Paul Gibson’s Hull and East Yorkshire History

Finkle Street - you can see it if you try ...


Most Hull citizens will be unaware that Hull has an ancient street called Finkle Street, especially as it no longer even has a street sign. I however, have had a long-standing interest in the old town street, partly due to an old friend, but mostly by virtue of its unusual name, which always caught my eye when looking at old maps and plans of Hull – as do many of the other old street names – but that’s another story.

What remains of Finkle Street runs north to south from the busy dual carriageway that is Castle Street (formerly Mytongate) to a junction with Blanket Row, another ancient Hull street. Originally, Finkle Street extended further south beyond Blanket Row to the Humber bank, and this southern section curved to the west, at an angle to the rest of the street. Streets or roads with bends such as this were often named ‘Fenkl’, which derives from a Norse word meaning a bend or even an elbow, which over time has become corrupted to Finkle Street. However, the street was first recorded as Hale or Hales Street in the Hull Corporation bench books, from the early 14th Century, and property deeds confirm its existence at that date. The bench books record rentals paid to the corporation, and show that in 1347 the street was divided into at least 11 plots.

It is worth noting here that at this period in Hull’s history there were no actual roads leading into Hull, and most transport was by water into what was still a very newly developed town. Hence much of the town was developed from the south and west first – nearer the rivers and transport facilities.

This earliest of names referred to the ‘Hales’, an area of waste ground to the south and west of Holy Trinity church. Hale Street (Finkle Street) led to the Hales from the Humber. The vacant plots in the Hales had been set aside for a market area but this never came to fruition; at that time the ‘Hales’ land was valued at £4 - 3s. There was also an alley off Market Place named Hales Entry, and a churchyard for Holy Trinity was built on land in the Hales during 1301. The other vacant plots in this area had been allotted to tenants by 1295 but not yet built upon. In 1304, under orders from King Edward I, the remaining plots were let.

Early references to Finkle Street are difficult to establish, as the old Hale Street also appears to have stretched much further north, beyond the line of Mytongate. Confusion also arises when both Finkle Street and Hale Street are mentioned in the same period, as it appears that a section of the old street retained the old name after the ‘new’ name of Finkle Street came into common use. Unfortunately the archived documents regarding Finkle Street, from the middle of the 14th Century onwards, are dense and wordy, mostly in the form of deeds and rentals. The information readily discernable from them suggests that few plots actually had buildings on them, and that the land remained empty for decades except for a few smaller properties and gardens.

The available details of property transactions for this area begin in the 1360s, with the name Finkle first appearing circa 1408 (variously as Fynkell, Finkell, Fenkill etc.). No actual houses are mentioned in the street until the middle of the century, as earlier references to ‘tenements’ may just have related to land, and ‘messuages’ (dwelling houses) first appear circa 1368. The various rent and tax returns show there were very few properties or inhabitants in the street until the early 15th Century, but by the 1470s there were properties with gardens. These may be those shown on Wenceslaus Hollar’s plan of Hull, made in 1640 (see above), which shows only three or four buildings in Finkle Street. On the plan, Finkle Street is shown as ‘Finkell Streete’, and the only buildings shown are corner buildings that appear to front on to other streets. However, a later historian James Sheahan noted ‘in 1649 there was a mill in Finkle Street, and the street then chiefly consisted of gardens’.

The street seems to have had its main period of growth in the late 1600s and early 1700s, consistent with the mercantile and trading success of the town and the need to build on every available piece of land as the old walled town reached saturation point.

