History of Compass House.
(Formerly known as "The Kenny Building")

The building was originally constructed in 1888, the original builders are unknown, however it is believed that the work was commissioned by a shipping company and was used as their offices for about the first 10 years

Thomas Kenny outside the Thomas Kenny

In  1899 the building was purchased by a Mr Thomas Kenny and his wife Mary Kenny (nee Mary Ellen Duffy of Hull)  Thomas Kenny was born in Drogheda Eire in the early 1870’s. Sailing from Derry to Glasgow in 1890, he started work in Scotland building a hydroelectric power station. In 1894 he walked to Middlesborough to work digging out the new docks. In 1897 His next long walk was to Kingston upon Hull where he continued as a labourer digging the King George Docks.


By 1899 he had met and married his wife Mary Ellen Duffy and they purchased number 3 Church Street Drypool Hull. They also purchased 17 Empringham Street (Now known as Compass House Business Complex) The building’s purpose was converted to a lodging house providing accommodation to the Irish Navies employed to construct the local dock yards (King George Dock.)

The initial charge for accommodation for dock workers was 4d per night (UK pre-decimal coinage.) Then there were 240 pennies (1d) in £1 (1.6p in current decimal values)

He  made extra money by sharpening shovels to help them dig faster, (Labourers were paid by the tonnage of soil moved per day.) In its heyday between 1900 and the opening of King George Dock in 1912 the building housed as many as 150 navvies.  They were given bed & breakfast (bread and soup) and the means of cooking an evening meal.


Mary Ellen Duffey

Mary Ellen Duffey was the daughter of Hannah Shipley and Patrick Duffey.

She was born in Hull on 1st May 1875 at 10 Pleasant Place, Collier Street, Hull. Patrick is listed as a Dock Labourer.


The Children

Thomas and Mary kenny had 11 children, (Please remember Television has not been invented yet)

Kenny Children 1912   Photograph taken in 1912. From left to right, according to the writing on the photo, Joe, Annie, Grandfather Kenny, Tom, Mary, Frank, Grandma Kenny, Maurice, James

Kenney Children 1920

Photograph taken around 1920, when Sheila was born. From left to right : Katherine, Mary, Sheila (seated), Annie, Lily (seated), Christie, Maurice (seated)




















Area in the 1912

Local Police 1930 Crowle Street Hull


Sadly no details of these serving officers are available, if you know any of the names and history of those shown, we would very much like to hear from you, please snd information to: steve@sampropertyservices.com   












Wartime History

The Compass House building had the misfortune to be around for both World Wars, few people know that Hull was bombed in the first World War and the second.

Between 1915 and 1918, Hull was subject to eight bomb attacks, Hull was unfortunate, as it became a target for many of the air raid attacks by accident when the zeppelins were unable to reach their intended target.

With speeds of up to 85 miles per hour and capable of carrying up to two tons of bombs, the Zeppelin wreaked havoc on the city of Hull. Bombs were dropped from heights of around 3,000 feet, most were incendiary bombs which sparked raging fires and destroyed buildings including the Holy Trinity Church.

Bombs dropped on Hull by two German Zeppelin airships, L.11 and L.14, in a 1916 WW1 raid alone caused 17 deaths and many more injuries. In September 1917 nine zeppelins dropped bombs at various points along the coast - 44 bombs fell in total, killing sixteen people. Sadly 54 people perished during 12 Zeppelin raids during WW1.

By WW2 increases in flight and explosive technology only resulted in even more death and destruction, A total of 1,243 people died in Hull. The civilian areas surrounding the docks, was where the heaviest bombing took place. On May 7th and 8th 1941 the most destructive nights of the war as far as Hull was concerned, saw over 358 high explosive bombs and 29,115 incendiary bombs rain down on the city. Civilian deaths totaled 420 and a further 34 members of the fire service and women's volunteer service also lost their lives on these nights. A further 325 people were injured during these raids.

Hull was the heaviest bombed city outside of London and suffered the most structural damage.  By the end of hostilities, only 5,945 of the 92,660 homes in Hull had escaped bomb damage. 1,472 were totally destroyed, 2,882 were so badly damaged that demolition was necessary, 3,789 needed repairs beyond the scope of first aid, 11,589 were seriously damaged but patched up and 66,983 were slightly damaged. Some of the 86,715 were struck more than once, in some instances twice and thrice, so that altogether 146,915 individual damages were sustained with 152,000 people rendered temporarily homeless. There were 4,910 fires in the Hull Blitz with 27 churches and 14 schools destroyed. Of the 41,376 air raid shelters in Hull, 250 domestic shelters and 120 communal shelters were destroyed, from which more than 800 people were rescued alive.

