River of Shadows, written for HullSongs by Andrew Tomlinson – songwriter/producer from Kingston upon Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
I could never imagine living somewhere else and moving away from Hull or the East Riding. I have always loved the history and architecture of the area especially the unusual and the hidden. I remember growing up on Newland Avenue and being fascinated at how behind the Edwardian façade were old, disused farmhouses and barns harking back to Newlands rural history. I clearly remember being 10 or 11 years old and eating sandwiches from Fletchers Bakery, sat on a millstone in an old derelict courtyard on my lunch breaks from Sidmouth Street Junior School. There are so many aspects of the architecture, history, countryside and coast that have shaped me and become part of my psyche.
I like the fact that areas of Hull such as Sculcoates and Marfleet were once medieval ports exporting vast amounts of wool from the massive Meaux Abbey (about 2 miles from North Bransholme) to the Hanseatic League cities of Bruges and Antwerp. I like it that there was a Roman amphitheatre at Brough, an Anglo Saxon Shrine to Woden at Goodmanham (this was the kingdom of Northumbria’s most important place of worship) and Knights Templars temples at Blacktoft and Faxfleet. However it’s not just the ancient history of the area that fascinates me.
I used to work at the Needlers’ sweet factory which was housed in an old, imposing Victorian building. The factory was situated in the Sculcoates area of Hull and I’ve always found Sculcoates to have a very dark, old vibe to it (I heard it was the last place in England to have public bear baiting) and the factory definitely had that sort of really dark, oppressive atmosphere. I remember walking through the corridors late at night (10.00pm-6.00am shift) and going up the floors in an old lift that had loads of late Victorian brass fittings and wood work complete with a big brass lever that you operated the lift with and stopped it manually as you approached each floor. At the time I worked there large parts of the factory and upper floors were left desolate and unused and I became fascinated with the building, which was haunted. It became company policy, and this is true, that no one on the night shift had to go to the upper floors on their own but they could if they were ok with it. I knew a sparky, 6 foot 4 inches, mid 50’s, totally solid guy, down to earth, in a nut shell a rough, tough contractor. This guy had been on a job on the 4th floor at 2 in the morning and had come down mid job and refused to go back up and finish. Apparently he was working up there when he suddenly heard children laughing and talking behind him. Of course when he turned around there was no one to be seen. Slightly unnerved but resuming work he then heard loads of children’s footsteps running about and skidding and sliding on the floor again with accompanying breathless laughter. He did not resume work a third time. This was just one of many, many stories that occurred on the 4th floor and I gradually became obsessed with all the characters and ghosts who lived their lives and supposedly afterlives up there and this is why I took the pseudonym 4ourth4loor”.
© 2015 Andrew Tomlinson.