By the 18th Century the street had several pubs (although probably established much earlier) and a theatre or playhouse, built in 1768 - paid for by subscription. The playhouse stood on a plot of land formerly occupied by Habbershaw’s or Abishar’s Yard and replaced the earlier ‘New Theatre’ in Lowgate. It was managed by Tate Wilkinson, as was the Lowgate theatre, and visited by many leading actors including Munden, Knight and the elder Mathews, and following the granting of a royal patent in 1769 it became the Theatre Royal. Although successful, the theatre soon became too small for its growing audience and difficulties arose due to Finkle Street being so narrow. Mr Wilkinson built a larger theatre in Humber Street in 1810 and the old Finkle Street theatre fell into disuse. Robert Thew’s plan of Hull made in 1784, shows the theatre at the south-east side of the street - the only building of note in the street, and no gardens were shown at that date.

The first major trade directory for Hull of 1791 lists a varied mixture of inhabitants in Finkle Street including brewers Akam & Brooks, a ladies board school run by Charlotte Bayldon, Robert Belt – a tailor of course, William Blakely at the Theatre Coffee House – one of three pubs in the small street at that date, Gover & Co merchants, Thomas King a worsted maker, as well as corn factors, master mariners, surgeons, bricklayers, pawnbrokers, joiners, pipe makers and wheelwrights amongst others.

The first large scale Ordnance Survey plan surveyed in 1852 (see above) shows at least eight small courts entered from the street including Guardian’s Place, Theatre Court, Finkle Court, Albany Square and George’s Place. These many small courts were a criminal’s paradise, as most also had secondary exits into surrounding streets such as Mytongate, Sewer Lane and Blanket Row. Theatre Court, named as it originally faced the Theatre Royal, was a typical example of the courts in Finkle Street and the old town. Formed in a dogleg it was entered via a passage next to no.20 Finkle Street, opening into a slightly wider court with houses on each side. There were at least 22 tiny dwellings within the court, beyond which more passages led on to either Mytongate or Sewer Lane. Theatre Court was almost certainly developed in the middle of the 18th Century, possibly by Charles Mountain, and was re-named Providence Place circa 1870; the census of 1871 listed over 90 inhabitants in the 21 occupied properties. Providence Place is shown below right, looking east towards its Finkle Street entrance.

The next census in 1881 recorded that six of the 22 houses were unoccupied on the night of the census, but even so - the remaining 18 houses, simple one-up and one-down dwellings, housed 70 people that night alone. Heaven knows how many others lived there unofficially. Later photographs made by the corporation Health Department in a report on its condition, give a vivid impression of the lives the occupants must have had. The dark, damp, shadowy atmosphere, hardly ever lit by the sun, must surely have affected the physical and mental health of those who were unfortunate enough to have lived there. Plans show the one-up, one-down houses were on average just 12 feet square, and very few communal privies were provided to serve them.

Building plans for Hull are not generally available until the 1850s, and Finkle Street plans are few, suggesting that the street was fully built up by then, and only a few new buildings were built after 1850; deeds are available for many properties from as early as 1614, but most are from circa 1700. Later plans show many houses and courts were bought and demolished for the construction of warehouses, as the street developed - the street had always been home to many businesses, mostly ran from the owner’s homes, which doubled as business premises. In Finkle Street, as in most streets within Hull and other towns throughout England, many small businesses supplemented their income by selling ale; Finkle Street’s several pubs developed from these small ale-houses recorded from the middle of the 18th Century.


Looking briefly at the pubs that were in Finkle Street shows how tricky it is to pin a building down to an exact location using very few available sources. The numbers and names of three of the five pubs appear to change every few years, and some come and go within a year. Confusingly, some census returns list the same pub name twice with entirely different occupants and locations – the 1851 Census lists two pubs both called the Stoker’s Arms; a reference to a pub name which appears in only one trade directory. Now was this an error by the enumerator, or were there really two pubs with the same name, or did one man have two pubs? – you decide. The smaller beer-houses, of which very little information can be found were: -

Leeds Arms, at no.5 and/or no.8

No photograph of this old beerhouse is available as it was demolished in 1872/3 for the construction of Mr Lofthouse’s new warehouse. These are some of the known victuallers at the pub: -

