Maister House
 

Maister House as it stands today

 

Maister House stands at 160 High Street. Kingston upon Hull. It runs parallel to the river Hull and at right angles to the mighty river Humber, which feeds into the North sea.

For three hundred years the High Street was the hub of the city, the place from where the city's great wealth originated. In the 1600's & 1700's the street was a complex mixture of fine merchants houses, warehouses, workshops and dozens of public house. Only one row of buildings separated the High street from the dockside itself. As is the case today

Hull was a walled city, with its strong fortifications with massive armoury and arsenals. without equal between London and Newcastle.

 

The house as we see it today is a rebuild of the original which burned down in 1743. from the description of the earlier house, I do not believe that there is a vast change to the later one. The exceptions being the original, highly decorated wooden stairway was replaced with a stone one. The reason for this we will see later on. Also the lantern which was originally highly decorated with scenes from around Britain was replaced with the much plainer moder version.

The lower floor throughout its merchant days was used as four counting house. Plying different commodities.

 

 

 

 

The Ground Floor and Stone Staircase 

 

 

 The First Floor Landing
 

 

Upper Gallery and Lantern

The upper floors were used as the family accommodation.

Description of the Original House

By Lawrence Thomson 1742
 It will not be out of place to give a description of the house, in which so many of the Maisters' family have lived. The house is in High Street, on the western side - a little distant from Bishop Lane going North, The interior fittings are magnificent, the walls and staircase are grand in the extreme - all panelled and decorated with good mouldings. In each panel is a beautiful medallion containing a likeness of one of the family, beginning with William Maister, who was the Mayor in 1655 and died in 1664. Next to that is Mistress William Maister, and in line with them are their children. Then come the likenesses of Henry Maister who was Mayor in 1677 and 1694, and died in 1699 (son of the above William Maister), with his wife and one boy, a fine youth of fair complexion, with light hair and blue eyes. The next are the likenesses of Col Henry Maister, and Mistress Maister. The entire of these likenesses are beautifully mounted in gilded frames of an oval shape. Over each of the male portions is the Coat of Arms - most elegantly carved, painted and decorated and gilded. Round about their entire surface is painted a most delicate tinted blue.
The banister railing is itself a most talented piece of work - having been carved by hand-work on its sides, with roses, tulips, rose-buds, chrysanthemums and other beautiful  flowers all entwined with honeysuckle and lilys of the valley. The railings are massive and gilded. The skirting all about the landing is likewise gilded in the moulding and painted a blue colour somewhat darker than the walls. The panes of glass about the staircase are decorated with different views of the Abbey at Thornton, Tintern Abbey, a most magnificent large one in the centre of Edinburgh Castle. These are surrounded with the views of Ravencragg, Inverness, Monmouth, York, Allington, Caister and Peveril Castles.On the panes of the two smaller windows are the ruins of Barnard, Flint, Tunbridge, Tutbury, Lochleven and Knaresbrough Castles, all beautifully painted in colour. In the centre of each of these two windows, is a pane of glass, of a larger size than the rest - on one is a view of the Humber by Moonlight, and on the other the same view by Daylight. Behind each window, conveniences are made for a bright light to be placed - to give an effect at night. 
The staircase consists of a large dome, most elegantly adorned with angel forms and other heavenly emblems, surrounded by clouds and gilded stars in profusion. The dome appears to be supported by eight solid pink marble pillars; every pillar being capped with marble of a different hue. On each cap is an angel in gold. A large oil lamp, with eight glass panes hangs from the ceiling by a massive gilt chain. On every pane of glass is a view of the Holy Trinity Church, St Mary's church, Dripoll church, Beverly gate, Hessle Gate, North gate and Miton gate; with a birds eye view of the town. 
To anybody not used to seeing such magnificence and splendour, the effect cannot fail to strike them with wonderment and admiration - so brilliant and enchanting is the scene - especially at night, all is lit up.
 
 The Fire of 1743
 
A most melancholy and sad event took place last year (1743), at the elegantly fitted up mansion, which has been so faithfully described and which has passed from generation to another of the Maister family for nigh 200 years, and was doomed to destructiveness on the 11th of April last year.  On that night the entire building, with its magnificent contents was consumed by fire, owing to the carelessness of one of the servants who, was sent into the wine cellar, where he went with a lighted taper, and unwittingly set fire to some straw, which had been scattered about, after unpacking a case of wine. This lighted straw after having laid smudging some time burst into a flame, and made a rapid progressiveness in the cellar, and under the room floor, as well as under the stairs - where had been laid a quantity of dry matting and some bottling wax. These things being of an inflaming nature gave encouragement to the flames, which broke out so furiously that, in about 2 hours, the entire building was a mass of charred ruins. 

We praise and flatter what we like

We think how grand the scene

When all at once our hopes are crushed 

 As though they ne'er been.

