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Hull History Centre: Historian praises archives' accessibility

Simon Bristow, Yorkshire Post

HISTORIAN and broadcaster Dan Snow was given a guided tour through 11 centuries of history when he officially opened the Hull History Centre yesterday.

Mr Snow unveiled a plaque to commemorate the opening of the £10.7m facility in Worship Street, believed to be the first in the UK to house the archives of a city and it's university under one roof.

To mark the occasion, staff unveiled some of the centre's most treasured possessions - including its oldest document, an 11th century deed confirming an exchange of land in Bayeux, France - and a volume of poetry by John Taylor, dated 1630, in which he writes of having a "cantle of Hull cheese".

The centre, a joint project between Hull Council and Hull University, also houses Hull's Royal Charter, which gave the town its autonomy in 1299.

Written in Latin by a chancery clerk in Westminster, the single parchment carries the Royal Seal of Edward I and marks Hull's emergence as a nationally important port.

It grants certain rights and privileges of self-government, including the right to hold court cases, raise revenue, set bylaws and hold markets.

In total, there are 9,000 metres of archives which also include the most extensive range of World War Two records in the country, the personal letters of pioneering aviator Amy Johnson, and archives relating to anti-slavery campaigner and city MP William Wilberforce, the pressure group Liberty and a wealth of local history and maritime records.

Mr Snow said: "I am heartened to see Hull taking such pride in its heritage with this wonderful building that marries the old with the new so well.

"The Hull History Centre must be the envy of archivists everywhere, but I've been equally impressed by the way the way staff at the centre are making history exciting and accessible to people of all ages through the events and education sessions they run. Hull should be proud of this unique place."

The ceremony was also attended by Hull's new Lord Mayor, Councillor David Gemmell, the university's vice chancellor, Professor Calie Pistorius and Fiona Spiers, regional head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gave £7.7m towards the project.

Coun Gemmell said: "With his passion for history and all things maritime, we couldn't think of anyone better to mark this occasion than Dan Snow and we're delighted to welcome him in Hull today. The History Centre is a great resource."