The Health Department collection (reference L THP) consists of over 1,700 photographs, which provide a window into housing and living conditions in Hull from the late Victorian to the interwar period. The tightly packed, dense, terraced and courtyard housing shown in the photographs, almost all with little light and almost no sanitation, were eventually demolished. It wasn’t until the eve of the First World War, and the immediate years after, that serious attempts were made to improve the living conditions for many of Hull’s inhabitants.
Most of the properties shown in these photographs were built in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and some, especially in the Old Town, even earlier. The photographs themselves date from the 1880s to the 1930s.
The main part of the collection consists of photographs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century working class housing which was ordered to be improved or demolished under the various Housing of the Working Classes Acts. The collection also contains photographs of services such as early schools, clinics, and domiciliary welfare services.
Many of these images have been published in the Forgotten Hull Series of books which are available in the library area (reference L.779). Lending copies are available. All you need is a Hull Libraries card.
A small number of photographs (L THP/1681-1689) appear to show damage sustained to trawlers which are moored in St. Andrew’s Dock, and include what appear to be bullet, shell and shrapnel damage. These photographs may show the aftermath of the Dogger Bank Incident, better known as the Russian Outrage, when the Baltic Fleet of the Imperial Russian Navy mistook a trawler fleet from Hull in the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea for Imperial Japanese Navy torpedo boats and fired upon them.
Overall, the collection is an important source for the study of streets, courts and terraces of Hull which were subsequently demolished.
How to search
The online catalogue can be searched by street, terrace, or name of court. Streets not identified are listed as "unknown" but in most cases a description of the photograph is included.
A hardcopy list of streets and properties is available. This is in alphabetical order and available to view at the History Centre Enquiry Desk.
Trade Directories (1781-1968) list individuals, business and premises that sell services, such as traders and professionals.
Ordnance Survey maps (1853-present day) offer a detailed view of Hull showing streets, entries, courts, and terraces, including property numbers on post-war Ordnance Survey maps.
Plans of Unhealthy Dwellings (c.1895-1955) can be found at C THU, showing street, court and terrace housing which were later demolished.
A later series of Health Department photographs are available at C THD.3. These relate to later clearances from 1960 to the 1980s and can be viewed in the search room.
Information relating to unhealthy dwellings may also be found in the Council Minutes (C TCM), available in the search room, and in newspapers which can be viewed on microfilm in the library area.