Established in the 6th or 7th century Hessle was built around the ferry crossing to Barton upon Humber that was located approximately beneath the modern Humber Bridge. The ferry was established before the Domesday Book and may have been there since the time of the Romans. In modern times, competition from other ferry operators, particularly at New Holland, eventually led to the Hessle ferry's demise. The landscape surrounding Hessle was primarily agricultural and work on the land and in the chalk, whiting (used to colour internal walls, whitening doorsteps, window ledges and hearths) and ship building industries, as well as activities surrounding the loading and unloading of the ferry, were the main employers. Its location close to Hull also meant it developed as a dormitory for the city, with the big merchants choosing it as a location for their grand houses.
The poet Phillip Larkin lived most of his life in nearby Kingston upon Hull where he worked as a librarian. He is known to have often visited Hessle where he liked to wander along the foreshore. A small company located in Hessle published his book ‘The Less Deceived’ in 1955. By the side of the of the Humber Bridge a plaque records a quote in praise of the bridge from one of his works ‘A Bridge for the Living’ :
And now this stride in to our solitude,
A swallow-fall and rise of one plain line,
A giant step for ever to include
All our landscape in one clear design.
Built about 1806, the current mill was considered state of the art with its five huge sails (most mills in the UK would have had four sails) powering the grinding stones. The holes you can see on the wall of the third floor held a verandah that went right round the building. The mill was part of a larger complex that included settling tanks and drying sheds. A quarry was located at the back of the complex where the chalk was originally hacked out by hand and then moved in horse-drawn wagons to the mill site. The process was mechanised in later years. The chalk was crushed in the mill, passed to settling tanks where it was graded before moving to the drying sheds to remove all the moisture. In later years (circa 1925) the sails were removed from the mill and an electric motor drove the mill up until it was closed in the 1960’s.
The various habitats along the edge of the estuary including the foreshore and inland of the dike include marsh and clay flats, flooded clay pits, reed beds, rough pasture land, scrub and the thick luxuriant hedgerow, all containing general and specific species of bird, flora and insect life such as butterflies and moths, dragonflies and damselflies.
After our meal and a welcome shower we were early to bed to dream of the adventures to come!