1834Elizabeth Brewer retailer of beer, 5 Finkle Street 
1835James Atkinson beer shop, Leeds Arms, 5 Finkle Street
1838–39Edward Holland beer house keeper, 5 Finkle Street
1842Benjamin Hedges ale & porter dealer, Leeds Arms, 5 Finkle Street
1846Mary Ann Gardner beer retailer, 5 Finkle Street
1848William Grundy beer retailer, 5 Finkle Street
1855Edward Harris, Leeds Arms, Finkle Street
1858Leeds Arms, 5 Finkle Street
1861Census; not listed
1871Census; Leeds Arms, 8 Finkle Street, Thomas Warburton
1872Thomas Warburton, Leeds Arms, 8 Finkle Street
1873H. Wedgner, Leeds Arms, Finkle Street

Fishermans / Painters / Blacksmiths Arms, at no.7 and/or no.8

It seems that this too was demolished in 1872 for the construction of Lofthouse’s warehouse (by S Borill – plan ref. OB/3473). The following are some of the confusing references, and show the many name changes the pubs went through with successive owners: -

1814Joseph Bennison victualler, 7 Finkle Street
1817William Appleyard victualler, 7 Finkle Street
1822John Whitehead victualler, 7 Finkle Street
1823John Whitehead, Painters Arms, 7 Finkle Street
1826Elizabeth Thomas vict, Painters Arms, 8 Finkle Street
1831James Mears butter factor & victualler, Painters Arms, 7 Finkle Street
1834–40William Lawn, Blacksmith’s Arms, & blacksmith, 7 Finkle Street
1842–46Thomas Wardell victualler, Blacksmiths Arms, 7 Finkle Street
1848Thomas Wardell vict., Blacksmiths Arms, 7 Finkle Street & cabinet maker Blue Bell Entry, High Street
1851Henry Booker, Blacksmiths Arms, 8 Finkle Street, and …
1851Census; George Ashton, Stokers Arms 7 Finkle Street, tailor and publican
1851George Ashton, victualler and tailor, Fisherman’s Arms, Finkle Street

Anthony Wood, Fishermans Arms, 8 Finkle Street

1861Census; Anthony Wood, publican, wife and two children
1863–64Anthony Wood, Fishermans Arms, Finkle Street
1867John Stringer, Fishermans Arms, 8 Finkle Street

Stokers Arms (2) at no.11

These references may link with the Leeds Arms or the Fishermans Arms: -

1851Stephen Armitage, victualler and engineer, Stokers’ Arms, Finkle Street
1851Census; Stephen Armitage, Stokers Arms 11 Finkle Street, engine worker & beer seller

The two long-standing, and easier to track, pubs that survived the demolition for the new warehouses in 1872/3 were: -

Ship Victory, at no.20

The Ship Victory property may have been shown on the Hollar plan of Hull made in 1640, and its construction appears to be of at least that age. It was part of Thomas Temple’s pub chain in 1798, and when it was sold following his death in 1822 the estate consisted of a brewery in Marine Row, and eight public houses including the Old Theatre Coffee House in Finkle Street, the Admiral Nelson, the Plough & Ship, the Cup, the Coach & Horses, the Beverley Buff in Church Street, the White Hart in Cross Street and the Blacksmith’s Arms at Riplingham. In 1823 the Ship Victory was sold to Gleadow & Dibb and closed in 1901. It was demolished some years later in 1922, and several photos were made at this date relating to a complaint made following demolition; the adjoining house was allegedly made unfit due to water entering the property following the demolition works. The building that once housed the Ship Victory is shown below, in a photograph taken in 1922 just before demolition.

