Kingston upon Hull War Memorial 1914 - 1918

The story of Hull in World War One

Our Loss

A great many people from Hull lost their lives in World War 1. 

There are over a hundred families on the Hull Memorial that lost two or more of their family. Each was an individual tragedy.

What follows here are snippets about some of those people.

Over, 7,500 Hull men died in the First World War. Over 1,200 of these were sailors working with the fishing fleet, or serving with the Merchantile Marine, the Royal Navy and the Royal Navy Reserve. They carried out vital war work, bringing in supplies, transporting troops and minesweeping the seas

There were nearly another 1,500 men who were born in Hull, but who lived elsewhere. They died fighting for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and America. There are many others, who enlisted in Hull or who were associated with the City, but are not usually remembered on Hull war memorials. As Hull had four large hospitals and was the port of entry for repatriated prisoner of wars, servicemen from all over the world are buried in Hull. The Kingston Upon Hull Memorial aims to remember all those with a Hull connection who died in the First World War.

There are over a hundred families on the Hull Memorial that lost two or more of their family. Sometimes fathers, sons and brothers were lost on the same day. Some families lost three sons, other Hull families lost four sons, including all their children in the First World War. At least one in six Hull families lost a direct relative. Many others would lose close friends, work colleagues or others known to them. Each death was irreplaceable and an individual tragedy for someone.

Unfortunately, not all deaths were recorded in official casualty figures, particularly if soldiers died of sickness, accidents or were discharged home with wounds, of illness. By 1924 the Ministry of Pensions reported that there were 20,000 war wounded living in Hull. Although they survived the war, they are rarely recorded on war memorials. What follows here are snippets of some of those people who died, whose deaths were reported in the local newspapers. 

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Gallipoli - The 6th East Yorkshires

The Gallipoli Peninsula runs in a south-westerly direction into the Aegean Seabetween the Hellesport (now known as the Dardanelles) and the bay of Melas, which today is known as Saros Bay. At the time of the First World War, this narrow sea strait was a direct route to the Russian Empire, but was controlled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire, allied to Germany. In an attempt to break the deadlock on the Western Front, the Allies launched an ambitious attack on Gallipoli Peninsular on the 25th April 1915. They hoped that capturing the Dardanelles Straits would help supply Russia, defeat Turkey and encourageGreece and Bulgaria to join the allies in the war.THE GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN 1915-1916

The allies invaded the Gallipoli Peninsular at several beaches. They were met by stiff Turkish resistance, which confined them to  narrow beachheads. The Campaign fighting was fierce, attritional and largely static. The first two weeks alone at Gallipoli, saw a higher rate of allied casualties than the Battle of the Somme, when measured as a percentage of those committed. Forced to dig in around the shorelines, the Allies spent the next eight months trying to capture the high ground and break free from the Peninsular. Eventually, the Allies were forced to withdraw from Gallipoli on the 9th January 1916. The eight month Gallipoli Campaign was a famous Turkish victory, costly to both sides. The Allied campaign was plagued by ill-defined goals, poor planning, insufficient artillery, inexperienced troops, inaccurate maps and intelligence, overconfidence, inadequate equipment and logistics, and tactical deficiencies at all levels. Geography also proved a significant factor with the Turks holding the higher ground. The Allies lost some 250,000 men, including 140,000 men through disease. Turkish casualties were estimated to be at least 280,000. Gallipoli is best remembered for forging the National identity of Australia and New Zealand who fought so bravely there, and for the remarkable evacuation of the Peninsular, with the loss of only one life.

The Gallipoli campaign has been keenly debated over the last century. Some believe it was a poorly planned exercise that failed in Whitehall, long before any serviceman set foot on the Peninsular. Others argue that the campaign could have been successful, but may have made little difference to the main struggle on the Western Front. We can only speculate. However, history has largely overlooked how close ‘D’ company and 'HQ Battalion' of the 6th East Yorkshire Regiment, came to winning the campaign on the 8th and 9th Aug 1915. They failed (despite claims otherwise). The following is an interesting and little known episode in the Gallipoli story.

8th - 9th August 1915 – The 6th East Yorkshire Assault on Tekke Tepe Hill

Tekke Tepe, a hill about 800ft in height, in the centre of a series of ridges disposed, roughly in the shape of a horseshoe and enclosingSuvlaBay. General Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, maintained that capturing this hill was crucial to succeed at Gallipoli.

The 6th East Yorkshires landed at Gallipoli in the early hours of the 7th August 1915, with 22 Officers and 750 other ranks. (Three Officers and 153 men had been left in reserve at Imbros). Their attack on Tekke Tepe is vividly recorded in the 6th (Pioneer) Battalion East Yorkshire War Diary which is with the 11th Divisional Diaries. (This diary is easy to miss, as it is not part of the line Battalion War Diary bundles. It is included in the Division papers, as the Pioneers were technically Divisional troops, although it seems they were attached to the 32nd Brigade for this operation). Capt V Kidd, Adjutant of the 8th Battalion Duke of Wellington's Regt (West Ridings) also recorded the event in his personal account, which is an appendix to the 8th Battalion War Diary notes. Also the 6th Battalion York & Lancs. Regiment War Diary, records the Turks' attack over Tekke Tepe

 8th Aug 1915. Orders were received to join the 32nd Brigade with the WEST YORKS on our left, to attack and hold a position running from CHOCOLATE HILL to SULAJIK 105 C 6. The records of these orders have been lost. The Battalion advanced B [Coy] on the left under Major, BRAY, D [Coy] on the right under Capt GRANT, C [Coy] in second line and A [Coy] in reserve. LtCol MOORE advanced with the 1st line. At first no opposition was met with but occupying the ridge which joins up with CHOCOLATE HILL and was about W by S from ANAFARTA SAGIR heavy firing was encountered. (Margin: Ref to ANAFARTA SAGIR sheet 1:20,000 Gallipoli Map 105 C 6) Capt ROGERS was killed and shortly afterwards Major, ESTRIDGE was wounded in the arm. The Turks employed numerous snipers and shot particularly at our men as they went for water at a well. Parties were sent out, but were unable to find them. The position was entrenched on the reverse slope during the day and further forward during the night. Two officer's patrols were sent out during the evening: At about11:30 pm orders were received for the Battalion to retire to the points held by the WEST RIDING Regt and to occupy and improve a Turkish trench there. 11:30 pm. The orders have been lost. The men were tired and exhausted and short of water moving often in the dark led to equipment being mislaid.

9th Aug 1915. We found the West Riding Regiment in a vacant Turkish Trench at about 1:30 am. After some confusion getting the men into the trench in the dark, orders (lost) were received at 3:30 a.m. (late in reaching us) to deliver an attack (orders lost) on TEKKE TEPE (Sheet 119 O2). The West Riding Regt was to attack KAVALA TEPE (Sheet 119 C7) on our left. The men were at this stage in a state of extreme exhaustion and hunger. The Battalion moved northwards out of the trench in the following order D, C, B, A after passing SULAJIK, we took a NE route crossing the dry beds of the streams. 

Verbal orders had been given by Lt Col Moore that in the attack D and B Companies should form the first line (D on the left, B on the right) A Coy (Capt WILLATS) the second line and C Coy (now under Capt PRINGLE) the reserve. LtCol MOORE was with D Coy. The other three companies due to the extreme exhaustion of the men and absence of explicit orders, failed to keep in touch with D Coy, who proceeded to advance up the lower slopes of the hill, without waiting for B Coy to come into position on their right, or for the other two companies to get into place. D Coy with LtCol MOORE and 2 Lt., STILL (Acting Adjutant) and HQ party seemed to have encountered no opposition at first. It was only when they were up the first shoulder (Sheet 119 L4) that the strength of the enemy was disclosed. Fire was poured in from concealed Turkish trenches and our men were unable to hold their ground. There was considerable confusion due to the rapid advance of D Coy and the fact that the other Companies had lost touch. D Coy suffered heavily. Capt GRANT had been wounded in the hand early in the engagement – Lt Col MOORE, 2 Lt STILL, Capt ELLIOTT, Lt RAWSTORNE, 2Lt WILSON were all missing, when what remained of the Coy fell back. A general retirement took place during which there was much mixing of units due to the Battalion failing to keep its formation. After two other stands had been made in conjunction with the West Riding Regt a line was eventually taken up along a line running N from (Sheet 118 V6). Reinforcements came up here and about 13:00 the Battalion was relieved and ordered to concentrate at the cut on A Beach (Sheet 104 B1). All orders and dispatches relating to these are lost as the orderly who carried them is missing……[A long list of Officer casualties follows] Other Ranks: Killed 20, Wounded 104, Wounded and Missing 28, Missing 183.This night the battalion bivouacked on 'A' Beach near the cut."


The withdrawal of the East Yorkshires of the night of 8th August was difficult. There was no moon and it was pitch dark. It was almost impossible to find equipment and assemble the battalion quickly to move off to Sulajik. All the time, the Turks continued their fire on theEast Yorkshire, while they moved back and reached the position in the early hours. The East Yorkshire soldiers on arrival at 1.30amdropped with exhaustion. Between 3 and 3.30 am, all Company Commanders were suddenly ordered to report to the Colonel. They were told that the 6th East Yorkshire Regiment had received orders to seize the very high hill above Anafarta (Tekke Tepe). 


The West Ridings would attack another hill on the left (Kavak Tepe). As the orders had arrived late, the battalion had to move off immediately. The Men in a state of exhaustion, thirsty and hungry, had to be pulled out of their trenches. Lt Colonel, HGA Moore started off with HQ and D companies. When the three remaining companies assembled they found Colonel Moore, their Commanding Officer had gone ahead. In crossing the open space between the trenches at Sulajik and the foot of the hill, little or no opposition was encountered. Two officers of the 67th Field Company Royal Engineers, Major F.W. Brunner and Lt. V.Z. Ferranti accompanied Col. Moore.  Lt Ferranti was ordered to wait and follow up with the next company of East Yorkshires that came along. The group split into three parties. Col Moore., Maj. Brunner and Lt Still, with one party, Capt. Steel with another, and Capt. Elliott with the third. As they reached the lower slopes of the hill, north of Baka Baba, the rifle fire from the snipers became more insistent. They carried on up Tekke Tepe, the casualties becoming more serious. Major Brunner was killed and many others shot down. The survivors, Col Moore and Lt Still leading, reached the summit, along with Capt Elliot, Lt Rawstone and between 12 and 30 men. They were cut off by the advancing Turks and the survivors, five in number, including Mr. Still, were captured.

This little party of East Yorkshire men and Engineers achieved the brilliant feat of reaching a position, farther east on the heights above SuvlaBay than any other troops in the entire campaign. Of the 750 men in the 6th (Pioneer) East York’s Battalion, 347, or roughly 46% had become casualties in just 3 days. Officer casualties were 15 or 75% of those who landed on 7th August. They included 2 Officers killed in action, 5 wounded, 6 missing in action and 2 'Wounded and Missing'. Most of those 'missing in action' at Gallipoli were actually killed. Searching this website shows that 47 men killed with the 6th East Yorkshires came from Hull, and ten others from Hull, died on the 9th August 1915 at Suvla Bay, fighting for New Zealand, the West Ridings and other regiments.

