History of the Hull & East Riding Museum

Detail of vessel

The site of the Hull and East Riding Museum was originally the Customs House. It was here, close to the overcrowded river frontage of the first port of Hull that customs and excise men tried to assess cargoes for the payment of duties. As the ships in the haven of the River Hull were often triple and quadruple banked, checking the cargoes was very difficult. Hull was notorious for not paying customs and excise duties.

Outside the museum is a direct reminder of the early significance of this part of Hull. High Street has a sinuous profile which follows the winding course of the River Hull. In the Middle Ages High Street ran alongside the river but because of the reclamation of land behind the staiths or jetties, the river has shifted into a narrowing and deeper channel further to the east.

Corn Exchange


In 1856 36 High Street became the Hull Corn Exchange. It was designed by Bellamy and Hardy of Lincoln. Its massive stone frontage is decorated with a bearded mask above the arch, supported by Corinthian columns; and agricultural implements and harvest motifs are carved on the entablature. The gates were cast at Joseph Wilson's Victorian Foundry in Drypool.

Museum of Commerce and Transport


By the late 19th century the Corn Exchange was underused and the building opened as a Museum of Commerce and Transport in 1923. It was created by Thomas Sheppard, the first curator of Hull Museums. Sheppard used his persuasive powers on local firms who agreed to refurbish the Corn Exchange free of charge. The exhibits included products representing the different industries of Hull as well as stage coaches, sedan chairs, bicycles and every type of vehicle including an aeroplane!
Roman Dragonesque Brooch from Brough

Museum of Transport and Archaeology


The museum was damaged by bombing during the Second World War and reopened as a Museum of Transport and Archaeology in 1957. Following the construction of the Streetlife Museum, the vehicles were transferred and 36 High Street was used to display Hull's archaeological, geological and natural history collections.

The Hull and East Riding Museum


In 1989 the museum changed its name once more, as The Hull and East Riding Museum it tells the story of the region from its geological origins in the warm seas of the Cretaceous period to the settlement of the landscape by people with more than ten thousand years of archaeology in East Yorkshire represented.

The museum has seen a series of major developments in the last 20 years including the installation of the Hasholme boat within its conservation chamber (in 1988); "Celtic World" displays (1991); pre-historic displays (1990s); refurbished Roman (2002) and Anglo-Saxon (2003) galleries.

The Museums Quarter


As part of the Museums Quarter, which unites the Wilberforce House, Streetlife and Hull and East Riding Museums as a single attraction around an attractive garden with floral displays and fountains, has further stimulated public interest in the museum.