32 Pearson Park


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
32 Pearson Park, Hull, HU5 2TD


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Statutory Address:
32 Pearson Park, Hull, HU5 2TD

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Kingston upon Hull (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Semi-detached house. 1892-1893. Orange brick mainly in English bond, orange roof tiles. The left-hand semi-detached house (no. 31) does not form part of the listing.

Reasons for Designation

No. 32 Pearson Park, Hull, one half of a pair of semi-detached houses built in 1892-3, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic Interest: * Philip Larkin: the top-floor flat of no. 32 was the home of the renowned poet, Philip Larkin, for 18 years from 1956 and was where he wrote many of his best-known and most celebrated poems;

Architectural Interest * Degree of survival: the house retains its late-C19 appearance, internal layout and good quality fixtures and fittings with the suite of rooms that Larkin occupied with its large Venetian window remaining much as he would have remembered them.


In 1860 Zachariah Pearson, a Nonconformist ship-owner, presented the city with a 27-acre site to the north of the city centre to be used for Hull’s first public park. His intention was to provide the ‘working classes’ with ‘a place which they might call their own, for the purpose of health and recreation’. Pearson Park opened in 1862 to designs by James Niven, curator of Hull Botanic Garden. Pearson retained 10 acres of land surrounding the park on which to build ‘villa residences’. However, development had barely begun in 1862 when he went bankrupt, meaning that the plots were built piecemeal over a long period, resulting in a great mixture of architectural styles. On the south side of the park are a pair of three-storey, semi-detached houses (nos. 31-32) built with Queen Anne detailing in 1892-3 for William Wellstead, a Hull surveyor.

In 1955 the poet and writer Philip Larkin was appointed University Librarian at Hull. He initially stayed in lodgings before moving to no. 32 Pearson Park in 1956, which was then owned by the University. It was divided into three flats and was intended to be used as a temporary residence for new university staff while they settled in before moving on to more permanent homes elsewhere. Larkin moved into the attic flat with views overlooking the park, and, feeling at ease behind its ‘sun-comprehending glass’, he continued to live there for the next 18 years, writing much of his best work there. The park provided on-going inspiration, sometimes referred to specifically as in ‘Toads Revisited’ which starts, ‘Walking around the park, Should feel better than work: The lake, the sunshine, The grass to lie on,’ published in 1964 in his book of poems The Whitsun Weddings. The collection set a seal on his reputation as a poet, with Larkin receiving the queen’s gold medal for poetry. Much of the footage of the 1964 BBC ‘Monitor’ programme with John Betjeman interviewing Larkin was filmed in the flat. Ten years later, in 1974, he published the collection High Windows, the last book of poems to be published in Larkin’s lifetime. The ‘High Windows’ in the title poem were those of his flat.

In 1974 the University decided to sell the entire house and Larkin was obliged to find somewhere else to live. He reluctantly moved to no. 105 Newland Park, the first house he had ever owned, writing very little poetry from that time until his death in 1985.

Philip Larkin (1922-1985) was born in Coventry on 9 August 1922. He read English language and literature at St John’s College, Oxford, taking a first-class degree in 1943. Rejected for military service because of his bad eyesight, and then failing in his application to join the civil service, he became a librarian almost by chance. After his father died in 1948 Larkin began to write poetry in earnest, making his breakthrough in Belfast where he had taken the post of sub-librarian at Queen’s University in 1950. In 1955 he arrived in Hull, where he was to transform the University’s small, old-fashioned library into one of the best university libraries in Britain. At the same time his collection ‘The Less Deceived’ was published with the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ referring to Larkin as ‘a poet of quite exceptional importance’. This reputation was cemented over the succeeding years with the poems written at no. 32 Pearson Park. He received many awards in recognition of his writing, especially in his later years, and in 1984 he was offered the chance to succeed his friend, Sir John Betjeman, as Poet Laureate, a position he declined, being unwilling to accept the high public profile and media attention. The obituaries, articles, radio and television programmes that followed his death on 2 December 1985 were unprecedented for a late-C20 poet. Larkin’s well-attended memorial service was held in Westminster Abbey on 14 February 1986. On 2 December 2016 a memorial to Larkin was dedicated in Poets’ Corner in the south transept of Westminster Abbey.


Semi-detached house. 1892-1893. Orange brick mainly in English bond, orange roof tiles. The left-hand semi-detached house (no. 31) does not form part of the listing.

PLAN: a three-storey, semi-detached house (right-hand side) with two-storey rear outshot.

