A few years ago, the ineffable Kirstie’n’Phil, Channel 4’s evil impresarios of property porn topped up their bank balances by hosting a cut and paste show entitled Britain’s Worst Places to Live. As an exercise in gloating over the victims of misfortune it captured the spirit of the times to perfection. When the countdown was complete the city of Hull was awarded the plume of victory in this gruesome contest. A travesty of course - even the worst features of Hull are never as devoid of human spirit as the hollowed-out, soulless Home Counties villages where Kirstie’n’Phil’s over rewarded clients from the world of business and finance are so desperate to locate themselves. Hull offers a remarkable number of substantial Victorian buildings of quality, many of which are quite exceptional, and the best way to arrive in the city is by train.
On arrival your train will be engulfed by the last of the great Victorian-era barrel vaulted, wrought-iron and glass train sheds, completed in 1904 by the North Eastern Railway and maintained in good order. There are five vaults over the platforms and two at right-angles that shelter the station concourse. The postcard view shows the main station buildings positioned parallel with the platforms as they appeared around 1905. Extensive remodelling has followed, including infilling the porte-cochère and today’s buildings are difficult to match up with the postcard scene. The former booking-office, hand-crafted in wood is carefully preserved although lacking any obvious function it seems more of a museum exhibit – the original mosaic floor and internal glazed brick and faience decoration also remain in situ. The concourse provides an impressive space for the circulation of passengers and includes a bronze likeness of poet Philip Larkin – a generous gesture on the part of the citizens of Hull (who raised the cash to pay for it) toward a long-term resident who never went out of his way to befriend the locals. There must be a suspicion that the sculpture displays more animation than the subject would have exhibited in real life.