Queen Victoria and Hull – Hull’s Victoria Rooms

Posted: 26th January 2023

Humber Museums Partnership - Queen Victoria and Hull – Hull’s Victoria Rooms

To accompany the Ferens Art Gallery winter exhibition, Queen Victoria and Hull, Hull and District History Research Group have been researching Victorian Hull. This blog is the latest in a series revealing the hidden stories of Victorian Hull. Here Tony Wing examines the life of a Hull landmark, the Victoria Rooms on the corner of Humber Street and Queen Street. 

On the southern corner of Queen Street and Humber Street there exists a building now a plain, unassuming block of flats, which along with it’s neighbouring buildings on Queen Street are now part of what’s called Pier Court. The ground floor frontage on Humber Street until recently was Da Silva antiques.

Victoria Rooms built in 1837 on Queen Street, with Humber Street to the right. A map of the area in 1856  showed Victoria Rooms on the corner of Humber Street, opposite The London Tavern, with the Theatre Royal close by.

On the site on which it stands was previously a brick built circus built in 1820 on newly reclaimed land from the spoil of excavating the Humber dock, which was deposited there around 1804. Up until then Humber Street was the foreshore.  The circus building was used by an equestrian Troupe who performed feats of horsemanship. By 1825 it was converted into a theatre called The ‘Sans Pareil’ after a year it was renamed ‘The Minor Theatre’ and in 1828 ‘The Summer Theatre’ and finally ‘The Clarence Theatre’ obviously trying to reinvent itself, before it was demolished in 1836.

The Victoria Rooms were built in it’s place by a Mr Fred Appleyard who also had a hand in the building of the Catholic Church called St Charles Boromeo on Jarrat Street. In it’s time, this was an Assembly room, an exhibition space, and a Theatre. Built in 1837 and opened specifically on the 24th of May, on the day Princess Victoria attained her majority (her 18th birthday), as part of Hulls Victoria Festival to celebrate the occasion. There were parades and marches through the streets, military Canons firing, and bells were rang from every church in her honour. Shops were closed and businesses suspended for the occasion, People dressed in their best attire, and a grand dinner and Ball was held in The Rooms themselves.

In an advertisement in the local newspaper, The Hull Packet, it said that the Rooms were now open and ready to be hired for, public dinners, meetings, balls, concerts and tea parties etc at moderate charges.

Some of the activities held here in it’s early days included exhibitions, lectures, and sober entertainments for those that wouldn’t attend the theatres and public houses.

There were theatres nearby, ‘The Theatre Royal’ also on Humber Street and ‘The Adelphi Theatre’ on Wellington Street, as well as many hotels and public houses in the same area. The Victoria rooms were built as direct competition to The Assembly Rooms situated in Jarrat Street (now the New Theatre) which were considered too expensive to hire for most, at the time.

The ground floor along Humber Street side, was occupied with shops as originally intended, and above was a Grand Hall which seated at least 600 people.

On February 10th 1840, the day of the royal marriage, it was reported that 2500 poor of the town had breakfast at the Rooms amongst other places around the town.

Originally it had a very ornate ceiling topped with an octagonal lantern (skylight). As well as the main hall there were other rooms such as a ladies room, cards room and a large saloon which could be hired separately. The rooms were all lit with gas chandeliers.

Many adverts for the Rooms in local newspapers included travelling shows, some of them weird and wonderful, with the likes of magicians and wizards. Tricks included.





Another advert told of a magician and his gun trick, who invited members of the audience to shoot at him with a fowling gun, using bullets previously marked as to ascertain them afterwards, with him catching the bullets in his hands, mouth, or any other part of his body as directed by the audience.

Ladies were warned if they didn’t wish to witness the gun trick, they could arrive 10 minutes after the start of the show as it was the first to be performed.

Another trick entitled bottling handkerchiefs, describes the magician borrowing handkerchiefs from the audience, loading them into his mystic gun and firing them into a bottle of wine, where they would reappear when the bottle was broken.

Many other bizarre forms of entertainment seem to appear each month, including an African man buried in guano for 100 years, and when disinterred was in perfect preservation and exhibited to the public. Also the visit of General Tom Thumb from America, aged 13 and weighing just 15 pounds, who sang and danced for the audience dressed as Napoleon, after parading through the town before each performance in his elegant carriage drawn by two of the smallest ponies in the world.

The rooms were used in the 1840s as a Diorama, an early form of entertainment before moving pictures were invented. It consisted of a painted back ground and 3 dimensional mechanical figures that were illuminated in various colours and from different angles so as to make it look like the scene was moving. It was assisted by solo singers and duets.

The Rooms were also used for an early form of photography called Daguerreotype, where the public could have their portraits taken by a lady named Anne Cooke. Anne was one of Hulls pioneers, as the first female photographer in England to open a professional photographic studio. The process produced mirror-like images that could be inserted into lockets or leather pouches, often of loved ones or their pets. She hired one of the Rooms and used it as her second studio, the other being on George Street. This advert from Aug 1846 appeared in The Hull Advertiser.

In 1853 there was an exhibition of waxwork figures. Alderman John Symons a local historian in his book “Kingstonia” said at the time, most of the larger buildings in Queen Street were occupied by exhibitions of waxworks, glass blowers and fat pigs. The fat pigs comment comes from the fact that Queen Street, formally called the Butchery, was filled with many butchers shops showing off their wares.

When Queen Victoria visited Hull in October of 1854, the towns inhabitants congregated at every available spot, including housetops, Holy Trinity’s roof and even ships rigging, just to get a glimpse of her. When she passed the building on her tour of the town, it was decorated with banners and large letters of V&A over a transparency of Victoria and Albert riding in a chariot.

But by late 1854 The Rooms were advertised as to let, for purposes of trade. In 1855 They were taken over by a local firm of paper hangers and decorators, E & RT Sales so ending its use for entertainment. Here you can see an old advert for E & RT Sales.

The firm Sales were responsible for decorating the pier as well as other buildings around the town, during Victoria’s visit. They continued operating from the premises until around 1887.


From 1888 to 1895 the building was taken over and used by the Salvation Army.


Around the turn of the Century, the rooms seemed to be used by several fruit merchants, as were many other buildings on Humber Street which were being taken over by the fruit and vegetable trade, with its proximity being so close to the Humber Dock, (now The Marina) at the end of the Street where it was unloaded. It continued to be used for the fruit and vegetable trade for around 100 years.

In 1985 the building looked almost derelict and the pediment on the top, inscribed with the date 1837 missing. Possibly caused by bomb damage in the 2nd world war.

In 1992 it was back in use, as a fruit and vegetable warehouse. Sadly the windows had been blocked up.

The Rooms were finally turned into flats in 1996.

You can find more research on Victorian Hull in our exhibition Queen Victoria and Hull on display in the Ferens Art Gallery until 19 February 2023.

Our feature object ‘from the stores’ is the lead image from a poster advertising ‘Miss Sinclair’s Final Concert’ from the Wilberforce House Museum Collection.