After the War, all captured British Officers were required to make a written statement to the War Office, about the events surrounding their capture. Capt R D Elliott, 6th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment captured at Tekke Tepe, recounted how they reached the top of hill. Another account by Lieutenant John Still wrote. “About thirty of us reached the top of hill, perhaps a few more. And when there were about twenty left we turned and went down again. We had reached the highest point and furthest point that British forces from Suvla Bay were destined to reach. But we naturally knew nothing of that."

General Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, wrote in his War Diary, that Tekke Tepe was the key hill, overlooking Suvla Bay. He believed British troops had actually reached the summit of the hill on August 9, and that, had they been given proper support, victory was in sight. However, until 1923 he had no definite evidence to confirm his belief. In October 1923 he received a letter printed in The Times, (on 30th October 1923), from Mr. John Still, a tea planter in Ceylon, who had been adjutant of the 6thBattalion East Yorkshire Regiment, a unit of the 32 Brigade, during the Suvla operations. Mr Still gave details of his own experiences on Tekke Tepe as follows:-.

 “I was the only officer on that hill who had spent years in jungle and on hills and was in consequence able to appreciate things accurately. We had been ordered to take up that position on the map and we took it up. I fixed our exact position by prismatic compass. We fought all day there and had a good few casualties including two officers (or three), and then we were taken off again at night "because the regiments to right and left of you have not been able to get up". That was the night of August 8. On our right, were a sergeant and two men only of another regiment, lost and re-found by us. I forget their unit, but I can still see the identifying mark on their backs in my mind's eye: it was a sort of castle in yellow. Beyond them there was a gap right away to Chocolate Hill. On our left was not as you state another regiment, but only a weak half company of the West Yorkshires with two officers of whom one was killed, and the other – Davenport– severely wounded. And this left us in the air. Your orders given to General Stopford at 6pm never reached us on Scimitar Hill. Why? They knew where we were, for I was in touch by day with Brigade H.Q. signalers on Hill 10 or close to it. By night I lost contact for both my lamps failed me. As you justly say, anyone with half an eye could see Tekke Tepe was the key to the whole position. Even I, a middle-aged amateur who had done a bit of big game shooting and knocking about saw it at once. We reconnoitered it, sent an officer and my signaler corporal to climb it, and got through to Brigade H.Q. the message giving our results. I sent it myself. The hill was then empty. Next morning you saw or heard that troops had actually reached the top of Tekke Tepe. Yes they had. A worn and weak company, D Company, of my regiment, together with my Colonel (Moore). Major Brunner, of the R.E., and myself started up that hill. About thirty got to the top: of them five got down again to the bottom, and of those, three lived to the end of the war. I was one of them. You wonder why we did not dig in (pages 78 and 79 of your Volume II) as we had lots of time. There, Sir is where that war was lost. You set a Brigade at that empty hill on the afternoon of the 8th. Actually, owing to staff work being so bad, a battalion received orders to attack and did not receive those orders until dawn on the 9th. I received them myself as adjutant. The order ran to this effect: "The C.-in-C. considers this operation essential to the success of the whole campaign". The order was sent out on the late afternoon of the 8th, when we were on Scimitar Hill. It reached us at dawn on the 9thin a Turkish trench at Sulejik. In the meanwhile, for those hours more precious to the world than we even yet can judge, the Brigade Major was lost! Good God why didn't they send a man who knew the country? He was lost, lost, lost and it drives one almost mad to think of it. Excuse Me. Next morning (from the order) at dawn on the 9thyou saw some of our fellows climbing cattle tracks. You don't place them exactly where I think you really saw them, but as I know, there were none just precisely where you say you saw them, I am pretty certain it was us you saw from the ship, only we were half a mile north of where you describe.Then we climbed Tekke Tepe. Simultaneously the Turks attacked through the gap from Anafarta. Their attack cut in behind D Company and held back the rest of the battalion who fought in the trench, with the Duke of Wellington's on their left. We went on, and, as I said, not one of us got back again. A few were taken prisoner. I was slightly wounded, and stayed three years and three months as a prisoner. Later that morning we who survived were again taken up Tekke Tepe by its northern ravine on the west side. Turkish troops were simply pouring down it and the other ravines. On the top of Tekke Tepe were four field guns camouflaged with boughs of scrub oak, and a Brigade H.Q. was just behind the ridge. I had a few minutes conversation there with the Turkish Brigadier in French. But I am coming home on leave in March or April next. May I have the honour of meeting you and going over it on the map? I think much might be cleared up that was still obscure when you wrote your book. There are one or two things one prefers not to write. Please let me know your wishes in this matter. I loved your book and I want to do any small thing possible to complete your picture. Yours truly (Signed) JOHN STILL, Victoria Commemoration Buildings, Nos: 40 and 41 Ward StreetKandyCeylon Sept 19.


2nd Lt., James Theodore Underhill,  was adjutant in the 6th East Yorkshire Battalion and Signaler at Tekke Tepe *. His letter to the Times, published 14thFebruary 1925, recounts”....

"Being a qualified land surveyor, and experienced in the use and construction of maps and the knowledge of the country, I was well able to keep notes of our positions and was the officer mentioned in your letter who took the patrol up Tekke Tepe. In fact I still have your signal corporal’s field glasses which I took from him while on the hill, my own being smashed by a rifle bullet whilst using them on this patrol. My report disagrees with your letter in a few minor details – for instance while on Scimitar Hill, the 9th West Yorkshires were on our left, as I was actually speaking with their officers on their own right flank, but they were withdrawn before us, God knows why? Again, while you say Tekke Tepe was not occupied, it was held very lightly by patrols. We ran into two of them before reaching the top; out of one we bagged two Turks, the other escaped us. There were also three short lengths of partially dug trenches unoccupied while we were there, but showing signs of most recent occupation. Further, you say that the Turks came in behind D Company and the rest of the battalion fought in the trench. This is not quite right. We had advance fully 1500 yards (and I was with the rear company “B”) before we encountered the Turks. When we did, it was a ‘free for all’ bayonet affair, with the Turks outnumbering us about three to one. I saw nothing of the West Yorkshires as you mention, but the West Ridings who were to have supported the Brigade!!! attack were present. However, my report and your letter agree in the great fundamental point, this, that Tekke Tepe should have been taken on the evening of August 8. That this could and would have been done had there not been a lamentable failure of the Staff, I think goes unquestioned by those of us who had an accurate knowledge of the conditions; it was the loss of the Gallipoli campaign. I am even of the opinion that, that had the Staff work not been so rotten, and that had the attack in the early morning of August 9 been by three battalions instead of us alone, it might have been successful. If you remember, the attack was to have been a brigade affair, three battalions in attack with one in support. The supports (the West Ridings) were there, but where the other two battalions were, God alone knows. I think all of Kitchener’s Army who took part in this landing and the following few days felt it intensely that they were blamed by the Staff for the failure on the grounds of being green troops. Compared with later experiences in France, the 11thand 10thDivision fought as well as any troops ever did, be they Regulars or otherwise, and I am sure that those of us who had the honour to belong to either the 11thor 10thDivisions feel grateful to you for coming out plainly and placing the blame where it so justly belongs."

Some modern historians argue that the attack of the 6th East Yorkshire attack on Tekke Tepe (actually in effect only D Coy and Battalion HQ) never reached the summit on the 9th August. They say that the Officers were mistaken when they said they reached the summit or were making allowances for being taken Prisoner. Also as most of the 6th East Yorkshires were killed or captured, all the official reports were compiled after the events, by persons who had not been present. The War diaries show very clearly that patrols sent by the 6th (Pioneer) Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment on the 8th August (the day before) met with little opposition, but a later advance on the 9th August to exploit this opportunity by the 6th (Pioneer) Battalion East Yorkshires, supported by the 8th Battalion Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) and 67 Coy RE was too late. It was repulsed by Turkish reinforcements with heavy loss to D Coy 6th (Pioneer) Battalion East York’s, who advanced without waiting for the remainder of the Battalion. We can only go by the primary sources of Lt Still and 2nd Lt Underhill, who both were there at the time. They both confirm separately that they occupied Tekke Tepe. John Still was a 35 year old, tea Planter, use to the hills of Ceylon. James Theodore Underhill was a qualified land surveyor. Both would have known if they had reached the top of Tekke Tepe. There was no collusion between them. John Still returned to Ceylon and James Underhill returned to Vancouver after the war. Yet they both agree that the Tekke Tepe hill was taken, and that if it had been held, The Gallipolli Campaign would have succeeded. 

While we probably require a 3 D image of Suvla to plot the attack on Tekke Tepe, it is perhaps best to concentrate on the bravery of the 6th East Yorkshires, who stormed the hill with, limited support in difficult conditions. These Pioneers were used in (arguably) the most important assault of the campaign. They were bravely led, by Col Moore, (who had risen from the ranks) and were decimated within sight of their ultimate objective. Appalling planning after too much procrastination, no time for orders or battle preparation, a fragmented uncoordinated attack, perhaps over-zealous leadership, tactical naivety, exhaustion and fatigue (men had to be kicked into action from a state of near exhaustion), superhuman effort resulting in failure, then denial and blame.

The 6th Battalion who had landed at Gallipoli in the early hours of the 7th Aug with 22 Officers and 750 Other ranks, had within 3 days,  lost 15 Officers (2 killed, 5 wounded, 6 missing and 2 'Wounded and Missing' and 347 other ranks. For them Gallipoli was no Side Show. The story of the 6th East Yorkshire at Tekke Tepe is not a particularly well researched or well understood part of the campaign, but it encapsulates everything in one small action that was wrong about the Gallipoli.

The following recounts the progress of the 6Th East Yorkshires after the Tekke Tepe attack.

21st August 1915 – the attack on Scimitar HillThe Salt Lake, Suvla Bay: the advance of 21st August 1915

 Wyrall's "East Yorkshire Regiment in the Great War" shows that the 6th East Yorkshire Regiment had been in reserve from 10th to the 20th August at Nibrunesi Point where they had dug themselves in at the base of a cliff. On 20th August the 6thEast Yorkshires relieved the Northumberland Fusiliers in trenches South East of Chocolate Hill. They came under the orders of 34th Brigade who would attack "Hill W" the next morning.The 6th Battalion were to dig in and support the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Dorset’s, who would attack the next morning. There was a delay due to lost orders and confusion, and the attack did not commence until 3pm on the 21st. When the Dorset’s and Lancashire’s left their trenches the 6th East Yorkshires moved forward to occupy these trenches.

The Dorset’s and the Lancashire’s ran into stubborn resistance and so most of the 6th East Yorkshires were sent forward to support them. The 6th East Yorkshire's captured a Turkish trench in front of them and awaited relief. The 6th East York Pioneers) had occupied Hill 70 (Scimitar Hill), next to W Hill the most vital of all the semicircle of heights overlooking SuvlaBay and were there only waiting for the brigade's further advance upon W Hill or Anafarta Sagir, to both of which it is the key.They held this trench overnight but it became impossible to hold the next morning (22nd August) as the number of Turks increased and they had no bombs. 

THE DARDANELLES CAMPAIGN, 1915 - 1916Around 7.30 am the 6th East Yorkshires retreated to their original trenches and later that night they were relieved and moved back to their original reserve trenches at Nibrunesi point the following morning. The 6th East Yorkshire casualties by 22nd August 1915 included 26 Officers and 628 men. Officer casualties were (80%) and other ranks 68%.

