Paul Gibson’s Hull and East Yorkshire History

The Whalebone

The present Whalebone pub is situated at the side of an ancient route from Hull & Drypool to the old village of Sculcoates, now known as Wincolmlee. The part of Wincolmlee in which it stood was originally known as Church Street as it led from Trippett via Wincolmlee to St Mary’s church in the hamlet of Sculcoates. The area directly around the Whalebone, north of the Barmston Drain, was also known locally (until the 1820s at least) as Wapping, the derivation of which suggests simply a stream running through marshland. An old drain, the Derringham Dike, or Wapping Drain, ran through this area and out into the River Hull at a point known as High Flags, which it remains to this day. Wapping extended from the confluence of the drain and the river north to a point probably as far as York Street.

As this area was developed much of the land west of the Whalebone was used for kitchen and pleasure gardens that can be seen on plans of the 1820s and 1830s.

Facing east to the banks of the River Hull the Whalebone has enjoyed constant and regular trade for most of its life. Its origins are difficult to assess however, as there are few surviving records for this area. From the trade directories of the 19th and 20th Centuries it is possible to list most of the previous victuallers (or vittlers) who had been at the Whalebone, but little else. Some building plans exist from the 20th Century and there are various maps and plans from the 19th Century, but again early details are vague. The confusing addresses in this area were clarified somewhat following complaints from the Hull Postmaster in 1890. Postmen had found it difficult to deliver mail, as the addresses were so confusing. The Council Minutes of 14 April 1890 recorded a motion: - ‘that Trippett (from Bridge Street), Wincolmlee, and Church Street (to Air Street), be named ‘Wincolmlee’  and that the houses be re-numbered.’  The motion was carried and consequently all of the numbers were altered.

A Wapping Great Pot Yard

A small line of property is shown on early plans running along Church Street (later part of Wincolmlee) near the end of a ropery that was on the line of Bromley Street (originally Kingston Street). These buildings equate with the small terraced dwellings shown on later Ordnance Survey plans of the area. The early occupants of these properties would be extremely difficult to trace, however the first resident listed in Wapping in a trade directory was William Askham, a pot maker, in 1791. His premises were to provide the name for the largest court in Wapping known as Pot House Yard. The very fact that this area had retained the ancient name of Wapping suggests that it had been inhabited for many years prior to the first known records. The next tradesmen listed in a directory were in 1806 when the following residents were noted in Wapping: - Ann Cooper – Victualler, Robert Bolton – Bacon Factor, Stephen Johnson – Cart & Truck Man, William Jourdan – Shoe Maker, Metcalf & Medley – Ship Builders, William Sheffield – Joiner and John Watkin & Company – Ropers. Both the shipyard and the ropery can be seen on Anderson's 1818 plan, shown above right, which still shows the area as Wapping although the individual properties are not shown, simply blocks of property.

The small dwellings along Church Street were shown on George Wilkinson’s plan of Sculcoates made in 1832, by which time the first section of Lincoln Street had been laid-out with some property already built. Pot House Yard was first shown in any detail on the large scale Ordnance Survey of c.1852 (shown right), with its entrance between the line of property on Church Street and other industrial buildings to the north. Deeds for the Pot House Yard area are only available from c.1807, when the lands in the area were transferred from the Blaydes family to various others. The Ordnance Survey in 1852 appears to show that the terrace contained ten properties between the Green Lane junction and the entrance to Pot House Yard. These would have been nos.6 to 15 Church Street. On the evening of the 1881 Census these properties were home to 38 people in eight of the houses, which included the Whalebone and two shops. Some of the houses consisted of just one room above the shops, entered via a staircase from Wincolmlee, or from the rear.

