A husband and wife team are preparing to move into a former newspaper press hall to launch a new venture having unwittingly rekindled a climbing tradition at the site which dates back more than 100 years.
Michael Price and Amanda Haigh selected the property for Mad Volume Climbing because of its height, local student population and proximity to Hull city centre.
Now their research into the site at WORX on the corner of Beverley Road and Spring Bank has revealed a link to Tom Longstaff, a record-breaking mountaineer and gold medal winner for Great Britain in Mixed Alpinism at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix.
Michael, who had worked as an actuary for ten years, and Amanda, a chef, were part of the way through a world climbing tour when they decided to quit their jobs and start their own business.
The couple set about looking around the country for suitable premises and Charles Parkinson, Agency Surveyor at Garness Jones in Hull, came up with the hall which used to house the huge press at the Hull Daily Mail. It was enough to persuade them to relocate from Manchester to Hull to pursue their business dream.
Michael said: “We did a world tour of climbing in Thailand, India, South Africa and parts of Europe and halfway through the trip we woke up one morning in South Africa and decided to open a climbing wall.
“We’ll create an open, sociable space with a climbing experience that is going to be the main form of exercise for many people and a good alternative to a gym. It will be mainly bouldering, there won’t be any rope climbing. It will be accessible and affordable and we’ll have free drop-in sessions for kids.
“We will be in the building in November and we plan to open in spring 2019. We will serve refreshments and food in the café and that will help us host corporate events – climbing is a great way of breaking down barriers and encouraging people to support each other.”
Amanda added: “I was studying hospitality and culinary arts, thinking about our business venture and saving my tips to help pay for it! We were looking for two things – a student population and a central location. There were not many places which could meet that criteria, and it’s interesting to know of the historic climbing connections.”
Tom Longstaff was born in 1875 into the Hull family which in 1837 had become part of Blundell Spence and Company paint manufacturers and oil seed crushers. His father Llewellyn joined the business, which occupied the WORX site, and was President of the Hull Chamber of Commerce for two years in the1870s. But his wider interests included polar exploration and he is credited with providing crucial support for the legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.
Tom trained as a doctor but preferred to travel – and to climb. He made 20 visits to the Alps, six to the Himalayas and five to the Arctic. In 1907 he climbed Trisul in the Himalayas, with a peak 23,360 feet above sea level, and no one attained a higher summit for another 21 years.
WORX, which was acquired by Hull-based developer Allenby Commercial in 2016, has undergone a transformation to provide office and leisure opportunities. The Hull Daily Mail still occupies part of the building and has been joined by UK-leading safety company Arco, which created nearly 200 jobs by opening a national customer engagement centre in July. Other tenants include Planet Gym and Springboard Nursery and Charles reports mounting interest in the remaining 7,000 square feet of office space.
He said: “We’re receiving enquiries from people who want good quality, convenient office space with neighbouring businesses which provide some interesting opportunities for leisure time!
“My first thought about the press hall was that it’s unconventional! The height of the building is screaming out and there are limited industrial properties like that. It was a case of thinking outside the box.
“We thought about leisure use with the gym next door – and the first serious idea we had was climbing or trampolining, which attracted some interest. A less interesting option might have been self-storage units. It’s fascinating to know that Michael and Amanda are not the first climbers to have a connection with the site!