A brief history of the Hull Lit & Phil

The Hull Literary and Philosophical Society was founded in 1822, one of the many self-educational organisations of the same name that were springing up all over the country to meet the needs of an emerging urban middle-class.


In a rapidly changing age of new discoveries and inventions, the Hull Literary

and Philosophical Society was founded in 1822 with the aim of  promoting literature and science amongst its members and, by public lectures,

educating  its fellow citizens.


Based on the records of the Society with a cast list of hundreds ranging

from civic leaders to caretakers, ships captains to captains of industry,

doctors, lawyers, clerics, teachers, musicians, owners of businesses

large and small, the life and character of Hull is revealed as an ever

present backdrop to this unique social history.


Its educational campaigns, and its efforts to improve the health and welfare of the citizens as well as its major role in the foundation of many of the city's cultural institutions were powerful components in its activities up until the First World War.


Today as a settled and orderly provider of weekly lectures, it is difficult to envisage the turbulent roller-coaster of the Society's past with its warring personalities, financial crises, and the disastrous loss of its home, the Royal Institution, in the blitz of 1943.


It has however left visible legacies with the city's Museums and Art gallery, which were formed and later transferred to Council ownership with its generous help at the beginning of the 20th century.


Mr D. Grantham, 8 The Fairway, West Ella,

East Yorkshire, HU10 7SB


Tel: 01482 651843


“Hull, the Lit & Phil, and the World”



Margaret Imrie

Book price £14.95

plus UK post and packaging £3.00

A society that has survived and flourished for almost 200 years deserves a well-written history like this one.  It takes us from its origins in 1822, when Hull was quite geographically isolated, and a small group of educated men believed that some of their opportunities should extend to others, through to its current success.

This book, though, does far more, setting the Society in the context of a community and its people with their fortunes waxing and waning as industries prospered and declined.  It’s a fascinating and rewarding read.


Professor John R. Bennett   President of the Society 1987-88

Skilfully setting the story in the context of the broader intellectual and social life of Hull, Margaret Imrie has produced a fascinating and entertaining account of the Lit and Phil and its leading members. She demonstrates how the institution, by its historic pioneering contribution to the city’s cultural life, may have played a part in Hull becoming the UK City of Culture 2017.


Dr.  David  Neave 

Life Fellow, University of Hull

A valuable historical record, this book explores the origins of Hull’s oldest cultural society, and is a testimony to the pioneering people who founded it and carried it forward over a period of 194 years to the present day. Born out of the desire of local people to learn more about the world around them and to share it in an age when little formal education was available, the Society filled a need then and still does today.


John Netherwood

Hull Civic Society



Mobile Exhibition

In July 2015 we commissioned a series of 'Hull Lit & Phil History' banners with the help of local design consultant Ian Goodison. The History Centre, on Freetown Way, Hull, kindly held an exhibition about the Society and displayed all six banners. With many illustrations, the banners reveal the remarkable story of our society from its foundation in November 1822 to the present day. Accompanying the banners was a display of early Minute Books and other historical documents belonging to the Society.

If you know of a suitable future location where the banners can be displayed, please speak to a member of the society.

A brief history of the Hull Lit & Phil

From the start, besides a programme of regular meetings for members, it funded courses of lectures for the general public and also concerned itself with the social problems of the area, particularly housing, sanitation and health.


In 1854, after occupying various rented accommodation, the Society moved into its own home in the Royal Institution in Albion Street, 'one of the finest buildings in Hull'. Towards the last quarter of the 19th century it became very involved with further education for the general population. It built and financed a teaching laboratory; by acquiring neighbouring property it provided classrooms for technical subjects and art and design; it sponsored a branch of the Cambridge University Extension Society,

 and, at the beginning of the 20th century, its final project was the short-lived Hull and East Riding College of Music. Its museum became famous for its Saturday Afternoon Lectures to which many hundreds of people came each week.


In 1902 this was handed over to the local authority as the city's first Municipal Museum. The Society also provided the site for Hull's first Art Gallery, built, rather improbably, above the museum. As the state and the local authority gradually assumed responsibility for further education the Society concentrated on looking after its own members, at the same time providing meeting rooms for several special interest societies in Albion Street. When the Royal Institution was destroyed

by enemy action in 1943 they, and it, all had to find other venues.


After a variety of temporary homes the Society now meets in the Royal Hotel, Ferensway, each Tuesday evening during the season which lasts from October to March with a break for Christmas. Unlike the majority of similar societies which, with a few notable exceptions, have either become defunct or dwindled down to a few members the Hull Literary and Philosophical Society continues to flourish, with two to three hundred of its members attending a variety of general interest lectures each week.

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