As part of the City of Culture celebrations, Hull received 9 new Grade listings for public buildings & landmarks one of which is the Rank House which we converted into affordable housing from its former derelict state.
The terrace originally known as Chestnut Villas was built in 1888 and is typical of its age. Although the houses still have many original features, they wouldn’t normally be considered for listing purely for their architecture. However two notable men from Hull are connected to the houses, securing their Grade II listing - Alfred Gelder and J Arthur Rank.
J Arthur Rank, the saviour of the mid-20th century British film industry, was born at No 371 Holderness Road shortly after it was built. He came from a family of strict advocates of Methodism and started off producing films with a specifically religious message in the inter-war period. Bank-rolled by the profits from his family’s flour milling business, he set about supporting the British film industry in the face of fierce competition from Hollywood. Over the 1930s and 1940s Rank developed and launched Pinewood Studios, took control of Gaumont-British Picture Corporation, the Odeon cinema chain and Denham and Gainsborough film studios and he also supported Ealing studios. Cinema attendance peaked through the Second World War and British film-making reached its zenith. The Rank trademark of Billy Wells, former English heavyweight boxing champion, beating a giant gong is synonymous with this period of film-making.
(William) Alfred Gelder (1855-1941) had a successful architectural practice in Hull built on the connections and friendships made through Methodism; Thomas R Ferens, a fellow Wesleyan Methodist and Hull’s greatest benefactor was a friend, as was the flour miller, Joseph Rank, who through Gelder was converted to Methodism. In addition to being an architect, Gelder was a local councillor and town planner who made street improvement and slum clearance his particular concern, especially after Hull attained city status in 1897. In 1898 he was elected mayor, and then re-elected for a record four more terms in succession allowing him to undertake an ambitious re-ordering and civic building in the city centre. Clearances led to the creation of Queen Victoria Square and King Edward Street leading N, from which the new Jameson Street ran W towards Paragon Station, while a wide new road named Alfred Gelder Street cut through the maze of yards and slum housing in the N part of the Old Town. The centrepiece of Gelder’s improvements was the City Hall designed by Joseph Hirst in 1903. He was knighted in the same year in recognition of these improvements. Later Gelder stood as a Liberal MP before losing his seat and returning to prioritise working on the future of Hull. Amongst his schemes was the continued improvement of the city centre by filling in the redundant Queen’s Dock to create a ‘beautiful boulevard’, completed in 1935.
You can find out more about the building on the historicalengland.org.uk website