These are some of the known victuallers: -

1791William Blakeley victualler, Theatre Coffee House, Finkle Street
1803John Blakely, Sir John Falstaff, Finkle Street [Hull Advertiser 12.08.1815]
1806‘Theatre Coffee House, alongside Theatre Court’ [Hull Advertiser 15.02.1806]
1814Stephen Akester victualler, 20 Finkle Street
1814William Pinder victualler, 20 Finkle Street
1817John Stanley victualler, 20 Finkle Street
1823Wm. Poole, Ship, 20 Finkle Street
1826Wm. Hurst vict., Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1831Moses Cherry vict., Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1834-39John Eddington, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1840-42David Holdsworth victualler, Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1846Joseph Sivers, Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1848Thomas Allcock victualler, Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1851David Gawtry, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1851Census; David Gawtry Ship Victory, aged 48, innkeeper
1855William Bishop, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1858-64Arthur Biglin, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1867Wiliam Humphrey, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1871Census; Valentine Smith, licensed victualler, ‘18’ Finkle Street, and wife
1873V. Smith, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1872-79George Pickwell, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1882William R. Parker, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1885William Francis Turner, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1889William Martin, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1892H C Wilkinson, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1895James Harry Dannatt, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street
1897-1901Herbert Tacey, Ship Victory, 20 Finkle Street

Foresters Arms / Prince Blucher, at ‘no.29’

The Forester’s Arms was located within another of Finkle Street’s most ancient buildings. It held only a beer-house licence and was acquired by Moors’ & Robson’s in 1899. Plans for its reconstruction for M&R are available, dated 1899, however it closed in 1900 and the licence was transferred to the Swann Inn Beverley Road.

No.27a, latterly part of the pub, was found unfit for human habitation in 1938 and ‘four persons of the working classes were evicted’. Plans and notes made at that time reveal that the ground floor rooms were only 6’6’’ high (THC/1218), and another Health Department image, dated 27.10.1938, shows the squalid condition. The photograph shown above right is from 1904, showing the pub just after closure.

Georgian Hull, by Ivan & Elizabeth Hall - published in 1978, described ‘houses of the 1660s in Finkle Street’ as ‘only recently demolished’ - these were almost certainly the buildings that had housed the Foresters’ Arms. A stone plaque, or medallion on the front of the building, obviously gone by 1978, bears the date ‘AD1657’, and is clearly visible on another of the 1930s photographs. Here are some of the victuallers: -

1810-14John Watson victualler, 29 Finkle Street
1814John Wilson victualler, 29 Finkle Street
1817Robert Smith victualler, 29 Finkle Street
1822-23Susanna Lowe victualler, Blucher, 29 Finkle Street
1826-30Robert Hindson victualler, General Blucher, 28 Finkle Street
1834Robert Hindson, Prince Blucher, 28 Finkle Street
1835-40Thomas Williams, beer retailer, Prince Blucher, 29 Finkle Street
1842Harriet Williams victualler, Prince Blucher, 29 Finkle Street
1842Amos Proctor, coal agent & victualler, Prince Blucher, Finkle Street
1846Charles Bell, Prince Blucher, 29 Finkle Street
1848Joseph Procter victualler, Prince Blucher, 29 Finkle Street
1851Thomas Crowston, Prince Blucher, 29 Finkle Street
1851Census; Mary A Cook, victualler, Prince Blucher, widow and two visitors
1855William Stalper, Prince Blucher Inn, 29 Finkle Street
1858N.B. Thomas Slater, Prince Blucher, 7 ‘Myton Gate’
1861Census; William Gray, Prince Blucher, licensed victualler
1863-64J. Stringer, Prince Blucher, 29 Finkle Street
1867David Dresser vict., Foresters Arms, Finkle Street
1867Benjamin Yorke, Foresters Arms, 29 Finkle Street
1871Census; George Hall, Foresters Arms, publican, wife and two daughters
1872Thomas Hopwood Foster, Prince Blucher, 29 Finkle Street
1873G. Hall, Prince Blucher, 29 Finkle Street
1874-76R. W. Lickis, Foresters Arms, 29 Finkle Street
1879-89John Lowden, Foresters Arms, 29 Finkle Street
1892Mrs M Lusby, Foresters Arms, 29 Finkle Street
1895-99Benjamin R. Towse, Foresters Arms, 29 Finkle Street

© Paul L Gibson

Hull March 2005, edited for the web June 2009

Brief Bibliography & Sources

All photographs courtesy of Hull History Services (except 2008 aerial view - courtesy Google Earth)

1852 plan courtesy of the Ordnance Survey Office

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

Landlord. Graham Wilkinson, unpublished, Hull 2005.

