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28 Jan 2022
updated 28 Jan 2022

The Hull Packet
(29 May 1787 – 26 Feb 1886)


The Hull Packet. The Hull Packet and Humber Gazette first appeared in May 1787, printed and published by George Prince in Scale Lane. In addition to commercial and political news it contained correspondence and soon became a medium for agitation against slavery. In 1788 its title was shortened to the Hull Packet. Prince was succeeded by Thomas Lee in 1793, and Lee by Robert Peck in 1800. In January 1819 the paper was printed and published by Richard Wells, still in Scale Lane, but in September he was succeeded by Thomasin Peck. By 1823 Richard Allanson was the printer and publisher. In 1827 he was succeeded by Thomas Topping of Lowgate, who renamed the paper the Hull Packet and Humber Mercury. (fn. 229) In 1831 William Goddard and Robert Brown acquired Topping's printing business and became proprietors of the paper. In 1838 their partnership was dissolved, but Brown continued to publish the paper until 1841 when Topping again became its printer and publisher from an office in Bowlalley Lane. In 1842 he was succeeded by Thomas Freebody, who continued to print in Bowlalley Lane but published and sold the paper in Lowgate. In the same year the Hull and East Riding Times was incorporated in the Packet and the paper renamed the Hull Packet and East Riding Times. (fn. 230)

Freebody appointed Thomas Ramsey as editor, but dismissed him in 1845 largely on account of his Tractarian sympathies. He was replaced for a short time by the sub-editor Dibdin Hubbarde, but in the same year Richard Wallis was appointed editor. He became manager and publisher of the paper in 1849, and co-proprietor with his brother Ebenezer in 1856. (fn. 231) In 1871 the paper was acquired by Henry Amphlett and James Holmes and in 1880 was renamed the Hull Packet. In 1880 also ownership was vested in the Hull, East Yorkshire, and North Lincolnshire Conservative Newspaper Co., and in 1886 the paper was incorporated in the [Hull] Daily Mail. (fn. 232)

At first the paper appeared weekly on Tuesday. It contained 4 pages and 16 columns and cost 3d. In 1800 the pages were enlarged and the number of columns rose to 20. By 1823 the price had risen to 7d., but it fell to 4½d. in 1836, although in this year the pages were again enlarged and the number of columns increased to 32. From 1832 onwards the paper was issued on Friday. By 1871 it contained 8 pages and 64 columns and cost 1d. (fn. 233)

At the time of my narrative, the Hull Packet was published five times weekly, Mon-Fri. Its title changed from the Hull Daily Packet partway through, but I'm calling it simply the Hull Packet throughout. The name originated in the maritime communications system or packet trade of those days, in which Hull played an important part.

Charles Findlay had been appointed Editor in Dec 1879 (though it may well have been somewhat earlier), and had contributed a whimsical two-part Christmas drollery to that issue. His nom de plume seems to have been Flâneur (a man who saunters around, observing society but not himself participating, otiose but keenly perceptive).

Maybe that is what the proprietors were hoping for when he came aboard the Packet – a bland and pliable functionary. He certainly was not a gonzo journalist in the modern sense, but he was indeed a whistleblower, as we nowadays say, who spoke the truth to power, in the Quaker phraseology.

As noted elsewhere, he was evolutionary rather than revolutionary in politics, a moderate rather than a radical, and was probably of the Liberal persuasion when it came to completing his ballot paper at an election. But his proprietors – whatever their own persuasion – ceded control of the Packet to a ferociously Conservative conglomerate in 1880, possibly whilst Findlay himself was still editor, and whatever hope he might have had in standing up to the local Conservative juggernaut of Saner, Rollit, and the True Blue mafia, was decisively squashed.