Meet The Crowle Family

by Dr Marianne M Gilchrist and Jane Owen
Drawings of portraits of a couple in 17th century costume: the lady wears a tall hat, the man is in mayor's robes
Portraits of Eleanor and George Crowle (Drawn by T. Tindall Wildridge, 1883).
Shield showing a unicorn between three lozenges, with helmet crest a unicorn's head between 2 elephant tusks
Crowle family coat of arms (Drawn by T. Tindall Wildridge, 1883)

George and Eleanor Crowle were wealthy merchants who lived and traded in Hull in the 1600s. George was mayor twice (1661 and 1679), after King Charles II was restored to the throne after the English Civil War.

George Crowle (1613-1682) and his wife, Eleanor, had 15 children, although not all of them survived. Eleanor was the daughter of Roger Kirkby, of Lancashire, and of Agnes Lowther, daughter of Sir John Lowther, Bart. Other Kirkbys had been important in Hull since 1309, and some also married into the Sykes family. The Crowle family were influential and their children married well, ensuring that the Crowle descendants were well connected. Their grandson, George Crowle (son of their son William), served as MP for Hull 1724-1747. 

George Crowle's memorial ledger stone is now in the south porch of Hull Minster. The coat of arms is worn and damaged. The design can be seen more clearly on his son William's ledger stone in the north transept. The shield has three outlined diamonds (lozenges) with a unicorn in the centre. If it were in colour, the background would be green, the unicorn white or silver with a gold mane, horn and hooves, and the diamond shapes gold. The helmet crest is the unicorn's head between two black elephant trunks. 

Crowle Family Portrait George and Eleanor with their six children copyright Hands on History Centre
George and Eleanor Crowle with six of their children. This picture, which used to hang in Crowle's Hospital and then in the Town Hall, is now in the Hands on History Museum in the old Grammar School.

George's wife, Eleanor, gave a large sum of money to Holy Trinity to set up a library of religious texts when it became a church in its own right in 1661 following and act of parliament. This coincides with the reintroduction of the Book of Common Prayer which was abolished during the English Civil War. It is likely that she did this to ensure that her own religious beliefs were reflected in the library. The public had only been allowed to read religious texts in the last century so this was a very modern thing for a lady to do. These huge books are now housed at the Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull. She also gave a large silver alms dish (for collecting donations) to the church in 1664. The diameter of the dish is 47cm and we still use it today. The Crowles founded a "hospital"  or alms house in Sewer Lane, where the elderly and the poor were given accommodation and care.

A drawing of Crowle's Hospital, a 17th Century brick almshouse
Crowle's Hospital, as it was in 1883 (Drawn by T. Tindall Wildridge)
Dutch style front entrance to Crowle House © Historic England DP072533
The High Street home of
​​​​​George and Eleanor Crowle in the 1660s.
© DP0725

The Crowles used their wealth to build an elegant and fashionable house in the Dutch style just off Hull's High Street in 1664. This is close to the River Hull where ships docked and unloaded valuable goods. Many of Hull's wealthy merchants lived there. It can still be seen today near to no 41 High Street and was sold in 2019 with an asking price of £425 000.

The house was built with lavish decoration by Hull builder William Catlyn, who also built the almshouse in Sewer Lane and Lister House (now Wilberforce House).

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