Interesting Oddities

This page contains a selection of items which are of general interest but do not seem to fall in to any specific category such as the recipe for Hessle Spice cake and details of the Hessle Pear.


Hessle Spice Cake

The Hessle Pear

Hessle Biscuit

Hessle Surprise

Church Crimes

Hessle Feast

Margery Kemp The Lynn Mystic

Fire Carrying

Hessle Fire Station

Spice Cake

Hessle is apparently famous for its spice cake and the traditional recipe, which has been revealed in the Hessle Local History Society Newsletter, is given here.


1 ¼ lb of Plain flour

¾ lb of Sugar

2 scant tablespoons of Treacle

6 oz of margarine

2 oz of Lard

4 oz of Raisins

2 Eggs

½ lb of Currants

2 oz of Blanched almonds

1 rounded teaspoon of Baking Powder

1 scant teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda (dissolved in warm milk)


2 oz mixed Candied Peel.

Method (to fill two fruit loaf tins)

Sieve together the flour and baking powder. Rub in the fats. Chop the nuts and add them to the flour mixture together with the sugar. Add the bicarbonate of soda/milk mixture. Beat the eggs and blend with the treacle. Combine the milk and eggs with the flour, fruit, etc. Blend together well and add more milk if necessary to give a firm dropping consistency. Bake in a slow oven on gas mark 3 /325 F / 160 C until brown and set (might take up to 3 ½ hours!)

Eat and enjoy!

The Hessle Pear

From the Hull College Local History Unit

Hessle / Hessel Pears

Recently a keen gardener friend, Robert Barnard, told me he’d just seen in a nursery catalogue that there is a kind of pear tree called the Hessle Pear. Neither of us had heard of this variety before, but the inevitable Google search turned up lots of references - some of which I enclose. We wonder if there are any Hessle pears growing in gardens and orchards in Hessle now? If not - why not?

There is a pub in Fenside Road, Boston, in Lincolnshire called the Hessle Pear and in Woodside, Ealing, London a road called Hessel Road built on the site of former orchards.

We thought your HLHS members might be interested in this snippet, or perhaps slice, as we are talking about pears, of local history.

Yours sincerely,


Christopher Ketchell and Robert Barnard

Local History Unit, Hull College

More on the Pear

Behind the houses at the east end of Swinegate there is a pear tree about 20 feet high with well-developed, heavy branching and twigging overall. It appears to be very healthy. I have not seen the fruit of this. The trunk is nearly 2 feet thick and is hollow, which, considering the relative hardness of pear wood, indicates a great age, possibly more than 100 years. See the cover photograph, which was taken from the car park behind a small block of new flats. The owner says it is a Hessle Pear tree.

In another garden nearby there are at least two more pear trees which the owner claims are Hessle Pears. I have sampled some of the fruit, which were small, yellow and moderately sweet.

A house-owner in Hull Road boasts another pear tree which some claim is a Hessle Pear. This can be seen from Windmill Way. It is easily identified as it is about 20 feet high and is the biggest, blackest tree in the district. Though I am assured by the owner that it fruits very well, I cannot say that its shape is aesthetically pleasing, having been the victim of the amateur’s axe over the years.

In a garden in Southfield there is another thriving specimen, yielding edible fruit on a prolific scale regularly during the 35 years of its life. After all this time it is only 10 feet high. This can be confusing until you learn that it is grafted onto a dwarf rooting-stock. It was bought from Rogers of Pickering. The nursery informs me that Hessle Pears are common enough in East Yorkshire, and readily available. They were first recorded in 1827 and it is possible that they originated much earlier than this, but there is no proof that they came from Hessle.

It is likely that this cultivar, for that is what the Hessle Pear is, originated as a seedling from the wild pear, Pyrus communis. Mr Rogers tells me that all the varieties we have today originated from wild stock. For those with a romantic turn of mind the idea that the Hessle Pear has an ancient, wild ancestry can be very appealing.

Two nurseries specializing in fruit trees advertised in the RHS journal The Garden in January 2010 had never heard of the Hessle Pear, and the world-famous Hillers Manual of Trees and Shrubs (1998) has no mention of it.

Contributed by Keith Hare

The website of the firm of Rogers at Pickering lists the Hessle Pear as currently available and says: ‘Type: Dessert. Pollination Group: C. Self-sterile. Pick: October. Use: October. Known locally as the Hazel pear, this very old variety probably arose at Hessle near Hull, East Yorkshire and was first recorded in 1827, though is almost certainly much older. Small greenish-yellow fruit overlaid with some russeting, the flesh is white, juicy and fairly sweet. The main advantage of this pear is that it is extremely hardy and reliable – it will grow and fruit just about anywhere.’