20th October 1915 
The War Diary for the 6th (Service) Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment (Pioneers) on 
20th Oct 1915 is edited below. It was written in very feint pencil and just legible. The Battalion was scattered over a place known to the troops as ‘Piccadilly Circus’ or shrapnel valley due to heavy Turkish shelling. There are no records of battle casualties but the War Diary contains long lists of men admitted to hospital and lists of men who arrived in drafts. Notably most posted to D Coy - a stark reminder that D Coy was virtually wiped out on the lower slopes of Tekke Tepe on 9th August.

"Working Parties A Coy Piccadilly Circus, Div Head Quarters ^ well [illegible - above?] XI Signal Depot, Field Ambulance dugouts. B Coy 9th A.C [Army Corps] New Head Quarters, Park Lane, Holborn, Jephson's Post Road (Oxford St). D Coy 9th A.C Head Quarters, 67th Coy RE - SW Mounted Brigade dugouts, Cannon Street. Two general road repairing parties under 2/Lieuts SIEBER and SCOTCHER. 2/Lieut HICKEY was wounded in the arm by shrapnel bullet whilst working near Piccadilly Circus & admitted into 35th Field Ambulance."



(I am grateful to Edward Underhill who supplied the following information on his grandfather - 2nd Lt., James Theodore Underhill was born in Moseley, Staffordshire, 1892. His family emigrated to Canada in 1894 and he obtained his Land Surveyor's qualification at McGill University (West) which was later to become the University of British Columbia. Upon the outbreak of the war, he gained his qualification as an Infantry Officer in January of 1915 at the Provisional School of Infantry in Vancouver, BC and subsequently traveled to England, having missed the opportunity to join the first contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He was commissioned in March of 1915, joining the 6th (Service ) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, as 2nd Lieutenant  by the time of the actions around Teke Tepe. He was shot in the chest during the Gallipoli attack and wounded  again in the right knee on 1/7/16 at Serre, serving with the 12th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He later served with the Canandian 245th Siege Battery RGA. He lost two brothers in the war and returned to Vancouver, Canada after the war)

George Jacklin

Private, George Jacklin, 7th EYR, enlisted in 1916. He had only been in France for three weeks before he was killed on the 5th November 1916. He left his widow Sarah (Farnill) at 24 Glasgow Street, her parents at 82 Glasgow Street, and his Mother and family at 96 Egton Street. The loss of one life could have a wide impact on a close community.


Rifleman, William Harbron, 3585, Rifle Brigade 12th Bn.

Bill Harbron was the son of Charles William and Elizabeth Harbron, at 1 Louisa Terrace, Hume Street, Hull. He was killed in action on the 6th June 1916 aged 20 years. He had served in France for 12 months, and was back less than 24 hours from leave, when killed by a shell burst in the Trench. William Harbron was an employee of the British Oil Cake Mills in Hull before the war. He livedat 6 Wilde Street, Dansom Lane. His Photograph appears in the Hull Daily Mail (HDM 27/6/16)

Home life

During the First World War, Hull was a much smaller and densley populated City,  than it is today. Most people lived in the City Centre or were crammed around the fish docks of Hessle Road and the warehouses of Wincolmlee. In 1914, Hull's population was around 300,000 people, a much larger number than now. North of the 'Avenues' was open fields. Spring Bank ended at Walton Street and along Willerby Road was open country side. Along Holderness Road, there was not much housing beyond Portobello Street. The present day housing estates of Bransholme, Orchard Park, Greatfield, Longhill, Bilton and Ings Road were then just farms. Over 80% of the 66,090 houses in Hull were classified as 'working class' type, with a rent not exceeding £26 per year. Only 28,400 homes were regarded as satisfactory, with adequate light and air circulation and having a yard or garden at the rear with a secondary means of access. Some 21,800 properties, mostly 'terrace' type housing were unsatisfactory, built at a high density of 60 houses per acre, compared with an average of 7 houses to the acre for the City as a whole. Image result for slum houses hullThey included 2,800 'slum houses' which were old, damp, poorly built and situated in congested districts. Tenants invariably shared a single tap and outside toilets, which were situated together in a communal courtyard. Over 98% of Hull people rented their homes rather than owned them. The homes were largely poor and basic, with little choice, but the rents were cheap. People preferred to live near their place of work and not commute long distances. With no Welfare state and few Council houses, people preferred to live in tightly knit communities, where they could support each other or have access to shops and facilities. For the few and wealthy, home ownership outside the city centre, was the most desired and affordable option. Newspapers in 1914, advertise a 3 bed house for sale in Anlaby Park for £415 - £435, and 4 bed houses for between £529 - £550. After the war, a typical 3 bed, semi-detatched house, sold for between £540 - £740. 

Only 1% of Edwardians owned property. Most worked in dark, noisy factories, cut hay in fields, toiled down dirty and dangerous mines; had bones bent by rickets and lungs racked by tuberculosis. Life expectancy then was 49 years for a man and 53 years for a woman, compared with 79 and 82 years today. They lived in back to back tenements or jerry-built terraces, wore cloth caps or bonnets (rather than boaters, bowlers and toppers) and many had never taken a holiday - beyond a day trip to the seaside - in their entire lives.

1914 Britain - some background

Very few  envisaged the upheavals that were to come when the year began. The biggest troubles Britain faced were domestic and not international. The Liberal government of the day was under attack from all sides. The government plans to grant home rule to Ireland were being fiercely resisted by Ulster Unionists in the north, who had support from within the upper ranks of the British Army as well as from the opposition Conservatives. In March the news that the government had military plans to put down a possible rebellion in Ulster led to the resignation of 57 Army officers, the so-called Curragh Mutiny. More than a quarter of a million defiant Ulstermen signed a Covenant, pledging to use "all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a home rule parliament in Ireland". The Catholics of the south were armed and organised to match the Protestants of the North.

Ireland wasn't the only crisis that prime minister Herbert Asquith faced in 1914. The Suffragettes, fighting for votes for women, were intensifying their campaign. In March 1914,  Mary Richardson, slashed the Velasquez painting the Rokeby Venus at the National Gallery in London. In April, a Suffragette armed with a hatchet broke 10 large panes of glass in a cabinet at the British Museum. Across the country Suffragettes set fire to empty houses and railway stations, piers and sports pavilions and vandalised golf courses. In June they were thought to be behind a bomb exploding in Westminster Abbey, damaging the Coronation Chair. The government was faced with a renewed challenge from Trade Unions. The years leading up to the First World War had seen much industrial discontent with widespread strikes, and 1914 began with a lock-out of London bricklayers by their employers. Trade union membership had reached four million and a triple alliance of miners, railway workers and port workers, was forming with plans for a general strike. No automatic alt text available.

Hull Kingston Rovers v Halifax in Craven Street around the time of The First World War.

As spring turned to summer the idea that Britain would very soon be embroiled in a world war would have seemed far-fetched. There had been wars in the Balkans in 1912 and 1913, but they had not led to the involvement of Britain, so why would 1914 be any different? While the rise of Germany had caused some trepidation and several books and plays warning of the dangers of a German invasion had been published, the threat did not seem immediate. Even after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife Sophie, by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo, on June 28, the British government did not even meet to discuss foreign affairs until 24th July 1914. The Irish crisis seemed far more pressing. While some ministers were concerned about the prospect of a European war, Asquith wrote in his diary: "There seems to be no reason why we should be anything more than spectators."   However, on 4th August 1914 Germany invaded Belgium and Britain declared war. Few could have imagined that the conflict would still be raging four years later. For a while it was a case of "business as usual" and life carried on as normal. County cricket continued with Jack Hobbs leading Surrey to their first championship. The Football Association decided to play on too, as did the horse racing authorities. The newspapers show that people continued to browse dress patterns, plan weekend drives, tear out recipes, queue for cinemas, oblivious to what was going on. It was only as 1914 dragged on and the deadlock in France and Belgium became obvious, that people realised, that Britain was involved in a world conflict, that was going to last much longer than a few months.

As patriotic fervour swept the country those who had been fighting the government in the first half of 1914 halted their campaigns. At the outbreak of war, trade union leaders proclaimed an industrial truce. Suffragette leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, urged her followers to support the war effort. And Ulster Unionists who had threatened rebellion, joined up along with their Irish nationalist opponents, to fight alongside each other in the British Army. The domestic battles of early 1914 had been replaced by life-or-death battles in the mud of northern Europe.Image may contain: 4 people

Middle Class Homes in 1914 

In 1914, only about 20% of the population of Britain was middle class. (To be considered middle class, you would normally need to have at least one servant). In 1914, well off people lived in very comfortable houses. However, to us, 'middle class' homes would seem overcrowded with furniture, ornaments and nick-knacks. Gas fires became common in the 1880s. Gas cookers became common in the 1890s. The electric light bulb was invented in 1879. By 1914 most towns had electric street light. However, at first, electric light was expensive. In 1914 the majority of middle class families still used gas for lighting their homes. By 1914 middle class people in Britain usually had bathrooms. The water was heated by gas. 

Middle Class Leisure in 1914 

Middle class people played games, like lawn tennis and snooker. Board games like snakes and ladders and ludo were also popular. In 1914, bicycling was a popular sport. The safety bicycle went on sale in 1885. Bicycling clubs became common. 

Reading was also popular in 1914. The first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet was published in 1887 by Arthur Conan Doyle. A new form of writing, was science fiction pioneered by men like H G Wells. Cosswords which had been been invented in 1913 by Arthur Wynne, became a craze. The first dress patterns were launced in 1914 inspriing new fashions and designs. Mary Phelps Jacob had just invented the first bra. Women were abandoning the corset for more free flowing clothes, and newspapers remarked that women were now seen in public without wearing hats! Tinned food and cookery books were all the rage. The new century introduced commodities, such as tinned food, Bisto gravy, Heinz baked beans and Bird’s custard, and ice closets to put it all in. Food could be shipped from distant corners of the world and chains of high street grocery stores were replacing small specialist tradesmen. Previously a cook’s life was ruled by Mrs Beeton and Alexis Soyer, seasonal food and a lack of refrigeration. Now there were new publications like  'Hints and Recipes for Cooking Today', 'The Atora Book of Olde Time Christmas Recipes', 'Kitchen Essays', and 'The Importance of Eating Potatoes'. These were all designed to educate a new breed of woman who, owing to economic privations, was having to go it alone in the kitchen often without the benefit of cook or scullery maid.

The Middle classes were very fond of the theater. The cinema was still a relatively new pastime, and films were without sound and in black and white. Around 1910, cinemas were built in many towns. In February 1914, Charlie Chaplin made his film debut in the silent comedy 'Making A Living'.  In April 1914, George Bernard Shaw's play. 'Pygmalion' opened to rave reviews. Among the notable books, were James Joyce's 'Dubliners', 'Tarzan Of The Apes' by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert Tressel's 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'. In 1914, going to the seaside was very popular with those who could afford it. Meanwhile, the first cheap camera was invented in 1888, by George Eastman. Afterwards photography became a popular hobby.