A later plan made when the terraced properties were scheduled for demolition confirms that the properties had originally been one-up, one-down ‘back to backs’ with unusual central chimney stacks (see right). At some point six of the houses had been knocked through to create three larger four-roomed houses, but the remaining two were still back to backs. The address of the surviving rear property was still recorded as No.1 Wapping when the plan was made in 1935, and the properties were still fully occupied. Fortunately the Health Department, who drew the plan, often made photographs of their work and one survives that shows the rear of the properties and No.1 Wapping (shown below right). 

The photograph shows typical vernacular East Yorkshire buildings with sliding-sash windows and brickwork suggestive of the 18th Century. The properties from no.167 to 173 Wincolmlee and no.1 Wapping were demolished following compulsory purchase in 1935. Ironically, the site of Pot House Yard now forms part of the premises of local demolition contractors Sam Allon & Co Ltd, who may well have demolished the yard in the first place. 

It is almost certain that the original Whalebone pub will have looked very similar to these buildings, even forming part of the same block before being rebuilt.

By the 1850s the area was thriving and a seed-crushing mill (later owned by Thomas Thirsk & Co) had been built at the north-east side of Pot House Yard. Adjacent to this, in Bromley Street, was Sharpe & Sons cooperage, which had originally been the site of the ropery of John Watkin & Co since at least 1806, extending almost the length of Bromley Street (then still known as Kingston Street). Saw mills, more seed crushing mills and several breweries had also been constructed in the immediate area and one of the breweries was of long standing.

Shown right are Whalebone Scrapers in an engraving from c.1814, an occupation that would have been carried out in the Greenland Yards along the banks of the River Hull in close proximity to the Whalebone pub.

Over The Road

Directly opposite the Whalebone was a brewery and maltings originally occupied by Brewer & Maltster Joseph Lockwood, from at least 1776. John Rivis later took over the brewery, located at no.65 Church Street in 1794. John Rivis is mentioned in the deeds to land in the area in 1807 when he owned ‘all that close of land north of Green Lane containing about three acres.’ This suggests he owned the land on which Pot House Yard, the brewery and the Whalebone were built. The address of the brewery was also listed later as no.165 Church Street, and has given rise to speculation that the Whalebone is on the site of a brewery as rather confusingly the Whalebone is now re-numbered no.165 Wincolmlee. Alas the brewery was over the road and it is clearly shown, marked with Rivis’ name on Wilkinson’s plan of Sculcoates made in 1832, and on the later 1852-53 Ordnance Survey plan. Some sections of the original brewery walls can still be seen, although it ceased to be used as a brewery in the 1850s and was mostly demolished post 1853. However, amongst the brewery buildings, which included a brew house, cellars, malt kiln, cooperage and stables, was a dwelling house situated at the junction of the River Hull and the Beverley and Barmston Drain, where there was a small garden and some trees. 

Two pubs were advertised under lease from the brewery in the 1790s (Rivis also had the Providence Inn in Francis Street c.1837, now known as The County Hotel). The 1853 Ordnance Survey shows that the long malt house faced Wincolmlee with three small brew houses behind. On the riverside was a crane, which suggests that some raw materials and possibly the finished product, may have travelled by river.

To the north of the brewery was the Duke of Cumberland pub (shown on the right following closure in 1940) and one could speculate that this was originally Lockwood’s dwelling house mentioned in the description, but it was a bit too far away to fall-in with the description of being at the junction of the drain and the river. A more likely location would be the larger bay-window property situated just south of Green Lane that is shown clearly on the 1853 Ordnance Survey that fits the description perfectly, even down to the small garden and trees. However, it is known that Rivis’ house in Wincolmlee was also used as a pub but this may refer to his first, possibly more humble dwelling so could it have been the Whalebone – or even the surviving ‘listed’ property further north across the road - we'll never know.

