This month's stylised background map is of the area to the west of Sutton, dated at around 1956, showing the area now known as Bransholme, and Sutton Park nearer to the river. These maps are to be viewed as a form of 'art', as for a desktop, rather than as accurate maps for research. Thus the 'distress marks' of imaginary ink blots and paper wear and tear on parchment paper are mine.
Prior to the Second World War, this was predominantly a dairy farming area. But in ancient times, few crops could be grown, particularly on the lower ground, as the ground never stayed dry long enough for crops to take root and grow to a meaningful size - only grass. The restricted narrow ridge of higher ground supported essential crops, like turnips, and corn, and there were indeed mills in the area to grind their corn. As well as the more recent dairy farming, we know that the influence of the abbey at Meux, who held pasturage rights in Sutton, would have seen a great number of sheep grazing in the carrs and wet meadows over the centuries, just as sheep graze today in the Kent and Suffolk marshes. England's abbeys were renowned for their expertise at sheep farming, and indeed the wealth of the country in the middle ages increased massively on account of the famous wool trade, and no doubt it benefitted the Sutton and Wawne areas greatly too.
In this year of Bransholme's 50th Birthday as an estate, and effectively now almost a small new town, it is interesting to see how open the land still was, not so long ago, with just that scattering of mainly dairy farms. Many of those farm names live on today, either as the general name for the area, or in the names of new roads, avenues or garths. The date here is 1956, and the site of the RAF station, formerly constructed as a base for Hull's barrage balloon defences against air attack, can be clearly see right in the centre - I've placed a roundel on the main hanger - now a huge shopping mall with library and health centre attached. I've placed another marker by the railway station in Sutton, the site of our Old School and museum. Also prominent are the rows of temporary housing, the ubiquitous 'prefabs', all along Sutton Road. Meant to alleviate post-war housing shortages caused by the Blitz, and only built to last 10 years, many lasted well over 40 and whose residents liked them so much there was a marked reluctance to leave them. The close proximity of the River Hull, snaking southwards towards its exit into the Humber, can be clearly seen, as can also two or three other main water courses as they also drained this very wet landscape, either directly into the Hull, or went directly to the Humber itself as at Marfleet. Children brought up in those prefabs in the 1950s still vividly remember the dubious fun of both wading and/or skating to school in their wellies, through ice-encrusted flood water a foot deep as they slithered their way in pea-souper fogs along Sutton Road. Our river broke its banks with such monotonous and clockwork regularity that folks could set their diaries by it.
The River Hull is tamed now (so we like to think) but it wasn't always so - for it once had a mind very much of its own. In the past couple of thousand years or thereabouts, the river had taken several different courses to the Humber, until the time of Wyke, the monks of Meux Abbey and the later fortifications of Henry VIII more or less fixed the river mouth to where it is today. But there was a time when weather, storms and tides all combined to let the river make it own decision as to where it discharged out into the Humber. The River Hull was nothing if not capricious, and may well be so again one day. We have to thank those ancient monks for their efforts in draining this land with its numerous dykes, drains and ditches, that brought it to a point in the last two or three centuries when crops could be grown on the very fertile lower fields nearer the river, a fertility maintained by frequent floodwaters right up until fairly recent years.
The dusty line of the lane to Wawne, that umbilical track that has conjoined both villages since time immemorial and certainly since before the Norman conquest - is clearly marked heading north-west to cross the drain before rising to Carlem Lane top, and then dropping the short distance into Wawne itself. We can picture solemn parties of Sutton mourners over the centuries, carrying their dead at shoulder height for burial within the churchyard of St Peter's at Wawne. For Sutton folk were not allowed to bury their dead in their own village, because until 1349, Sutton didn't have a church of its own, nor consecrated graveyard, just a small chapel. All major religious feast days, and there were many, would be celebrated by mass at St Peter's, and attendance was to all intents and purposes obligatory for everyone, including villagers at Sutton.
