Detail from 1553 Queen Mary Charter (ref C-BRC.22)

Records of the Borough of Kingston upon Hull, 1299-1835

What types of records can I find in this collection?

The borough collections include records documenting the administrative, financial and legal affairs of the Borough of Hull from its creation by the 1299 Charter to its reconstitution in 1835.

Records include property title deeds, bench books, royal charters and letters patent, enrolment and registration registers, registers of freemen and apprentices, grants, quitclaims, writs, commissions, petitions, letters, leases and releases, election and appointment records relating to borough officers, bonds, byelaws, litigation papers, agreements, opinions of counsel, etc. These collections can be found at references beginning C BR*.

How are the records useful to my research?

These records can tell us much about local government in Hull in the period 1299-1835. But quite apart from this, the records also demonstrate the concerns of the people of Hull and the issues which affected them. The records can help inform research on numerous subjects including the following:

  • Property ownership and use by the Corporation
  • Appointment of officers
  • The development of local government
  • The functions of local government
  • Burgesses and apprentices
  • Trade and commerce
  • Public responsibilities of local government
  • Legal cases involving the Corporation
  • Relationship with central government and other local authorities

Is there any other relevant material?

Following the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 records relating to the administration of Hull were kept by the newly reconstituted corporation of the Town of Kingston upon Hull. To reflect this change in organisation records created by the newly reconstituted corporation have been catalogued as a separate collection and can be found under references with the prefix [C T*].

What was the Borough of Kingston upon Hull?

On the 1 April 1299 the free Borough of Kingston upon Hull was created by Royal Charter of King Edward I to determine the form of government of local affairs in Hull.

How was the Borough governed?

The 1299 charter granted a crown appointed Warden to be in charge of the administration of the borough, and the men of the town were created free burgesses. A charter of Edward III, dated 6 May 1331, replaced the position of Warden with the offices of Mayor and four Bailiffs. These officers were nominated and elected from and by the burgesses of the borough.

This remained the style of government of the borough until it was incorporated by the charter of Henry VI on 10 May 1440. Under the charter's grant the governing body was reconstituted as a corporation composed of the offices of Mayor, Sheriff, escheator, and 12 aldermen, all of which offices were to be elected from the burgesses. The borough was now to be free from interference by the Justices of the Peace for the East Riding of Yorkshire, with the Mayor and 12 aldermen serving as Justices of the Peace able to hold their own Sessions.

Although several further charters and grants were issued after that of 10 May 1440, the corporation remained relatively unchanged throughout the 15th-19th centuries. It was not until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, which saw the reorganisation of boroughs in England and Wales, that the government of Hull was again altered significantly. It was not until the very late 19th century that the status of Hull as a town was altered to that of a city under a charter granted by Queen Victoria dated 6 July 1897.

What did the work of the Corporation involve?

Following the incorporation of the borough under the charter of 10 May 1440, elections and the general business of the bench was transacted in the Guildhall. Meetings of the bench of aldermen including the Mayor were held in the Common Hall and there was a prison in the Guildhall tower.

Business reflected the Corporation's responsibilities for the administration of trade, commerce, crime and justice, and public works. Notable enlargements to these responsibilities came in 1552 when, by a charter of Edward VI dated 29 March, the geographical area of the Borough was increased, and the ownership and maintenance duties of the castle and blockhouses and the Charterhouse were transferred to the corporation.

How did the corporation fulfil its duties?

To enable the corporation to fulfil its duties there were a whole host of offices created. These included the offices of Chamberlain, Auditor, Market Keeper, Town Clerk, Master of the Woolhouse,  Water Bailiff, Clerk of the Waterworks, High Steward, Recorder, Governor of the House of Correction, Deputations to London, Collector of Ship Money, Assistant Preacher at Holy Trinity, Deputy for the Mayor, Ferryman, Meter for Corn and Coals, and Agent for the Castle and Blockhouses.

See also Hull Mayors and MPs.