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Queens Gardens, Hull - a new vision?
23 Apr 2018 8:28     A+ | a-

On the occasion of Hull City Council seeking to carry out a major refurbishment of Queens Gardens in the city centre, we look back at some ideas we published in 2005.  We placed the ideas on our website and invited our many local contacts to consider the points raised.  In particular, could anything substantial be done before the Wilberforce Celebrations of 2007?  The answer came back "we have it in hand..."  Well, nothing much happened, although some years later, Queens Gardens was opened up to the rose bowl fountain, which was a worthwhile step forward.

Accepting that the ideas were of their time, it is interesting to look back and see how many might still be considered relevant. Everything that follows, in italics, is from 2005.

As an ex-Hull City Council landscape architect, a local landscape consultant, Business Forum Representative to Cityscape and currently Chair of the Landscape Institute Yorkshire Branch, I have long had an interest in Queens Gardens and its under-achievement as the major civic space in Hull. Following requests, at Hull Business Forum, for ideas to celebrate Wilberforce 2007, 2B made suggestions regarding Queens Gardens to the Business Forum, Cityscape, ARC and to Hull City Council Facilities and Design Agency in spring of this year. We thought that a web-page would be able to communicate the concepts to a lot of people, so here it is.


This is a great time for Hull: the impending Wilberforce 2007 celebrations; the existence of Citybuild, Cityvision and its sub-boards (in whatever form) - the restructured Community Strategy; the creation of ARC; and the investment being made in the regeneration of this proud city. There exists a great opportunity to revitalise this space and the community that uses it. There may be some wild suggestions here, but it is intended to provoke thought and ideas about what could be, to generate interest and debate. 

Please read the notes below and see if any of them strike a chord with you. We would like to arrange a meeting of interested parties to discuss these ideas, and if someone says "It can't happen because..." - then fair enough.

But let us at least discuss the ideas to see if anything can come of it! Please contact us with your views.

Bill & Elizabeth Blackledge, 2B Landscape Consultancy Ltd

Queens Gardens and Queens Dock Fountain:
is the only great urban space remaining in Hull - which has nowhere near reached its potential. Actually two spaces at present, they need to be unified with a powerful design.

What is special about it? It is:

  • the greatest unrealised vista in Hull
  • the City Centre’s only green lung
  • a vital link between the retail, media, education and civic centres of Hull
  • the world’s window on Hull (BBC presentations)
  • the setting for the Wilberforce Memorial
  • recognised as a key site in the City Centre Masterplan.

But it is failing the people of Hull

Whilst popular, it currently fails to fulfil its potential because:-

  • it is not designed for contemporary use
  • it is not an interactive, involving, inclusive space
  • it blocks the greatest vista in Hull
  • it fails to provide a world-class open space
  • it fails to provide a great setting for civic and popular events, and social gathering
  • it makes no reference to the site's historical purpose as a dock, and therefore the reason for Hull’s existence and growth.

Imagine Queens Gardens as:

  • a showpiece for Hull
  • a thriving social place - the heart of the city
  • an educational experience and link to the other great resources of the city
  • a safe place for all (overlooked by police and CCTV!)
  • A Venue for:
    • Wilberforce 2007 concert
    • Concerts/performance
    • Outdoor exhibitions
    • Charity events
    • Tourist guide to Hull
    • ?
    • ?

Queens Dock Fountain

Although it is regarded fondly, especially by older citizens, it fails as a social space and as a feature.

The water is inaccessible, remote and dirty, when it should be clean, fun, interactive and exciting.

The recessed paths and raised areas do not allow for good circulation, social interaction or secure stopping places. The entire area is subject to the noise and intrusion of passing vehicles.

It is separated from Hull's greatest (currently non-existent) vista - the Wilberforce Memorial and Hull College.

It’s greatest quality at present is the excellent bedding displays - so create an even better place to display civic pride, through stunning bedding in a superb setting.


Wilberforce 2007

  • clean the statue!
  • give him a better setting?
  • create a great vista from the fountain to the statue
  • explain the significance of Wilberforce in the education/ design programme
  • link to Wilberforce museum (and others) through integrated information/ displays
  • anti-slavery memorial.