The same rules applied to Stoneferry, also just off this map another thousand yards to the south west. Why Sutton parish, when it was formed in 1349, extended so far south, way beyond Stoneferry, to Witham is a mystery today. Given the bad roads, very wet, muddy and virtually impassable in winter, it is a wonder why those southern hamlets did not look to the far nearer church of St Peter's at Drypool for their weekly ecumenical doctrine. More accidents of history, I suppose.
Just to the north of those prefabs, above the name 'West Carrs', is the site of the 'Evan Fraser Fever Hospital' - right where Sutton Park School is now. The name Carr is derived from the Norse, Kjarr, or in English, a swamp. The hospital was built in the wake of the devastating cholera outbreaks in Hull's old town in the late 19th century. The land might have been better drained and less of a swamp than formerly, but as we've heard, it still seriously flooded from time to time. How it came to be chosen as a site for a hospital when it was at least very damp for three parts of the year demonstrates the very restricted resources available around Hull even then. A fever hospital, by its very nature, was an isolation hospital, which alone precluded building it anywhere near existing habitation. But there was no higher land, totally flood free, that was not already taken. Despite all that, it's fight against cholera was largely successful, but in later years, the fight against TB was understandably less so. Visitors would get the bus to Stoneferry Green, and come rain or shine, walk up West Carr Lane from there. There was no Sutton Road Bridge until the 1930s, indeed, there was no Sutton Road until that decade. By the mid-50s and the time of this map, there was a dedicated corporation bus service at weekends directly into the hospital drive.
This map is not at all clear in this view, at four times less scale of other maps I've shown on here where individual farm buildings and names could be seen. But it is a necessary scale to show the larger Bransholme area on one screen. Even so, the well known farms, at Castle Hill, Soffam, Ings, Frog Hall and Gibraltar Farm (just, on the far western edge behind the menu) as well as the two Bransholme farms that lend their name now, can all be discerned by folks that know the area. It is a moot thought that the new estate could just as easily have been named Soffham, for oddly, neither of the two Bransholme farmsteads, High and Low, have actually been built upon. We could have seen buses with 'Soffham Centre' instead of Bransholme in their destination displays. The name Soffham, incidentally, derives from the ancient word for sedge, and so describing a farmstead surrounded by fields of that marshy grass, which then as now, needs a great deal of water to thrive.
This same map, and those of a larger scales for the other years at 1:2,500, can be seen for free at www.old-maps.co.uk, on which even hedgerow trees can be seen.
So how ancient is the land around here? We have below just a few of the names of the many farms on the land that surrounded Sutton by the end of the 19th century, and most of that land to the west and north west is what we now call Bransholme. So many of the names you may well recognise, and so many of them have their origins in ancient words and field names, often old Norse, that described perfectly to those peoples the old landscape and topography.
Frog Hall ~ Gibraltar ~ Ings ~ West Carr ~ Spring Cottage ~ High Bransholme ~ Noddle Hill ~ Castle Hill ~ Soffam ~ Carr House ~ Low Bransholme ~ Salt Ings
Most of those names are over a thousand years old, in their original form, though now anglicised to what we recognise today. The ghosts of those old Norsemen, if they could come back today, would recognise the name 'Bransholme' and know exactly what it meant - though it's very doubtful if they'd know or guess where 'The Cenner' was.
If you scroll this box right up, dump the side menu, and
it's possible to see the map Full Screen on 1366 x 768
even more so if you select to just view this frame, and
lose the side menu.
Here's a treat for railway historians, to see what part of
Hull's dock railways mapped like in 1928:
Click anywhere along this line to go to Old Maps
When it loads, the centre of your map will be 'blued'; that's the print area.
Click the buttons top right to turn the blue off, and make Full Screen.
You may have to Scroll Out three or four times for the free maps to appear.
Then just scroll around to your heart's content. Wow indeed!
By Golly, there weren't half some railway steel hereabouts!!
The bit you will be looking at is now Sieman's turbine blade factory.