This is the second 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 second 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 Romeo from Gothenburg to Hull in May 1882 to observe the
arrangements made for the conveyance of the emigrants.The reports was provided by Debbie Beavis
- No. 2. -
The Principal Officer, London, to the Board of Trade.
Board of Trade Surveyor's Office
St Katherine Dock House
Tower Hill, London, E., 30 May 1882
I have to report, for the information of the Board, that in accordance with instructions I
proceeded to Gothenburg on the 4th instant for the purpose of making a further report on
Scandinavian emigration, and in continuation of your report of the 28th September last, which
more especially related to the Christiania branch of the trade.
On arrival at Gothenburg I found the emigration season at its height, upwards of 2,000 emigrants
leaving that port weekly; and as it was impossible for any single vessel of the "Wilson" line to
carry this large number, two extra steamers were got read to assist the "Romeo," one of the
vessels regularly employed in this trade.
The "Romeo" is a screw steamer of 1,840 tons gross, and 1,210 tons net register. She was built
in 1881, and is fitted for carrying third class passengers in three compartments; two of these
are aft, the other forward.
The after Compartment, which for the sake of distinction I will call Compartment No. 1, forms a
portion of a long poop, and is between the second class accommodation and the engine-room. It is
fitted with open berths in two tiers which are almost identical with arrangements of this
description in the Atlantic trade, the berthing space of each individual being separated by a
moveable board eight inches high.
Compartment No. 2 is under No. 1 Compartment, but is not so long, and is fitted with berths on
the shelf principle, as described in my report of the 28th September last.
Compartment No. 3 is a large 'tween deck, forward, fitted in the same way as No. 1.
Each of these Compartments have wooden decks, and are well lighted and ventilated. They are
entered by ladders coming down the hatchways abreast of each other at an easy angle, lined at
the backs, and fitted with hand-rails, the entrances being protected by substantial booby
Compartment No. 2 is set aside for the accommodation of single women, and was fully occupied by
The water-closet arrangements of this vessel for Compartments Nos. 1 and 2 are at the after end
of Compartment No. 1, males and females being on opposite sides of the deck. There is a constant
supply of water flowing through them, they are fairly ventilated and lighted, and being under
deck are fully protected from the weather. Forward the water-closets are under the topgallant
forecastle, and are in every respect the same as those aft, but of course not so well protected
from the weather.
I went round the decks of this vessel before the emigrants came on board and at various
intervals afterwards. The decks were sprinkled with disinfectants, and sawdust freely used; they
were swept up after meals, and were fairly dry, notwithstanding the weather was extremely wet
both before and at the time of embarkation, and the passage to Hull an unusually wet and stormy
one for the season of the year.
I noticed that these Swedish emigrants had much more bedding with them than the Norwegians I saw
last year, and there was not any huddling together in sleeping places, such as I commented on in
my previous report; indeed I was informed that the supply of ship-bedding and tins for the use
of emigrants is becoming quite an important industry at Gothenburg.
The food supplied to the emigrants was in my opinion good in quality and quantity, and
The cooking arrangements of this vessel were exceptionally good, and admitted of the food being
issued in a cleanly and palatable state. I repeatedly tasted it, and feel sure it must be
superior to anything the emigrants could afford to have in their own homes. I was particularly
impressed with the excellence of the soup, and the free use of butter on the bread.
There were, however, two other vessels at Gothenburg, the "Marsden" and the "Albano," both of
which were employed on this occasion in carrying emigrants to Hull, and without entering into a
detailed account of each of these vessels, which would be wearisome, I may say that I found an
instance of an iron deck unsheathed, or simply covered with loose boards for the voyage, an
arrangement I do not consider satisfactory.
The ladders for both of these vessels were without linings at the back, and in the case of the
"Marsden," were pitched athwartships at so steep an angle as to be but 10 degrees or 12 degrees
out of the perpendicular. This I consider particularly objectionable on board ship as it
requires but very little rolling of the vessel to make them absolutely so when at sea. There
was also no water in the closet arrangements of either of these vessels. It is, however, but
fair to add that I was informed they were extra boats put on during the busy season only, and
by no means regularly employed in the emigrant trade with Scandinavia, and that on my pointing
out these details the ladders were at once lined, and arrangements made for rectifying other
points, and a general desire expressed to do whatever would conduce to the decency and comfort
of the emigrants.
