Drawing on Hull's Past - The F.S. Smith Collection (part 1)

Detail from FS Smith sketch

The collection contains over 800 drawings of Victorian Hull and its surrounding region. They were created by Frederick Schultz Smith between 1880 and 1920. They record many buildings and places that have long since vanished due to wartime bombing or redevelopment. Others still remain standing alongside newer properties.

The Artist and His Drawings


Although F.S. Smith became a familiar figure sketching on street corners in Hull, he was not originally from the city. He was born in Worthing, Sussex, in 1860. He came to Hull as a small child with his parents and he lived most of his life in the old St. John's Wood area in west Hull. He was still drawing in his sixties shortly before his death in 1925.

The drawings are visual 'snap shots' in time. They were often produced to record buildings that were due to be pulled down. This drawing shows the old Guildhall which stood on the same site as the present Guildhall. The drawing was created in 1913, the year after it was demolished, from earlier sketches. The only part of the building to survive today is the cupola, which is in Pearson Park.

They were most often done in pen and ink, though some scenes are in pencil or watercolour. Around three hundred were produced as commissions for C.E. Fewster, a paint maker in Hull, who collected historical records. Some were also used as illustrations in books and newspapers, such as the 'Eastern Morning News'. Others were sold to the people who owned the premises which he had drawn.

Hull's Old Town


Many of the drawings depict familiar buildings and landmarks within Hull's Old Town. Some, like 'Wilberforce House', are still around today. Others depict buildings that no longer exist such as the timber-framed 'King's Head Inn'.

Some drawings show impressive buildings such as the Corn Exchange on High Street. In contrast, others depict the slum-like dwelling places of the poor that were crammed into nearby passageways.

The Old Town was bordered by water. The River Hull was to the east, docks to the west and the River Humber to the south. Several drawings depict the impressive double-decked Victoria Pier that was used by paddle steamer ferries on the Humber.

The River Hull and the old harbour are shown as busy waterways, crowded with many types of vessels including barges, keels and small steamers. The Princes, Humber and Queen's Docks are also represented and include both trading and fishing vessels.

Some drawings record the coming of electricity to Hull. One depicts the opening of the Hull Electric Tramway in 1899. Several street scenes include strange new 'arc' electric street lights. These were introduced as early as 1882 but because their carbon rods burnt out quickly, the town reverted to gas lighting after only two years. This picture shows an electric light on Trinity Square beside the market that used to take place there.