Caution should be applied when discussing the very early references to the Whalebone, as in 1819 the brewer John Rivis let the Sculcoates Tavern on the corner of Scott Street and Wincolmlee and the Sculcoates Tavern had previously also been known as the ‘Whale’s Shoulder’. The Sculcoates Tavern was using this name by 1803, but the first known reference to the Whalebone in Church Street was in 1814, but not by name until 1822. Did Rivis’ take the name of the ‘Whale’s Shoulder’ to the new Whalebone? Or had the Whalebone already been there some time? As is often the case when discussing local history there are more questions than answers but from all the evidence available it seems the Whalebone had been in its present location from a much earlier date, and it would not be uncommon to find two pubs with very similar names - even so close together. There were at least three Sculcoates Taverns in this area at one point.

The area immediately around the Whalebone held a number of Breweries over the years and taking the 1853 Ordnance Survey plan as a snapshot we can see that there was the Imperial Brewery across the road in Lincoln Street, the Royal Victoria Brewery at the top of Green Lane, Rivis' old brewery opposite on High Flags, as well as two breweries just the other side of the river in the Groves.

A Bone of Contention…

It is almost certain that the line of property, which included the original Whalebone Inn was built in the late 18th Century. Lockwood’s brewery and Pot House Yard were both listed before the turn of the century, as were other buildings in the area. It is very unlikely that such a prime position would not have been used for buildings of some sort – probably cottages for the many workers in the factories and mills in the area, and the photograph from the 1935 council report shows clearly that the buildings were of 18th Century construction if not older. Where there were workers there was always a requirement for an ale-house or pub, as workers often were paid in pubs and held their meetings there, as well as taking their usual refreshments and entertainments.

Wapping had several pubs including the Duke of Cumberland at no.62 or 63 Church Street; the Whalebone originally numbered no.10 Church Street and the Brewer’s Arms at no.45 at the corner of York Street. The first of the pubs that we can confidently locate was the Duke of Cumberland, listed in directories from 1803 when William Wright was the victualler. The Duke of Cumberland may have been a part of the Rivis brewery complex but this is unlikely, as another brewer, Mr Liddell, owned the Duke of Cumberland in 1822 when the Rivis’ brewery was still trading. The description of John Rivis’ lands in the 1807 deeds made no mention of a pub, and the first definite mention of the Whalebone Inn was in 1814. However, the 1803 trade directory also listed Ann Cooper at a pub called the Manchester in Wapping and she continued to be listed until 1806. In 1791 Mr Robert Cooper was listed as a victualler in Wapping and this was almost certain to have been her husband. As mentioned earlier, in 1791 there was very little property in Wapping so it is extremely likely that the Coopers were the first residents of the Whalebone Inn. This may account for it also being mentioned as the Sloop when first mentioned by name in the trade directories. The whaling ship named Manchester sailed from Hull throughout the 1780s and 1790s, although originally she was a Liverpool vessel. She has been described as Hull’s champion whaler and could certainly have been the inspiration for a pub named the Manchester, whose sign may have been a ship carved into a piece of old Whalebone as was common at the time. What is certain is that the original building was at no.10 or 11 Church Street facing east and would originally have had no more than a ‘two-up and two-down’, dwelling or even smaller. 

In June 1874 the 'Splaw Bone, Church Street in the occupation of Mr Joseph Marsden' was one of several lots in an auction of property held by Easton & Sons at the George Hotel Sale Rooms. It was offered for sale with 'a dwelling house adjoining', and was purchased by Mr Martinson on behalf of the tenant for £1,070. In October of that year Mr Marsden, now the owner of the Splaw Bone, applied for permission to extend the pub to take in no.10 Church Street adjoining but must have been refused as in August 1875 he was applying again, stating that he was intending to spend £400 or £500 in taking in the house next door in order to form an 'extensive dram-shop' but it appears that the work was not actually completed until the 1880s.

