It is the nature of a fishermans vocation which makes him a natural predator of the sea, he is therefore dependent on seasons and the natural migrations of the various fish species he endeavours to catch, it is mainly for this reason that fisherman where the gypsies of the sea and followed their quarry to which-ever place or ground would produce a yield for them, no matter the time of year.

Fishing from Hull Pre 1840: Although there has been fishing from Hull for a few hundred years, the monks of Myton were granted a charter to fish the Humber in the 16th Centuary ( mainly for herring ) and the proceeds from the many East Coast fishing communities went to the local monestries, there was very little commercial fishing, mostly fishing was done to provide for the families of the fishermen and local communities, this was mainly due to the fast deterioration and the difficulties of transporting a catch inland. Salted fish had been imported from various countries and UK ports for many years but the market demand for fresh fish would very quickly surpass that for salted fish. Fishing outlets from the many small havens of the Humber exsisted in places like Paul, Hessle,Hedon and Hull itself where fishermen in open boats would fish the Humber and surrounding sea by line and net. In the 1841 Census there are limited listings of men with the vocation of a fishermen. A few I have listed below.

WILKINSON JOSEPH. 25 Dobson Entry Blanket Row Hull . Fisherman 1841/ 1230/01/28 .
OLIVER THOMAS . 50 .? Hull . Fisherman 1841/ 1230/03/316 .
RICHARDSON RICHARD 25 Malt Kiln Entry Hull . Fisherman 1841/ 1230/03/319 .

As the pioneering Brixham men took station along the southern east coast of england there is a question as whether they would arrive and settle at Hull, as a natural progression of their advancement into the north sea.

By 1819 there had begun experiments of trawling off the East Yorkshire Coast possibly instigated by Colonel Ralph Creyke of Marton Hall near Flamborough, a local magistarate and treasurer of the Flamborough Fishermans Fund, In June of 1819 Creyke purchased a cutter rigged craft of 39 feet which he called Manor Park and was skippered by Cornelius Young, the grounds trawled where off Dimlington Heights Yorkshire near Easington, and met with various success. These experiments with fishing off the East Coast where a seperate entity to the Torbay men.

By 1821 Creyke again was involved in a drive to recruit Plymouth vessels to come to Hull and with the backing of the bench of Hull corporation Colonel Creyke was sent to Plymouth to entice the smackmen to come and try the grounds near Hull. Although fairly lucrative Inducements where offered only one skipper a John Davis of Plymouth agreed to venture north on the proviso that he received 1 guinea on arrival at Hull and a further 20 guineas over 3 months for landing at Hull. When Davis did arrive at Hull he brought with him a further smack and the same terms where applied and both vessels stayed for some time. A pilot was employed to assist them in navigation and they also trawled the dimlington grounds which met with some success although torn nets where a common occurrence, the two smacks eventually returned to Plymouth.

Through the 1820`s vessels from the south eastern fishing stations where venturing further into the north sea and the fishing grounds of the dogger bank was probably been fished by both the Barking men and the Torbay men at this time, each vessel returning to their home ports such as Ramsgate and Barking at the end of their fishing trips. The biggest market at this time for the sale of the prime sole`s and turbot found on the north sea grounds was still the London market. It was realised that a large number of the London gentry spent the summer months in the spa resort of Scarborough, so by 1831 a few of the Torbay smacks from such stations as Ramsgate and Brixham went north to Scarborough, whether this was in due course of the visiting gentry and an insite by the smacksmen to capitalise on it or just a natural progression of advancement of the smacks further north is not crystal clear.


At the same time in 1831 William Sudds brought his smack Betsy from Ramsgate and registered her with the Hull Customs House staying till 1838 when he returned to Ramsgate. Sudds then came back to Hull registering the Smack Mona in 1843, and been the skipper of the smack Ranger in 1844. It is therefore a course of speculation and hear`say on who and when the discovery of the Great Silver Bank ( Silver pits ) was made. Fishermen been naturally secretive about the grounds they fished did nothing to place an exact instance of the discovery of the pits on record. There are several contenders and times stated for the discovery, 1937 and William Sudds been the most favoured, other scources state the pits where not discovered till 1843. One Theory put forward was in 1937 when several smacks where fishing on the dogger bank they scattered in a great gale , George Berry and William Sudds reported as been two of the skippers of these vessels, as the gale abated and one of the vessels continued fishing to the southern area of the dogger bank known as the Great Silver Bank or Silver pits on hauling the trawl found an abundance of sole`s. This theory would seem feasible has it became known that the greatest yield from the pits was taken after a severe winter and shortly after a gale. These conditions later became known as pit years so was it that the vessel and skipper was William Sudds in the Betsy ?, Why did William Sudds go back to Ramsgate shortly after , had he made a small fortune with this one haul after several years fishing these waters?, Was it on his return in 1843 that he announced his findings of the Silver Pits either directly or indirectly ?, if he had entered port each time with an abundance of prime sole`s it would not take long for others to notice and take note of his trips and locations.

