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Hullwebs History of Hull


Turner Court



Housing conditions in mid-nineteenth century Hull, as in most cities, were grim. There were rows of jerry-built, back-to-back terraces and crowded tenements, with no sanitation and no privacy. It was left to charities to improve matters. One such charity was the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes, which had Lord Shaftesbury as its chairman.

Dwellings for the Industrial Classes

Two ladies enabled the building of model dwellings in the city. Miss Broadley gave land on the corner of Midland Street and St Luke's Street, near St Luke's Church. Miss Turner gave the money for the building work. The Society's accounts for 1859 show £5,225:

...the gift of Miss Turner, to be laid out in the erection of Model Lodging-houses in Hull, inclusive of Interest accrued.

The foundation stone was laid on February 25th 1862. Lord Shaftesbury had agreed to perform the ceremony, and the foundation stone had already been inscribed to that effect; but his wife's illness prevented his attendance, so the Lord Mayor stepped in.

The procession formed at the Railway Station Hotel and made its way to the site, where a religious service was held, led by the choir of Holy Trinity Church. Long speeches were faithfully reported in the local press. After laying the foundation stone the Lord Mayor said, “it was their duty, as Christian men, to take care to ameliorate the condition of their poorer fellow-men, and one means of doing this was to provide them with suitable and proper dwellings”. After the ceremonies the procession returned to the Station Hotel for a luncheon and more speeches. The Lord Mayor said that he hoped that “the working classes would be induced by the improved housing conditions to spend their leisure hours at home and so be withdrawn from the evil influences of the ale-houses and public taverns.”

There is now no trace of the foundation stone which was laid that day. Perhaps it was removed because it referred, wrongly, to Lord Shaftesbury's presence.

The Model Dwellings were designed by the architect H. M. Eyton of London. There were 32 flats; 5 one-bedroomed, 19 two-bed roomed and 8 three-bedroomed. Each was to have a scullery and “other necessary conveniences”. An indoor lavatory was then considerable luxury. The building was to be two storeys high, except for the centre portion, which had three storeys. It was to be built of white brick, with bands and cornices of red brick. The cost was to be £3,435.

The 1871 census shows that in that year 31 of the 32 flats were occupied. A total of 142 people lived there, only two occupying a flat to themselves. In flat no. 8, identical to the two-bedroomed flat shown in the illustration from the original architect's drawings above,lived the largest family, the Adams – all twelve of them! James, a book-finisher, was married to Mary Ann. Both were 38. They had 9 children, ranging in age from 20 to 3.The eldest three were working. Also living there was their grand-daughter Emily, aged two months – presumably the daughter of the 20-year-old unmarried Elizabeth Ann, a laundress. In no. 17 Richard Crackles, married but without a wife in evidence, had given a home to his sister Betsy, her sailor husband and their 7 month old daughter. In no. 21 Mary Cundill, a 48 year old widow, lived with her 5 children, aged from 19 to 8, and her own two sisters, one single, the other a widow. All the household were in work except for the 8 year old. There was a tangled family in no. 30. Ann Plumtree, a widowed housekeeper, was living with her daughter and son-in-law (a fisherman), and her own 11 year old nephew. In no. 31 lived a couple who had both brought children of previous marriages to form a new family. Ann, aged 28, was born in Bootle and had a 7 year old daughter who was born in Shropshire. Her husband, 27 year old Robert Brown, was a commercial traveler who had been born like his 2 year old son, in Salford. Since coming to Hull the couple had had a son, Arthur, who was now six months old. Two of the families in the flats had taken in two lodgers apiece.

Turner Court 1994Of the 8 adults in the Model Dwellings, 40 were not born in Hull. Some of these were relatively local, from places like Swanland and Beverley, but some came from as far afield as Ireland, London, Newcastle and Pembroke; one woman had been born in Antwerp. This unusual degree of mobility probably reflected the fact that Hull was a busy port. However, only 18 people were in jobs directly connected with the sea or he port's trade. Other occupations listed included several connected with the building industry and several in printing and metal-working. There was also a watchmaker, a coach smith, a butcher, a railway porter, a tailor, a police constable, a billiard marker and several errand boys aged 12 or 13. Of the women in work, one was a milliner and all the rest were laundresses, dressmakers or seamstresses.

An extension was added to the Model Dwellings in 1900. It consisted of 12 two-bedroomed flats, on three floors.

The building eventually passed into the ownership of the City Council, and the William Sutton Trust bought the freehold in 1983. After conversion work there are now 40 flats with a total of 50 bedrooms– and considerably fewer people than the buildings were originally designed for.

Copyright © 2005 Ann Godden

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A very special thanks to Hull Local Studies Library for their help with our research projects.