A fortification has existed on this particular site for over half a millenia, protecting access to the River Humber and the city of Kingston-upon-Hull. Henry VIII was responsible for the first recorded fort at Paull, built in 1542. No plans survive to show the layout of this early fort but, as Henry VIII was responsible for building many forts along the east and south coast, there are remaining examples that help us understand the original site.
One hundred years later, the second Fort Paull was constructed by King Charles 1, just prior to the outbreak of the English Civil War. Most of Yorkshire was sympathetic to the King's belief that he should rule by divine right, with the exception of Hull who came down on the side of parliament. After being denied access to the city in 1642, Charles ordered that forts be built to the east and west of the city in an attempt to cut off supply routes. The western fort was constructed at Hessle, and the eastern fort at Paull.
Despite this first failed attempt, a second siege commenced in 1643 but was eventually lifted when two parliamentary ships relieved the city. However, the ensuing exchanges of cannon fire caused considerable damage to Fort Paull and, at the same time, destroyed the parish church.
The River Humber's defences were again a source of concern in the early 19th century, with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in Europe. Further plans were drawn up to replace the fortifications at Fort Paull, and a new earthen fort was completed in 1807. The Paull Cliff Battery, as it was known, had an armament of 6 x 24 pound cannon and carried a garrison of 44 officers and men. With the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, the threat of invasion disappeared and, consequently, the Paull Cliff Battery was dismantled in 1822.
The fourth Fort Paull, namely what the visitor experiences today, was completed in 1864. This was considerably larger than all previous forts, stretching across an area of some seven acres. Largely of brick construction overlaid with earth, the fort was of pentagonal design (without diamond shaped bastions), being surrounded by a 13 foot (4m) ditch and rampart. Nineteen 64 pound rifle muzzle loading (RML) cannons were mounted on gun emplacements, which were serviced from magazines below. The original gun emplacements were replaced in 1895 with five concrete replacements capable of housing 3 x retractable guns and 2 x quick- firing guns. Once fired, the retractable guns would disappear into their bunkers to be reloaded before emerging again to fire the next round.
The main accommodation blocks, guardroom cookhouse and hospital are located on the landward side of the fort to the north east, with the main gun emplacements to the south west, facing the river. A major change was made to the accommodation blocks between the two World Wars when the windows were removed and replaced by doors. These rooms are now used to display a large collection of exhibits.
The central area of the fort has always been a large parade ground, with an array of small workshops and outbuildings. Over the years, this has slowly been encroached upon by the erection of other structures required as Fort Paull evolved. The most notable buildings are the two turf-roofed bunkers, now housing the Duke of York Tearooms and Bill Howard Collection. Originally the electricity generating room and sub-station, these were required to supply additional searchlights installed during the Great War. Today, the parade ground also plays host to Fort Paull's star attraction - the world's only surviving Blackburn Beverley cargo plane, acquired by the fort in 2005.
Between the wars, Fort Paull was re-armed and used as a Territorial Army training base until the 1930s, when tensions with Germany forced the authorities to again review the defence of the River Humber. Considered too close to Hull to be able to provide adequate defence, Fort Paull entered a new phase in its history by being converted to a deguassing station and ammunition store. At the end of the Second World War, the fort lay empty and deteriorating until it was purchased in 1989 by the Fort Paull Heritage Project.
After 11 years of back-breaking restoration, the fort finally opened its doors to the public in 2000. Fort Paull is a great day out for adults and children alike, having a really diverse collection of exhibits and artefacts. Children will love the assault course, and exploring the underground spaces, while mum and dad can enjoy the scenery over a relaxing cup of tea.