In 1914, middle class children in Britain had plenty of toys. They played with wood or porcelain dolls and toys, like Noah's Arks, with wooden animals. Poor children did not have any toys. Plasticine was invented in 1897 by William Harbutt. It was first made commercially in 1900. Also in 1900 Frank Hornby invented a toy called meccano. 

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For the working class in 1914, life was hard and terrible poverty was common. Nevertheless, life was improving and certain reforms were introduced around that time. 

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At the beginning of the 20th century, surveys showed that 25% of the population of Britain were living in poverty. They found that at least 15% were living at subsistence level, in other words, they had just enough money for food, rent, fuel and clothes. They could not afford 'luxuries', such as newspapers, sweets or public transport. About 10% were living in 'below subsistence' level and could not afford an adequate diet.

The surveys found that the main cause of poverty was low wages. The main cause of 'extreme' poverty was the loss of the main breadwinner. If dad was dead, ill or unemployed, it was a disaster. Mum might get a job, but women were paid much lower wages than men.

Surveys also found that poverty tended to go in a cycle. Working class people might live in poverty when they were children, but things usually improved when they left work and found a job. However, when they married and had children things would take a turn for the worse. Their wages might be enough to support a single man comfortably, but not enough to support a wife and children too. However, when the children grew old enough to work, things would improve again. Finally, when he was old, a worker might find it hard to find work, except the most low paid kind and be driven into poverty again.

A Liberal government was elected in 1906 and they made some welfare reforms. From that year, poor children were given free school meals. In January 1909, the first old age pensions were paid. They were hardly generous - only 5 shillings a week, which was a paltry sum even in those days and they were only paid to people over 70 years old. Nevertheless it was a start.

Also in 1909, the government formed wages councils. In those days some people worked in the so-called 'sweated industries', such as making clothes and they were very poorly paid and had to work extremely long hours just to survive. The wages councils set minimum pay levels for certain industries.

In 1910, the first labour exchanges, where jobs were advertised, were set up. The economy was relatively stable in the years 1900-1914 and unemployment was fairly low.

In 1911, the government passed an act, establishing sickness benefits for workers. The act also provided unemployment benefit for workers in certain trades, such as shipbuilding, where periods of unemployment were common. Meanwhile the workers had formed powerful trade unions.

Working Class Homes in 1914

In 1914, a typical working class family, lived in a 'two up, two down'. They had two rooms downstairs and two upstairs. The downstairs front room was kept for best. The family kept their best furniture and ornaments in this room. They spent most of the their time in the downstairs, back room, which served as a kitchen and living room. In 1914, working class homes were lit by gas. Most working class homes had outside lavatories. From about 1900, some houses were built for skilled workers, with bathrooms and inside toilets. However, they were still rare in 1914. Moreover, very poor families sometimes lived in just one room.

Food in 1914

Food was expensive in 1914. Some working class families, typically sat down to a tea, of a plate of potatoes and malnutrition was common among poor children. In 1914, a working class family spent about 60% of their income on food. Sweets were a luxury in 1914. However, for those who could afford it, new types of biscuit were available. The Digestive was invented in 1892. Custard creams were invented in 1908 and Bourbons were invented in 1910.

Transport in 1914

In 1914, railways were the main form of overland transport. Cars were very rare, although number plates were introduced in 1903. The same year a 20 MPH speed limit was introduced. Most towns had electric trams. In many towns by 1914, there were also motor buses and Hull had it's own trams. Below is a picture of the Botanic Station, Spring Bank, Hull.Image may contain: 1 person

Working Class Leisure in 1914

In 1914, the average working week in Britain was 54 hours. By then, many people only worked half a day on Saturday. Skilled workers often had paid holidays, but most people only had bank holidays. Nevertheless, the working class were starting to have more leisure time and football matches became a popular pastime. Many towns had free public libraries. Newspapers also became much more common. The Daily Mail was first published in 1896, The Daily Express was first published in 1900 and the Daily Mirror began publication in 1903. 

By 1914 life expectancy in Britain was about 50 for a man and about 54 for a woman.

War Casualties 

The war lasted 1,566 days - four years, 3 months and one week. During this time, over 7,500 Hull men were killed. Another 14,000 were wounded, of which 7,000 were maimed and this rose to 20,000 wounded by 1924. On average, there were 15 war deaths received in Hull every day. 

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These casualties including the wounded accumulated almost every day, for four and half long years. Some days were worse than others. For example, on the the 3rd May 1915, eight  Hull Trawlers, were sunk by German submarines. On the 13th November 1916, 247 Hull men died, when the East Yorkshire battalions attacked the village of Serre: Another 139 Hull men died on the 3rd May 1917, when the 'Hull Pals' attacked Oppy Wood: 91 Hull men died on the 1st July 1916; the first day of the Battle of the Somme. 127 Hull men also died between the 21st and 23rd March 1918 during the great German Offensive.PROPAGANDA POSTERS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR

The returning wounded reminded civilians of the brutality of war. Hull's four main hospitals and VAD units were constantly busy. Hull was also the main port for repatriated prisoners of war which added to their work load. Hull cemetries are littered with servicemen that died in Hull far form home. Those with sight impairments were found work at the 'Blind Institute' on Beverley Road. Shell shock victims were treated at De La Pole hospital which also had wards for gas wounds. The Brooklands hospital, on Cottingham Road looked after Officers. The Reckitt's hospital cared for some 3,000 patients during the war. The wounded were very visible in the community. They were often amputees, mutilated, or with appalling facial injuries.  Many houses with drawn dark curtains, marked a casualty. It seemed that every family had lost someone, or knew someone that had been killed in the war. Civilians wore dark mourning dress, or black arm bands, to indicate that they were morning the loss of a loved one.
Men physically and mentally broken, or young men who had sacrificed their apprenticeships to go to war, now faced unemployment at home. Rationing of food and basic goods added to the community tension. There were no psychologists or social workers, to treat the victims of shell shock or counsel the large numbers of bereaved. Many families had to cope as best they could.
Newspapers of the time, are full of incidents of violence, drunkeness and anti social behaviour. This reflected the general, poverty, illness and the untreated madness or war casualties. Initial enthusiasm for the war quickly gave way to sadness and shock and a deepening psychological affect on the civilian population. Returning Servicemen had been assured a 'Land Fit for Heroes', only to find unemployment, austerity and indifference.

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To boost recruitment, Viscount, French, visited Hull in 1916.

The People


Every aspect of homelife was affected by the war. The 'Hull Times', showed how Hull's 2,128 allotments, (over 280 acres), were cultivated for food production. The railways and trams were given priority for war business. Buildings were taken over for recruiting, for wounded, 'soldiers' rest places and even 'social clubs'.  

The Soldiers Club based at Beverley Road baths had a library,  weekly concerts, a rifle range, a reading room, writing facities and refreshment bars. So popular and well known was the club that soldiers wrote about it in newspapers all over the country.

Hull Residents set up a number of funds to help the war effort. Among these was the 'Christmas Pudding Fund' for local soldiers, that helped raise 5,000 shillings, helping to feed 10,000 Hull men. Another, was a national fund, to help East Yorkshire soldiers, serving on the Somme. It received donations from across Britain and raised £250 to help the men at the front. Hull theatres helped the war effort by providing entertainment. One such show was named "The King visits his troops on the Somme Front". It was an officially made short, from the War Office, and showed at various theatres, including the Theatre De Luxe. Other theatres, such as Sherburn Theatre, in Sherburn Street, east Hull, showed "The Battle of the Somme", a five-part movie, featuring graphic war images from the frontline.

The war, took thousands of young men away from home. Many were were exposed, for the first time, to new vices, such as alcohol, tobacco, violence and prostitution. They would return home with bad habits, swear words and bawdy songs. The war had trained them to survive, take risks and show initiative and for some this would lead to new careers in organised crime. Church attendance also began to fall as people struggled to reconcile their losses with their faith. New religions, such as 'Spirtualism', became popular as people tried new ways to reconnect with the dead. Citizens also wanted to travel abroad to visit the battlefields and cemeteries. Travel companies, like Thomas Cooks, emerged to offer organised tours of battlefields for civilians, for the first time.

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The First World War also introduced new words and phrases into the language. Some of these words included, "camouflage, pill box, tank, plonk, bumf, guff (rumours), dud (a failure), demob, conchie (conscientious objector), and streetcar (a name for a shell)". "Snapshot", "bloke", "scrounge",  "washed up", "binge drink", "trench coat" and "duckboards" were other trench vocabulary, brought home. "Skive" came from the French word 'esquiver' ("to escape, avoid") and Strafe" meaning to 'punish' in German, was also adopted. "Swipe" was a Canadian word, "Cushy" was a Hindi word meaning pleasure. "Lousy” and “crummy” both referred to being infested with lice, while “fed up” emerged as a widespread expression of weariness among the men. "Shell shock" and "Trench foot" became new medical conditions. "Conked out", and "blind spot" came from Airforce expressions. Several phrases from the criminal underworld also entered wider use, among them “Chum” - formerly slang for an accomplice - “rumbled” (to be found out) and “knocked off” (stolen). Soldier phrases, like, "Having a chat", (sitting around de licing clothing), 'copped a packet' (wounded or killed), 'pushing up daisies' (an euphamism for death), "a Fair Whack" (sharing parcels) and 'Over the Top' are still terms, widely used today. 'Zepps in the Cloud' became a popular term to describe sausage and mash. Fashion, hair styles, clothing, and cosmetics, also changed with the war. Tight corsets and bodices were replaced with more free flowing clothing. Women wore shorter hair and skirts, and sometime wore trousers to be practical. They wore lipstips and courted sun tans to display affluence. The phrase a 'Girls night out' was first coined during the war, to describe female munition workers, spending their wages together, unchaperoned around town.

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 Nurses working at the Hull City Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Hedon Road, Hull 1917


Demographically, Hull's population fell by 45,000 people during the war, such was the rate of male enistment into the armed services. Women replaced many men in the workplace, and in Hull, women found new jobs in the Post Office, railways, trams and factories. The Hull Daily Mail ran articles on women's war work, saying "they were being trained in ship building, the dock yard, transport and munitions," as well as growing food, postal work, telegraph messengers and even taxi driving. The National Union of Women Workers, organised voluntary patrols in Hull, acting as a 'morality' police force, curbing crime and prostitution. 'Joesph Rank Ltd', employed nearly 3,000 women, in wheat production. 'Rose Down and Thompson' Munition's factories, employed 359 women, 13 under 18 years of age and 341 between 18 and 51 years old.  Madam Clapham's, dress making salon at Hull's Kingston Theatre Hotel, employed another 150 women. They redesigned women's clothing to make war fashion more comfortable, modern and easier to wear. Emily Clapham's gained a thorough training in the dressmaking trade. She had a good eye for fashion and colour and combined this with good business sense. She went into business with her husband Haigh Clapham in 1887 and invested their savings to purchase No.1 Kingston Square, Hull. Her reputation as a fine dressmaker was at its height from 1890 until the outbreak of the First World War. This was an era of strict dress codes and dressing for many social engagements, like race meetings, balls and dinner parties. In the 1890s the salon was so successful that Madame Clapham purchased number two Kingston square in 1891. Number three Kingston Square was purchased just before the First World War, with a legacy left to Madame Clapham by her aunt. 

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Madame Clapham died aged ninety-six on the 10th January 1952. Emily Wall, Madame Clapham's niece and employee continued Madame Clapham's legacy at number 3 Kingston Square under her aunt's name until 1967. Madame Emily As Madame Clapham's reputation grew she received many orders for dresses for clients, to be presented at court, wearing during the "coming out" season. Madame Clapham added the title of Court dressmaker to her Salon's labels in 1901 as a mark of her highly regarded reputation.  The First World War had a big impact on Madame Clapham's business as it resulted in a decline for the exquisite dresses of the earlier years. Attitudes and Social codes changed after the war and women gained a greater degree of freedom. Madame Clapham still created evening dresses in the new styles and expanded into corsetry and under garments to fit under certain dresses. Madam Clapham is pictured on the right.

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Women entered the armed forces in 1917, in non combatant roles, so releasing men to fight. Many women also became V.A.D.'s (Voluntary Aid Detachments), working as nurses. In Hull, 'Reckitt's' had their own hospital with 45 beds, and there was also a Naval hospital at Argyle Street, with room for 220 patients. The Report of the 'East Yorkshire Women's Agricultural Committees', showed that 600-700 women registered for land work. In total, 928 Hull women did some type of work on farms, alloments or market gardens. Male labour was not scarce and there was a strong prejudice against women.  

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Hull & Bransley Railway Carriage Cleaners

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It is well known, that many young people lied about their age, to enlist in the war. It is perhaps less well known, that nearly 1,200 Hull teenagers, died in acton during the First World War. Searching by age, on this data base, shows that Hull's war casualties, included, three, 14 year olds;  sixteen, 15 year olds; forty two, 16 year olds; eighty two, 17 year olds; three hundred and forty, 18 year olds; and six hundred and ninety, 19 year olds. Children also played an active part in the war effort at home. Boy Scoutsguarded telephone and telegraph lines, railway stations, water reservoirs or any location that might be militarily important. From late 1917, many Scouts assisted with air raid duties, including sounding the all-clear signal after an attack . Girl Guides packaged up clothing to send to British soldiers at the front, prepared hostels and first-aid dressing stations for use by those injured in air raids or accidents, tended allotments to help cope with food shortages, and provided assistance at hospitals, government offices and munitions factories. Sea Scouts were part of a network of observers, that stood watch on the coast, in anticipation of German air attacks or a possible invasion. Children across Britain gave their pocket money to the war effort. The children raised money for a number of charities, including St Dunstan's Hostel for blinded ex-servicemen, the Blue Cross for sick and injured animals, and local military hospitals. Children also collected scrap metal and other essential materials that could be recycled, or used for the war effort. Children younger than the school leaving age of 12, also worked in factories or on farms. In some cases, a child's earnings could be a helpful addition to a family's income. In 1917, Education Minister H A L Fisher claimed that as many as 600,000 children had been 'prematurely' put to work.

Air Raids and Trawler losses.

On the 3rd May 1915, Hull mourned the loss of eight trawlers on one day. On the 6th June 1915, Hull civilians, experienced the first of eight bombing raids by Zeppelins. The next day Anti German riots broke out throughout Hull, and many German owned, businesses, were damaged.  Hull was the scene of one of the most moving funeral possessions of the war, when the victims of the E13 disaster were brought ashore. The E13 submarine had left England on 15th August 1915, for deployment in the Baltic. On 18th August it ran aground in the neutral, narrow waters between Denmark and Sweden, whilst sailing on the surface. A German destroyer opened fire on her, badly damaging her before being stopped by Danish motor boats. Whilst transferring survivors to Danish ships, the Germans continued to torpedo  the submarine which blew up. Fifteen men died in the incident, which caused world wide outrage, as it occurred in neutral Danish waters. (Denmark later gained an official apology from Germany). The bodies arrived in Hull, for transport to their home towns, on 27th August 1915. The next day, a funeral procession for the E13 victims, passed through a packed Victoria Square, en route for Paragon Station. Of the dead, one was a local man, Herbert Staples, an engine room artificer. His body was taken home to Grimsby by tug.

No automatic alt text available.Cinemas, Halls and Picture shows The 'Tower' Cinema, opened in June 1914, on Anlaby Road, as a a Picture Palace to entertain audiences in World War One. It was one of 30 cinemas in Hull. Viewers walked into a venue, holding 1,200 seats, across stalls and a single balcony with a cafe, that overlooked the street outside. The Tower showed the latest silent movies, provided news in Europe, and. It also presented patriotic films, produced to raise money for the local war Trust. During WW1, the Tower played a host of patriotic films including 'The Heroine of Mons' and even a live concert in 1915. Cinema not only changed the Hull's perception of war, but turned the experience of going to the cinema into a desirable, class-free commodity that is still much loved today. 

Image may contain: 9 peopleHull's Royal Visit

On the 13th June 1917, King George V and his wife Queen Mary, visited Hull, driving through the City in an open carriage. Huge crowds came out to see them and Hull was decorated with flags, bunting and streamers. The Royal visit took in a number of sites including Earle's shipyard, the Holmes engineering works, the VAD hospital on Cottingham Road and the naval hospital on Argyle Street. They also went to Hull City football ground and met members of the Volunteer Forces. Programme for George V and Queen Mary's visit to Hull. (c) Hull Museums.

Video of the Kings Visit to Hull  -

New Laws.

The Government introduced new laws to help pay for and win the war. This started with the 'Defence of the Realm Act or (DORA) in 1914'. Basic tax increased from 6% to 30% and the number of people in Britain who paid tax, tripled to 3.5 million. Clocks went forward to make the most of daylight hours. Image result for defence of the realm act picsThe Government took over coal mines, shipping, railways and land to secure supplies and food production. It set up 'state run', munitions factories and worked with Trade Unions to prevent strikes. Image result for defence of the realm act picsAll beaches along the East Coast were closed during the war. 

Trivial peacetime activities which were banned, included using fireworks, flying kites, starting bonfires, buying binoculars, feeding wild animals bread, discussing naval and military matters or buying alcohol on public transport. People were not allowed to whistle for a Taxis in case this sounded like an air raid 


alarm, or loiter around railways and tunnels. You could not spread rumours, trespass on railway lines and bridges, ring church bells, melt down gold, or silver, or use invisible ink when writing abroad. Alcoholic beverages were watered down and pub opening times were restricted to noon–3pm and 6:30pm–9:30pm (the requirement for an afternoon gap in permitted hours, lasted in England until the Licensing Act 1988 was brought into force). The law was designed to help prevent invasion and to keep morale at home high. It imposed censorship of journalism and of letters coming home from the front line. The press was subject to controls on reporting troop movements, numbers or any other operational information that could be exploited by the enemy. People who breached the regulations with intent to assist the enemy could be sentenced to death. It is estimated that almost one million people were arested for breacing DORA rules and 11 'German Spies' were executed under the regulations. Though some provisions of Dora may seem strange, they did have their purposes. Flying a kite or lighting a bonfire could attract Zeppelins, and after rationing was introduced in 1917, feeding wild animals was a waste of food. 

The DORA legislation was amended six times during the war, to increase social control, help prevent invasion and keep morale high. Curfews were introduced and their was censorship of letters and newspapers. Germans living in the City could be interned. Pubs shut at 11pm for the first time, and 'treating' or buying your friends a round of drinks was banned. New factories were built with work canteens, wash rooms for women and even creches for children of working mothers. Exempted trades or reserved occupations were introduced. On 27th January, 1916, there was compulsory conscription of single men, aged between 18 and 41 years. Four months later, this conscription was extended to married men. In May 1916, clocks were brought forward for the first time, to maximise working daylight hours. 'Blackouts' were introduced in certain towns to protect against air raids. People were fined or faced imprisonment for breaking any one of hundreds of new regulations. In Hull, fines of 10 shilling and sixpence were imposed for breaching lighting restrictions, and £5 fines were not uncommon.


A compilation of recruitment postersDuring the First World War, propaganda was employed on a global scale. Unlike previous wars, this was the first total war, in which whole nations and not just professional armies were locked in mortal combat. This (and subsequent modern wars) required propaganda to mobilise hatred against the enemy; to convince the population of the justness of the cause; to enlist the active support and cooperation of neutral countries; and to strengthen the support of allies. Government's  tried hard to persuade people to think in a certain way. This is called propaganda. The British Govenment created 'The Ministry for Information' to produce propaganda. This was directed by the Canadian newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook and actively influenced public opinion towards the war, using posters, news articles, and new mediums, like cinema film. For example, posters were printed that made the army look exciting. Other posters told men it was their duty to join and they would feel proud if they did.Some posters even tried to make them feel guilty, saying that their children would be embarrassed if their father had done nothing in the war. The messages were simple; support your country, support your soldiers, support your family, enlist, contribute, work. Posters were colourful and caught the eye, they were also everywhere.Stories about bad things the Germans had done were also encouraged. The Government knew people would be angry and even frightened. Everyone would want Britain to win the war and make the Germans pay for the dreadful things they were supposed to have done. Many of the tales were untrue. The Germans told the same stories about the British. 


Access to the front was strictly controlled and journalists were frequently given stories and facts to publish by official press contacts; in the early years of the war, the British government for example, continually put a positive spin on the bad news from the front, casting every failed battle as a heroic last stand. To bolster public hatred against the enemy, both sides also turned to atrocity propaganda, spreading stories about rape, murder, and torture to ensure that the civilians at home continued to call for war against the “savage Huns” or “British dogs”. As the war dragged on, civilians and soldiers became increasingly distrustful of official news and the use of propaganda became subtler and more refined. By the end of the war, winning hearts and minds was just as important as winning a battle, and propaganda at a national scale became an essential prt of any military action.

Prices, Tax and Food Rationing  

In Hull, income tax increased as did the number of people paying it. Whilst wages improved, many goods were more expensive and became unaffordable. Income tax increased five times between 1914-1918 and was paid by twice as many people. It would never fall to pre-war levels againDuring the war, prices increased on all the basics: rent, fuel and clothing, as well as food. However, food prices increased most sharply and continously throughout the war, sometimes at an alarming rate. Food prices overall rose by 60%, sugar, eggs and meat prices increased by 400%. Food became a growing concern for people, not just the quantity, but the quality. There were no fridges or freezers to preserve food, all food was perishible, and therefore had to be brought fresh and daily. Food became increasingly scarce due to enemy attacks on shipping and a poor harvest in 1916. These shortages provoked frustration, food queues and hoarding. Parliament announced in 1916 that there were only six weeks of food left in the country. The Government limited the number of food courses that could be served at meals in resturants and hotels. In 1917 the havests also failed in France and Italy. Considerable supplies of food also had to bediverted to those countries. To prevent Britain being starved into submission, the Government built more merchant ships, developed the convoy system, set up the Women's Land Army and introduced allotments, to help increase food productionDespite appeals for people to cut down on food, potatoes, sugar, butter and margarine were in great demand and very scarce. Food rationing was introduced for the first time, in Britain, in February 1918. This started with sugar, and then restrictions on meat, butter, jam, and margerine. Cheese and tea were rationed locally. Ration coupons were issued to control rising food prices and share out limited food supplies fairly. Ration cards were issued and people registered with a local butcher or grocer. The weekly ration was set at 15 ounces of meat, five ounces of bacon and four ounces of butter or margarine. With rationing, food queues disappeared and everyone received a fair share. Prices kept high, but the threat of shortages was averted.null

The Government set up 363 'National Kitchens', including one in Hull, to feed people during World War One. These improved diets, cut down food waste and proved hugely popular. A bowl of soup, a joint of meat and a portion of side vegetables cost 6d - just over £1 in today's money. Puddings, scones and cakes could be bought for as little as 1d (about 18p). These self-service restaurants, run by local workers and partly funded by government grants, offered simple meals at subsidised prices. A 1918 'Scarborough Post' story about the national kitchen in Hull emphasised the ambition of the typical urban outlet: "The place has the appearance of being a prosperous confectionery and cafe business. The business done is enormous."