These remarks will show how essentially necessary it is to pay constant attention to details;
and such things as urinals for men fitted in closets marked for women, and instance of which I
noticed at Hull, should not escape observation.
There is an agitation I understand going on at present in Sweden to provide life-saving
arrangements for every person on board ship. The "Romeo" was in consequence hung round with
life-buoys of the usual circular shape, and I was informed many more were to be provided.
In other respects the arrangements at Gothenburg were much the same as at Christiania, with the
exception that the police appeared to be more active in their supervision, and in addition to a
considerable number on duty at the gangways, I was informed, there were several detectives in
plain clothes present.
Passenger traffic by water being in Sweden under police control, I called on the chief of the
police whilst at Gothenburg, and was informed by him that the Swedish law was not considered to
apply to the carriage of emigrants by the Wilson line to Hull, the trade not being provided for
by the Oversea Passengers Act; on the one hand, whilst the requirements of the law regulating
coast navigation is considered insufficient, on the other, under these circumstances, the
numbers allowed by the Board of Trade passenger certificate is taken as the limit of the number
each vessel is capable of accommodating.
I travelled from Gothenburg to Hull in the S.S "Romeo," and on the question of overcrowding I
thought the vessel was rather crowded, but no more so than the rules of the Board of Trade
The Board's printed instructions as to the survey of passenger accommodation, paragraph 7,
states that for third class passengers in foreign-going ships, -
"The net area of the deck (that is after deducting all hatches and encumbrances) multiplied by
the height between decks, and the product divided by 72, gives the number to be allowed."
But taking the special circumstances of this trade into consideration, the Board have allowed
the superficial area of the coverings of the hatchways in the 'tween decks of this line of
steamers to be measured under certain conditions, which the owners distinctly agree to in their
letter of the 29th of January 1880, one of these conditions being:
"That the hatches be properly caulked so as to cut off all communication with the lower
This condition does not appear to be always observed, for in at least one instance, namely, on
board the "Marsden," I noticed that one of the 'tween deck hatches did not ship properly, and on
a carpenter being sent for to ease it, a hold full of coal was seen which the vessel was
carrying about as ballast. In this case the hatches were certainly not caulked, and in reply to
enquiries I was informed that the coal was not ventilated.
In this line of steamers the Board has already one check on excessive numbers due to cubic
capacity by not allowing anything over eight feet to be measured as height between decks, but I
submit that, in consequence of the measurement of the superficial area of the coverings of the
hatchways in the 'tween decks, a further check is advisable, especially on the lower passenger
deck, where, as the case now stands, a greater number of passengers are carried than on the deck
above, an arrangement opposed to the requirements of our own Passengers Acts, and also, I
believe, almost all foreign governments. I would therefore submit that on a lower passenger deck
100 cubic feet of space should be provided, instead of 72 cubic feet now required, but subject
to the existing limit of eight feet in height between the decks.'
As the terms on which the Board allowed the superficial area of the coverings of the hatchways
to be measured are not strictly observed, I venture to submit that this may be a good
opportunity for re-adjusting the whole question.
This report would be incomplete if I failed to mention that whilst at Hull I had an opportunity
of visiting the "Angelo," the vessel in which I returned from Christiania last September. I find
the owners have adopted all the suggestions made in my Report to the Board, and in addition have
tried Dewar's patent berths. I was surprised to find how much the appearance of the
accommodation had been improved, and certainly think the comfort of emigrants travelling by this
vessel has been materially increased,
If the owners would treat their other vessels in a similar manner it would leave but little room
I have, &c
(signed) Charles P Wilson,
The Assistant Secretary,
Marine Department, Board of Trade
MERCHANT SHIPPING (SCANDINAVIAN EMIGRANTS)
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".