A letter written to a New Zealand newspaper, the Otago Witness, in August 1896 says: ‘I had experience of it for many years in one of the colder and bleakest parts of England – viz., by the Humber side – and found it to be the most reliable bearer in any kind of soil, from heavy clay upwards. The frosts were too severe for it to be a regular bearer, but whenever it got a chance it always carried a heavy crop. It attained the dimensions of a forest tree, and the flavour was excellent.’ Signed W. D.

There are also reports of it in Cheshire and Lincolnshire, and there is a pub called the Hessle Pear in Boston, Lincs.

The Hessle Biscuit

From the parish magazine of All Saints’ Church, July 1896

‘Mr. Lonsdale, Confectioner, Northgate

Have you ever tried the Hessle Biscuit? If not, why not? and by all means lose no time in doing so. It is a delicious Biscuit to eat with cheese, and for any one who likes a plain Biscuit, free from sugar. The Biscuit is made in accordance with a special recipe, and has won for itself a well deserved reputation, far and near. If you live in Hessle, you ought to patronise and encourage Hessle trade. This Hessle Biscuit merits your patronage. We have never tasted one like it anywhere else.’

Contributed by Anne Reaveley

The Hessle Surprise

This is the name of a church bellringing ‘method’ used to vary the sequence in which the bells are rung. The word ‘Major’ refers to the use of eight bells and the Hessle Surprise is the particular sequence (or method) used.

‘Methods’ are used to vary the monotonous ringing of 12345678 in order, time after time. So, for example, 12345678 can be followed by 21436587 and then by 12463857, and so on, the only constraint being that each bell in the sequence cannot move more than one place forward or backward each time. Each separate row is known as a ‘change’ and each method has a fixed length, so that after a set number of changes it returns to 12345678 (known as ‘rounds’).

There are literally thousands of these methods, which can be invented by anyone with the time and ability to do so, and the honour of naming any new method goes to the ringers who first perform it successfully.

Hessle Surprise Major was such a new method which had not been performed before, and it was named by the local bellringers after first being rung at All Saints’ Church, Hessle on Sunday 31 December 2003.

Contributed by Robert Jordan, Tower Captain, All Saints’ Church

The Great Fish of 1696

The appearance of whales in the Humber is not uncommon. There have been several instances in the past few years of whales making it as far up river as the Humber Bridge. Sadly theses occurrences usually end in the death of the whale. In the past, however, the attitude taken was somewhat different to that we adopt today:

In 1696 what was described as a great fish was stranded in the Humber off Hessle. The incident is recorded in a manuscript book called ‘Memorandums of Hessle, taken in the year 1704: by Mee, John Legard.’ The information was published in the HULL TIMES (August 4th 1900).

“On August the 17th 1697 there was a great fish stuck between two of the coops of Ambrose Pinning the elder, which was so fast that it could not get loose again, till John Deacon, one of the ship builders, and 4 or 5 men more, got a boat, and struck at it with axes and adges, and endeavoured to tie a rope about its head and its tail, which slipping off they went as far as Mr Bacon’s and fetched a gun and shot at it, and ran a spit through its neck, behind which they fastened a rope and then some 30 or more of them hauled it to shore, and there fastened it. After which Deacon sold it to the Mayor and Aldermen of Hull, and they again to one Thompson a chandler of their town, who got a great deal of oil out of it; upon which my father, Sir Robert, arrested Deacon, and the Mayor and Aldermen vindicated him, till Sir Robert met with their Recorder, Mr Bernard at London, and agreed the difference with him, though Sir Robert said in his letters to me about it that they cannot pretend by any right to seize any great fish that is fast between coops or cast upon the shore, or any vessel that is on the shore though the water may be round about them, nor anything that is floating in the water so near high water mark that a man can ride in as far as he can and touch it with a spear.”

There are further details regarding the Sir Robert, who was, apparently, Lord of the Manor and held certain rights.

M G Free

Margery Kemp – The Mystic of Lynn

In medieval times the ferry between Hessle and Barton was used extensively by passengers proceeding from the south to Beverley, York and Durham. It has been suggested that the route was referred to as the Pilgrim’s Way because it was used by those making the journey to the shrine of St John at Beverley Minster. We can be sure that Margery Kempe (c1373 – c1440) used the ferry as it is recorded in her life story – The Book of Margery Kempe, which is regarded as being the earliest known autobiography of an English person – that she crossed from Hessle to Barton.

