What it’s like in Hessle Road
ONCE A THRIVING COMMUNITY, IT IS NOW A MUCH SLEEPIER DISTRICT, WRITES ALEX GROVE
from the once booming fishing industry and what we see now is a bustling and busy shopping centre bursting with local businesses and independents.
Of course, it is not without its problems – but what road isn’t?
Spotting a man laid out, Alex still asked if he was OK – probably not the only person to do so on this friendly road.
Hessle Roaders want their part of Hull and their heroes celebrated – and so they should. Once home to Lil Bilocca and her headscarf revolutionaries, the homes and people of Hessle Road were her inspiration to fight for her own, something that is instilled in everyone that passes by.
It isn’t just a road, it is a way of life.
It is one of Hull’s most illustrious roads and was the beating heart of the city’s once-booming fishing industry. However, after the bitter Cod Wars of the 1970s saw the dismantling of the trawler trade, Hessle Road has had to adapt and forge a new identity for itself.
While there are still many nods to the past down the street, with fantastic murals commemorating the Headscarf Revolutionaries and the Triple Trawler Tragedy, there are also some new trends and influences, which are changing the character of the historic Hessle Road.
We spent a day wandering up and down Hessle Road to take in the sights and chat to traders about life on west Hull’s most famous street.
Here is the picture they painted of life down Hessle Road.
1 Independent shops are still flourishing
If you’re looking to snap up a bargain, or simply can’t be bothered with the hustle and bustle of town, then Hessle Road is the perfect in-between.
From jewellers to carpet floggers, fruit and veg sellers to dry cleaners, you can get anything and everything from somewhere in Hessle Road and down the street it is primarily independents that are ruling the roost.
While there are some modern firms such as Wilko, Iceland and a huge Asda near Brighton Street, the independents are still hugely important to Hessle Roaders.
Danny Harrison owns Danny’s Fruit and Veg and works next door to his dad,
Graham, who runs the eponymously named Graham’s Florist.
Danny got involved in the family business as a child for a bit of extra pocket money, before taking over the greengrocers as an adult.
“It is my first and only job and it is all I’ve ever known,” the 30-year-old said.
“It’s great having the flower shop next door, because people will go in for flowers and then they’ll pop by here for some veg because people like to grab extra bits and bobs when they are out.”
Although he loves what he does, Danny admits that trade down the street is not what it used to be and he wants the history of Hessle Road to be celebrated and publicised as much as possible to encourage more customers.
“The more we celebrate our heritage, the more people will come down here. The memorial services down here have been brilliant for bringing in lots of people, but when it’s not so busy it can be a struggle,” he said.
“I’m so proud of what my family created. My grandad was a fisherman and he’d be happy to know we are still here. If it weren’t for my dad having this business I don’t know what I’d be doing now.”
2 The incredible murals
Wow! Driving down Hessle Road allows you to catch a very quick glimpse of these incredible paintings, but seeing them in the flesh as you walk along makes you realise just how amazing they are.
From the welcome mural at the junction with the A63 to the Lillian Bilocca painting on the side of Dixon’s bakery, there are many incredible artworks honouring the brave trawlermen and the fight by the revolutionaries for improved regulations on board boats at sea.
However, it is a shame to see some of them have already been scrawled with graffiti tags after so much time, effort and skill has gone into creating such masterpieces.
3 Stack it high, sell it cheap
I can safely say I have never seen a shop like this anywhere on my travels. Crates of tea, biscuits, energy drinks – you name it – are stacked up high on wooden pallets for all to see.
And the name of the store is pretty much a case of it doing what it says on the tin. You can stock up on all your favourites while grabbing a bargain thanks to the wonders of wholesaling.
Hafiza Riaz co-owns the stores in Hessle Road, Holderness Road and Hull city centre with her husband Imran Anwar. She said: “It’s cheaper than the markets and it is very popular with people.
“A lot of people come in the car, because they can park more easily in Hessle Road than Holderness Road, so we get more of that rather than passing trade.
“I feel proud to be here in Hessle Road and it’s great to be in such a well-known street.”
4 European convenience stores
Like a lot of areas, Hessle Road is now home to many European convenience stores, which sell specific sets of goods catered to a foreign market.
Yadgar Ahmed has lived in Hull for 15 years and is originally from Kurdistan. He works for Biedronka, which caters for a lot of Polish residents in the area, many of whom are enticed to the Hessle Road area because of cheaper rent prices, according to Mr Ahmed.
Talking me through his most popular sales, Mr Ahmed, who lives in Porter Street, said: “Things like Lays crisps in the salty flavour are popular. I bought the English flavours, but people didn’t want to buy it.
“I sell lots of noodles and even when it comes to things like salt customers buy our one, because it’s from Poland, even though it’s more expensive.
“It’s important for our customers to know they can get the food they know and want from us here in Hessle Road.”
5 Good old fish and chips
Although the fishing industry has long gone from the Hessle Road area, the street is still reigning supreme when it comes to chippies.
Mollones Molly has been labelled as “the best chip shop in Hull” on Tripadvisor and its owner, Nina Brown, says everybody still loves a good fish supper.
“I think it’s still popular, especially if it’s done the traditional way,” she said.
“I’m still about beef dripping and doing things the traditional way and not many do that, because most people just fry.
“The fishing heritage is still very important here and I think everybody loves a good fish and chips.”
6 An eerie ghost town
It’s a marked contrast seeing Hessle Road by day and then by night. By day the sun shines and the streets are full of wandering shoppers and pedestrians, but at night you will barely see a soul.
Admittedly, Hessle Road is not a night time destination, with a limited amount of pubs, bars and restaurants for punters and diners to enjoy.
On a 9pm stroll I noticed six takeaways, two pubs, an Asda, two convenience stores, two bookies, two amusements and one petrol station open.
Both pubs had no more than a dozen people in and another was shut completely. Clearly there is nothing enticing people to the area and it contrasted massively to streets like Newland Avenue and Princes Avenue.
It felt like I was wandering through a ghost town. Residents say even prostitutes in the area are more likely to be seen early in the morning.
Kaisim Ibbis, manager of EKO Delicatessen, said: “Even from about 7.30pm it’s so quiet down here. If there were pubs, cafés and shops open then maybe people would come out.”
The empty shops
I noticed a lot of abandoned units during the day down Hessle Road, but the sheer number of them became even more apparent at night.
There are lots of ‘To Let’ and ‘For Sale’ signs scattered along buildings up and down Hessle Road and just so many opportunities to bring life to the street.
One strange sight
Although the street was quiet and full of little signs of life there was one man who was clearly having a ball as he laid flat out on the pavement near the junction with Boulevard.
Concerned for his welfare I headed over to ask him if he was all right. He said he was just “waiting for a mate” and after refusing my offer of help I left him to it. He got up a couple of minutes later and took a pew on a bench, which was probably what he was trying to do in the first place.