On 300th anniversary of Robinson Crusoe sailing from Hull, city unveils stunning maritime project

Cast upon a desert island where he spent 28 years, two months and 19 days one of the most famous fictional characters ever created reflected: “Had I the sense to return to Hull, I had been happy.”

North End Shipyard - how it will look when the work is done, including a new visitor's centre
North End Shipyard - how it will look when the work is done, including a new visitor's centre

Few people will realise that it was from the port, in a novel published 300 years ago today, that Robinson Crusoe set sail on his epic voyage only to get shipwrecked on a remote island near Trinidad.

It is one of the many unknown stories of the city which will now be told as the result of a £30m project, aimed at attracting 300,000 visitors a year, which will see a rundown stretch of waterfront transformed and a huge expansion of its Grade Two listed Maritime Museum.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“The sea is Hull’s unique selling point,” said maritime historian Dr Robb Robinson.

Artist's impression of the Arctic Corsair in its new berth in North End Shipyard

“Ever since mediaeval times Hull’s people and ships have played a phenomenal role in the opening up and exploitation of the world’s waters.”

Yorkshire’s Maritime City project will see visitors guided down a new route from the revamped museum, through Queen’s Gardens,a former dock and now park, to North End Shipyard, where a new visitor’s centre will be built and people will be able to go inside - and under - the Arctic Corsair, the country’s last sidewinder trawler.

Hull Council is putting in £14m to £15m to the overall scheme, a key legacy scheme from its City of Culture year, with the rest coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund, subject to a successful bid.

The aim is to bring in another £2m to £3m into the local economy, creating jobs and business opportunities.

The project will also transform the city's Maritime Museum

Director of cultural services Simon Green said: “These plans show the continuing ambition of the council and its partners to cement Hull into a world-class visitor destination by making the most of its remarkable heritage as an international maritime city.

“Over the past year, more than 10,000 people have given their ideas and suggestions on how they would like to see their city’s maritime heritage brought to life for all to enjoy.

“Now, we’d like everyone in the city to give us their views on the detailed plans and to show their support as we prepare to submit our bid for the funding to ensure this exciting project becomes a reality.”

Dredging has already started at North End Shipyard on the River Hull, a section of waterfront which Dr Robinson believes is the “one of the most underestimated in Europe, if not the world.”

He said: “A lot of the world’s maritime history and literary inspirations spring from that stretch of river.

“The Mutiny on the Bounty story is hugely famous, but few people realise that the HMS Bounty launched there as the Bethia.

“John Bacchus Dyke, whose father actually owned the shipyard, wrote the haunting music for Eternal Father, which is still the US Navy Hymn and probably the best known Navy hymn in the world.

“It is also where the Alexander was built which was part of the First Fleet to Australia.”

If all goes to plan the work on the shipyard will be the first to be completed in 2021.

The museum will close for 24 months late the same year for the revamp, which will create 50 per cent more space and allow the public access to one of its domes for the first time to enjoy stunning rooftop views across the city.