During the First World War, Hull was a much smaller and densely populated City, than it is today. Most people lived in the City Centre or were crammed around the fish docks of Hessle Road and the warehouses of Wincolmlee. In 1914, Hull’s population was around 300,000 people, a much larger number than now. North of the ‘Avenues’ was open fields. Spring Bank ended at Walton Street and along Willerby Road was open country side. Along Holderness Road, there was not much housing beyond Portobello Street. The present day housing estates of Bransholme, Orchard Park, Greatfield, Longhill, Bilton and Ings Road were then just farms. Over 80% of the 66,090 homes in Hull were classified as ‘working class’ type, with a rent not exceeding £26 per year. Only 28,400 homes were regarded as satisfactory, with adequate light and air circulation and having a yard or garden at the rear with a secondary means of access. Some 21,800 properties, mostly ‘terrace’ type housing were unsatisfactory, built at a high density of 60 houses per acre, compared with an average of 7 houses to the acre for the City as a whole. They included 2,800 ‘slum houses’ which were old, damp, poorly built and situated in congested districts. Tenants invariably shared a single tap and outside toilets, which were situated together in a communal courtyard. Over 98% of Hull people rented their homes rather than owned them. The homes were largely poor and basic, with little choice, but the rents were cheap. People preferred to live near their place of work and not commute long distances. With no Welfare state and few Council houses, people preferred to live in tightly knit communities, where they could support each other or have access to shops and facilities. For the few and wealthy, home ownership outside the city centre, was the most desired and affordable option. Newspapers in 1914, advertise a 3 bed house for sale in Anlaby Park for £415 – £435, and 4 bed houses for between £529 – £550. After the war, a typical 3 bed, semi-detatched house, sold for between £540 – £740.
Only 1% of Edwardians owned property. Most worked in dark, noisy factories, cut hay in fields, toiled down dirty and dangerous mines; had bones bent by rickets and lungs racked by tuberculosis. Life expectancy then was 49 years for a man and 53 years for a woman, compared with 79 and 82 years today. They lived in back to back tenements or jerry-built terraces, wore cloth caps or bonnets (rather than boaters, bowlers and toppers) and many had never taken a holiday – beyond a day trip to the seaside – in their entire lives.
1914 Britain – some background
Very few envisaged the upheavals that were to come when the year began. The biggest troubles Britain faced were domestic and not international. The Liberal government of the day was under attack from all sides. The government plans to grant home rule to Ireland were being fiercely resisted by Ulster Unionists in the north, who had support from within the upper ranks of the British Army as well as from the opposition Conservatives. In March the news that the government had military plans to put down a possible rebellion in Ulster led to the resignation of 57 Army officers, the so-called Curragh Mutiny. More than a quarter of a million defiant Ulstermen signed a Covenant, pledging to use “all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a home rule parliament in Ireland”. The Catholics of the south were armed and organised to match the Protestants of the North.
Ireland wasn’t the only crisis that prime minister Herbert Asquith faced in 1914. The Suffragettes, fighting for votes for women, were intensifying their campaign. In March 1914, Mary Richardson, slashed the Velasquez painting the Rokeby Venus at the National Gallery in London. In April, a Suffragette armed with a hatchet broke 10 large panes of glass in a cabinet at the British Museum. Across the country Suffragettes set fire to empty houses and railway stations, piers and sports pavilions and vandalised golf courses. In June they were thought to be behind a bomb exploding in Westminster Abbey, damaging the Coronation Chair. The government was faced with a renewed challenge from Trade Unions. The years leading up to the First World War had seen much industrial discontent with widespread strikes, and 1914 began with a lock-out of London bricklayers by their employers. Trade union membership had reached four million and a triple alliance of miners, railway workers and port workers, was forming with plans for a general strike.
Middle Class Leisure in 1914
Middle class people played games, like lawn tennis and snooker. Board games like snakes and ladders and ludo were also popular. In 1914, bicycling was a popular sport. The safety bicycle went on sale in 1885. Bicycling clubs became common.
Reading was also popular in 1914. The first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet was published in 1887 by Arthur Conan Doyle. A new form of writing, was science fiction pioneered by men like H G Wells. Cosswords which had been been invented in 1913 by Arthur Wynne, became a craze. The first dress patterns were launced in 1914 inspriing new fashions and designs. Mary Phelps Jacob had just invented the first bra. Women were abandoning the corset for more free flowing clothes, and newspapers remarked that women were now seen in public without wearing hats! Tinned food and cookery books were all the rage. The new century introduced commodities, such as tinned food, Bisto gravy, Heinz baked beans and Bird’s custard, and ice closets to put it all in. Food could be shipped from distant corners of the world and chains of high street grocery stores were replacing small specialist tradesmen. Previously a cook’s life was ruled by Mrs Beeton and Alexis Soyer, seasonal food and a lack of refrigeration. Now there were new publications like ‘Hints and Recipes for Cooking Today’, ‘The Atora Book of Olde Time Christmas Recipes’, ‘Kitchen Essays’, and ‘The Importance of Eating Potatoes’. These were all designed to educate a new breed of woman who, owing to economic privations, was having to go it alone in the kitchen often without the benefit of cook or scullery maid.