    Poor Mistress Maister and her servant had retired to rest. Mister Maister and two little boys on a visit, were busily engaged in the dining room; packing boxes and trunks, with the necessary articles to take to boarding school at Lemington. When, Mister Maister finding the entrance hall was filled with a dense smoke, and seeing its source was from under the stairs, he and his man servant ran to fetch a bucket or two of water, with the intent to proceeding with it to the cellar: but upon opening the door, the current of air forced the flames upon them with such fury as well nigh overwhelmed them both. This immediately impressed Mister Maister with the danger that his wife and servant were in. He rushed frantically up the stairs - groping his way through the black smoke, which was everywhere, seemed to pervade, but so rapid was the devouring element made its progressiveness , that he found it impossible to get beyond the first turn of the landing, when he shouted to the best of his ability for his wife and servant to leave their bedrooms, but all was still and silent beyond the crackling of the burning wood, for suffocation had done its work.  Again he tried to persevere and rescue them but just as he was a short distance from the two bedroom doors the flames and smoke rushed at him with such intensity, as to set him completely at defy. Finding further attempts futile. In horror and dismay, he groped his way down the stairs, to obtain assistance, and only just in time to save himself from the dreadful fate which befell his poor wife and servant girl: for the entire of the woodwork belonging to the landing fell with a heavy crash, and gave additional strength to the flames, causing them to take possession of the entire building. Which was reduced to a heap of blazing ruins in an incredibly short time. Every exert was used to rescue the poor sufferers from the awful situation in which they were placed , without being effective. Ladders were raised to the windows of the bedrooms - which were broken to gain an entrance: but the dense smoke which emitted itself from the openings rendered it impossible to proceed further: forth current of air caused the smoke to be fanned into flame, and with such fury did the fire burn forth from the openings, that in a few minutes the flames had reached the top of the house, burned down the spoutings and then passed to the roof, which in a short time gave way - rendering every attempter useless to save the poor creatures from the dreadful death to which they had to succumb.

No time for penitence allowed

Or mercy once to crave

All their possessions were a shroud 

A coffin and a grave.

Mister Maister (who was a most loving husband was naturally overset with grief and sorrowfulness at this awful and unexpected calamity which had befallen his family, and was still further shocked when the workmen who were employed to clear away the ruins - found the remains of the unfortunate  sufferers which were put into a shell and conveyed to the Holy Trinity Church - there to await an inquest, which took place the following day.
In such respect were Mister and Mistress Maister held by the people of Hull, that the deepest sympathies were shown on their behalf. Scarcely a house or shop was to be seen without a closed shutter. The three Churches were hung with black cloth on the following Sunday and their attenders also showed a like respect by putting themselves and their families into mourning.
During the year the house was rebuilt, and Mister Maister having a dread of another like calamity, had a stone staircase erected and everything executed as nearly as possible in the style as before, with the exception of some alterations to the back of the premises. And t
 
Lawrence Thomas Johnson, 1744
 
Surviving the Fire
 
A number of articles published over the years have reported that the house was completely gutted, indicating that the whole house except the shell was destroyed. This is not completely true. Recent architectural surveys show that some parts of the building are original and in particular the brickwork below ground floor windowsill level.
 
The reason that there is a flight of stairs from street level to the main door is because the house had extensive cellars. So most of this area survived.
 
A few family possessions also survived including one very important item, the Maister family 'Day Book'
 
The Maister Day Book (DP/82) was one of a number of miscellaneous items puchased from a Miss E Bocking of Norwich between November 1949 and October 1951. It spans the years 1714 to 1725 and is an invaluable record of the daily sales and purchases of Hull's leading merchant family of the eighteenth century.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

The pictures of the Maister day book are reproduced by permission of

The Hull History Centre. 

 The Maister day book seems to have been kept by Nathaniel Maister, as some of the entries mention 'my brother Henry'. The book has been burnt in one corner, but it is well-restored and very legible with most of every page complete.

The Maister day book tells us much about the organization of trade in the eighteenth century. The Maisters acted as agents for others and used factors abroad, exporting grain and importing iron, in particular, making their business a way station for others.

The House Occupancy

!560 - 1840         

 Maister Family (including occupation of original building

1821-1830

Piggott's directories show the following companies are trading from the ground floor.

William Broadbent            Accountant/Broker

Richard Cattley                  Agent Wines & Spirits

William Coats                    Agent Rope & Twine 

Thomas Slater                    Agent Corn & Seed

Robert Keithley                  Commercial/Corn

In 1830 the property passed a Henrietta Margaret Ramsey. But it appears the ground floor continues to be used as rented offices

1840

Taylor, Clifford & Bright

1867

Mr J C Sykes                         Merchant      Period of club discovery (1898)

1880-1936                           

Keighley & Maystead            Corn Merchants.

1936-1966

Barker &Leesmith

1966 to Date       National Trust

During the early years of ownership Maister House lay in a very poor state of repair. It was not until 1972 that the house was finally restored to the current condition.

It is interesting to compare the house at various stages of occupancy.

 

  

   C1780  

 

  

C 1880 

 

              

C1970 

 

C 2010 

 

Today, although the house belongs to the National Trust, it is leased to a company of architects; access can still be gained however by ringing the bell and asking to be admitted to view the hall and staircase. The remainder, apart from one day per year is closed to the public.A word of caution to any visitors - when you go upstairs to the first floor landing, the stairs appear to terminate. To access the upper floor you must go through the door to your right where a consealed staircase will allow you to reach the top landing. I have maintained an interest in the house and the mystery of the golf clubs origin and how they came to be in the house in Hull. From time to time I have delved a little further into the history but have never had the time to research it fully.

I have always thought that although the obvious and probably the best line of investigation are the markings on the clubs, it would be folly to neglect the possibility however remote, that with the vast amount of recorded history about the merchants of Hull, that somewhere clues may exist to tell us how they may have got there. 

I continue my search.

 

 

 

 

Henry Maister's Coat of Arms

Which bears an interesting motto

'I scarce call these things of our ancestors our own'

Are they trying to tell us something?