17 March 2011

Hull Blitz Remembered By Unique Photographs from our Archive

English Heritage has revealed remarkable pictures showing the aftermath of heavy bombing raids on Hull during the Second World War.

The images were taken by John Summerson (later knighted), who went on to become one of Britain's leading architectural historians and G Bernard Wood from Leeds for the National Buildings Record (NBR).

Master Mariners Almshouses

Master Mariners Almshouses

The archive was set up to record important historic buildings threatened by enemy bombing, or which were in danger of being hit. Amidst the rubble strewn streets, the photographers sometimes arrived too late to find buildings had already been destroyed, as in Hull.

Work was given urgency by the predicted Armageddon about to be unleashed on the nation's cities by aerial bombardment. But the NBR also laid the foundations of the modern system of listing we still use to protect important buildings.

Charterhouse

Charterhouse

 Trevor Mitchell, Yorkshire and the Humber Planning Director at English Heritage, explained:

"Eventually the photos were incorporated into the National Monuments Record, the public archive of English Heritage, which holds over 10 million photographs, plans, drawings and reports. They are quite remarkable."

Hull was the most heavily bombed British city outside London, with over 1200 people killed and 85,000 homes damaged. The city was bombed throughout the war and suffered over 80 raids. It was also subject to the first daylight air-raid on Britain during the war and the last piloted attack on 17 March 1945 when local people leaving a cinema became the UK's last victims of the Blitz.

Humber Street Wesley Chapel

Humber Street Wesley Chapel

The first heavy raid took place on 17/18 March 1941 when 378 German aircraft bombed over seven hours causing 96 deaths. One of the buildings hit that night was the National Picture Theatre on Beverley Road, which ironically was showing the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator at the time. The audience of 150 people were sheltering in the foyer when the bomb fell and no one was seriously hurt. The building was gutted, but the bombed remains of the frontage and foyer survive - the only Blitzed civilian building ruin left standing in England. Due to its national significance it was listed on the recommendation of English Heritage in 2007.

Black Swan, Clifford Street

Black Swan, Clifford Street

Trevor Mitchell added:
 
"The Second World War reshaped our cities and we live with that legacy. Nowhere is this more true than in Hull. These photographs are vivid reminders of the ordeal suffered by the city to which the National Picture Theatre still bears witness. Unlike the nation's great works of art, which were buried underground to keep them safe, historic buildings relied on good fortune to escape destruction. But many were lost and the NBR did its best to record them for posterity. When the Government decreed that historic buildings which survived bombing should have legal protection the lists drawn up Summerson, Bernard Wood and others underpinned the introduction of the listing system in 1946. We owe them a considerable debt."

George Street

George Street

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