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Hullwebs History of Hull


Sugar House Disaster



The old sugar house, Lime Street
The Old Sugar House, Lime Street, Hull

The Illustrated London News, 1868

"The deplorable accident at Hull on Friday, the 25th ult. [September], when eight men and boys were killed by the fall of a building in Lime-street, called the Old Sugar House, which was used by Messrs. Walker and Smith for the storage of linseed, has been reported in our country news. This old warehouse was the first prominent object which met the eye of a person entering Lime-street at the south end. It was a large and apparently dilapidated pile of brick, and was built in 1731. Its dimensions are stated to have been 79 ft. in length, 46 ft. in breadth, and 74 ft. in height, and is said to have had 138 windows. The building was used as a sugar-refining house by Messrs. Thornton, Watson, and Co.; but that business had not been carried on for the last twenty-one years. The building was divided into what may be called the double house and the single house. To the former was attached a six-storied building, used as a cooperage lately, but formerly for filtering. The double house was on the south side, and was stored with grain, of which the quantity is variously estimated. There have also been several contradictory statements with reference to the number of persons engaged on the premises at the time of the accident ; but it seems pretty certain that there were about twenty men and boys in the building, seven of whom were engaged in the ...... "

[the rest on another page which I don't have - yet ! B.M.]

The newspaper reports at the time gave considerable detail regarding the hours before the collapse, the falling of the building and the rescue attempts made throughout the afternoon. The inquest on the eight who died, one of whom was a 6 year old boy just passing the building, concluded that the collapse was caused by the overloading of a building already weakened by decades of subsidence of the pillars and foundations that held the lower floor. The jury gave a verdict of 'Accidental death from the fall of a warehouse', and suggested that all such old buildings that were to be converted to store seed should be inspected by the Board of Health for their suitability.

(from 'A History of Kingston upon Hull by Hugh Calvert, Phillimore, p.205)

"The first and largest factory in Hull during the 18th century was the sugar house built in 1731 eight storeys (74 feet) high on the east bank of the [River] Hull above the North Bridge. Its owners had hoped to tranship raw West Indian sugar from London for refining in Hull, but the advantages of the Thames-side refineries upon whose wharves the West Indian cargoes were discharged never allowed the Hull refinery to compete on a profitable basis and failed almost immediately."

On the contrary ... whilst I cannot say whether it made any sort of reasonable profit, this sugarhouse was in business from 1732 to 1840, with the Thornton family of London merchants involved throughout. This was not, however, Hull's first refinery - there were 2 in the previous century, with the one at South End and one on Trippet described as "one great building of brick".

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