The Changing Plan of Hull 1290-1650: A guide to documentary sources for the early topography of Hull. Rosemary Horrox. Kingston upon Hull City Council 1978.

City & County of Kingston upon Hull. Calendar of the Ancient Deeds, Letters, Miscellaneous Old Documents, etc. in the Archives of the Corporation. Indexed by L M Stanwell, Guildhall Hull 1951.

A New Picture of Georgian Hull. Ivan & Elizabeth Hall, Wm Sessions, York. 1979

A History of the Town & Port of Kingston upon Hull. James Joseph John Green, Beverley 1866.Sheahan,

The Place Names of the East Riding of Yorkshire. English Place Name Society, Cambridge University Press. 1937.

Forgotten Hull image collection caption database. Wilkinson, Graham. HLSL

Deeds, various, Hull City Archive

Trade Directories, various, HLSL and author’s collection

Census, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881

References from Stanwell

1302grant of land in ‘le Hales’ to extend the churchyard of Holy Trinity
1360conveyance of property in Hale Strete
1368messuage in Hale Strete
1383 land in Hale Strete and a croft; ‘lying in a certain place anciently known as Suthwyk – and in width between le Milncroft on the West and a croft late of Robert Watton on the East, and abutting on the meadow called Grangewyk at the North end and upon the water of Humber towards the South.’
1408rental receipt of two tenements in Fynkel Strete
1410land and tenements in Hale Street and Munkgate (Blanket Row)
1414conveyance of one tenement in Fenkil Strete release of tenement in Fynkel Strete as above
1417as above
1427as above
1429as above in Fenkel Strete
1430as above
1450as above
1448three houses and gardens in Haile Strete
1448‘half of a messuage with a garden behind the chapel of Holy Trinity and adjoining Hale Strete.’ [Suggesting that Hale Street extended as far as Holy Trinity – did it include the line of Vicar Lane and or Fish Street?]
1455messuage in Fenkall Strete - on above?
1463three tenements and a garden in Fynkel Strete
1474as above
1484four tenements in Fynkyl Strete
1485lease of a tenement in Fynkle Strete - three tenements and a horse mill in Old Beverley Gayte, otherwise called Hayle or Hayll Strete [suggesting Hale Street was the line of Sewer Lane and Fish Street?]
1529three messuages and three gardens in Fynkell Strete

Health Department images available at Hull Local Studies Library and Hull City Archives: -

50A view looking north along Finkle Street and showing part of the shop on the corner of Blanket Row. 1933
472A view looking west and showing No.27 Finkle Street, the premises of Dumoulin & Gosschalk 1938
1355A view of the interior of a house showing damp conditions, inside one of the houses in Providence Place
1356A view dated August 31 1904 and looking west along Providence Place, Finkle Street
1358A view of the interior of a room in one of the houses in Providence Place, Finkle Street
1359A view dated August 31 1904 and looking east from just inside Providence Place, Finkle Street
1360A view dated August 31 1904 and looking east from inside Providence Place, Finkle Street
Special Collection No.22A view dated August 31 1904 looking west and showing the derelict No. 21 Finkle Street
Special Collection No.25A view dated August 31 1904 looking east at the derelict Nos. 10, 11, 17 & 18 Providence Court
Special Collection No.26A view dated August 31 1904 and looking south at the derelict Nos. 12 to 17 Providence Place

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