Accommodation for emigrants in Hull
- REPORTS received by the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board relating to the Transit of SCANDINAVIAN EMIGRANTS, &c

This is the 3rd of 5 reports dealing with the conditions of Scandinavian emigrants traveling from Scandinavian ports on the Wilson Line ships, to the Port of Hull. This 3rd report is written by Thomas Gray, to the Board of Trade in England in 1882. This is a report about the accommodating situation for emigrants in Hull. The reports was provided by Debbie Beavis

- No. 3. -


Mr Thomas Gray's Report to the Board of Trade


The later report shows that the defects pointed out in the former have to a great extent been made good. It is clear that the comfort of these emigrants is more attended to now than it was before Captain Wilson's first inspection. These steamers do not come under the Passengers Acts, but under the fourth part of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854; and the Board of Trade have ample power to make new rules for fixing the number of passengers that may be carried. This point is receiving careful consideration in the department, so that in renewing the passenger certificates all objections that may then exist to present arrangements for the accommodation of passengers will be met and amply provided against. The rush is over for the present year.

I must not, however, omit to point out that the rate of fare for the whole voyage, from Gothenburg or Christiania to the United States, is low, and that it will be doing but poor service to these emigrants if by extra requirements on the part of the Board of Trade, the cost of their passage to the United States is raised.

I am informed that the cost to the emigrant of that section of the passage which is between Gothenburg or Christiania and Hull, and which is more especially under review at the present moment, is exactly 1L. 2s. and 6d., of which 1 L. goes to the shipowner for conveyance, and 2s. 6d. goes to the master of the ship for food. The sum of 1L for this short passage, when the emigrants are counted by hundreds, is really a very liberal payment; and although the accommodation afforded for the money is not of the sort that would satisfy an average English mechanic, still I am satisfied from inquiries I have made that it is quite equal to if not ahead of the wants and experiences of these emigrants.

They are certainly exceptionally well fed on board; they are also lodged in clean and well ventilated spaces on board; and fair provision is made as regards decency, and cleanliness, and light in the water-closets, and other accommodation in the ship. The question of separating the sexes is not easily settled. In fact the members of a family who have lived together at home, and have seen nothing indecent in so doing, cannot understand why they should be separated for this short journey across the sea; and they will not endure it, and often will go almost to mutiny and rebellion to prevent it. If the owners can arrange to separate the single men from the rest, and can enforce a rule to that extent, it will be an advance; and this we may reasonably look forward to next year. They certainly ought to be able to afford to do so, seeing the rate of fare.

The accommodation on board ship is however not the question that now needs attention so much as the want of accommodation for the great number of persons on shore who at certain seasons come into Hull, Liverpool, Queenstown and London. I find that at Hull on exceptional occasions, when large numbers have arrived by steamer, there has been difficulty. When the steamer arrives on the Sunday, arrangements are made for keeping the emigrants on board until the Monday morning. Notwithstanding this I am told that a good many do land on the Sunday and wander about, and that some do not find their way back to the ship for the night. The fact that they have the right to remain on board, and to be fed on board for the Sunday, ought to be made known to the emigrants. This can be done by the Board's officer at Hull. When, however, the time comes for the passengers to leave the steamer, of course they have to turn out an go ashore; and it has then been found, on occasions, that the numbers are so great that the Liverpool agents will not allow them to be sent to the port from Hull, owing to the ships at Liverpool being full or nearly full. So it has happened that these poor people, perhaps 600 or 700, have been in Hull, a great number of them, absolutely without sleeping accommodation, many sitting about on their boxes and things all night in the open. In fine weather in summer no harm comes of this, but when rain comes down, as it sometimes does at this time of the year, heavily, they are badly off. There are agents in Hull who are under "feeding" contract to give the emigrants one meal or more, according to necessity, before they leave Hull for Liverpool. These agents have accommodation for feeding the emigrants (in relays when the numbers are large), and I believe do their part of the work well, but they do not provide sleeping accommodation.

So that practically the grievance becomes fined down to the one point, that those persons who undertake to convey them, feed them and look after them, have not concerned themselves to find some covering or shelter under which these poor Scandinavian emigrants, often with very young children, can pass a wet night in Hull.

I have heard that an experiment is about to be tried by another line of steamers to convey emigrants from the north-west of Europe to Liverpool via Leith or some other north-eastern port. If this be so it will be interesting to note how the lodging difficulty will be met by the competition of other lines at other ports; but at Hull the difficulty is that sometimes for a year or more there is no rush, and unless there is a rush no extra sleeping accommodation is needed. It has not therefore appeared (to those who ought to be interested) necessary to provide against infrequent contingencies; and so it happens that when a rush does come, as has been the case six or seven times this year, and the emigrants have to wait over a day or a night in Hull, either because the Liverpool boats are full or because the railway company have not arranged for the running of extra trains, things are very bad.

There is something wrong in this wholesale bringing over of large numbers of passengers to the east coast of the United Kingdom, without first making ample provision to send them straight and at once to their ships on the west coast, or in London; and the remedy is probably to be sought in putting pressure on the steamship companies, whose agents issue the contract tickets to the emigrants, so that those companies may be induced to find accommodation for the passengers who have taken tickets by their boats for certain sailings, or to give the passengers an early intimation not to leave the continent if there is no room for them on the day fixed for sailing, or to make arrangements for putting on an extra steamer or two at certain stated periods expressly to meet this pressure. They are all in telegraphic communication, and have the knowledge and the means to meet contingencies.

It does so happen that the agents abroad for a particular line of steamers, may book to go by a favourite steamer of that line, a large number of passengers, which together with those booked elsewhere are more than sufficient to fill the steamer. Then arises a contention with the passengers on arrival at Hull; they think something is wrong, even if they are sent by another steamer of the same line, and more so if they are sent by a steamer of another line; and it has happened also that emigrants who have been sent from Hull to London, to go by the first steamer sailing from London, have insisted on being sent from there to Liverpool to go by a later steamer, so that they might go by a steamer of the line of which they are booked. All this might be got over by an alteration in the wording of the contract ticket, and will doubtless be put right by the next busy season.

While at Hull I instructed Captain Cowie, the Board's principal officer at Hull, and the emigration officer of the port, that he should in future see whether the Board's regulations as to passenger accommodation on board these ships are strictly observed, and should keep the Board informed from time to time of any irregularities, as well as of any complaints that may come to his knowledge.

I am, &c
(signed) Thomas Gray

Board of Trade, 1 July 1882

RETURN to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons dated 14 July 1882;- for,

COPY "of REPORTS received by the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board relating to the Transit of SCANDINAVIAN EMIGRANTS through the Port of Hull, and to the arrangements for Feeding and Lodging them while there".