Saturday, September 08, 2007

Top of the charters...

Perhaps it's a sign of boring old fartism, but I gave up some of my heady rock 'n' roll excesses this weekend to check out the city's heritage. Much of which consists, it seems, of fancy plaster work, Adamesque ceilings and old gentlemen wandering around in a daze muttering "I didn't even know these things existed".
I ended up in the City Archives, which does exactly what it says on the tin, and, along with a few others, got a tour of the "strong rooms", rooms which look rather similar to other common or garden rooms, except that they are stronger. Rather predictably, the many shelves contain many cardboard boxes full of the kind of documents that, although they're very old and need to be handled by gloved hands, would rapidly induce sleep. There were also many leather-bound books that, I can vouch, weigh a fair bit ("Who's feeling strong?" asked our tour guide, thrusting one of these massive tomes into my hands without much warning. "Ah, yes, they are heavy," I replied, coughing, spluttering and wondering why he'd not picked on any of the other tourers, who were all older, more decrepit and struggled with the stairs more than me. Ah, I see).
Anyway, that box he's holding contains the Hull Charter of 1299 (quite obviously the oldest document in the archive. Edward I had obtained the city of Wyke upon Hull from the monks of Meaux, doing a swap for some flatter and less-important land over in Lincolnshire). "Can I take a photograph?" I asked. "Erm...I'm not sure...nobody's ever asked me that question before. I...don't see...why not." Click. Although those cardboard boxes are strong and acid-free, it still surprised me that such an important piece of paper would just be stashed on a shelf atop some other boxes. But I suppose these archivists know what they're doing (they're also moving all this fusty gubbins to a purpose-built facility - just as soon as they've built it).

Later, a smashing old dear gave me a tour of the Charterhouse gardens, round the back of the house where Andrew Marvell lived. Indeed, as a boy he used to play beneath the 300-year-old Mulberry bush that I was led to. "That's our famous Mulberry bush," I was told. "Andrew Marvell used to play under it, didn't he?" "Oh, I don't know anything about that. Come and have a look at our apple trees." I was encouraged to pick a couple of apples to take home with me and then told that the residents "don't like people picking the apples."!

There was a rather nice "village fete" approach to this event, part of English Heritage's Heritage Open Days, mainly due to the volunteers that were manning the properties. I went to look at a the chapel at Trinity House, the city's nautical school, and was almost greeted at the gates by a young pupil dressed in naval uniform, who was having a crafty fag round the back of the wheelie bins and patently not expecting any more visitors. "Down there, is it?" I asked as I pointed at the chapel. He coughed and nodded in the building's general direction. Yesterday, we had a look around the city's only National Trust property, The Maister House, which has been home to architects Gelder & Kitchen for years. The only part of the building you could look at was the ornate high ceiling and the staircase, but I thought we should check in with reception just to make sure that it was indeed open to the public at the time we arrived. We received a frosty "yes," and an underlined, "it's only the staircase!" just in case we had any designs on squatting for a couple of hours in an architect's office.

Thankfully, there were also pubs on the heritage trail. One of which was the White Hart Public House, a place that I frequented in my youth quite a bit. Built in 1904, it's a relatively recent slice of heritage. But a spectacular bar, I'm sure you'll agree. The place used to be a shrine to taxidermy as an old landlord had filled it with all manner of stuffed animals that remained even after he'd left. "What happened to the stuffed animals? This place was famous for its stuffed animals? People came from miles around to see the stuffed animals. Where'd they go?" The current straggly haired landlord looked me in the eye, sighed heavily and said, "I dunno."

1 comment:

bazza27 said...

I also frequented this hostelry many years ago, when the landlord and his wife were called Eddie and Jenny respectively, I don't recall any stuffed animals then, but I was probably to plastered to notice.