1732-1841 THORNTON, WATSON & Co
Click for Picture of Old Sugarhouse.


1658-<1673 SMITH William & CATLIN William


1740s-70s DELAMOTTE, BEEL & Co
1770s-90 BINE Francis


1798?-1817 BOYES, G F & Co


17th century - at similar time to Trippet sugarhouse



CLICK the for sugar houses in that street, and on for an image.

(For local directory of sugar houses, click here.)

(For national directory of sugar houses, click here.)






The width of this map represents 1ml / 1.6km.

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THORNTON, WATSON & Co., Lime Street ... 1730s - Present.


(left) The newly built Sugar House; (right) The old sugar house as a Warehouse, after the collapse of the main building and the changed line of Lime St. - "Evidences relating to the Eastern part of the City of Kingston-upon-Hull" by Thomas Blashill, 1903.


The original partners, and some of the changes that followed ...

1733 ...
Robert Thornton of London, merchant; J Watson of Hull, merchant; Wm Cogan of Hull, gent; Wm Wilberforce of Hull, merchant; Samuel Watson of Hull, merchant; Godfrey Thornton of London, merchant; Wm Thornton of Hull, merchant ... agreed "to carry on the trade or business of a sugar baker or refiner" on land "without the Northgate of Hull on the East side of the river Hull".

1771 ...
John Thornton of Clapham; Cecilia Delavall of Clapham; Joseph Rennard of Hull, merchant.

(1778 Will of Samuel Watson mentions his shares in sugarhouses in Hull.)

1782 ...
John Thornton of Clapham; Thomas Delavall of Clapham; Samuel Thornton of Clapham; Joseph Rennard of Hull, merchant.

(1790 Will of John Thornton - his interests to Samuel, Thomas & Henry Thornton.)

1802 ...
Samuel Thornton of City of London, merchant; Robert Thornton of City of London, merchant; Henry Thornton of City of London, merchant; John Hodgson of Lime St, Hull, sugar refiner (until 1810); James Mayelston of City of London, merchant; Joseph Rennard of Hull, merchant (until 1806).

1821 ...
Samuel Thornton of King's Arms Yard, London; Thomas Hodgson of Wanstead, Essex; Joseph Albin Slack of James St, Adelphi, London; James Gadsden of Commercial Rd, London.

1823 ...
Dissolution of partnership - Samuel Thornton of Broad St, London; Thomas Hodgson of Wanstead, Essex; Joseph Albin Slack of Devonshire St, Portland Place, London; James Gadsden of Hull, sugar refiner.

(1838 Will of Samuel Thornton mentions shares in three sugarhouses in Hull.)

[Refer to Lambeth Archives - The Thornton Papers Ref IV/104 for more detail of the above. Wills available online from TNA.]

1841 ...
James Gadsden still had at least part ownership and offered the premises for sale, but the advert gives little detail of the rest of the site.

To be sold by private contract or let on lease ...
The extensive freehold premises, heretofore used as a sugar refinery, most eligibly situate in the flourishing seaport town of Hull, together with all machinery and apparatus, fitted with every improvement to the present time and now in complete order and ready for immediate work, offering a most favourable opportunity for any party desirous of commencing this business. Or the proprietors would be willing to sell the entire apparatus for removal or exportation, comprising 2 large vacuum pans each 7 feet diameter, 6 copper heaters, 6 copper filters, 5 large copper cisterns for grain charcoal, 2 steam engines, 20 and 8 horse power, 7 steam boilers, together with all other suitable utensils and machinery for carrying on the sugar refinery business on a very large scale. The premises are admirably adapted for any business requiring extensive accommodation. They are situate on the banks of the River Hull having a very considerable extent of frontage to the river.
For further particulars, and permission to view, application may be made on the premises; or in London at the office of Messrs James Gadsden & Son, 2 Gt St Helen's.
[The Hull Packet 10 Dec 1841]

1844 ...
The site is again offered for sale, but this time the advert says nothing of the equipment. Maybe this had been sold off previously.