Ramsgate July 10th 1839

The hitherto peaceable town of Ramsgate was on Monday thrown into a considerable state of excitement, in consequence of the conviction of several fishermen for hawking fish about the streets.

An act lately passed the legislature for the better regulation and improvement of the town. The act contains a clause prehibiting the hawking of fish, vegetables &c., within the parish. The commisioners for carrying the act into execution , having given directions to the police to summon all persons found offending against the above clause, several men during the last fortnight were brought before the magistrates for hawking fish in the streets. On these occasions the magistrates appeared to show every disposition to act leniently with the offenders, and those who would promise not to offend again were discharged; the others would give no such guarantee to discontinue the practise were committed to Sandwich Gaol for periods of six or seven days only. This mistaken leniency on the part of the magistracy, it appears , emboldened the offenders, as immediately on their release from prison they returned to their old occupation with renewed vigour.

On Monday the following persons, namely John Buckley, Henry Rigden, William Sally, William Nairne, James Buzzy, William Goldsmith, Charles Kendall and two others ( several of whom had been convicted ) were brought before the sitting magistrates, Sir Thomas Grey, Mr Robert Townley, and Mr J Trecothick, charged by sergeant Clark and police constables, Billings, Bradshaw, and Jenkins with hawking fish in the streets within the parish. Each defendant admitting the charge, was convicted in the mitigated penalty of 1s and costs or imprisonment varying from eight to sixteen days.

After the public buisness was disposed of, and while the commitments for the prisoners are being made out, large numbers of of persons, principally consisting of Torbay fishermen and women, continued to assemble before Hubbard`s room, where the prisoners were confined. Every minute brought an accession of the numbers, untill at about 3o`clock the mob had increased to nearly 1,000. At this time a pair- horse fish-van arrived for the purpose of conveying the prisoners to Sandwich Gaol, when a tremendous rush was made at the vehicle, and its progress immediately arrested. The prisoners then made their appearance at the windows, and called upon the mob to rescue them, to which they were energetically urged by the concourse of women assembled. This was the signal for action: the mob surrounded the van and literally carried it some yards from the building. This was followed by uproarious huzzas and cheering with the destruction of every window in the building. The police, comprising only seven or eight men in all, now made their appearance outside and endeavoured to dispers the mob, when they were assailed with showers of stones and other missiles, and were soon compelled to retreat within the building. The mob now became more desperate than before, and no re-inforcement to the police arriving, they commenced demolishing the window frames and shutters which were partly closed. a simultaneous rush then took place at the doors, which quickly gave way to the superior force arrayed against them. and the above prisoners, accompanied with three others, named Buckley, Simmonds, and Bishop ( commited for an assault on Maria Atkins) made their escape amid the most deafening cheers of the mob. They then proceeded followed by an immense concourse of persons through Harbour Street towards the Pier, and in their route halted at several of the commisioners` houses, and commenced groaning, hissing & c., and using the most opprobrious epithets towards them.

In attempting to secure one of the most active of the rioters, police constable Ellis and one of the Harbour Police were felled upon by the mob, and most cowardly and brutally ill-used, particularly Ellis. whom they dragged along the ground, and kicked and otherwise maltreated in a most disgraceful manner. Had it not been for the assistance rendered by Mr Austin, who gave the police refuge in his yard, there is little doubt the consequences would have been serious to Ellis; as it is, he is severely bruised and cut about the head, but not dangerously. The police behaved throughout with the upmost forebearance , and their conduct was highly creditable and praiseworthy. In the evening the magistrate sat at the office of their clerk, Mr M.L Daniel and swore in a number of special constables. The men also under command of Lieutenant Loveless, of the coast guard station, are under orders to be ready at a minutes notice should any further outbreak take place.

The prisoners have not, upto this time ( Tuesday Morning ) been captured, but the police are on the alert, and it is expected they will be in custody this day, with several of the leaders of the riot. The Town has now resumed its former tranquility, and it is not apprehended that any further violence will be committed. Tuesday morning 9 o`clock - One of the prisoners, James Buzzy, has been just apprehended and conveyed to Sandwich gaol. The police assisted by the coast guard, are in active pursuit of the other prisoners, and it is expected they will be in custody within a few hours.


Meanwhile the smacks which had gone to Scarborough in 1831 also found rich pickings off Flamborough, an area which would later be known as the California grounds due to profits made from it, the smacks came and commenced fishing from May through the summer months returning to Brixham for the winter, the following year several more smacks arrived, this caused a resentment among the local line and drift net fishermen, who`m stated the Devon men where ruining their trade, there would be several confrontations between the two parties comming to a head with the stabbing of one man in June 1832, after this the animosity somewhat abated. The Fishermans Friendly Society at Brixham entered a clause which would allow the Devon men to transport their families and chatels with them without invalidating their insurance, which forbid the carriage of cargoes in fishing vessels. From then on an increased stream of smacks arrived at Scarborough in May each year, and made home for several months with their families again returning to Brixham with the onset of winter. By 1834 there was approximately 2,000 tons of fish been transfered to Hull from Flamborough and Scarborough by road, this was then sent on to Leeds and Wakefield but arrived in a poor condition and was far too expensive for the average household.1839 would see the beginning of the Devon smacksmen settling and Skipper Thomas Halfyard registered his smack Forager in Scarborough, Thomas had visited Scarborough for several years previous starting as an apprentice and becomming skipper and then part owner of a smack, by 1863 he was the owner of several smacks free of all debt due to his fortunate success on the Califorina ground. A second smack the Providence was registered soon after in 1840. The flourishing trade which was developing at Scarborough had one major set back and that was the transportation of the prime fish to new markets.

Hull 1840: Up to this point Scarborough`s fishery had preceeded Hulls by about 10 years and there was still no permanent vessels landings at Hull, only seasonal and visiting smacks made landings, a greater amount of fresh fish been handled in Hull was brought by road from Scarborough, not only would the fortunes of the Hull fishery change but so would that of Scarborough`s. The first ingredient for a succesful Hull Fishery would be the opening of the Hull to Selby Railway in 1840. At this time there were still no permanent fishing Smacks registered at Hull, the visiting smacks would have to anchor in the roads ( River Humber ) and find any available space at the Nelson Street quay to unload. With either the discovery or the mass fishing of the silver pits only 60 miles away from Hull in approximately 1843 - 1844 the second ingredient needed,for Hull to thrive and become one of the great fishing ports was added. Even with these two advantageous conditions success would be a long time comming and not happen overnight, it would take a hard struggle and over twenty years before large benefits where achieved.

William Isaac Macrow a fisherman who had migrated from Ramsgate arrived in Hull about 1843 the skipper of a smack he eventually became the owner of three smacks and like many more skippers who had spent his life afloat, gave up going to sea. John Simms arrived in Hull in 1845 as a smack apprentice by 1852 he had bought his first smack Jane, after the purchase of his second smack Kingston in 1858 he also gave up going to sea,by 1878 he was the owner of four smacks and president of the Hull and Grimsby smack owners association and was one of the instigators of the boxing system in Hull. These first visiting smacks had already experienced an unknown wealth due to their success at Scarborough but even that was to be small in comparison of things to come.

The smacks arriving in Hull in these early days were mostly owned by the skipper of the vessel, a man who had taken out a mortgage to obtain his vessel, and would spend many years at sea to pay of this debt, it was soon found with the success and earnings to be made, that these mortages could be paid off in a very short time, the cautious and wise skippers invested their gains and took out further mortages on other vessels. The smacks at this time were single boater smacks ( Smacks which fished alone or in small numbers independantly ). The smacks were crewed by men who had been born into this way of life, and there was very little outside influence both in the workings of these vessels or the manpower employed in them.

We can see a census record of a typical migrating fisherman of the 1840`s below. James Holman who was Born in Margate and married Maria possibly a daughter of a Brixham fisherman, they had their first child Maria in Ramsgate approx 1842 , Mathis was born in Hull around 1847 so James and Maria would have migrated to Hull prior to 1847, again after Anne`s birth in Scarborough 1851 all subsequent children were born in Hull from 1853, this showing the family possibly settled and remaining in Hull.

In the 1851 Census we can see a marked increase in the migrating Brixham and Ramsgate fishermen and children been born to them in Hull from 1845.

HOLMAN James 31 8 Queens Square Scott St Hull Margate Kent Fisherman 1851 Census /2362 /69

Spouse : Maria 29 Brixham

Children : Maria 9 Ramsgate Kent - Mathis 4 Hull Yorks - Ann E 6mth Scarborough

HOLMANS James 40 6 Fannys Buildings Margate Fisherman 1861/ 3595/ 98

Spouse : Maria 39 Brixham

Children : Maria19 Ramsgate , Ann E 10 Scarborough , James J, 8 Hull Louisa 6 Hull , Mary A ,4 Hull Emma 1 Hull

Below we can see the Census record for my own Gt Gt Gt Grandfather Thomas Petherbridge

1851 CENSUS Thomas Petherbridge 39 Blackfriar Gate
Thomas PETHERBRIDGE Head M Male 34 Brixham Devon Fisherman
Prosperesia PETHERBRIDGE Wife M Female 31 East Raist Devon  
William B PETHERBRIDGE Son   Male 6 Ramsgate Kent  
Sarah A PETHERBRIDGE Daur   Female 5 Ramsgate Kent  
Thomas PETHERBRIDGE Son   Male 1 Hull York  
Thomas had already moved his family to Ramsgate with the fishing fleet and subsequently moved to Hull between 1845 and 1849, there was one other Petherbridge on the 1851 Census for Hull which was a female Susan Petherbridge 19 Born in Dover Kent.

As we can see Thomas Petherbridge was born in Brixham in 1817 at some stage he moved with the smacks and his wife to Ramsgate were my Gt Gt Grandad William was born in 1845. Sarah A was born in Ramsgate in 1846 then Thomas Jnr was born in Hull in 1849 / 1850.