Margery Kempe was a remarkable woman by any standards. She bore fourteen children and was something of a business woman, founding and running two concerns, though both collapsed, before turning to religion. On the demise of her second enterprise, a milling business she took it as a sign of God’s displeasure with her life and in 1413 persuaded her husband that they both should lead celibate lives. Margery took on the teachings of the Lollard persuasion and travelled extensively in Europe and England making journeys to Rome, Sweden the Baltic and even to the Holy Land. However, despite her deep faith she made enemies. Her frequent bouts of weeping and screaming annoyed many priests, especially when they disturbed church services and she was seen by many as a heretic. Women were much freer to preach and profess in Lollard theology than in the Catholic tradition, which created more trouble for Margery. On several occasions she was brought before ecclesiastical courts to prove her innocence but her friendship with the Archbishop of Canterbury served her well.

It was her involvement in Lollardy that first brought her to Hessle. After travelling from Bridlington to Hull, where she was treated with little respect and almost thrown into prison before being cared for by a ‘good man’ of the town. Many residents, however, saw to it that Margery was driven out of town and into Hessle where she was identified by two friar and arrested by two retainers of the Duke of Bedford, just as she was about to board the ferry boat. She was taken back into Hessle where ‘men called her Lollard’ and ‘women came running out of their houses with their distaffs, crying to the people, “Burn this false heretic!”’

Margery survived what must have been a terrifying ordeal and was taken to Beverley where the Archbishop of York was eventually convinced of the strength of her faith and persuaded to allow her to continue her journey only for her to be arrested again on arriving in Lincolnshire. Eventually she continued her journey home and to London.

Around 1438 Margery dictated her life story to a priest and it was later printed by Wynken de Wyrde who had taken over Caxton’s press.

The Book of Margery Kempe translated by Barry Windeatt (Penguin Classics).

M G Free

Fire Carrying

The carrying of fire during the days of thatched cottages was a task to be undertaken with extreme care and caution. Villagers breaking the rules, which demanded that any hot coals or other forms of fire had to be carried in a closed vessel to avoid the danger of wooden buildings and thatch catching light, were brought before the manor court as at Easter 1665 when William Smith was fined 4d for his servant ‘fetching fier in a wispe’, and at Michaelmas 1665 when John Carver was fined 3d for ‘carryinge fire in an open vessell’. Eighteen months later Thomas Lilforth was fined 2d for his servant ‘careing of fier not in a clouse vesile’. The dangers of carrying lighted embers or hot coals around were only too evident to the townspeople.

M G Free

Hessle Feast

Hessle did not have a trade fair similar to that of Hull, or Bridlington, but it did have its feast. Hessle Feast was primarily a fun fair to which people came for enjoyment and to be entertained. It was normally held about Whitsuntide and the, old established tradition, could be, according to accounts, a very lively affair.

There are several reports of lewd, licentious and drunken behaviour having taken place. In 1808 the Rev. Garwood and Churchwardens placed an advertisement in the Hull Advertiser warning against such behaviour and by their efforts peace reigned for twenty odd years. The sequence was, however, broken in 1836 by what was 'justly ascribed to the influx of loose characters from Hull'. These characters believing themselves to be immune from apprehension wreaked havoc on the Sunday but were thwarted on the Monday when the Lord Mayor of Hull despatched a force of constables who dispersed the vagabonds.

At the end of the nineteenth century the feast was held on the Town’s field opposite Edward Street. In 1990, after a long period without a feast, the tradition was reintroduced, albeit in a different format.

M G Free

Church – misconduct

Nineteenth century newspaper reports occasionally failed to name the culprits as in the Hull Advertiser of July 1840 when it reported: ‘we understand that a disgraceful fracas occurred in Hessle Church a short time ago. The offender was fined four guineas for his unspecified indecent conduct.

M G Free

Church – Theft of Parish Chest

In August 1821 the Hull Advertiser reported the theft of ‘the iron chest, containing the Register Books and other documents’ from Hessle Church. The thieves had entered the church by removing part of a window.

A year later (16th August 1822) the chest was discovered under a dung heap along the lane leading to Mr Railey’s farmhouse. An unsuccessful attempt was made to force the chest by means of inserting a nail in the lock. The documents in the chest were much damaged by water but otherwise recovered intact.

M G Free

Fire Station

This photograph shows fire pumps in Hessle Square. the station is next to Griffin's Garage, the arch of the entrance can be seen.

These pumps were part of the Haltemprice Fire Service.

A Fire Station was situated in South Lane and later in the Square. The station in the Square accommodated one tender. In 1907 the crew, was led by William Coulson, who was followed in the post by Gus Newton. In the 1920s the crew consisted of eight men and their ‘captain’. The unit later became part of the East Riding Brigade.

Hessle Auxilliary Fire Service c 1941.

The late Charles Batte was a member of the Hessle AFS during the Second World War and recalled at a society meeting how the crew were sent into Hull to tackle a fire at Rank's Mill, he described it as a blazing inferno on which they "squirted some water"!

M G Free