To be sold by private contract ...
The extensive premises known as the sugar refinery, situate in LIME STREET, in the Groves, in the Borough of Kingston-upon-Hull, comprising altogether 2a. 3r. 2p. of land, having a frontage on the River Hull of 230 feet and being near the site of the new Victoria Dock. The property may be described as follows:- A stack of 3 warehouses fronting the R. Hull, 2 containing 3 floors each, 1 containing 4 floors, with 2 wharfs and a large yard. The warehouses communicate by 2 bridges over Lime Street with the Sugar houses, which are immense buildings, 8 storeys high, with all requisite wells and reservoirs for water, a steam engine of 18 horse power, with boilers complete, and a manager's residence, orchard and garden - the ground plot of above being 10,392 sq yards. Adjoining and communicating with the sugar refinery is an extensive soap manufactory, arranged for the manufacture of both hard and soft soap, the buildings of which are of very great extent, and having connected therewith 2 good residences for principals or superintendents, the area whereof comprises 3,816 sq yards. The ground plot of the whole of this important property is well adapted, from situation and extent, for the erection of flax and cotton mills or any other manufacturing purpose, and the frontage upon the R. Hull affords the most ready and convenient means of receiving and shipping the goods. There is also a considerable frontage to the street by which means goods and merchandise may also be readily received and delivered. The warehouses are adapted for the storing of all kinds of merchandise, and the steam engine and plant connected with it are suitable for a seed crusher or for any other purpose. The supply of good water is abundant. The whole of the above may be treated for in one lot, or the sugar refinery with 2 of the warehouses without the soapery. The whole property is freehold. Applications to view may be made to Mr Stamp, 12 Market Place, Hull, who will furnish all the particulars.
[The Hull Packet 20 Sep 1844]

The site was sold, and the huge main building was used for the storage of linseed ... each floor filled to within a foot of the ceiling, and then ...

1868 ...


The Old Sugar House, Lime Street, Hull - from The Illustrated London News, 1868.

The deplorable accident at Hull on Friday, the 25th ult. [September], when eight men and boys were killed by the fall of a building in Lime-street, called the Old Sugar House, which was used by Messrs. Walker and Smith for the storage of linseed, has been reported in our country news. This old warehouse was the first prominent object which met the eye of a person entering Lime-street at the south end. It was a large and apparently dilapidated pile of brick, and was built in 1731. Its dimensions are stated to have been 79 ft. in length, 46 ft. in breadth, and 74 ft. in height, and is said to have had 138 windows. The building was used as a sugar-refining house by Messrs. Thornton, Watson, and Co.; but that business had not been carried on for the last twenty-one years. The building was divided into what may be called the double house and the single house. To the former was attached a six-storied building, used as a cooperage lately, but formerly for filtering. The double house was on the south side, and was stored with grain, of which the quantity is variously estimated. There have also been several contradictory statements with reference to the number of persons engaged on the premises at the time of the accident ; but it seems pretty certain that there were about twenty men and boys in the building, seven of whom were engaged in the
...... [the rest on another page which I don't have - yet !]
[and here it is now supplied by Caroline Wetton - my thanks] ...... cooperage. Eight were killed by the fall of the building, five of them being coopers.
Many theories have been put forward to account for the fall of the buliding. It has been said that the timbers were unsound; but this is denied, and the premises were inspected only two or three days before. Within the same week another gentleman examined the upper story, and found no appearance which would justify the assumption that the foundation had given way. His impression was that the rooms had been filled too much with grain, and that the seed escaping into the lower rooms increased the bulk to such an extent that the flooring had burst, and at last the wall was forced out. This theory seems to derive much probability from the statements made by eye-witnesses of the calamity. It is said that the upper rooms seemed momentarily suspended in the air, whilst the lower rooms fell bodily. The most singular circumstance is that the disaster was indicated beforehand for some minutes by the seed falling out of the windows. This circumstance was immediately noticed and communicated to those who worked on the premises; and it seems that the men were leaving the premises at the time the building fell. The coopers were nearest the main entrance, and as soon as they heard the loud rumbling that unmistakably warned them of the disaster they made for the door, but ere they could escape the upper part of the structure fell with an awful crash upon the cooperage, and they were buried beneath the ruins. The names of the seven men dead are Watkinson, Rodman, Hombler, Harrison, and Gillett, coopers; Watson, who was employed in the top room; and Smith, who had been working outside the building. It was known that there were two boys at play in Lime Street when the building fell. A day or two afterwards the body of one was found. It was that of John Brewer, six years of age, son of George Brewer, an oil miller, in the employ of Messrs. Walker & Smith. The child was last seen alive about twenty minutes past eleven o'clock in the morning, near the Old Sugar House, with a youth named William Cato, who was subsequently got out of the ruins, escaping with but slight injury.
Mr Smith, one of the owners, positively states that there were not more than 10,000qrs of linseed in the building at the time. Some minutes before the accident it was noticed that the pressure of the seed had occasioned the breakage of some windows, and joiners were sent for to batten them up. Happily, they had not got to work, or they might have been numbered among the dead. On Saturday afternoon the inquest on the bodies was opened, but it was adjourned, after some formal evidence had been given, for three weeks.