The 1881 Census recorded 54 years old George Hebblewhite (or Hebblewaite) and his wife Hannah aged 45 years, resident at the pub, but he transferred the licence to John Pell in April 1882. Later, and until early 1888 Charles Henry Hall was listed as victualler of the Whalebone Inn at no.11 Church Street. In October 1889 the victualler of the Whalebone William Kershaw Marsden (whose home address was Fountain Road) sent plans for approval to the local council that were approved, and work began to re-build the Whalebone with separate plans to alter the shop to its south, also in the ownership of Mr Marsden. Local builder Edward Good of Barmston Street carried out the works to the designs of architect William Marshall of No.16 Caroline Place. The works were completed on the 17th April 1890 and involved major redesign and it is very likely that the original building was demolished to ground level as the plans appear to show changes that would have demanded this. The new Whalebone was at least a third higher than the original, which is clear from the height of the present rooms. The plans also confirm that the Whalebone had originally been part of the terrace of 18th Century dwellings that ran north along Church Street. Its early floor-plan is shown with the tell-tale corner fireplaces, exactly the same as those in the plans of the other dwellings. Its original layout of two simple rooms, can be judged from the plans showing a small Dram Shop at the front with a simple counter across the whole room, and to the back a Tap Room with a Privy and Coal House at the rear. This had obviously been added to when the pub took in the house to its south, giving room for a rear kitchen and a front room for extra custom. It was during these late 1880s renovations that these side rooms were knocked-through for the first time to create one long room, which extended to Lincoln Street for the first time (originally there was just a single story at the rear). This long room has been subdivided and opened out again several times since.

During these works one or two of the properties at the corner of Lincoln Street and Church Street that made the corner difficult to turn, were demolished, and the property line set back at least fifteen feet. In a directory of 1885 Nos.6, 7, 8 and 9 are still listed leading to the Whalebone, but by the time the Ordnance Survey was carried out in 1890 only two properties are shown before the Whalebone. It is clear the present Whalebone is not the original structure other than some original brickwork that survives in the cellars dating from the 18th Century, and some small fragments of interior wall may also survive behind the present rendering etc. but this is unlikely. A plan of 1926 (re-drawn by Rob Barnard) shows that the re-built 1880s Whalebone underwent more drastic internal alterations throughout the 20th Century, and thus the internal structure of the second building was also completely lost. Sometime before 1926 the Dram Shop became a Smoke Room and the Tap Room behind it became a kitchen, the staircase was moved from the front of the building to the present central position, and the old room facing Wincolmlee was extended through the old kitchen and back wash rooms to form one long Bar very much as it is today. It was during this remodelling that the door was first created on the Lincoln Street elevation.

In 1926 the long Bar was divided with a partition near the Wincolmlee end, effectively recreating the 1880s Saloon Room with corner seating and ladies toilets were built for the first time. In the late 1930s the front rooms of the pub were completely re-modelled and the central door removed. Two doors were created, one at each side of the building. The door to the left (south) of the pub led via a lobby (part of which remains) through to the 'Public Bar at the back, with a separate door (which remains) leading to a new Saloon Bar in the middle of the pub. The door to the right (north) led via another lobby to the 'Smoke Room' at the back, with a separate door into the Saloon Bar. 

In the early 1950s another change round led to the right hand door being blocked off leaving the single entrance we have today, but the partition remained dividing the front room from the Public Bar at the rear. At this time the Smoke Room and front Saloon Bar was joined as it is today into one L shaped room. At some point between then and now the partition was removed at the main entrance to once again open up the long room along the south side of the pub.

How nice it would be to have seen the Whalebone in its heyday, but all that we have as yet is a small picture postcard photograph from c.1905 a copy of which was supplied to the present owner. It takes a good imagination now to visualise what the interior must have looked like, but there are a few surviving clues if you look hard enough.

The Whalebone continued to survive in a difficult area and in difficult times for small pubs in general and although its local customer base was diminished drastically over the years, mostly due to compulsory purchase and demolition, the pub continued trading throughout. Its competitors in Wapping have all closed one by one, which also helped its trade. The Brewer’s Arms closed in 1913, the Ferry Boat closed in 1936, the Duke of Cumberland closed in 1940 and the East Sculcoates Central Hotel at the corner of Green Lane closed in the 1960s. However the Whalebone has been continually licensed for over 200 years.

