Saturday, 2 February 2013

Pilot Office

Though the port of  Hull made its fortune by trading with the  ports of Northern Europe actually getting in and out of the river Hull in a boat was and remains a perilous operation. The currents of the Humber constantly change with the shifting sandbanks. A 1693 British Sea Atlas giving directions for sailing into the Humber starts with the following warning: "To sail into the River Humber you must have a care of  the Dreadful-Sand which is but 6 and 7 feet at low water". So from the earliest days there was a form of pilotage run by the Hull Trinity House and which was given royal backing when Henry VIII witnessed a Scottish vessel trying and failing to enter the port. After that all ‘strangers’ (foreign vessels including Scottish ships) visiting the port (Old Harbour) had to be brought in by a brother of the Hull Trinity House. Over the years the system was further regulated to keep out rogue elements who might be tempted to plunder wrecked ships. In 1821 this imposing Pilot Office was built at the corner of Nelson Street and Queen Street. It remained the central office for the Humber pilots until 1998. The building was then sold off for redevelopment as flats. The system of Humber pilots being self-employed which had existed for centuries was broken by the Associated British Ports in 2002 after a bitter dispute. Pilots are now directly employed by the ABP.

There is a very full history of the Humber pilots here.

More monochrome blogs at The Weekend in Black & White.


  1. Your photo shows an elegant building. A shame it's no longer used for the original purpose - I love windows like that. Thanks for all the information, too.

  2. I agree, Dragonstar, yet I wouldn't mind a flat there.

    The history is rich, William, thanks for sharing it.

  3. Being a former Humber Pilot I agree with Dragonstar & Petrea Burchard, but for those considering buying a property within, I would warn there is no lift in the building only a spiral staircase. However, there used to be an excellent view from the "Lookout" office, now apartment, until The Deep on Sammy's Point

    1. Thank you for your comment and the link.

  4. Hi, I worked there in the office from 1977 until 1985, it was the best job of my life. Fabulous building, fabulous people, oh and the Christmas party's!! Wish I could go back!!