17th October 2017

Zachariah Pearson – Philanthropist Extraordinaire

Dr Marian Shaw


“Three cheers for Mr Pearson, the working man’s friend and benefactor!” (1860)

“The town would have been better if we had never seen Mr Pearson or his park.” (1863)

These two contemporaneous quotations summarise the polarisation which came to define Zachariah Pearson, the rags-to-riches Mayor who presented Hull with its first ‘people’s park’. The talk will explore not only what this remarkable man did for the town, but also how he then managed to land himself in deep trouble, and turn from being the golden boy with the midas touch to social pariah.

Dr Marian Shaw grew up with random snippets of family mythology about her great-great-grandfather, but it was only in 2004 that an opportunity to come to Hull started her on a quest to find out the truth about Zachariah Pearson. Her training as a biologist, followed by social science research in developing parts of the world, had not prepared her for her new role as historian, but she became unexpectedly fascinated with the process of piecing together the minutiae of a controversial life. So something that started as a family project morphed over 12 years into a full-blown biography of Zachariah, filling in the gaps between the two polarised views that even today reverberate around Hull.

Marian was delighted to be asked recently to become Patron of The Friends of Pearson Park. She lives in rural Oxfordshire with alpacas, cats and her long-suffering husband.


The Society meets at the Hull Royal Hotel, 170 Ferensway, Hull HU1 3UF

All lectures are presented in the Royal Suite and start at 7.30pm prompt.


Doors are normally open at 6.45pm but access may be delayed if lecture preparations are not complete.


The audience are requested to please be in their seats before 7.25pm

The Hull Literary & Philosophical Society is registered as a Charity No 507226