[The Illustrated London News]

The newspaper reports at the time gave considerable detail regarding the hours before the collapse, the falling of the building and the rescue attempts made throughout the afternoon. The inquest on the eight who died, one of whom was a 6 year old boy just passing the building, concluded that the collapse was caused by the overloading of a building already weakened by decades of subsidence of the pillars and foundations that held the lower floor. The jury gave a verdict of 'Accidental death from the fall of a warehouse', and suggested that all such old buildings that were to be converted to store seed should be inspected by the Board of Health for their suitability.



2007, April ...
My first visit to Lime Street last year (2006) simply told me that there was nothing obvious still existing of the Old Sugar House complex. I returned this April armed with picture, maps, camera, etc to have a further look.
Originally, Lime Street was very narrow at its southern end, with a sharp bend turning it to the Sugar House Bridge over the Sutton Drain. It would appear that with the collapse of the sugarhouse the opportunity was taken to redirect the line of the road to that of today. A late Victorian map confirms this and shows the bridge named simply as Lime Street Bridge ... this bridge disappeared when the new North Bridge across the River Hull was built in 1931, on the line of the Sutton Drain.
There are a number of newspaper reports of the collapse and of the inquest into the 8 deaths. The plan above is my interpretation of the layout, using those reports along with the ILN picture, the before & after maps and, of course, the site today. Before going into this detail, I had thought that the ILN picture showed Lime Street in the foreground fronting the R. Hull, but that cannot have been so. The reports say the building faced south and that the north-west corner and the north wall remained standing (perilously!) after the collapse, just as the picture shows, the foreground being the open ground fronting the Sutton Drain. The front of the building collapsed onto this open ground, and so it was half the 8 or 9 storey 74ft high gable end that crashed into the narrowness of Lime Street as well as tons of seed (most floors had been filled to within a foot of their ceilings) filling it with debris to 20ft deep. The inquest reports quote workmen in the "receptacle" - the horse-powered winch for lifting the bags/barrels to the upper storeys - which can be seen on the plan projecting midway along the front of the building, and on the ILN picture as a top-to-bottom open shaft where its front wall had fallen away.
The site today, bearing in mind that Lime Street cuts diagonally through the footprint of the main refinery building, is occupied on both sides of the street by Allam Marine Ltd.(below - top) Two buildings standing to the east of the street, matching those marked * on the plan, though more recent than the original sugarhouse, may well be early Victorian and part of the later sugarhouse complex.(below - middle) At the front of one of these buildings is a small yard enclosed on 2 sides by a cement-rendered 8ft wall. Age and vehicle-abuse have caused the render to fall from parts of this wall revealing thin soft red bricks, some less than 2" thick, probably contemporary with the original sugarhouse. I wonder if this is the flue from the clerks' office, which backed on to the dwelling house.(below - group)

This may well be all there is to show for a sugarhouse that refined for more than 100yrs, but when the site becomes vacant again it would be good to think that a more detailed and professional study could be undertaken, and when the site is eventually redeveloped perhaps the names of buildings, streets, etc might reflect its previous use.

images above - © bryan mawer 2007.

So, if you walk across North Bridge, turn left and walk along Lime Street for about 35-45 paces, STOP and you are in the old sugarhouse. Close your eyes and imagine the working conditions !!


2008, June ...
Another of my regular visits to the site. Allam Marine are continuing to use the buildings and riverside land to the west of Lime Street, however the expanse of land to the east of Lime Street across to New Cleveland Street has been cleared. With Allam Marine setting up in Melton (to the west of Hull and close to the A63), the Lime Street buildings are to be let and I've heard that the land to the east is to be a car park. With the land cleared it is easy to see evidence of old buildings, cellars, etc ... there must be foundations and much evidence below the surface, but just how far back they would go is questionable.


images above - © bryan mawer 2008.

I've attempted to show how the old sugar house might have looked back in the early-mid 1800s ... a huge building, with the Sutton Drain running in front.(upper left) The line of the drain can be seen today running across the southeast corner of the site and fixed by the Victorian(?) bridge parapets that still exist on either side of New Cleveland Street, pointing the Drain directly at the new North Bridge.(lower left)

I hope a professional study of the site will take place, at least to make an assessment of its archaeological worth, before the diggers move in !!


2011, Jan ...
Allam Marine have completed their move. Their northern-most buildings and the riverbank yard are being used by others, but the southern-most buildings, and the open ground east of Lime St (sugarhouse site), now stand empty. The remaining brick buildings on the open ground have been demolished and, I'm told, the large piles of bricks await crushing, then to be graded across the site as the base for a tarmac car park. We have to hope this will not damage, but preserve, any archaeology beneath that may be investigated when the site is eventually built on.
In the meantime, perhaps it could be named "Sugarhouse Car Park" !!


2011, Apr ...
My visit was timed to coincide with the digging of a deep trench within the site into which large drainage pipes were being laid. It gave me glimpses of what may have been old walls and foundations, and indeed conversations confirmed that walls of various ages and complexity had been cut through and that there had been the odd 'find'.


2011, Jul ...

© bryan mawer 2011.

So there it is, the car park on the sugarhouse ... a pristine tarmac roof covering all that is beneath.
We await the signage and the customers, and then the economic upturn that will make building on this site profitable so that we can at last see if anything remains of a very successful sugar refining business.


2012, Jun ...

© bryan mawer 2012.

2013, Oct ...

The Sugarhouse Car Park is not yet in use. It seems there'd have been ample time for the archaeologists !!


2014, Jan ...

North Bridge Car Park is now open ...


© bryan mawer 2014.

... with almost 200 spaces to choose from, but when you park please remember that ...


marks the spot where hundreds of men refined sugar for more than a century, where scores of men stored linseed for a couple of decades ... and where seven men, and a boy passing by, were killed when half the building collapsed.



This is not just a car park, it's an important part of Hull's industrial history.







I have often wondered why it has been reported that the Lime St sugarhouse "failed almost immediately"(1), when its progress is well documented for some 110 years ... I'm sure the Thornton family would not have continued to pour money into a failed business for all those years.

Another sugarhouse - no exact location, no exact owners' names - was actually built in 1740 on "the growths" in Sculcoates on the west bank of the River Hull.(2) Within just 6 months, this sugarhouse had caused much concern, not because of its effect upon other businesses but because of its effect upon the river itself.
"The growths" was part of the river's flood plain, well below the level of the river and far from suitable for the construction of a 56ft x 34ft multistorey building. Every high tide was above the building, spring tides some 20ft above, and extraordinary spring tides saw water 10ft deep around it. The ground was ouzy and 'great piles' had to be driven deep into the ground to secure the foundations. Of even greater concern was the way in which the building affected the flow of the river. The building itself, and the moored vessels loading and unloading against it, forced the current over to the opposite bank, already damaging it and making it liable for expensive repair.
Thomas Denison's Opinion on the River, 1 Nov 1740(3), severely criticised the jury that allowed the building, saying that even then they would not see their fault, nor see the nuisance. Why he does not name the owners, I don't know ... he simply gives us - "Owned by and erected by R_____d T_____n & F_____s P_____e and Partners, merchants".

This sugarhouse seemed doomed, and I now wonder if there has been confusion between this and the Lime St sugarhouse ... especially if the T_____n was Thornton, however there's a suggestion it might be Thompson & Pease(4).

In 1774, Elizabeth Thompson married. Settlement was made on 20 Aug and part of it reads, "... All that moiety or second part of messuage tenement dwelling house garden sugarhouse warehouse outhouses staithes jetties grounds lands and hereditements belonging in Sculcoates appertaining in tenure or occupation of Charles Delamotte & Joseph Thompson now in occupation of John Coleman & Co ..."(5).
The same sugarhouse or another sugarhouse ??

1. 'A History of Kingston upon Hull' by Hugh Calvert, Phillimore, p.205.
2. East Riding Archive Office CSR/20/107.
3. East Riding Archive Office CSR/18/8.
4. The Trade & Shipping of 18C Hull by Gordon Jackson, EYLHS 1975.
5. Hull History Centre U DDCV/x2/31/4.






It was the sugarhouse on Wincolmlee (which I feel sure cannot have been the one above) that was the competition to Thornton & Watson. Gordon Jackson wrote in 1972 in his "Hull in the 18th Century" ...
"Charles Delamotte, son of a London sugar refiner, was sent up to Hull when he returned from his journey with John Wesley to Georgia. He built the New Sugar House in Wincomblee, and was in business from the forties to the seventies, for part of the time in partnership as Delamotte, Beel & Company. Delamotte made - or inherited - enough money to forsake the world of business for the tranquility of Lincolnshire, spending the last thirty years of his life in retirement in Barrow-upon-Humber.
Delamotte's place was taken in Hull by Francis Bine, master mariner and whaler owner who, it was said, made 20,000 out of the American war, and 'commenced Merchant and Sugar Boiler having bought the New Sugar House on Wincomblee'. He occupied the House for perhaps twenty years, having a turnover, in his bank account for 1785, of a little over 26,000. Some time around 1790 he or his executors sold the House to 'John Bassano, John Carlill, John Boyes and John Levett of Hull Sugar Bakers'; or, to be more accurate, they bought it by running up a huge overdraft with Smiths & Thompson's Bank. Their premises were insured for 15,000 until August 1797, when the total was raised to 20,000".

Source : "Hull in the Eighteenth Century" by Gordon Jackson, OUP, 1972.

[Parish Registers show that Francis Bine was buried at Kirk Ella on 15 Oct 1787.]