£1m awarded to help make Henry VIII's fortress in Hull a 'must-see attraction'

Archeologists are to dig on a previously unexplored part of Henry VIII’s fortifications in Hull, which has been earmarked as a future visitor attraction.

The South Blockhouse commissioned by Henry VIII for the city of Hull's defences Credit: Hull History Centre
The South Blockhouse commissioned by Henry VIII for the city of Hull's defences Credit: Hull History Centre

Hull Council has been awarded the first phase of £1m of funding from Highways England to deliver a programme of archaeological works to conserve and tell the story of the South Blockhouse, a 16th century fortress, next to the Deep aquarium.

Built between 1541 and 1543 to guard the mouth of the River Hull – then a harbour – from hostile ships, the fortress was later a prison and finally demolished in the 1860s, when it was superseded by Fort Paull to the east of the city.

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During a dig two years ago, a large section of an ancient cast iron cannon was found on the site, which now lies under a car park.

A dig in 2019 in the car park near The Deep revealed part of a cannon

The funding will pay for an archaeological dig of the east corner of the site for the first time. It will also go towards conserving the site, improving public access and explaining more of the area's history.

The Blockhouse was one element of a larger scheme of defences, inspired by the most modern examples in Europe at the time.

It is a scheduled ancient monument of national importance due to its unique cloverleaf design and rare layout.

Henry VIII commissioned many new defences, but apart from changes to defences at Berwick, Northumberland, Henry’s new defences at Hull are the only ones outside of the south of England.

The area in blue shows the part of the Blockhouse excavated in 2019

Keith Emerick, from Historic England, said: “This is an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Hull and the South Blockhouse.

"The community excavations revealed the quality of Henry’s fortification and we look forward to working with all the partners to make this world class heritage site a must-see attraction for Hull.”

Frances Oliver, Assistant Project Manager for Highways England’s A63 Castle Street project, said: "We are delighted to be able to award Hull City Council funding to further explore and tell the story of this amazing Tudor blockhouse to the local community and visitors.”