How Georgian villas, a railway station and old pubs on 'forgotten' historic gateway Beverley Road in Hull are being brought back to life
Home to Georgian villas and a Victorian shopping arcade, Beverley Road was once a prosperous gateway into Hull and home to eminent figures in the city’s history - yet in more recent times it has fallen into decline.
Many of the fine frontages have a distinctly neglected look, and the buildings have had a mix of uses over time since the merchant classes fled to the suburbs, some more suitable and sympathetic than others.
Yet now Beverley Road has a new lease of life thanks to a Hull City Council-led project supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund grants. Property by property, its reputation and aesthetic appeal will be revitalised.
As Hull Civic Society’s John Scotney points out, Beverley Road was originally a prestigious address, home to prominent men such as naval Rear-Admiral William Croft - whose residence, Rose Villa, is now a nursing home - and shipowner and merchant Zachariah Pearson. The now-demolished Brunswick House was owned by a director of Hull Brewery.
“It was quite an upmarket area for the elite of the city - some of the surviving residences still have coach-houses. Kingston Youth Centre was once a private school called Kingston College that was later taken over by Trinity House for their brethren.”
It even had its own railway station, Stepney on the line between Hornsea and Withernsea, which closed in 1964, and at one point a horse-drawn tramway.
Though there was bomb damage during the Hull Blitz which accelerated the clearing of certain sites, John believes decline set in far sooner than the post-war years. As transport links improved, the wealthy began to move further out of the polluted city, while the shortage of servants following World War One meant many families no longer saw the need for a house with several storeys.
The arrival of the car was the death knell as residents fled for Kirkella and Beverley - despite the best efforts of Zachariah Pearson, who bequeathed Pearson Park to the city partly to incentivise those of his own social standing to remain there.
The fate of the grand villas was subdivision and the rise of less discerning landlords and transient tenants.
“Cars made the exodus possible, and the area became less desirable. More shops were needed, so many of the ground floors were converted for retail. It became less of a community, with fewer people who made it their long-term home. In HMOs, none of the tenants have a stake in the upkeep of the frontage, and not all landlords have that pride.”
Eventually, the condition of many of these survivors deteriorated. The Conservation Area was even officially listed as being at risk.
Now the influx of Lottery cash is reviving Beverley Road and despite current circumstances, it is busier than in recent years.
A mix of residential and commercial property owners have been given grants to pay for sympathetic restoration of their buildings, and there have also been six ‘boundary treatment’ areas that have also been given a facelift with new railings and fencing.
One of the flagship projects among the 20 individual restorations is 53-55, two linked villas built in the 1820s and listed at Grade II. Empty for many years and in a sorry state, a new owner has been secured and once renovated, they will become a 19-bedroom HMO - though the Civic Society have raised concerns about how the property will be run and managed.
They are the last survivors of a terrace of seven, with others having been demolished and one currently occupied by a bed shop.
Stepney Station, now a community centre, has also been spruced up with homage paid to its rail heritage, and one of Hull Council project officer Gill Osgerby’s favourite transformations has been number 78, a private home.
“We will be re-roofing 53-55 and refurbishing the original windows sensitively and accurately. It’s a really prominent building, but because of its poor condition people don’t notice it as much any more. When it’s finished, it will have a real presence again and pack a punch with its frontage,” said Gill.
“We now have 20 properties under the umbrella, and there is an awful lot of activity on the street now. Work has started on some and contracts have gone out to tender for the others.”
Participation among those living and running businesses on Beverley Road has exceeded expectations, and many landlords and householders came aboard once they became aware of the benefits of taking up the funding, which covers the costs of up to 70 per cent of their work, enabling them to afford specialist restorations that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive for an individual.
“We have buildings like Stepney Station, which is unique and so prominent. It needs a new roof and windows too, and it’s one of the six locations chosen for boundary treatment - it’s now got railway-style wooden fencing. It’s right at the roadside so the changes are really noticeable.
“The Station Inn has had its frontage improved and the landlord has done a full refurbishment inside too. There has been a lot of interest from owners who have taken the leap after seeing what we have already achieved.”
Applicants for the funding are given support through the surveying and planning process.
“People are already talking about Beverley Road again - it was a bit of a forgotten street, but it’s so beautiful and was once very prosperous. There is a real diversity of building types and uses, and a good cultural mix. We want people to visit and spend more time here so they put it back on the map.”
A condition of the Lottery investment is that the public must be involved with and engaged in projects, and so virtual events such as workshops with artisan craftsmen have been organised.
“Each property has an activity plan so that we can tell its story. We’ve had regular meetings with residents, councillors and Hull Civic Society.
“We were concerned that Covid would affect investor confidence, but it’s been busier rather than quieter, and as we’ve kept delivering people have seen the opportunities. We’re still getting lots of enquiries and moving in the right direction.”