The Kenny Building (now Compass House) was one of the earliest causality of the war what a bomb dropped on Empringham Street on the 23rd July 1940 destroying homes, it also dislodged the brickwork on the first floor front left window, this bomb caused the whole section of this brickwork to drop and the far left hand side of the window still to this day is lower than the other four windows on this floor. The brickwork above this window has never been repaired and remains to this day a reminder of those two terrible nights.

Empringham Street Bombing of 23rd July 1940

Empringham Street Bomb Damage 23 July 1940

This image is taken from the Crowle Street end looking towards Raven Street, the tallest building on the left is the Kenny Building (Now Compass House) and the building on the right with most of the bomb damage is the Police station. It should be noted that all the houses shown on the left hand side of this image were demolished in the late 1960s and no longer exist. The houses in the foreground are now a factory unit owned and operated by Kirkby Lindsey Electrical Engineers. All the house to the north of the Kenny building are now the main carpark area for Compass House Business Centre.
The Police station is now a factory unit manufacturing double galzed windows and doors.

Churchill Street Bombings 1st August 1942

Empringham Street Bombing 23071940

 The area immediately surrounding the Kenny Building took a great deal of damage and many areas which had once been homes were pulled down because they were no longer safe for habitation.

 Arkona Terrace bomb damage


1950s onward

A member of the  Kenny family lived at the address until the late 1960's  and during this time very little change took place. here are some of the images of the area during this period

 Here are a few images from this period

1-15 Empringham Street september 1964




Here is a view of Empringham Street, this is numbers 1 to 15, the picture was taken in September 1964 and the tall building to the right of the picture is the Kenny building (Compass House). All these small houses were demolished in 1969 and a factory unit is now on the site (Kirkby Lindsey)



Number 10 Empringham Street



This was the bakery and corner shop at number 10 Empringham Street, The poicture was taken in November 1967, this is now owned by Alan Fairfield Electrical engineers




13, 15 and 17 Empringham Street Hull Nov 1967


Here is a picture also from November 1967 of the kenny Building (17-19) and numbers 15 and 13 Empringham Street. These houses were domolished two years later, only The Kenny building (Compass House) still stands on the site.

The window damaged in the 1940s bombing can be seen directly above the front door of the Kenny building. This doorway is no longer in use and while the outside stone decorations are still in place the doorway was bricked up in the 1996.







The Kenny building (Compass House) 1967



This picture shows the houses on both sides of the Kenny building. number 15 is to the left and 19-27 were to the right. This picture is from 1967 and two years later these houses were demolished as part of a clearance programme by Hull City Council. All the homes in the area were cleared and this included Akrona Terrace and Churchill Street, Raven Street, Crowle Street and the schools, shops, pubs and police station.

Only Churchill Street school is still standing this is now partly used as a garage and an electrical company.







23, 25 and 27 Empringham Street Hull



These houses were the last of the properties in the north end of Empringham Street, they are located on the corner of Raven Street and Empringham Street, sadly also cleared in 1969 by Hull City Council, the majority of this area now forms part of the Compass House Business Centre car parking area.







Little is known of the operation of the building between 1969 and 1996. However, sometime in 1996 the building was aquired by Mr Ken Davidson of Compass Properties and he converted the building into an office complex. Sadly over the years between 1996 and 2007, the building seems to have not received any further upgrade or investment and the condition of the offices and building's decor and structure meant that the building's appeal as an office provider was in a steep decline.

In October 2007, the property was purchased by SAM Property Services Limited and from day one, a continuous development and improvement plan has been in full operation.

Now as we approach our 5th anniversy, the old Kenny building has been completely renovated and updated, while work on a building which is over 124 years old can never really be classed as finished, the exterior and interior are now structually sound, all internal areas are clean, well docorated and furnished to a high level. All the modern facilities and electronic services needed by today's office are available and supplied in an all inclusive rental model.

Sadly previous owners of the building have over the years removed much of the original fabric of the building's design and history. What was remaining when we acquired the building in 2007 has been protected and renovated, so while we have tried to keep all the original aspects still left in the building, the Compass Business Centre is now a modern high tech facility with a great deal of history and old world charm

 If you have any images and stories of the history of the area, or knowledge of the buildings ownership and operations we would very much like to see and hear them.

"Knowledge of our past helps us avoid repeating the mistakes made by our ancesters. It also brings the people who built and formed our city back to life. Their efforts, work and sacrifice deserved our attention and our acknowledgement"

Steve John Director of SAM Property Services Ltd and operator of Compass House Business Centre.