Armistice, Peace & Hull Street Parties.

Hull Citizens celebrated the end on the war on the 11th November 1918. The final 'Hull Pals' returned to the City on the 26th May 1919. Women and children in Hull celebrate the end of the war. (c) Hull Museums.Official 'Street Parties' were held across Hull on the 19th July 1919 to mark the official Peace. There were wild celebrations and relief that over four years of struggle were finally over. With this relief, there was also sorrow at the large loss of live. Hull alone had lost over 7,500 men in the war, with another 14,000 disabled from an estimeated 70,000, who had served in the forces. To aid the disabled and the families of the dead, Hull established it's own War Trust to raise money and by 1927, 1,040 recipients had received £74,000 between them. The war had affected everyone in some way, and the life for many could never be the same again.

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 Scarborough Street Peace Party above and Beeton Street Peace Party 1918 above right.

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Hawthorne Avenue Peace Party above 1918

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Marmaduke Street Peace Party 11th November 1918

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Wassand Street Peace Party 1918

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The Parrot Street Peace Party, (off Selby Street), Hull, 1918

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 Daltry Street Peace Pary 1918

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Housing and new Homes for Heroes

There was also severe shortage of housing in Hull. War time conditions had prevented new house building and allowed only the minimum of essential repairs. As a result, the general standard of housing in 1919 was well below that of 1914. It was estimated that in 1919, a total of 5,000 new houses were required in Hull, to meet the arrears over the period of the war. A further 2,578 were needed to rehouse people living in unhealthy areas, and another 200 to rehouse those living in individually, unfit houses, in different parts of Hull. The 1919 (Addison) Housing Act helped established Hull's first Housing Committee and made the Council the chief provider of new housing. As a start towards meeting this shortage of 7,778 houses, Hull City Council purchased three areas of land on the northern, western and eastern outskirts of the City to errect housing estates. These became known respectively as the Bricknell Avenue, Gipsyville and Preston Road estates and house building began in the 1920's. 

On most estates, houses were provided with a generous sized garden to encourage tenants to grow their own vegetables, a privet hedge at the front and an apple tree at the back. The interiors varied, some having a parlour, but all with a scullery and bath.  

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For most new tenants, these new conditions were a huge improvement on their previous slum housing, where they had experienced overcrowding and often were without even basic facilities. The quality of the new housing was generally high. Although some slum clearance took place during the 1920s, much of the emphasis of this period, was to provide new general needs housing, on greenfield sites. The new houses had electricity, inside toilets, fitted baths and front and back gardens. The Council had strict rules for new tenants on housework, house and garden maintenance, children’s behaviour and the keeping of pets.

The 1919 Housing Act, made housing a national responsibility, and local authorities were given the task of developing new housing and rented accommodation where it was needed by working people. The 1919 Housing (Addison) Act (named after Dr. Christopher Addison, the Health Minister) was passed initially as a temporary measure to help meet housing need, when private builders could not meet the demand. It was generally assumed that the private sector would resume responsibility for working class housing once the British economy had recovered. The 1919 Act provided 213,000 new Council homes across the country. Although insufficient to meet the National need, it was a marked increase on the 24,000 'social' homes that existed in 1914. 

Godfrey Mitchell, a demobbed Royal Engineer Officer, that had served in France, acquired the Wimpey Home Construction business and built many private homes in Hull during the 1930's. The Woolwich Building Society lent 90% mortgages and allowed people for the first time to buy their homes. After the war, a typical 3 bed semi-detatched house sold for between £540-£740.  Buyers needed a 5% deposit, with repayments at around 26 shillings a week and buyers were given a Government subsidy of £50 as a further incentive. Most of Hull''s new council estates, provided good quality housing for the better off, working classes, but did not provide a solution for the poorer people in society. Rents were relatively high and subletting was forbidden, so naturally the tenants in the best position to pay were selected. High rents sometimes meant difficulty in paying, as more applicants from unskilled occupations were housed.  

The Short Lived Planning Legacy of WW1 -

Hull before 1914

No automatic alt text available.Hull is located on the Humber Estuary, on the East coast of England. The Humber estuary links the rivers of Yorkshire and the East Midlands with the North Sea. Hull grew as a settlement in the middle ages, where the River Hull joins the Humber. Hull then developed as a port through which wool, from its surrounding area, was exported to northern Europe, and through which the raw materials of the Baltic region - principally timber - were imported into England. Sea-going ships anchored in the mouth of the Hull to transfer cargo to and from smaller vessels which could sail up the rivers to Beverley, Nottingham, Knottingley, Selby and York. In 1293, King Edward I, bought the port to use as a supply base for his military campaigns in Scotland. In 1299, the king founded the borough of Kingston-upon-Hull on the site, and this name is still the formal title of the city. Hull continued to be an important port in the later middle ages. It exported lead and grain as well as wool. Imports included cloth from the Netherlands, iron-ore from Sweden, oil seed from the Baltic and timber from Riga and Norway. Timber and oil seed continue to be major imports through the port of Hull to the present day. No automatic alt text available.

Some Hull merchants grew very rich. The De La Pole family became wealthy enough to join the ranks of the English aristocracy, and for one brief period in the 1400s, become heirs to the throne. From a town founded in the 12th Century, Hull became one of the new County Boroughs in 1888, a City in 1897 and one of Britain's greatest ports. Hull was probably at its most prosperous at the start of the First World War. This was reflected in the restoration of Holy Trinity church in 1907, the building of Hull City Hall in 1909, and the Municipal Guildhall between 1904 -1916. While Hull's whaling industry, declined in the 1860's, it was soon replaced by a booming fishing and ship building industry. This period of great prosperity was enhanced by the discovery of the fish rich, 'silver pits' in the North Sea and new fishing methods, such as the 'trawl'. The development of steam powered trawlers, also enabled Hull fishermen to fish as far a field as Iceland and the White Sea. Many other Hull industries developed in the 19th Century, using imported raw materials, through its ports. These included corn milling, seed crushing, paint making and cotton weaving.

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The Hull and Barnsley Railway ilne carried coal from Cudworth colliery to Hull Cannon Street, via The Wolds .

Hull: The Growing City

From 1800 -1900, Hull's population increased ten times from 22,000 in 1801, to over 290,000 by 1914. New industries grew around imported commodities, such as timber, wheat, soya beans and seeds for the oil crushing industries.
From 1887, with the establishment of the purpose built St Andrews Fish Dock, on Hessle Road, Hull became the biggest fishing port in the British Empire and provided food and materials for a third of Britain. 

On the 26th June 1914 King George V opened the 'King George Dock', which completed the port complex and confirmed Hull as the third largest port in England, surpassed only by Liverpool and London. some of Hull's largest employers were:-

  • - Needlers Ltd: (founded by Fred Needler in 1902, as a large sweet manufacturer) The Needler's sweet factory, employed 1,700 workers, mostly women, to make confectionaries and 'Military Mints' for soldiers at the front.
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  • - Fenner's: (founded by Joseph Henry Fenner in 1861, as a manufacturer of leather belting at Bishop Lane, Hull.)
  • - Rank Hovis McDougal
  • Image may contain: sky, bridge and outdoor(founded by Joseph Rank in 1875. He built a mechanically-driven flour mill in Hull in 1885, becoming one of the largest flour producers in the world.) Joseph Rank Ltd, of Clarence Street, employed nearly 3,000 women in flour production during the war, and Joseph Rank himself was asked to join the Wheat Control Board due to National food shortages.
  • Image may contain: sky, outdoor and waterReckitt & Sons(Reckitt's founded by Isaac Reckitt in Hull in 1840. He became a major producer of health, hygiene and home products, and after his death in 1862, the business passed to his three sons.) The company had three factory sites at Dansom Lane, Morely street and Stoneferry Road. Reckitts expanded at the outbreak of the war by buying two German companies based in England - Rawlins & Son and the Global Metal Polish Company. They employed 4,761 in 1915, which rose 5,609 in 1917. By the Armistice 1,100 Reckitts employees were serving in the armed forces and 153 had lost their lives. Being Quakers, Reckitt's factories, produced non combative war goods, such as cleaning materials, gas masks, and petrol cans.
  • Smith & Nephew: (founded in Hull by Thomas James Smith in
    • 1856 and continued by his nephew, Horatio Smith in 1896, produced multi national medical equipment.) Smith & Nephews', based at Neptune Street in Hull, grew from 50 to 1,200 employees, and supplied field dressings and surgical equipment for the Allies, throughout the war. One particular order, for the French Government, in October 1914, was worth £350,000 (£108 million), and was delivered in just 5 months. 
    No automatic alt text available.Every British soldier carried two field dressings, and with the millions of casualties caused, no doubt Hull helped save many lives.
  • - Wilson Shipping Line: (Founded by Thomas Wilson Sons & Co in 1840, the company operated a relatively large fleet, and was a leading Maritime interest at the time. The Company expanded in 1900 by buying Hull's Earles ship yard in 1900 for a sum of £170,000. It built steamships, yachts, war ships and 'knock down' ships which could be reassembled abroad. It provided vessels for many other British shipping firms, especially those operating on North Sea routes, such as the Great Eastern Railway and the Hull & Netherlands Steamship Company. The Wilson Line, Hull's largest merchant shipping company, was badly affected by the First World War. It had lost 15 of its 79 ships by 1916, and by the end of the war, over 40 of its 84 vessels and some 300 crew members had been lost in the war. It was eventually sold in 1916 after the loss of three of its largest and most prestigious vessels to enemy action ("Aaro" and "Calypso" sunk ; and the "Eskimo" captured).
  • - Fishing Companies. Hull was the home of the great boxer Fleets, such as the Gamecock, Great Northern and the Red Cross Fleets, to the companies of Pickering & Haldane Steam Trawling Co, Kelsall Brothers & Beeching, F&T Ross, Hudson Brothers, Hamlyns, Marrs, Boyd Line, Lord Line and Hellyers. From the early 1840`s, fishermen, boys and vessels came from all corners of the UK to fish from Hull. The Devon Smacks from Brixham and Plymouth, the South East coast smacks of Ramsgate and Gt Yarmouth, to the North East coast smacks from Scarborough and Shields. 
  • - Blundell, Spence & Co: The ready supply of oil from the seed-crushing industry led to paint manufacturing becoming a major industry in Hull in the 19th Century. Blundell's Paint Works was founded in 1811 as a partnership between former Hull city councillor and Lord Mayor Henry Blundell and his brother-in-law William Spence. The company, Blundell and Spence, manufactured paint in a factory on the corner of Spring Bank and Beverley Road. Still referred to as Blundell's Corner, this site was once occupied by the Hull Daily Mail. It was one of the leading paint manufacturers and largest employer in Hull. The company was one of the first to introduce a profit sharing scheme for workers. It created new colours, such as 'Brunswick Green' and 'Hull Red' which was used to paint the keels of ships.
  • - Earle's Cement Company: Brothers George &Thomas Earle established their cement company at Neptune Street, in Hull in 1821. By 1866 it had expanded and moved to a 10 acre site in Wilmington area of East Hull. It served as a significant employer, providing work for several hundred people and by the end of the 19th century it had become one of the premier cement manufacturers in the country. Although it amalgamated in 1912 with other cement companies to form the British Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd., it retained its identity through the marketing of its Pelican brand cement up until 1966, when it subsequently became the Blue Circle Group, which is now part of the Lafarge Cement Company. 

