Wilberforce House.
Wilberforce House. © Historic England Archive. DP072580.
Wilberforce House. © Historic England Archive. DP072580.

8: Wilberforce House

In the 17th century Hull had the appearance of a Dutch town, with brick town walls and gateways, surrounding water and steep-gabled houses along the river.

Contact with Holland, particularly Amsterdam, was increasing at that time and Hull merchants were exposed to many influences from a country that then dominated world trade and much of the intellectual and cultural life of Western Europe.

Around 1660 Hugh Lister, who as a young man had been sent to Holland to gain trading experience, built himself a house on High Street that shows Dutch influence. Lister’s house, now Wilberforce House has a distinctive decorative brick facade with stone detailing and a projecting porch.

William Wilberforce, the famous campaigner against the slave trade, was born here in 1759.

A member of a wealthy merchant family he recalled how 'the theatre, balls, great suppers, and card-parties were the delight of the principal families in the town.'

Although Hull was not involved in the slave trade, Wilberforce House is now a museum that tells the story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its abolition.