, with open views south and west across Hull and beyond. The stretch of lane that ran south along the edge of the River Hull from the churchyard, became known as Church Street, but is now more familiar as the northern end of Wincolmlee. 

Several properties were built along Air Street by the 17th Century, and about a dozen houses faced the river between the church and the southern end of Church Street, where it joined the area known as Wapping. These probably housed the growing number of industrialists who had arrived in the area, a mixture of brick makers, seed crushers, millers, ship builders, brewers and weavers. In contrast to their grand houses, the dwellings along Air Street would most likely have been single room cottages (an idea of their size can be gained by comparison with the remaining old cottage in Lowgate, in the village of Sutton, which I would suggest were very similar).

Walking the anonymous industrial area that Air Street has become it is difficult, but not impossible, to imagine the smells and sounds there would have been in the early 19th Century. The clanging sound of St Mary’s bells – the smells of the market gardens on the south side of the street, the hammering and sawing from the ship yard on the riverbank at the end of the street, the smells of John Holmes Sculcoates Tannery, the children of St Mary’s school on the riverbank in Bankside – laughing and playing in the make-shift play area of the church grave yard, cart wheels creaking along the rough lane, and the inevitable arrival of industry – windmill sails and later a forest of chimneys belching out all shades of smoke from the Britannia Oil Mills and others, across the once green area. And, of course – the laughter, the clink of glasses, and the occasional fights in and out of the pubs.

Golden Ball

As in villages throughout England there would most likely have been an inn in the small settlement that grew up around St. Mary’s – where there was a church – there was usually a pub. Alas there is no evidence to confirm that there actually was an inn or ale-house from an early date, or that the Golden Ball pub that is known from the early 1800s had incorporated any other earlier building had there been one. It is my opinion that the inn was built as a fairly large house in the late 18th Century, possibly for a member of the church staff or one of the more well to do oil men or merchants of the area. The land to the north side of the street was shown on the survey of 1691 to belong to Thomas Dalton – one of the largest landowners in Sculcoates, and former Lord of the Manor of Sculcoates – it is possible that this was one of his properties.

Old maps of this northern extremity of Hull are scarce. The few late 18th and early 19th Century maps available appear to show the inn to have been built independently of its neighbours and most certainly before the terrace that appeared to the west of the property (Eliza’s Row) in the early years of the 19th Century. The early trade directories showed Air Street to be inhabited almost entirely by workers in the tanneries and mills that surrounded them, a trend that continued into the 1940s.

Plans of the Golden Ball from around 1910, made during a survey for valuation purposes by the Hull Brewery, gave a clear impression of how the interior of the building originally looked. I would suggest that externally the inn might have originally looked more like the sketch shown here; a typical building of the early 18th Century for such a rural location. Stables and a coach house shown at the rear of the property on the maps and plans would also suggest an owner of substance. Another possibility is that the property was built, exactly as it appeared in later photographs – a typical late 18th Century Georgian house with the familiar blind central windows. The original floor plan would seem to confirm this, with two main rooms on each level and a central dog-leg staircase. The photographs taken by the brewery in the 1920s show that the frontage could have been added to a much older property, the attic or second storey may have been added in the great rebuilding of public houses that took place at the at the end of the 19th Century. 

It has been shown many times that buildings are often not what they seem at first glance. The Golden Ball could just as easily have been made up of two small 17th Century cottages re-built as one structure, although this is the least likely option. In his notes on the Golden Ball made just prior to its demolition Chris Ketchell noted; ‘rear elevation is of older bricks, certainly early 19thC, could they be late 18thC? Longer thinner, flatter. Coursing is 5 courses of stretchers/1 of headers/5…/1…’. Although the brickwork he saw sounds like a simple variation of the English bond, I think they they may have been a little older than Chris suggested.

Without the benefit of deeds relating to the property (as yet none have been located in any of the local archives) it is almost impossible to give an actual date for the building. It is certain from the references available (mostly trade directories) that the house was definitely an inn by 1810. The first victualler was Joseph Tumming or Tummins who was recorded in the trade directory of that year. By 1823 the inn was listed by name for the first time as the Blue Ball, a popular inn name at the time (another Blue Ball was just up the road at Stoneferry) and one the significance of which has been lost.

