Site preparation at Hull’s South Blockhouse.
Site preparation at Hull’s South Blockhouse.

Archaeological dig at Henry VIII’s Hull fortress begins

Site preparation is under way at Hull’s South Blockhouse, a fortress originally built for Henry VIII in the 1540s in support of his military campaigns.

Located close to The Deep, the South Blockhouse was built to house guns and protect the gunners and ammunition from attack.

Along with Hull Castle and the North Blockhouse, it defended the eastern side of Hull.

Henry visited Hull on at least two occasions and took a personal interest in the design of the defences.

In 1997, excavations at the site, during the building of access road for The Deep, uncovered a two-metre iron gun, weighing over a ton.  The port piece would have been used to fire stone or shot against hostile ships entering the mouth of the River Hull from the Humber.

The gun can now be seen in the Hull and East Riding Museum.

In 2017, parts of the monument were examined by excavation, two trenches were opened in order to examine areas inside the building which had not previously been seen. This week, a team from Humber Field Archaeology is back on this site to expose more of the foundations.

Ken Steedman, project manager at Humber Field Archaeology, said: “The blockhouse is a site of national significance and this work is on a larger scale than 2017. Typically we should expect to find remnants of the 5m-thick brick walls, the gun-ports from which the iron cannon fired, and the floors on which those who used the fortress would have walked.

“Thanks to support from Highways England, Historic England and Hull City Council, we have an opportunity to further reveal details of this important building and investigate the strategic role which Hull played in Henry VIII’s military campaigns.”

At the same time, Highways England is also supporting archaeological works taking place in connection with construction of the Prince’s Quay pedestrian footbridge over the A63, search for remains of Hull’s town walls, which date back to the 14th century.

Highways England project manager Tom Peckitt said: “As part of our continued investment in improving our roads around Hull, building has now started on the new, fully accessible bridge that will take pedestrians and cyclists safely between the Princes Quay and the Marina over the A63.”

Humber Field Archaeology are on site for six weeks. Public are invited to visit the site as part of four open days in March. These include the 7, 14, 21 and 28 March, from 10.30am to 2pm.

Roadworks are to take place in Hull.
One of the pieces at this year's Open Exhibition.