Death on the River Hull – the Brewhouse Wrack ferry disaster

The River Hull in winter. Fourteen people died not far from here when their ferry capsized.

On a dark December day 170 years ago, an east Hull street was in mourning.

At number 12, Hood Street, the Durr family was trying to come to terms with the loss of three girls – Mary, Catherine and Maria – drowned just yards away in the River Hull. Next door, 21-year-old newlywed William Smith had also been lost.

All four had been on their way to work at the giant new Kingston Cotton Mills, when tragedy struck. ¹

They had caught a popular early morning ferry, known as the Brewhouse Wrack, which crossed the river from the Groves – an infamous district of tightly packed slums – to Wincolmlee. ²

As the crowded boat reached the middle of the fast-flowing river, it capsized, throwing about 30 people into the water. Fourteen drowned.

In the days to come, thousands of people would turn out to mourn the dead and watch their funeral processions.

But despite the disaster being one of the worst in the history of Hull, little was done to improve safety in its wake. For the authorities, the blame was to be placed on the unfortunate victims themselves. Continue reading “Death on the River Hull – the Brewhouse Wrack ferry disaster”

Mike Covell investigates Sweet Fanny Adams and other tall tales about Hull

The abduction of Fanny Adams, as depicted by the Illustrated Police News.

A few years ago, I was taking a party on a ghost walk around Hull when they asked me about a number of stories that I had never heard of.

Intrigued, I discovered that a so-called “psychic” was responsible for these tales and had told them to a lot of people.

I decided to look into the stories to discover whether there was any truth behind them.

Hull has more than its fair share of myths and tall tales. It is a city full of weird and wonderful stories that are, nevertheless, nonsense, historically speaking at least.

So join me for a quick-fire tour of murders that didn’t happen, headless people who didn’t exactly lose their heads, lipless ladies, and the story of a polar bear being buried under a Hull road. Continue reading “Mike Covell investigates Sweet Fanny Adams and other tall tales about Hull”

A deadly trek across the Great Silence of Russia’s White Sea

A seal-hunting ship navigates a semi-frozen White Sea in 1931 (National Archive of Norway)

The three men stumbled across the frozen surface of the White Sea. They were freezing, starving and close to exhaustion.

Through snow drifts, whipped up by cruel winds, they could occasionally see the dim beacon of a lighthouse. Desperately, they trudged on towards it, across the rough and treacherous ice, conscious that to stop might mean their deaths.

They were the last survivors of the crew of the SS Sappho, a Hull steamship which was sailing home from the Russian port of Archangel, when it became stuck fast in ice, miles from the safety of land, in December 1915. 

What happened next is one of the most tragic tales of courage and endurance in the history of Hull. Continue reading “A deadly trek across the Great Silence of Russia’s White Sea”

The Hull man killed by his shaving brush

An advert for shaving cream from the Saturday Evening Post magazine in 1839.

Hull man Joseph Taylor was enjoying a holiday in Scarborough when he cut himself while shaving. A few days later, he was dead … from anthrax.

An inquest into his death, held in September 1924, heard how a shaving brush was the likely cause of death.

Taylor, a clerk at Reckitt’s, who lived in Thoresby Street, had been in perfect health when he left for the seaside with his wife.

He bought the brush in Scarborough, for one shilling and sixpence, and used it while shaving every day for a week, before cutting a spot which bled profusely. After a few days the cut got worse and Taylor became sick, but a chemist told him he had “barber’s rash” and suggested an ointment. Continue reading “The Hull man killed by his shaving brush”