EXTERIOR: the front elevation faces NW, looking over the W end of Pearson Park. It is of three storeys and two bays, set back from the road with a front garden. The wider, left-hand bay is gabled. It has a square, ground-floor bay with a pitched, tiled roof on which a narrower, square, first-floor bay is set. The ground-floor bay has two segmental-arched windows with stone sills to the front and similar, narrower single windows to each side. The front window frames have tall, two-light timber casements with horizontal rectangular overlights with small-pane leaded glazing and narrow borders of stained glass. The first-floor bay is constructed of timber with a row of three windows to the front and a single window to each side. Each window has a tall, rectangular casement with an overlight of three-over-three small panes. The pitched roof has deep, overhanging eaves. The second floor rises into the gable and is plastered and half-timbered (now painted white) with moulded bargeboards supported on shaped, timber corbels and a shaped, timber finial topped with decorative ironwork at the apex. It has a large Venetian window with a moulded timber frame and small-pane glazing.

The right-hand bay has a two-storey, projecting porch with a pyramidal, tiled roof. The arched doorway has a stone step and a shaped brick surround of pilasters set on high bases with moulded imposts supporting a moulded arch incorporating a giant keystone, inscribed, decorative spandrels and a deep, moulded cornice. The door has two lower panels of decorative fretwork and two, tall upper lights, with an arched overlight above, all with small-pane leaded glazing and narrow borders of stained glass. Above the cornice is a decorative terracotta cartouche inscribed CARISBROOKE. To the right of this is a circular, green, metal plaque with the inscription PHILIP / LARKIN, / POET, / LIVED HERE / 1956-1974. Above is a central, first-floor window. The square-headed window has a stone sill and a timber frame with two casements with small-pane glazing and an overlight with shaped framing forming three lights and corner spandrels with small-pane leaded glazing and narrow borders of stained glass. The pyramidal roof has deep, overhanging eaves. Above the porch is a deep, pitched roof with a gabled dormer window lighting the second floor. The timber dormer has two casements with small-pane glazing to the front and glazed sides. The gable has moulded bargeboards with a plastered and half-timbered apex (now painted white).

The roof has decorative ridge tiles with a tall, central ridge stack of brick and a second ridge stack to the left shared with no. 31.

INTERIOR: the interior retains the layout and many original fixtures and fittings including four-panel doors and moulded architraves and marble and timber mantelpieces. The porch has an inner timber and glazed door and screen. The two upper door lights, flanking and over-arching screen lights all have small-pane leaded glazing of muted stained glass with roundels and thin borders of brighter stained glass. The entrance and stair hall has a modillion cornice. The closed-string staircase rises against the outer, side wall. It has a heavy, mahogany balustrade with turned and enriched newel posts at each turn, those to upper flights with pendants, a ramped, moulded handrail, and turned balusters. The first quarter landing is lit by a stained-glass window in the outer, side wall. It has a heavy, moulded timber frame with two narrow, rectangular lights with a horizontal, rectangular light above. Each window has a central roundel of painted glass depicting birds (a heron to the left, a kingfisher to the right and a swallow above) set in decorative stained glass surrounds.

The top, second floor was Philip Larkin’s flat. It has a landing off which four four-panelled doors open. He used the main front room as his study. It is lit by the Venetian window, which has views over the park. The outer, side wall has a chimneybreast with a white marble mantelpiece with an inscribed, geometric pattern and mantelshelf corbels with orange marble detailing, and arched, cast-iron grate. The smaller, adjacent room is lit by the dormer window. It has a small, buff marble mantelpiece with console brackets supporting the mantel shelf and an arched, cast-iron grate to the inner side wall. The main, rear room is lit by a dormer window. It has a chimneybreast to the outer, side wall with a timber mantelpiece painted white with a cast-iron grate. Adjacent is a small room lit by a two-over-two pane sash window to the outer, side elevation, formerly used as a kitchen.

On the ground floor, the front reception room has a moulded, dentil cornice and a grey marble mantelpiece; the rear reception room has an enriched cornice, a beige marble mantelpiece with engaged columns, and French doors opening onto the rear garden. SUBSIDIARY ITEMS: the front garden is enclosed by cast-iron railings with decorative diamond-shaped finials standing on a curved, stone kerb. Towards the right-hand side, set in-line with the front door, is a wide, pedestrian gateway. It has tall, circular gate piers of twisted cast-iron topped by orbs with diamond finials. The gate of cast-iron rods incorporates diamond finials, diagonal cross-bracing and a cast-iron cartouche.


Books and journals
Neave, David, Neave, Susan, Pevsner Architectural Guides: Hull, (2010), 146-150
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Larkin, Philip Arthur (1922-1985), poet, writer, and librarian, by Anthony Thwaite, accessed 31 Jan 2017 from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/printable/31333
Pearson Park (assumed 31-32), plan and section of left-hand house (no.31), applicant's details dated 1891, Hull History Centre, Ref: C TAB/OBL/H/7060.


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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