This project should not just be regarded as a piece of civic design; but also as a huge educational opportunity through student involvement in:

  • the design process itself (ARC)
  • society, citizenship, democracy, finding solutions
  • history/museums
  • geography
  • english
  • art and design
  • specific education topics:
    • Wilberforce - why are we celebrating?
    • twinned with Sierra Leone
    • Fishing heritage
    • Commemorate lost ships
    • historical tour / timeline - 1 hour?
    • links to hull museums / what’s on
    • Sustainability issues eg
      • climate change & flooding (flooding map, recycling etc)

Design Ideas

  • ships - allusion to the dock
  • use ships as modules for cafes, exhibitions, “mini Deep” as link to the Deep and other museums / attractions
  • car park /underground car park - maybe...
  • play area
  • skatepark (integrated into the design, not dropped in)
  • youth culture
  • arena / venue
  • ice rink (run during winter with help from Kingston ice rink)
  • lasers and lighting - exciting space in winter - lasers link the city
  • fountains and lights - controlled and interactive - the digital city
  • public art
  • quiet meeting / seating
  • fitness trail / sport
  • how about a fitness trail that is public art? (they don't always have to be made of logs).


Work within the City Centre Masterplan and extend its concept by meaningful involvement of the people (and especially the youth) of the City

1) Approach schools and partners with the idea (autumn/winter 2005): to set up a managed competition or design workshop for Hull’s schools (6th form and Tech colleges?) to input to the redesign of Queen’s Dock/Queen’s Gardens. Work through ARC with local design mentors and regional design courses.

2) Ideas: Refine the best idea(s) into a finished design (spring 2006)

3) Seek funding - HLF? - 2005

4) Tender and Contract to build it - 2006-early 2007

5) Celebrations and Carnival/Concert 2007


More Detail

1a) Schools/6th Form/Tech colleges/Youth Groups

  • Try to work into (Autumn 2005/Winter 2006) syllabus of design/graphic students
  • Create a clear brief listing those issues which need to be taken into account and those features which we might aspire to include
  • Visit schools with a travelling presentation/workshops, to include:
    • importance of Wilberforce
    • issues and opportunities with QDF/G
    • examples of great public space design
    • explanation of the brief, timescale and objectives
    • use of CABE “Making Better Places” Education programme
  • Create an exciting, relevant addition to the curriculum, or just have a great one-day event
  • Involve students from the highly regarded Leeds and Sheffield University landscape design courses
  • Hull University?

1b) Partners

  • See Who Is Interested below
  • Managed by Citybuild/HCC/ARC/2B?

2) Ideas

The project managers/ partners would decide on the best combination of ideas and facilities for the space. Ideas from competition/ consultation to be presented to public? There may also be a need to design to meet issues of budget, practicality and safety.

3) Funding

HLF or other? This project potentially ticks all of HLF's boxes. Negotiations would need to start soon on acceptability of concept, method and timescale - we can't propose a competition to produce a design which will be built, without some certainty or intent that it will.

4) Tender & Contract with HCC?

  • Contract Docs Q1 2006
  • Tender/Setup Q2 2006
  • Earthworks/Demolition Q3 2006
  • Construction Q4 2006 - Q1 2007

This is very tight - if it is going to happen, we need to start immediately!  If this timescale isn't practical, what is? What could be achieved by the time of Wilberforce 2007 - and form a starting point for substantial change?

5) 2007 Q2-3

This site could form the centrepiece of all the celebrations, carnival, concerts, speeches....
....Nelson Mandela / Desmond Tutu!!!!!

At the very least, the youth/community involvement, the coming together of many interested parties, and the resulting design, could provide a masterplan for a phased implementation of the proposal.

With all due respect to their skills, this is a lot more than an opportunity for consultants (yes, I know...) to tell Hull how it should be. This is an opportunity to prove what Hull can do for itself.


Who is interested?

This is a wish-list: are you interested? Should we be talking to anyone else?

  • Wilberforce 2007 team
  • ARC
  • Hull City Council - Members and Officers
  • CityBuild/Image/Vision/Scape
  • Hull College
  • Schools
  • The Warren
  • Tourist Information
  • Museums
  • Art Galleries
  • Local MPs
  • Kingston Communications
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Business Link
  • Business Forum
  • City Centre Manager
  • CABE Space
  • Hull University?
  • Leeds and Sheffield University Landscape Design?
  • In due course, the media: Hull Daily Mail, BBC, ITV Yorkshire, Viking Radio

Anyone else?


What Next?

Here at 2B we don't pretend to understand the vast number of initiatives and proposals which might affect this under-used, under-performing space. But we do believe that there is merit in pursuing these ideas, even if only to the point of someone in the know saying "It can't be done because..."

Even if this is the case, there is an argument for using some of the above ideas within the future development of the site. We'd be only too pleased to discuss and explore the options, with as many interested parties as possible. If you agree that this would be a good idea, please get in touch.

So that was a perspective from 2005.  Thirteen years later, it is going to be interesting to see what happens next!



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