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Hull's connection with West House Mill



  The purpose of this page. This is to show the importance of Hull Docks to the flax mills at West House Mill. Virtually every bale of flax delivered to West House Mills came via the docks at Hull, although I suspect some came via Lancaster and Liverpool docks on the west coast. Hull also supplied most of the small flax workers in North Yorkshire.



   For many decades in the 18th & 19th centuries, Russia was by far the world's greatest exporter of flax via Archangel, Konigsberg, Kronstadt, Libnau, Memel, Narva, Pernau, Revel, Riga, St Petersburg, Tilsit, Windau and Great Britain was Russia's major customer.
   From the Baltic the Hull traders brought in flax, which was required in growing quantities by the manufacturers of linen and of sailcloth canvas. Beginning in the 1570s Hull regularly imported several hundred tons of flax every year, an undertaking which involved the use of much shipping. Along with flax came other naval stores—hemp, pitch, tar, and timber. Flax and corn remained the chief elements in Hull's imports from the Baltic until the late 17th century. Also in Lloyd's Register of 1776 is James Moss as master of Dallam Tower, a brig of 160 tons, built at Lancaster in 1767, and owned by M. Fresh. There were voyages for this vessel with James Moss as master from 1768 to 1776, mainly to Narva and St Petersburg, often calling at Hull on the outward voyage. The position of the Hull traders, in common with that of other Englishmen in the Baltic, was only established with difficulty, for Danzig firmly upheld the Hanseatic privileges. Troubles mounted until, in 1579, the English were provoked to transfer their mart to Elbing, and in order to consolidate the organization of their newly thriving trade the merchants founded the Eastland Company. In this the influence of the Londoners was strong, but merchants trading from Hull, who had hitherto made much use of the port of Danzig, quickly
established themselves at Elbing and were able to
secure their own rights in the new company.

  Some of the flax bales were imported through the Port of Hull while naval stores and undressed flax were obtained from Narva, Reval or Riga, spruce linen yarn came usually from Konigsberg and Elbing. Admitting, then, the possibility of under- recording, the official volume of undressed flax rose by 73 per cent between 1728 and 1737, linen yarn by 233 per cent, hemp by 224 per cent. More significant, however, than the growth in volumes was the gradual yet momentous change in the geographical distribution of trade. In 1717, for Instance, no ships at all had arrived in Hull from Narva, only 2 from St. Petersburg and 9 from Riga; but in 1737, following the Anglo-Russian treaty of 1734 (which, among other things, made life easier for British factors residing in Russia), 11 ships came from Narva, 7 from St. Petersburg and 20 from Riga. The eastern Baltic increasingly supplied the flax and yarn required by the growing linen industry of England, and the hemp that was necessary for Hull's own rope-makers.

    Russia and Prussia stand supreme among Hull's trading partners at the turn of the century, with St. Petersburg alone accounting for one out of every four or five ships entering Hull, while Hull in turn was receiving about one in five of the ships clearing from St. Petersburg. Joshua Gee, writing in the l730s, commented that 'hemp and flax are so useful in navigation and trade, that we cannot possibly do without them; the first for cordage of all sorts, the latter for making sail cloth, as well for the linen manufactures that are carried out in this kingdom'.   By the early 1780s Spruce linen yarn from Prussia and raw Dutch from Hamburg and Amsterdam had together reached over five million pounds, and Hull was the leading port in the trade, despite Liverpool's position as intermediary between Manchester and the Irish flax industry.  The importation of flax was also expanding apace, much of it soon to be diverted to West House Mill and later to Marshall's Mill at Leeds, where they were beginning to spin yarn as good as most of that imported from the Baltic.

The magnificent Temple Mill built by Marshall at Holbeck with an Ancient Egyptian Temple facade. (A Grade I listed former flax mill built between 1836 to 1840 and based on the Temple of Horus at Edfu, reflecting a craze for Ancient Egypt which swept European society in the first half of the 19th century.)  Tow had also made its appearance, probably in the sixties, but the great expansion in the trade came later, when Marshall's also developed a machine for spinning it.  Russia and Prussia stand supreme among Hull's trading partners at the turn of the century with St. Petersburg alone accounting for one out of every four or five ships entering Hull, while Hull in turn was receiving about one in five of the ships clearing from St. Petersburg. Ships from Russia passed the 150 mark for the first time in 1792, from Prussia in 1802.   Linen cloth of Baltic or Scottish origin was to be found in almost every coaster and there were also small shipments of linen yarn, flax and, of course, the cotton wool that was used by the Strutts and other canon people to the east of the Pennines.


  The Flax bales had been shipped to Hull in trading ships, called Galliots and Galeas, as soon as possible after the flax was harvested during the Autumn months in Russia. This was to avoid the stormy Winter weather.


Imports into Hull from the Baltic States, some going to West House.

1790 1800 1810 1820 1830
vessels tons vessels tons vessels tons vessels tons vessels tons
243 61,964 466 83.732 459 73.786 318 62,448 632 109,60

   On 19 November 1915 a coastal shipment of hemp from Hull was

 the last direct import of textile fibre to be received at Arbroath.

   Hull, along with nearby Yarmouth on the east coast, and Newcastle, on the north east coast, seem to have avoided the slave trade itself. Instead they traded directly with the plantations in America and the Caribbean, supplying the colonies with window glass and vegetable seeds bringing back tobacco, sugar and rum on return.



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