Rose Downs & Thompson Ltd, Hull

- Rose Downs and Thompson, based at Cannon Street, Hull, was established in 1777. They invented the Anglo American Presses, which could press large numbers of oil cakes, and in 1870, they became the principal British firm for making oil mill machinery. Most of their customers were the seed-crushing firms. In the 1880s the company diversified into winches, grab cranes and other pieces of steam machinery for trawl fishing. This move helped them survive a period of debt in the 1880s and their financial position improved in the 1890s. They became well established engineers, ironfounders and manufacturers of oil mill and hydraulic machinery.

In 1910, the firm expanded, buying a gear wheel firm in Leeds and opening branch offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong. In 1914, they were Engineers, Iron Founders and Boiler Makers. They still specialised in Oil Mill machinery, made the Kingston Dredger and employed some 350 people. In 1916, John Campbell Thompson, the chairman, died, but not before the company had converted to munitions making to help with the war effort. By October 1918, Rose, Downs and Thompson, employed 938 workers including 359 women (3 under 18 year old girls)  with 212 employees leaving for war service.

Other Trades and Industry There were some 115 major factories in Hull. Of these, 25 were involved in seed crushing and oil cake manufacture, eight in oil extracting and refining, 11 in paint and colour making, three in the manufacture of soap and two in the production of margarine. Grain warehousing was carried out in 10 factories and there were six flour mills. The fishing industry accounted for three premises for cod liver oil extraction and two factories produced fish manure. There were 13 saw mills, four ship yards and six marine and mill engineering works. Other large factories were engaged in the manufacture of starch, blue and black lead (6); tar distilling (2); the making of tin cannisters and paint drums (4); tanning and leather production (3); canvas and sack making (1); and sweets and confectionary (1). In addition to these larger factories, a total of 1,169 workshops were registered with the City Council. The trades with the largest number of workshops were bakers (83), boot repairers (77), cabinet makers (24), coopers (39), cycle repairers (49), dressmakers (118), fish curers (62), tinsmiths (20) and watch and clock makers (27). The largest number of employees in these workshops was in the fish curing trade (407 men and 535 women), with dressmaking second (10 men and 849 women) and tailoring (271 men and 326 women) coming third. Approximately, 700 men and women were employed as outworkers, the vast majority of people being engaged in bespoke tailoring and the making of fish nets. The above details reflect the many facets of life in Hull, suits and dresses made to measure, leather boots and shoes which could be repaired, craftsman-made furniture etc. The number of bicycle repairers also indicated the large number of cycles used in the city, and it was said that only Coventry could match Hull for its number of cyclists. By 1919, there were at least 30 premises in Hull still involved in 'dirty' processes, such as tripe boiling (6), cod liver boiling (5), gut scraping (3), fish manure production (3), tanning (3), fat and candle melting (2), soap boiling (2), bone boiling (2). Hull had expanded massively in the 19th and 20th Century, and by 1914, began to look like a modern city. However, although Hull was prosperous, many of its citizens were not, and the City's population remained relatively poor. Hull's wealthy families were relatively small in number, compared to Liverpool, Bristol or London, and these families increasingly moved away from Hull, to live in style, outside the City.No automatic alt text available.

Grace's Guide to Industrial British History (Grace's Guide Ltd is a charity (No.1154342) for the advancement of education of the history of Industry and Engineering in the UK.)


Poverty and Hardship

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Sculcoates Union Work House

Hull was characterised by dock related work which was temporary and low paid. Over 35% of the population had jobs, such as unloading ships; quayside activities; warehousing and shipyard engineering. 

Many were unskilled casual workers, often out of work in winter, due to Hull's trade with the frozen, Baltic Ports. In 1884 it was estimated that 1,000 Hull families were starving in East Hull, resulting in the premature death of many children. The construction of Albert Dock stopped in 1885 because the Hull & Barnsley Railway Company ran out of money. This put 5,000 men, mostly 'navies' out of work. Weddings declined, which is usually an indication of hard times, and there were some terrible winters in Hull, which compounded the misery of the poor.

Increasing Population & Overcrowding


Hull's population increased rapidly - from an estimated 22,000 people in 1801, to 119,500 in 1870. This rose to 186,292 people in 1885 and then 291,118 in 1914. The growing population and increasing competition for work, led to increased poverty for many local residents. Overcrowding was rife. 

For example, in 1909, Hull's Medical Officer, reported that 303 houses registered with the Authority in Hull, provided accommodation for 3,557 persons, and not all this accommodation was occupied. While many new people were arriving in Hull, others left the City and moved abroad. From 1900 onwards, one in twenty British citizens emigrated to the colonies for a better life. In 1912 alone, 300,000 people left Britain, with the majority moving to the United States, Australia and Canada. Conditions were even worse in the surrounding countryside and many agricultural workers, who could afford to, moved to Hull in the hope of a better life. 

The influx of this workforce was added to by emigrants from Ireland and the Continent. A plaque in Hull's Paragon Railway station, commemorates more than 2.2 million people who passed through Hull on their way to America, Canada and South Africa. Over 1,000 emigrants arrived in Hull every day and many decided to stay. The 1891 Census shows 906 German residents living in Hull, many of them pork butchers. The long standing and vibrant Jewish community in Hull was greatly increased by Jews fleeing religious persecution in Russia in 1881.

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Strickland Street Children, Hessle Road

Poor Housing was one of the major health problems facing the City. In 1914, over 90% of Hull people rented their homes from private landlords and the standard of accommodation was squalid. Many houses were errected with speed on ill-prepared sites to meet the urgent demand for accommodation from a rapidly increasing population. There was almost no accommodation specificaaly for the elderly, or adapted housing for the disabled and very few homes solely for women. Over 80% of the estimated 66,090 houses in Hull, were of the 'working class' type, that is, they were let at a rental not exceeding £26 per year. A typical "sham" four roomed house, consisting of a living room, scullery, two bedrooms and bath, but without hot water, was rented in 1914, at five shillings and sixpence per week clear. 

There were some 21,800 'Terrace' type houses deemed unsatisfactory. Many of them were in the older working class neighbourhoods, and were four or five roomed houses, built in terraces. They led off from the main streets, with between ten to thirty houses in each terrace. They were built at a density of about 60 houses to the acre, compared with an average of 7 to the acre, for the City as a whole. The structural conditions within this group of houses varied considerably. Many had rear external walls, of only four and half inches thickness, whilst a very large number were congested at the rear and had no secondary means of access. There were also about, 2,800 slum houses which were old, poor in structure, had similarly thin walls, and mostly were without a damp-proof course. They were situated generally in narrow 'courts', in congested districts and were without adequate light and ventilation. The only water tap was usually located in the area of the court and was shared by all the court inhabitants. The sanitary conveniences were also located within the court area and in many cases had to be shared by the occupants of more than one house. There were about 500 houses in Hull which backed on to factories, and therefore had no through ventilation. By 1919, it was estimated that a total of 5,000 new houses were required to meet the arrears which had accumulated during the war years. A further 2,578 were needed  to rehouse people living in unhealthy areas and another 200, to rehouse those living in individually unfit houses, in different parts of the City. There were a large number of insanitary cellar dwellings and kitchens. Filth and dirt, was rife and not only infected living conditions, but transmitted illnesses, far beyond their location, through the agency of flies, water supplies and defective drainage. The collection of dry refuse by Hull Corporation did not begin until 1901 and the building of indoor water closets did not start until 1903. By 1912, only 9,881 or 15% of Hull homes had inside toilets. Many houses lacked a rear entrance and occupants had to carry their 'night soil' out through the dwelling. By the outbreak of war, there were approximately 300 registered Lodging Houses. These included the Dockers' Home in Trippett Street, which could accommodate 77 men, in separate 'cubicles', and the Salvation Army Lodging House, in Chapel Lane, with bedrooms for up  to 130 men. The largest lodging house was Victoria Mansions, in Great Passage Street, which provided separate 'cubicles' for 494 working men and had a restaurant and barber's shop within the building. Some 597 canal boats were also registered as family accommodation. Over 740 homes were recorded as keeping up to 2,850 pigs. The many docks and ships moored in the City Centre at Queens Gardens, meant many Hull houses were plagued by rats and vermin. Few properties had electricity and the smoke from domestic chimneys, factories and coal fired ships polluted the atmosphere. The lack of natural sunlight produced a serious vitamin 'D' defficiency in the general population. While Hull had an overcrowded City Centre, the worst living conditions were to be found in Hull's dock area. Many working class families were crammed into poorly built court houses, often 12 people to a house and different families sharing the same room. These 'homes' were old, damp, with insufficient light and ventilation, without back ways and crowded together. 

They were uncomfortably hot in summer, bitterly cold in winter and had no direct water supply. Toilets were inadequate and had to be shared by households in the same street. Rubbish stagnated in unpaved streets. The Eastern Daily News published a report in 1883, which compared the streets off Hessle Road, with the 'foulest slums in Constantinople'. It reported houses "had no furniture and everywhere animals and humans lived together, with sewage flowing from outdoor privies and forming pools in the street."


Severe overcrowding and squalid living conditions put Hull's health at great risk. Outbreaks of diseases, such as small pox, typhus fever, diphtheria and tuberculosis were common. Some, like the Cholera epidemic in Hull in the summer of 1849, lasted 3 months and killed 1,860 out of a population approaching 81,000. Of those who died, 1,738 were recorded as belonging to the 'labouring classes' and 40% from the Hessle Road area. By the close of 1871, 23% of Hull children died before the age of one, and 45% died before the age of 12. By 1914, 121 out of the registered 960 Hull births still ended in infant mortality - a rate of 12%. Most children were artificially fed and did not attend infant welfare clinics. They invariably died of diarrhoea, and of 'rickets', a disease characterised by poor nutrition, with a softening and deformation of bones. Infant mortality was largely related to improper feeding, poor education, ignorance, negligence and indifference on the part of their guardians. The outbreak of war in 1914 interfered not only with the development of the school health service in Hull, but also with the expansion of services for infants and the pre-school child.