All credit good-luck and support must go to the present owner who has given the Whalebone a new lease of life as a real ale pub. His intention to set up a microbrewery in buildings once used as offices next door was realised in July 2003 and the first brew, aptly named Neck Oil, was available by September that year. Even though 800 pints are made from each brew Alex the landlord soon had trouble keeping up with demand and as yet his plans to supply other outlets are still a small part of his business whilst he copes with the ever increasing trade at what is now a very popular little pub. Whilst local pubs are once again closing and losing trade siting smoking bans etc for their demise, the Whalebone thrives undaunted. 

A pleasing feature of the pub is the many photos of other old Hull pubs that line the walls. I was pleased to supply these to Alex from my collection when the pub re-opened under his guidance, and I continue to support the pub on regular visits with my partner Gail and our canine ale taster Lily as well as mentioning it in books and .. well here.

With sadness, I have to note that Alex Craig (seen right) passed away in July 2014 after a long battle with ilness, aged just 63. At the present time (August 2014) his wife Tina continues to keep this great pub going.

The most prized oil from a whale was taken from its head and was known as Neck Oil, hence the name of the first brew, which was soon followed by Truelove Porter (the Truelove was another famous Whaling ship) and a strong ale for the brewery’s first Christmas – Moby Dick, weighing in at an impressive 8% A.B.V. Pleasingly, old regulars and new customers alike have warmed to the Whalebone where its open fire, traditional pub games and plain simple hospitality is refreshing. In an age where more and more traditional pubs are losing their unique characteristics forever, the Whalebone and the few other pubs of its type in Hull are to be cherished.  

What’s in a name?

One early recorded name for the Whalebone was the Splaw Bone, which is part of a Whale’s shoulder, the name was a reference to the many Greenland Yards  in the area; Whaling ships sailed from these yards and many were built along the banks of the river Hull. The peak of Hull’s whaling imports coincided with the first mention of the Splaw Bone pub in the trade directories; in 1815, at least 57 whaling vessels discharged their cargo in Hull, a figure equalled only once. This rejuvenation of a trade, which had all but died out in the previous century, obviously filled the local businesses with optimism. The pub’s sign (not always a painted picture as we expect today) was a large bone hung from a pole or beam. Situated in Church Street, the pub served the increasing numbers of shipyard and whaling workers in the area and although the name appears to change in the trade directories with subsequent changes in victualler, this is something of a red herring and the apparent name changes can be explained simply. The people employed to wander the streets and compile trade directories would usually visit premises and enquire of the name of the building, particularly when pubs were involved. 

Seeing a hanging sign outside the Whalebone he or she may well have concluded that the bone used as the pub sign, suggested that the name of the pub was the Whalebone. When the next year’s directory was being compiled another employee may have interpreted the sign in a more specific way, noticing that the bone was actually the Splaw Bone of a Whale. This would lead him to suggest the name was the Splaw Bone in the directory for that year. Similarly another may have concluded that it was a Blade Bone (another name used for the splaw bone) etc., etc. The early recording of the pub name as the Sloop may suggest that the picture of a ship, possibly a Hull Sloop, or that the whaling ship the Manchester (see earlier references) was carved on the bone. This is not unusual as scrimshaw work like this was common in Hull. It is interesting to note that even in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the pub was a Tetley free house, the pub sign still depicted a sailing ship (see 1970s photo). By the 1980s a poor new sign showed a whaling scene with workers stripping whalebones (very politically incorrect) - but thankfully this was recently removed and Alex the present owner has seen fit to place an old illuminated Moors' & Robson's Brewery sign above the Lincoln Street door, which works very well indeed. The Whalebone now also sports our premiership team's colours which it has for several years reflecting his passion for Hull City.