The Hull Packet recorded details of a sad series of events related to the Blue Ball in 1833: ‘An inquest was held at the Sculcoates workhouse Drain-side, before F. D. Conyers, Esq., and a respectable jury, on the body of an elderly woman, named Shynock, drowned in the cut called Egginton’s drain early on the same morning. It appeared, from the evidence, that the deceased, with a man and woman named McKie, all in a state of intoxication, went in a cab, from Trippet to the Blue Ball, in Sculcoates Lane, where, it appears, a number of people, engaged in scraping whalebone had met to have a supper, or tea drinking. The parties remained there until near one o’clock in the morning, when they left the house together and went up the lane towards Wincolmlee where the deceased lived. They seem all to have been completely intoxicated. On getting to the side of the drain, the deceased staggered and, it appears, fell in without her companions being fully aware of it. They went back to the Blue Ball for assistance. Search was made, and in about twenty minutes the body was found floating in the drain, quite dead. The parties examined before the jury gave a very confused account of the whole transaction, from the disgusting state of inebriety they had been in at the time. A verdict of accidentally drowned was returned’.

The trade directory of 1842 gave a more complete address for the Golden Ball, when the inn was listed as part of Eliza’s Row, which would suggest a latest possible building date for the terrace of houses to the west of the inn. An advertisement in the Hull Packet in 1854 noted that an auction was to take place at the Blue Ball in Air Street Sculcoates – a plot of valuable building ground, containing 3,824 yards, situate in Air Street, adjoining the grave yard of Sculcoates Church’. This was probably land that was soon after developed with two terraces of houses facing each other known as Parker’s Buildings, built directly behind the Golden Ball.

Around 1882 the Blue Ball became known as the Golden Ball, the reason for the name change is unknown, but was possibly in response to the opening of another beer house directly across the road – more of which later. In 1890 the Hull Brewery Co. purchased the Golden Ball from Willford’s and valued the premises at £2,000. A later audit valuation of the Golden Ball in 1910 showed it to be in excellent shape; ‘good house – very little opposition’, noted the auditor in his survey. A full seven-day licence was held and the gross turnover for 1910 was estimated at £2,784, of which £928 was profit. A ‘spirit room’ upstairs, in addition to the 77 square yards of bar space downstairs, showed the Golden Ball to be doing quite nicely at that time.

Late in 1928 alterations were completed providing more toilets, and extra kitchen and pantry facilities. This would suggest that the house enjoyed substantial lunchtime trade from the hundreds of workers in the tannery opposite, and the chemical and paint factories that surrounded it, a trade that was to continue for almost 70 years. Following the conversion of the two downstairs rooms to one large bar in 1973, the Golden Ball suffered a drop in trade, as the numbers of workers in the nearby industries were lost to increased productivity and redundancy. This and the fact that neighbours John L Seaton & Co Ltd desired the land for storage space signalled the end for the old pub. The Golden Ball was demolished in 1996 despite a ‘too little-too late’ campaign by tenant landlord George Chaney to save it. My personal memories of the pub are happy ones, as friends of mine worked in the surrounding offices, and often referred to their lunches in the ‘Gilded Testicle’, although I never managed to visit the pub.

Some early victuallers of the Golden Ball:

1810 Joseph Tumming victualler Air Street; 1814 Joseph Tummins victualler Air Street; 1823 Thomas Kelsey victualler Blue Ball Air Street; 1826 E. Dickinson Blue Ball Air Street; 1838 Edward Spence Blue Ball Air Street; 1842 Leonard Tyson victualler Blue Bell Eliza’s Row Air Street; 1851 Blue Ball Air Street; 1863 James Moor licensed victualler Blue Ball Air Street; 1865-72 Robert Spicer Blue Ball Air Street; 1874-76 William Blatherwick Blue Ball Air Street; 1882-85 William Blatherwick Golden Ball 6 Air Street; 1888 Mrs H.J. Blatherwick Golden Ball Air Street; 1895 Mrs J. Foster Golden Ball 10 Air Street; 1905-1915 Edward Taylor Golden Ball 12 Air Street; 1929 Thomas Woodbridge Golden Ball Inn 12 Air Street; 1939 Arthur Wilson Golden Ball Inn 12 Air Street.

Meanwhile, over the road …

The south side of Air Street developed along similar lines to the north with workers’ houses gradually in-filling the spare plots between market gardens, horticultural nurseries and worsted manufactories. Maps from the early 19th Century show the south side to have been divided up into many regular thin plots all along the street, and a plan of Sculcoates drawn by George Wilkinson in 1832 (for drainage purposes) shows the site of Air Street’s second public house as a vacant plot. The south or rear of the plot was close to a large area of gardens. The trade directory of 1851 listed Robert Harwood as a gardener in Air Street and one can assume the house that later fronted on to Air Street (shown on the 1853 Ordnance Survey plan) was his, or that his land was sold for housing (his retail premises were in Queen Street in the city). The trade directories list a court of five small houses built on the plot behind the main house as Harwood’s Place, which is confirmed on the later 1891 Ordnance Survey plan. Harwood Place was demolished in 1908, as the Health Department photograph shown here was dated 12 July 1908, and shows nos. 4 and 5 derelict and awaiting demolition.