Hull's economic and social problems were often compounded by local corruption. In an age when 'laissez faire' was worshipped in society, it was difficult to expect high standards in public office. Town Councilors were mostly businessmen and amongst some of the worst speculative builders and slum landlords. They probably saw no evil in protecting their business interests and using their special knowledge of the City to make a profit.  Thus improvements made at public expense, such as parks, often resulted in higher property rentals and a better environment for them to live in. Even the Police which had been formed in Hull in 1836, were not beyond reproach. Drinking on duty was common and many police officers were frequently charged, with "being helpless with drink while on duty." In 1885, the Chief Constable of Hull was 'caught' with a young prostitute, and forced to resign. He later emigrated to Australia. Crime, lawlessness and prostitution were common in all areas of the town centre. Dog fights were held every Saturday at Stepney Lane, off Beverley Road, which the Police thought better not to interfere with. From 11am, Paragon Street was a "parade of prostitutes, the numbers increasing all day until the night brought drunken fights." Bookmakers openly took bets on Drypool Green.

The Age of Improvement

Hull City Council initiatived many of the improvements to the welfare of its citizens during the Nineteenth Century. 

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Better Housing: New streets were laid out in the 1860's and new terraced housing built from the 1870's onwards. In 1891, the number of houses in Hull was 49,387, which increased to 53,398 houses in 1895, and 60,237 homes in 1906. This eased overcrowding, as Hull's population grew from 186,292 in 1885, to 291,118 by 1914. Between 1899 to1906, the Council demolished 604 unfit houses and structurally altered another 71 to make them habitable. In 1903, 200 houses were cleansed and 'lime washed' and a halt was made on cellar dwellings. The first Council Houses' were built at Upper Union Street in 1904. In 1908, Reckitt's opened Hull's first Garden Village, which by 1913, included 600 houses, built in five sizes, in twelve different styles, and with streets named after trees and shrubsFacilities included a shopping centre, club house, a hostel for female workers, as well as several almshouses.

Public Parks: The first public park in Hull was Beverley Park, which opened in 1860. West Park opened in 1885. The Council provided work for the unemployed in the form of the construction of East Park.  However, workers were so weak, that they collapsed and had to be replaced by labourers' from the East Riding. Local benefactors also funded four parks, including Pickering and Pearson Park.  (photo of East Park, built by the Council using  the Unemployed)No automatic alt text available.Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

Hull Fair above

Learning and Education: A School of Art was opened in Hull in 1861. A Technical School followed it in 1894 and Hull Central Library also opened in 1894. Thomas Ferens provided an art gallery and sponsored local libraries. By 1897 there were 33 Council schools within the City. In 1914, it was only compulsory to attend school until the age of 12. Many children left school early to work and support their families. Only 6% of children remained at school over the age of 16.

Improved Public Health: The Council founded the 'Victoria Hospital for Sick Children' on Park Street in 1873, a pre-school 'Child Health Service', and also a 'Health Clinic', in Jameson Street. No automatic alt text available.A Maternity Hospital was built on Hedon Road in 1887, and the Castle Hill hospital was established in 1911. Mrs Edwin Robson opened a Maternity hospital, at 569 Holderness Road in 1912. A four storey, 240 bed, Naval Hospital was also completed on Argyll Street in 1914. (It still stands today behind Hull Royal Infirmary.) Mother and Infant Welfare Clinics were opened between1915 -19, based at 14 Kingston Square, 70 Dansom Lane, Clarendon House, on Spring Bank and 69 Coltman Street. Hull's improving health also owes much to the pioneering work of Doctor, Mary Murdoch, and her assistant Doctor, Louisa Martindale, who shared a practice at Grosvenor House, located at 120 Beverley Road. Both women shared a crusade to improve women's lives in Hull and also started a women's suffrage society, holding committee meetings in their house, which attracted 200 attendees. In 1904, Mary Murdoch, became founding president of Hull's NUWSS (National Union of Women's Suffrage Society), attracting hundreds of members and forming branches in nearby towns. Mary often acted as NUWSS branch delegate during out of town trips, such as when they visited London to present a petition to the House of Commons. Louisa eventually returned to her home in Brighton, but Mary continued to be an inspiration to local women, even driving voters to the polls in her open top carriage during the local by-election of 1907, decorated with the red, white and green colours of the suffrage movement. In 1910, Mary Murdoch became Hull's first female GP Doctor, a remarkable achievement at the time. She served as the Senior Physician at the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children, where she worked from 1892, until her death. She also became involved in several public campaigns including working to improve the appalling living conditions in the city. When war broke out in 1914, Doctor Murdoch dedicated herself to helping the sick and injured, but sadly died in 1916 after a fall in the snow visiting one of her many patients. (photos of Dr Mary Murdoch & a memorial plaque)Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoor

New Council Services:  Street widening, better drainage, public baths and laundries reduced the spread of infectious diseases. The water supply from the River Hull was abandoned and clean water supplies from Cottingham and Spring Head were established into the City. An electricity generating station was built in 1893 to provide some street lighting. A volunteer Fire Brigade was also formed from 1887. The Council began Public refuse collection in 1901. It established street cleaning, street lighting; water filtration, and food and public Health inspections to improve general living conditions. The Council opened cemeteries, and built the Hull Crematorium on 2nd January 1901. This was the first municipal crematorium in Britain. The Council also operated two Workhouses and a number of orphanages to provide some relief to the poor and disadvantaged.

Image may contain: 12 peopleSport, Clubs and Entertainment: Societies and clubs began to emerge to provide recreation and education. The Young Peoples' Institue (YPI) was established in 1860, at 36 George Street, to promote the"intellectual, moral and religious improvement of young people."  700 members enrolled in its first year and it expanded in 1891 by  purchasing 1 & 3 Charlotte Street. The Hull Boy's Club was established in Roper Street, on the 18th November 1902, to promote sport and "train youth to be good and useful citizens". It was a centre for boxing. By 1891, Hull had 15 bicycle dealers to support a growing number of weekend cyclists. There were street bands, and the Police band performed concerts in the parks. One park concert by the Artillery band attracted ten thousand people. The Hedon racecourse was opened in Preston. New swimming baths were opened in 1885, 1898 and 1905. By 1914 there were 29 Cinemas and Halls showing films in the city. Hull also had many pubs and beer was cheap, about two pence a pint, which proved a huge attraction for working men.  Hull has always been a great sporting city. Both of Hull's professional rugby league clubs and football team were well established before the First World War. Hull Football Club, formed in 1865, by ex public school boys from York, became one of the founding members of the Northern Rugby Football Union formed in 1895. No automatic alt text available.Hull Kingston Rovers rugby team began in 1882, as Kingston Amateurs. They were made up of  young boiler makers form the West Hull shipping industry and originally played rugby at Gillett Street, off Hessle Road.  The Hull City Association Football Club was formed in June 1904 and played their first football matches at the 'Boulevard' the home of Hull FC. Hull Cricket Club was founded in 1875 and the Zingari Cricket club in 1896. Both cricket clubs remain today, literally across the road from each other, on Chanterlands Avenue, Hull. There were also many running Clubs operating in Hull at the time. These included the East Hull Harriers, Speedwell Harriers, Central Harriers, Hull Harriers, St Marks Harriers, and Stepney Harriers. Some of the Clubs even staged runs on Thursday afternoons to cater for shop workers who were off work on half day closing. The Hull Kingston Swimming Club was formed on 5th August 1886 as an amateur club for men. Its motto was ‘Kingston First’. It grew at an astonishing rate with more than 200 members being enrolled in its first year. (It was at this Hull club, that one of it's famous Olympians, Jack Hale, invented the 'Dolphin Method' or butterfly stroke.) Such is the City's keeness for sports, Hull formed its own 'Pals battalion, the 12th East Yorkshires, known as the Hull Sportsmen's battalion. During the course of the war, the 12th EYR, lost 366 men, with 138 of them killed on one day, at the Battle of Ancre, on the 13th November 1916. Jack Cunningham won Hull's first Victoria Cross, with the 12th Sportsman Battalion on this day.

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Beverley Road Baths


Employment Opportunities: There was growth in seed crushing mills along the River Hull. Local companies like Reckitts started to take a paternal interest in its workers, providing pensions, and profit sharing schemes. Reckitts built the 'Garden Village' housing scheme in East Hull in 1908. The building of the Hull and Barnsley railway line in 1885, opened up the massed markets of the Yorkshire hinterland, Lancashire, the Midlands and beyond. By 1914, Hull was Britain's third largest port in terms of tradeand Britain's biggest fishing port. Hull was also a major passenger port, with over 2 million people passing through the city to America and beyond.
Transport:  Image may contain: sky and outdoorThe Council established an electric tram system in 1899, following the five main roads in Hull. Two of these lines went west, and two east. The fifth went to the north, and branched to include extra lines serving suburban areas. Three tram depots were established at Hessle Road (near Regent Street), Temple Street and Jesmond Gardens. By 1914, there were 180 trams, operating along 20 miles of track throughout Hull. Trams allowed people to move quickly, safely and cheaply away from their work place, and this spread new housing and wealth along the main roads into the city. Large houses were built along Hessle Road, Beverley Road, Spring Bank, Holderness Road and Cottingham Road.  

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Communications: Hull's telephone system, which opened in 1880, and purchased by the Council in 1906, became unique in the United Kingdom for having a Council owned telephone system, with its own cream coloured telephone boxes.

Civic Pride: A new City Centre, was planned and built, at the turn of the Century to improve the City's status. Hull attracted more wealth and visitors. Hull gained a new municipal boundary in 1885, and three Parliamentary constituencies, known as Hull East, West and Central. Hull became a County Borough in 1888 and was awarded City status in 1897 and the first Hull citizen became Lord Mayor in 1914. In 1903, the Royal Family visited Hull to open Victoria Square. In 1904 a memorial to the dead of the South African war was erected outside Paragon train station. Hull City Hall was built in 1909 and the Guildhall, on Alfred Gelder Street, as built between 1904 -1916. 

However, despite rapid progress and many improvements, Hull remained extensively poor with only a few pockets of affluence. This was typical of many British cities. In 1914, about 80% of the British people were defined as 'working class' and did not own any property. One percent of Britiain's richest people owned 70% of the wealth. The average weekly wage was only £1.40. Life expectancy for a wealthy man was 55 years. Most people in poorer parts of Cities were lucky to live beyond 30 years old. Women worked, mostly as maids, cooks and servants, and did not have the vote. There were no female Members of Parliament and only half of men could vote. The fishing industry in Hull, which employed large numbers, was a tough life for those who sailed. It was also grindingly hard for the men and women who made nets, gutted fish, washed the quays and worked on the docks. Hull was tied to the sea and when the catch was poor, or trade fell, livelihoods were badly affected. The First World War was particularly hard on Hull. When the war started, Hull's direct trade with Germany fell by 12% and removed job prospects in Hull almost immediately. For many, joining the armed services offered a uniform, regular meals and wages. The 'King's Shilling' given to all those who enlisted, was not just an attractive option, but an only option.


1. Poverty in Great Britain shortly before the First World War. Children photographed barefoot outside their home in a slum area of a British town. 2.Wealth in Britain before the First World War. The annual summer regatta at Henley on the River Thames shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. 3. Racegoers at Royal Ascot before the First World war. 4. A woman mending sacks in the room.

Housing Pictures above include Posterngate, Osbourne Street and Pease Street, courtesy of  Shane Jessop and the Francis Firth Collection.

Statistics from 'A Plague on You Sir!' A Community's Road to Health', compiled by George Patrick DPA, FHA. published in 1981, with the aid of grants from Hull City Council and the Sir Philip Reckitt Educational Trust.