The Voyage Main Page >>

Conditions for emigrants on the voyage from Christiania to Hull

- REPORTS received by the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board relating to the Transit of SCANDINAVIAN EMIGRANTS, &c
This is the first 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 first report is written by Charles P Wilson, Principal Officer at the Marine Department, Board of Trade in England. It is a report after he made a voyage on the S/S Angelo from Christiania to Hull in 1881 to observe the arrangements made for the conveyance of the emigrants. The reports was provided by Debbie Beavis

- No. 1. -


The Principal Officer, London, to the Board of Trade.

Board of Trade Surveyor's Office
St Katherine Dock House
Tower Hill, London, E., 28 September 1881


I have to report, for the information of the Board, that in accordance with your instructions I proceeded to Christiania, and on the 24th instant left that port in the S.S. "Angelo," with the view of observing the arrangements made for the conveyance of emigrants from Norway to America, via Hull, on the Wilson line of steamers.

On board the above-named vessel the emigrants were berthed in two different compartments, one forward, the other aft. The after compartment formed a portion of a long poop, and was at the extreme end of the vessel abaft the engine room. It is 47 feet long and 28 feet in mean breadth, and is, after making legal deductions, capable of carrying, according to the scale for space in the Passengers Act, 83 statute adults. The sleeping accommodation consists of two shelves on each side of the vessel running the entire length of the compartment; these shelves have no sub-divisions of any kind denoting the berthing space of each emigrant; they are f ft. 8 in. wide, and have a substantial board eight inches high at the outer edge, and a similar board against the iron frames of the ship's side, the vessel not being fitted with the usual cargo battens. The shelves are supported on thoroughly substantial iron stanchions with cross pieces between them and the ship's side, carrying the boards forming the shelf. The lower shelf is 15 inches above the deck; the interval between the shelves is 32 inches, and the upper shelf is 42 inches from the deck overhead.

The deck of this compartment was of iron, and the height between it and the deck overhead was 7 ft. 6 in. The compartment was well ventilated by the hatchway, 8 feet square, and by two cowl ventilators, one in the fore part and the other at the after extremity; it was also amply lighted by six scuttles on each side. There were two ladders, which came down the hatchway abreast of each other at an easy angle. They were good and substantial, and were fitted with hand rails and protected by large booby hatches on the weather deck; the ladders, however, were not lined at the back. Although the compartment was a large, cheerful, well lighted and ventilated space, the principal exception to be taken against it being the iron deck.

The compartment forward was a large 'tween deck, a portion of it, 60 feet long, or about one-half, being occupied by the emigrants. The fittings were substantially the same as those described above, but this compartment had a wooden deck.

The emigrants came on board at Christiania attended by the agent of the Atlantic line, by which they would subsequently cross to America.

These agents look out that their respective parties have ample space, and apparently group them on board the ship as much as possible together, the leading idea being to keep the families together. In all there were men, women, and children on board equal to 167 adult emigrants, and I may say at once that there was ample space for this number. They began to arrive between 2 and 3 p.m., and the vessel sailed at five. The police authorities were in attendance at the gangways, and only allowed those on board who had tickets. Half an hour after the ship sailed the emigrants had their first meal, consisting of coffee, bread, biscuit and butter, and as darkness came on they went below and settled down for the night.

At midnight I went round the decks with the captain; they were well lit, and everything was quite quiet. The first thing that struck me was the quantity of unoccupied space on the sleeping shelves.

The emigrants appeared to huddle together very much, and there was no attempt whatever at undressing; in fact no effort was made to remove such articles as boots, and I noticed several sleeping in their hats, caps and other head covering. One man had even a mackintosh on. I also noticed that several of them laid at a slight angle, and not exactly across the shelf, but this was doubtless due to the width of the shelf being insufficient for them to stretch their legs out to their full length.

From the foregoing it will be gathered that there was no attempt at the subdivision of the sexes, or even of individual berths, nor any curtain to screen the sleeping arrangements from the central portion of the deck.


Breakfast was served out at 7.30 a.m., and consisted of bread and butter and coffee, with milk and sugar for those who liked it, but some of the emigrants preferred salt; the quantity was unlimited. The emigrants had the alternative of having biscuit instead of bread if they wished it, with a raw salt herring if desired. Herrings in this shape are a national article of diet.

Dinner, which was served out at 11.30 a.m., consisted of soup, pea, or mixed vegetable thickened with pearl barley and flour, a half pound of beef or mutton boiled in the soup, with a portion in excess, in case it was wanted, potatoes, and bread or biscuit, in addition; also, a herring if desired.

Supper at 5 p.m. was the same as breakfast.

The food was well cooked, and good in quality. I tasted it on several occasions, and thought it quite equal to the food supplied for emigrants on Atlantic lines. There was an ample supply of water, and the emigrants could help themselves to as much as they required.

Water Closets

The privy arrangements of this vessel I consider to be the weakest point about her. They were small, cramped, dark spaces, without water, those for men and women being close together, the entrance in no way protected from the weather, and altogether more evil-smelling unsatisfactory places it is difficult to imagine.

I certainly consider the closets for men and women should at least be on opposite sides of the ship, and, where it can be managed, the entrance to the women's closet should be from below, so that they should not be subject to exposure to the weather when visiting these places. It is also most essential that all closets should be water-closets, with a constant supply of water passing through them.

When the ship is carrying her full number of emigrants I doubt if there are privies enough supplied, but on this point if there were four for the first hundred, and one for every fifty in addition, it would be sufficient to meet the requirements of any number.