The trade directory of 1867 listed George Dove as a blacksmith in Booth Street Hull, and by 1872 George Dove was listed at a beer-house in Air Street. It can be assumed that Mr. Dove transferred his business as a blacksmith to Air Street and supplemented his income by licensing his house to serve ale to the workers, in competition with the Golden Ball directly opposite.

By 1874 a ‘Horse Clipper’ named Thomas Kelswick was listed in the trade directories, at an address in Air Street, and he was also listed in the Burgess Rolls in 1875; the heavy working horses in the tannery yards and other works in the area would have given him endless trade no doubt. Heavy horses would have found it difficult to work in ‘full feather’ and regular shaving and clipping would have been required. In 1876 he was also listed as the beer retailer of the Horse Clippers Arms, Harwood Place, Air Street. The chronology of events is quite clear, and it is a safe assumption that the earlier pub established by George Dove became the Horse Clippers Arms.  

The Horse Clipper’s was a much smaller house than the Golden Ball with only one room facing the street. The bar is shown on plans of 1924 as a small room with counter space running into a Bottle & Jug area where off-sales were transacted. To the left of the entrance was a passage that originally gave access to Harwood Place, with a side door giving access to the smoke room and kitchen of the pub. The plans had been prepared for an extension to the smoke room, in which it extended into the original kitchen area that was re-located on the first floor (the work was completed in July 1924). A ‘Club Room’ was shown on the first floor and this would suggest that one of Hull’s Friendly Societies held meetings there. This could possibly tie-in with the trades of the first victuallers of the Horse Clipper’s, or suggest an association with the many trades in the vicinity. Later plans show further alterations were completed in April 1928, with the addition of ladies, and more suitable gentlemen’s toilets. At this point the Club Room was relocated to a wooden shed to the rear of the property, on the land that had previously held the houses of Harwood Place. This suggests a latest demolition date for those houses of circa 1927.

The fate of the Horse Clippers Arms is uncertain and no trade directories after 1937 list the pub or any other housing on the south side of the street. It can be presumed that the expanding premises of Thomas Holmes’ tannery or one of the other businesses had bought the land from the brewery. The pub can be seen, apparently still fairly intact, on aerial photographs of the area taken in 1947, which would suggest it was not a victim of the blitz, but it is shown as a ‘ruin’ on the 1949 Ordnance Survey plan. Without further investigation the reason for its demise is unknown, but Health Department photographs taken in the area during the 1930s suggest it was the subject of a compulsory purchase order, or as suggested earlier – was squeezed out by the adjacent factories.

It is still very much a surprise to those interested in lost pubs to learn of the existence of the Horse Clippers Arms, most people assuming there was just the one pub in Air Street, but the fact that there were two such substantial pubs was probably the reason for there having been ‘no pubs in Scully’ Lane’. But there was another – read on.

Some early victuallers of the Horse Clippers Arms:

1872 G.D. Dove Beerhouse Air Street; 1874 Thomas Kelwick Horse Clipper Air Street; 1876 Thomas Kelswick Horse Clippers Arms Harwood’s Place Air Street; 1881 Thomas Train beerhouse keeper Horse Clippers Arms Air Street; 1882 Richard Ombler beer retailer Air Street; 1885 Henry Clixby beer retailer Air Street; 1888 George Thomas beer retailer Air Street; 1892 F. Fussey victualler Horse Clippers Arms Air Street; 1905 J.J. Brock beer retailer 15 Air Street; 1915 Robert Dannatt beer retailer 15 Air Street; 1929 George William Ablett beer retailer 15 Air Street; 1937 Frederick R. Preston beer retailer 15 Air Street.

Tanners Arms

Yes – it’s hard to believe, but this one small stretch of road, that is passed through without a second thought by hundreds of vehicles every day, had a third pub. The 1851 Census illustrates that the area was very densely populated, and could easily have kept three beer-houses in business with residents of the immediate area. Air Street itself had many courts and terraces leading north and south from the main road; on the south side there was Harwood Place (demolished 1908), Jane’s Place (demolished 1909 - see photograph on the right)), Kingston Square, Brittania Square and Etherington Place, and on the north side Providence Place, Parker’s Buildings and Poplar Cottages. These courts alone contained a total of over 50 dwellings, plus a further 24 houses at least facing the main road. On the evening of the 1881 Census over 390 people were resident in Air Street, its terraces and courts.The link below (in blue) opens a PDF file of the 1881 Census for the whole of Air Street, and gives a good impression of the trades of those who lived there and how many people lived in each house.

John Cribb was born c.1795 on the Isle of Wight according to the 1851 Census, which lists him as a 56 years old beer-house keeper in Etherington Place Air Street, with his wife Jane and their five children. His first child was born in Hull in 1830, so it is safe to presume he established his beer-house around that date – the year of the infamous Beer-House Act. Pigot’s 1834 trade directory recorded John Cribb as a beer retailer in Air Street, and by 1838 his address was listed as a beer-house. By 1842 the beer-house was named as the Tanners Arms (Stephenson’s trade directory) where Cribb was listed as an Ale & Porter dealer. By 1858 the beer-house was no longer listed, and John Cribb had moved to the White Swan in Wincolmlee by 1863.

The location of the Tanners Arms can be deduced by comparing the various plans of the area with census information and trade directory references. It is almost certain that the building was the first building in Etherington’s Place – no.1, at the corner of the short terrace and Air Street. The seven small houses in Etherington Place survived into the 1960s, unlike the majority of the private housing in Air Street, which had been demolished before the Second World War. Latterly listed as Heatherington Place, and remaining occupied until the 1970s, sadly it seems to have gone without ever being photographed. The section of the 1949 Ordnance Survey plan shown here, gives the location of the Tanners Arms far left, with the other two in the centre of the street.

Some early victuallers of the Tanners arms:

1834-38 John Cribb beer retailer Air Street; 1842 John Cribb ale & porter dealer Tanners Arms Etherington’s Place Air Street; 1846 John Cribb Beer-house Air Street; 1848 John Cribb beer-seller & tanner Etherington’s Place Air Street; 1851 John Cribb beer-house Etherington Place Air Street; 1855John Cribb tanner and beer retailer Air Street; 1858 John Cribb beer-house Air Street.


Paul L Gibson

Hull 1999 (Revised July 2001 and May 2010)

Bibliography & Acknowledgements

Victoria County History of the County of York and the East Riding. Volume 1. The City of Kingston upon Hull. Edited by K.J. Allison, Oxford University Press for Institute of Historical Research. Oxford, 1969.

A History of Hull. E. Gillett & K.A. MacMahon, (revised reprinted edition), Hull University Press. Hull, 1989.

English Place-Name Society. Volume XIV the Place-Names of the East Riding Of Yorkshire and York.  A.H. Smith, Cambridge University Press. 1937.

A Collection of Statutes relating To the Town of Kingston-Upon-Hull, etc. William Wooley, Simpkin & Marshall. 1830.

A New Picture of Georgian Hull. Ivan and Elizabeth Hall. William Sessions Ltd. and Hull Civic Society. York, 1978.

History of the Town & Port of Kingston upon Hull. J.J. Sheahan, John Green & Sons. Beverley, 1862.

Streets of Hull: A History of their Names. John Markham, Highgate Publications (Beverley) Ltd. Beverley, 1987.

Lost Churches and Chapels of Hull. David Neave, with Geoff Bell, Christopher Ketchell and Susan Neave, Hull City Museums & Art Galleries and the Hutton Press. Hull, 1991.

Barley Mash & Yeast: A History of the Hull Brewery Company 1782-1985. Robert Barnard, Hutton Press Ltd and Hull College Local History Unit. Hull, 1990.

Some Notes on the History and Architecture of the Golden Ball public house, Air Street, Hull. Unpublished manuscript, Chris Ketchell. Hull College Local History Unit, 1996.

Georgian Houses For All. John Woodforde, Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1978.

The Old Inns of England. A.E. Richardson, B.T. Batsford. 1934. (Fifth edition 1948)

The Hull Packet – online resource via the Hull History Services website.

Hull History Centre – images of Jane’s Place and Air Street housing 

Gail Thornton ­– Cups of tea, and initial computer facilities in 1999, before I had one of my own.

Hull City Archive – Thanks to Elspeth, and those who are no longer there - Helen and Geoff.

Cats Jack & Annie, Gertie the Labrador, Rita the Springer Spaniel and Monty the Clydesdale horse – Recreational breaks and humour.

Google Earth - for modern aerial shot

Ordnance Survey - 1949 plan is Crown Copyright

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