Generally, it is safe to say that the Whalebone has rarely changed its name and it was simply the people interpreting the sign outside have simply misled the compilers of the trade directories. Although it may have started life as the Manchester, it has been the Whalebone for most of its life. A similar situation often occurred when a pub had a bunch of grapes hung outside as well as a sign. The grapes usually meant that food and wine were also available at the pub, but some would presume that this meant the pub was actually called the Grapes. 

1791 Robert Cooper, Wapping ; 1803-06 Ann Cooper Manchester Wapping, Wincolmlee ; 1814 Edward Lilley, 8 Church St. ; 1822  James Simpson Sloop ; 1823 James Simpson Splaw Bone Church St. ; 1826 James Simpson Blade Bone 7 Church St. ; 1831 William Wales Blade Bone 6 Church St. ; 1834-35 William Wales Sloop 10 Church St. ; 1838-40 William Wales Blade Bone 10 Church St. ; 1842 Benjamin Johnson Splaw Bone Church St. ; 1846 John Ayre ; 1848 Robert Lawson ; 1851-76 Joseph Marsden Splaw Bone 10/11 Church St. ; 1881 George Hebblewhite ; 1882 John Pell Splaw Bone 11 Church St. ; 1885 Thomas Pollard Splaw Bone 11 Church St. ; 1888-89 Charles Henry Hall Whalebone Inn 11 Church St. ; 1889-95 William Kershaw Marsden Whalebone Inn 165 Wincolmlee ; 1897 T Hawkins ; 1899-1901 Joseph Fulcher ; 1903-04 George Brock Baxter ; 1905 Anthony Tomlinson ; 1906 Stephen Bacon ; 1907 Joseph Fulcher ; 1908 Mrs Emma Fulcher ; 1909-22 William E Nightingale ; 1925-26 Henry T H Woods ; 1929 Charles Bilton ; 1930-36 Edward Alfred Bates ; 1937-39 Mrs Kathleen Hatt ; 1940 Arthur & Ivy Chadburn, Walter Burnham ; 1945 Ellen & John Naylor Adamson, Margaret Gallaghan ; 1945-48 Ellen & John Adamson ; 1949-51 Ellen & John Adamson, Eileen & Herbert Ellerington ; 1952 Eileen & Herbert Ellerington ; 1953-54 Ernest & Olive Lawrence ; 1955 Dennis & Jean Malton ; 1956-57 Colin & Ivy Greening ; 1958-59 Edith Carty, Frank & Kathleen Gray ; 1960 Alice & Charles Scott ; 1961-63 Ivy & Stanley Smith ; 1964-65 Arthur & Marjorie Barley ; 1966-68 Sarah & Thomas Terry ; 1969 Bert & Dulcie Clarke ; 1970-71 Charles & Joyce Eldon ; 1972-78 Ruby & Thomas Devaney ; 1979-88 Alan & Joyce Lumb ; 1989-92 Janette & Robert Colgrave ; 1994 Denise & Paul Thompson ; 1999 Mary Lawrence ; 2002 - 2014 Alex Craig ; 2014 Tina Craig. 

© Paul L Gibson 2003

updated for the web August 2009

Bibliography & Sources

Hull & East Yorkshire Breweries. Pat Aldabella & Rob Barnard, East Yorkshire Local History Society. Hull, 1997

Rough Notes on Wincolmlee Pubs. Rob Barnard, Hull College Local History Unit. Hull, 1998

Hull in the Eighteenth Century, a Study in Economic and Social History. Gordon Jackson, Oxford University Press. 1972

Hull Packet searchable newspaper resource c/o British Library Online

Courtesy of the Hull City Archive: -

1832 Plan of Hull ICS/1449

Wapping house plans THU/D19

Photo of Wapping houses THC 798-803

Deeds to Rivis land TLA/538

Rivis property deeds (Providence Inn etc) ICS/496

1889 rebuilding plans OBLM/8481 and OBLM/8521

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