Hessle Haven, or Fleet as it was known before the nineteenth century, is probably the reason for the existence of the town. For it is here that the ferry boat across the Humber to Barton ran from around the seventh century. the ferry was an essential link between the ecclessiastical centres of Lincoln and Beverley. The road from Hessle to Beverley was known as the Pilgrims' Way as people used it to travel to the Shrine of St John of Beverely at the Minster.
Saxon and Viking invaders used the Haven and the adjacent foreshore as they sailed up the Humber towards York. Possibly, the Romans also used it but there is no evidence to support this idea.
On the east side of the Haven an inn was provided for the ferry users. This became the Ferry Boat Inn and stood for centuries to provide shelter and sustenance for travellers and later workers from the industries on eiither side of the Haven.
Around the inn there grew up a series of wharehouses and docking facilities for trading vessels such as the keels which served the Humber and its tributaries. Until the arrival of the railway all the coal used in Hessle was landed at the Haven and distributed from there.
1852 map of Hessle showing the Haven, marked as the Fleet, Hessle Ferry Turnpike Road, The Ferry Inn, the brick and tile works, the railway and the station area.
Later shipbuilding would become a prominent feature on both sides of the entrance to the Haven and the Hessle Gas Light and Coke Company also had its premises to the east of the Haven and south of the railway line where the brick and tile works is marked. The last shipyard was Dunston's which closed in 1994.
Fleet is an old English word from the Saxon meaning creek or inlet, which gives further evidence of Hessle's early origins.