Lights and Night Inspections

At dusk the emigrant decks were lighted by an ample supply of lanthorns; the watchman went round at the end of every hour to see that they were all burning properly, the officer of the watch inspected the decks at the end of each watch, and the captain went round also at intermediate and uncertain intervals.


The decks were sprinkled with carbolic acid, dusted with saw-dust. I should be disposed to suggest the free use of sawdust with a little disinfecting powder mixed with it, and that all emigrant decks should be swept out at least every morning. Sawdust is easy enough to get in Norway and Sweden, and has a nice wholesome smell; that alone would go a long way towards making the emigrants' decks more comfortable and cleanly in every respect; it also prevents messes that are accidentally upset on the deck from adhering to it, and facilitates their being swept up and disinfected by one process.

In the "Angelo" there was no attempt made to subdivide the sexes, but when at Hull I was taken on board the "Orlando", another vessel of the same line that had just arrived from Gothenburg with Swedish emigrants, in which case the single women were in a compartment by themselves aft. I understand this arrangement is quite recent, and it remains to be seen how it will act, but I should have supposed the separation of the sexes required by the Passengers Act would have been preferable, viz: where the single men are separated and the single women left under the protection of the married couples.

I now propose to show briefly on what points the practice of the trade falls short of the requirements of the Passengers Acts.

1st. More passengers are carried than would be allowed by the Passengers Acts. 2nd. There are no berths in the sense contemplated by the Passengers Acts. The sleeping-shelves are not up to the required length of six feet, and there is no sub-division of berths between individuals.

3rd. The water-closet arrangements fall far short of the requirements of the Passengers Acts.
4th. The iron decks are not sheathed.
5th. The single men are not separated from the rest of the emigrants.
6th. There are no hospitals, doctor, or other arrangements that would come under this head as required by the Passengers Acts.


There are four suggestions I deem it necessary to make as essentially necessary for the comfort and decency of the emigrants.

1st. All iron decks should be sheathed with wood.
2nd. All closets should be water-closets, with a constant supply of running water through them. The closets for men and women should be on opposite sides of the vessel, and the women's closets should be under the deck or entered from below. The floors of the closets should not be covered with gratings, but should be cemented, with grooves cut in the cement for carrying off any wet, &c.
3rd. The backs of all ladders to be used by females should be lined with thick wood.
4th. The sexes should be sub-divided, to the extent of separating the single men.

In conclusion I may observe the voyage is so short that the requirements of the Passengers Acts are scarcely applicable, much less the still more advanced practice of the Atlantic trade; the emigrants being all of one nationality are not strangers to each other in language, or in manners and customs, and they appear to settle down, and to help each other, far more than is seen in the mixed crowds that cross the Atlantic.

At the same time it must not be overlooked that this passage was made at the slack season of the year, when the comparatively few number of emigrants on board did not give me a really satisfactory opportunity of judging whether they were overcrowded, a charge which has been made so frequently as to be almost considered one of the characteristics of the line. I would, therefore, suggest that the voyage should be repeated in the first week of May next year, as that, I am informed, is the most busy emigrant season, and also that the next trip should be to Gothenburg, from which place the largest number of emigrants embark.

I would suggest that a copy of this report should be sent to the owners, so that it may be seen to what extent the suggestions made above, if approved by the Board, have been adopted; and, finally, I am of opinion that if these suggestions are carried out in full, they cover almost all that can reasonably be expected, taking into consideration the whole of the circumstances of the trade.

I have, &c (signed) Charles P Wilson,
Principal Officer

The Assistant Secretary,
Marine Department, Board of Trade

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".

Other Related Articles :

Print This Article
Get a printable version of the article.
Search Articles :
Search the Norway Heritage articles
emigrant trunk
The Norway Heritage web site is a culmination of hard work and commitment to providing FREE access to material concerning our heritage. Maintaining a non-profit project requires some kind of financial support. By making a donation you will help keep this site the great resource that it is! It will also ensure your visits remain popup and banner ad free. Help us add more stuff to the emigrant trunk. Please support this free resource!

A selection of articles dedicated to help you in your genealogy search for your Norwegian ancestors. Transcripts and pictures of historic documents in connection with the ships and emigration. Also including articles about Pioneers & Norwegian Settlements Around the World
Articles about selected ships ships and special events in their history. Descriptions of some of the great maritime disasters involving emigrant ships, like the wrecking of the steamer Atlantic of the White Star Line, sinking of the ocean liner Empress of Ireland and the Thingvalla line steamer Norge disaster. Check this section if you have an interest in shipwrecks.
This section contains articles describing the transatlantic voyage, the condition of the steerage accommodations and the experience of an ocean travel on an emigrant ship. You will find in-depth studies concerning the emigration process, statistics and facts, and information about the immigration processing centers line Castle Garden and Ellis Island.
Passenger lists
Norwegian Emigrants 1825-1875 Pre 1875 Norwegian emigrants, passenger lists
Emigrant Ship databases

Agents & Shipping lines
Shipping lines, Norwegian agents, authorizations, routes and fleets.

Emigrant ship Arrivals
Trond Austhem's database of emigrant ship arrivals around the world, 1870-1894.

Norwegian departures
100 Years of Emigrant Ships from Norway - indexed by year 1825-1925
  >> Steamships
       arranged by shipping line
  >> Sailing ships
  >> Historic Documents
       & passenger lists
  >> The Voyage
  >> Ports - harbors
  >> Yards & Construction
  >> Miscellaneous
  >> Pioneers & Settlements
Images added during the last 14 days
You can add images of ships and other related motives by using the "Upload Image" link within the appropriate category.
10 last postings: