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Visiting the Venn Building at the University of Hull: Neo-Georgian elegance at a sedate, academic hub in Hull, England

Updated on March 3, 2015
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Venn Building, University of Hull, Hull, England
Venn Building, University of Hull, Hull, England | Source
John Venn
John Venn | Source
Sir Andrew Motion reading poetry
Sir Andrew Motion reading poetry | Source
Wouter Van Besien
Wouter Van Besien | Source

Base for a developing early to mid 20th century university

This elegant, Neo-Georgian structure, known as the Venn Building at the University of Hull, Hull (1), England, is named for mathematician and logician John Venn (1834-1923), creator of the Venn diagram, Fellow of the Royal Society and Sc.D (Cambridge), and President of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, who hailed from Hull (2).

It was built in 1928, the year following the founding of University College, Hull, which, in 1954, received a charter of incorporation as an independent University. Today, the Venn Building serves as the seat of the University's administration. Much of the early endowment for University College, Hull, came from T R Ferens (3) and the City of Hull.

The Venn Building is executed in brick, with ashlar dressings (4). The Building is 2 to 3 stories high, with attics. Its windows exhibit the formerly popular feature of leaded glazing. The Building was formally opened in 1928 by HRH the Duke of York, later HM King George VI (1895-1952). The Building's design was the responsibility of W S Forsyth and Partners. The structure follows a square plan, with an inner courtyard.

The University notably sponsors a Wilberforce Institute, named for slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1853), whose birthplace in Hull, in the High Street, is a museum.

A joint medical faculty is shared with the University of York.

Distinguished alumnae of the University of Hull include: Jenni Murray (1950-), broadcaster and writer; Rosie Millard (1965-), journalist and broadcaster; Tracy Borman (also faculty), historian; Tracy Crouch (1975-), Member of UK Parliament; Helen Grant (1961-), Member of UK Parliament; and many others.

Distinguished alumni of the University include: Lord Prescott (John Prescott, 1938-), former Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain; Lord Hattersley (Roy Hattersley, 1932), journalist, former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection; Tom Paulin (1949-), poet, critic and Oxford academic; Wouter Van Besien (1972-), Belgian politician and ecological activist; and many others.

Distinguished faculty of the University of Hull have included: Sir Malcolm Bradbury (1932-2000), novelist and American Studies scholar; A. G. Dickens, FBA (1910-2001), Reformation historian; Philip Larkin, CH, CBE (1922-1985), poet and Hull University Librarian; Sir Andrew Motion (1952-), former Poet Laureate; Lord Parekh (Bhikhu Parekh, 1935), political theorist; Sir Alister Hardy FRS (1896-1985), marine biologist; and many others.

Hull is located in Yorkshire's East Riding. Prior to 1996, for over 20 years it was situated in the former county of Humberside. The main site of the University of Hull is at Cottlingham Road, in the City of Hull.

March 3, 2015


(1) Hull is also known more formally as Kingston-upon-Hull; but the the University is known as the University of Hull.

(2) John Venn came from a distinguished family. His father was the Rev. Henry Venn (1796-1873), long serving Hon. Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, who popularized the idea of the 'indigenous church', and is commemorated by a relief at St Paul's Cathedral, London. His grandfather was the Rev. John Venn (1759-1813), leader of the philanthropist group known as the Clapham Sect. His great-grandfather was the Rev. Henry Venn (1797-1797), likewise a leader of the Clapham Sect. His son was John Archibald Venn (1883-1958), a noted expert in agricultural economics and served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and as President of Queens' College, Cambridge.

(3) Interestingly, the University's motto in Latin uses the name of its major benefactor: Lampada ferens (Carrying the lamp).

(4) See also:

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Map location of Hull in the United Kingdom
Map location of Hull in the United Kingdom | Source

Also worth seeing

In Hull itself, there are various museums in the High Street's Museum Quarter, including Wilberforce House, the Hull and East Riding Museum and the Streetlife Transport museum; the City has a noted statue of King William III; the Humber Bridge, a single span suspension bridge, opened in 1981, was at its inception the world's longest of its type.

Beverley (distance: 13.2 kilometres) has a fine Minster church in Perpendicular Gothic style, dating from 13th to 14th centuries.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Manchester Airport (England), where car hire is available; there is rail access from Manchester Airport to Hull (distance: 177 kilometres) via Manchester Piccadilly railroad station. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. It is advisable to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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