Hole Lotta Love over forgotten Hull landmark that sparked civil war

Kirsten Simister, keeper of art at the Ferens Gallery, Hull with George Arnald's painting of Charles I demanding entrance to the city's Beverley Gate in 1642
Kirsten Simister, keeper of art at the Ferens Gallery, Hull with George Arnald's painting of Charles I demanding entrance to the city's Beverley Gate in 1642
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Shoppers barely give it a glance as they pass by.

But people are now rallying to the defence of the litter-strewn hole in the centre of Hull where King Charles I was famously refused entry by Sir John Hotham, sparking the English Civil War.

Beverley Gate at the top of Whitefriargate in Hull

Beverley Gate at the top of Whitefriargate in Hull

Some 17,000 people responded to a consultation over a £19m upgrade of the centre, many commenting on plans to bury Beverley Gate - which some call the “birthplace of Parliamentary democracy” and mark the spot with a couple of poles and a sculpture nearby.

Around 2,500 people objected in a petition to Hull Council concerned that the plan does not do justice to the place. But now new proposals from Historic England may go some way to allay concerns.

While the heritage watchdog supports burying the gate, seen as a barrier preventing people from visiting struggling Whitefriargate and the rest of the Old Town, they want people to appreciate more of the town’s buried, but remarkably intact, walls. As they point out, Yorkshire had two walled cities - with Hull getting nowhere near the recognition York does.

They propose putting up an archway marking the site of the Gate “so people would know they were literally walking through the archway which has been the entrance to the city of Hull for 400 years.” They also want to do a dig to find out exactly where the wall was and then mark the line with a series of brick benches.

Trevor Mitchell, planning director for Yorkshire, said: “We think the status quo isn’t worthy, it’s a mess. We accept the argument that it creates a pinch-point between Queen Victoria Square and Whitefriargate. We are worried the Old Town is in slow decline and we want it to thrive. We think a dig would be a fantastic thing to do in the run up to City of Culture that people could watch and take part in. We want to see the whole site better interpreted and we think the best way to do that is to balance the changes to the Gate with a more thorough representation of the wall.”

The 14th century Gate was unearthed in the 1980s after 200 years underground.

But the poor design of its setting has seen it become an embarrassment. As one resident remarked: “Who in Hull knew about Beverley Gate before all this blew up?”

Leader of Hull Council Steve Brady said whatever was put in place had to be thought-provoking: “We have listened to the thousands of views and I think people will be very satisfied with the outcome. There are huge numbers of people who think at the moment it is not appropriate as it is.

“Personally I like the idea of an archway.”

But some remain adamantly opposed to reburial. Local historian Mike Parkinson, who raised the petition, said: “In the same way that Londoners protect the Tower of London we would like to see Beverley Gate protected.” Another, Ron Fairfax thinks rebuilding the gate as close as possible to the original would make an “extraordinary tourist attraction and a shrine for Democrats.”

Lib Dem leader Coun Mike Ross is another for preserving not burying. He said: “We are still calling for a firm commitment that it won’t be filled in. Why not make it so people can see history close up and personal?”