It might not have the immediate grandeur of York Minster and it is considerably younger than Rievaulx Abbey, but the Humber Bridge is now equal in stature having been awarded Grade I listed status.
Historic England announced today that the feat of engineering, which was the longest suspension in the world when it was completed in 1981, has been given special recognition, 36 years to the day it was officially opened by the Queen. Trevor Mitchell, Historic England’s planning director for Yorkshire, said: “It is an exceptional piece of architecture and the engineers Freeman, Fox and Partners, were acutely aware of the impact it would have on the landscape.
“They paid absolute attention to the look of the bridge and their choice of materials are completely in-keeping with its surroundings, so much so it blends into the estuary over which it spans.
“It is a thing of beauty, but more than that it tells an important chapter in the development of Hull. Unless they are in imminent danger, we only list buildings which are more than 30 years old. The Humber Bridge was too young when we last looked at Hull 15 years ago, but now it takes its rightful place on a list which also includes St Paul’s Cathedral and Windsor Castle.”
The bridge is one of 10 buildings, structures and statues in Hull which have been granted listed status and the rundown is likely to raise eyebrows. While few would quibble at the inclusion of poet Philip Larkin’s house or St Michael and All Angels, once described as the best post-war church in the city, the imposing tidal surge barrier and a dockside public toilet are less obvious candidates. Mr Mitchell, however, was unapologetic about the choice.
He said: “Hull now has three listed public conveniences, which might be a claim to fame in its own right. The newly listed ones on Nelson Street are particularly interesting, though. Edwardian in style, almost all of the original fixtures and fittings have survived, and when they opened in 1926 they were one of the first to combine facilities for men and women, which says a lot about the changing dockside.
“As for the tidal surge barrier, which was built following severe flooding in the 1970s, it is like the bridge, both functional and rather attractive. It creates a dramatic sculptural arch on the waterfront.”
Of the 10 new listings nine have been awarded Grade II status, with only the Humber Bridge joining the top 2.5 per cent of listed buildings which are designated Grade I. The move is part of a bid to raise awareness of Hull’s history during its year as UK City of Culture. Alongside the new listings, Historic England has also launched a book and a walking app which acts as a virtual guide to the key landmarks.
Mr Mitchell said: “Apart from Edinburgh, Hull is the only other British city to have a distinctive old town. In the past this would have been the beating heart of the city, but now it is blighted by empty shops and lack of footfall.
“However, it doesn’t have to be that way. It is crammed full of beautiful buildings and if we can begin to tell their story, then I believe we can get people back in those streets. We have to give people a reason to come to Hull, and what better reason than a city brimming with the kind of history most other cities would die for?”
The list in full
1. Humber Bridge: The 1,410m suspension bridge is now Grade I listed.
2. 32 Pearson Park: Home to poet and Hull University librarian Philip Larkin.
3. Tidal surge barrier: Completed in 1980 and designed by Shankland Cox.
4. Grave of Edward Booth: Railway fireman whose death led to new train safety measures.
5. 365-371 Holderness Road: Home to J Arthur Rank and architect Alfred Gelder.
6. Nelson Street public toilets: 1920s Dockside conveniences.
7. St Michael and All Angels: Church built in the 1950s.
8. Standidge buildings: Little 19th century warehouse.
9. William de-la-Pole statue: Bronze statue of Hull’s first mayor.