The Middle classes were very fond of the theater. The cinema was still a relatively new pastime, and films were without sound and in black and white. Around 1910, cinemas were built in many towns. In February 1914, Charlie Chaplin made his film debut in the silent comedy ‘Making A Living’. In April 1914, George Bernard Shaw’s play. ‘Pygmalion‘ opened to rave reviews. Among the notable books, were James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners‘, ‘Tarzan Of The Apes‘ by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert Tressel’s ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’. In 1914, going to the seaside was very popular with those who could afford it. Meanwhile, the first cheap camera was invented in 1888, by George Eastman. Afterwards photography became a popular hobby.
In 1914, middle class children in Britain had plenty of toys. They played with wood or porcelain dolls and toys, like Noah’s Arks, with wooden animals. Poor children did not have any toys. Plasticine was invented in 1897 by William Harbutt. It was first made commercially in 1900. Also in 1900 Frank Hornby invented a toy called meccano.
THE WORKING CLASS IN 1914
For the working class in 1914, life was hard and terrible poverty was common. Nevertheless, life was improving and certain reforms were introduced around that time.
At the beginning of the 20th century, surveys showed that 25% of the population of Britain were living in poverty. They found that at least 15% were living at subsistence level, in other words, they had just enough money for food, rent, fuel and clothes. They could not afford ‘luxuries’, such as newspapers, sweets or public transport. About 10% were living in ‘below subsistence’ level and could not afford an adequate diet.
The surveys found that the main cause of poverty was low wages. The main cause of ‘extreme’ poverty was the loss of the main breadwinner. If dad was dead, ill or unemployed, it was a disaster. Mum might get a job, but women were paid much lower wages than men.
Surveys also found that poverty tended to go in a cycle. Working class people might live in poverty when they were children, but things usually improved when they left work and found a job. However, when they married and had children things would take a turn for the worse. Their wages might be enough to support a single man comfortably, but not enough to support a wife and children too. However, when the children grew old enough to work, things would improve again. Finally, when he was old, a worker might find it hard to find work, except the most low paid kind and be driven into poverty again.
A Liberal government was elected in 1906 and they made some welfare reforms. From that year, poor children were given free school meals. In January 1909, the first old age pensions were paid. They were hardly generous – only 5 shillings a week, which was a paltry sum even in those days and they were only paid to people over 70 years old. Nevertheless it was a start.
Also in 1909, the government formed wages councils. In those days some people worked in the so-called ‘sweated industries’, such as making clothes and they were very poorly paid and had to work extremely long hours just to survive. The wages councils set minimum pay levels for certain industries.
In 1910, the first labour exchanges, where jobs were advertised, were set up. The economy was relatively stable in the years 1900-1914 and unemployment was fairly low.
In 1911, the government passed an act, establishing sickness benefits for workers. The act also provided unemployment benefit for workers in certain trades, such as shipbuilding, where periods of unemployment were common. Meanwhile the workers had formed powerful trade unions.
Working Class Homes in 1914
In 1914, a typical working class family, lived in a ‘two up, two down’. They had two rooms downstairs and two upstairs. The downstairs front room was kept for best. The family kept their best furniture and ornaments in this room. They spent most of the their time in the downstairs, back room, which served as a kitchen and living room. In 1914, working class homes were lit by gas. Most working class homes had outside lavatories. From about 1900, some houses were built for skilled workers, with bathrooms and inside toilets. However, they were still rare in 1914. Moreover, very poor families sometimes lived in just one room.
Life expectancy was low. Hull infants had perhaps a 1 in 3 chance of surviving their first years, then maybe a 1 in 3 chance of reaching 5 years old. Poor diet, housing and sanitary conditions, and overcrowding meant diseases spread quickly. Infants from working class families were most at risk. Whooping cough, diptheria and scarlet fever were then killer diseases. In 1881-82, scarlet fever killed 682 children in Hull, the highest figure in the country. Often parents could not afford medical treatment for their children and hospitals were basic and few. Children who survived these diseases continued to suffer from dental decay, ear and eye infections, rickets, headlice, pneumonia, bronchitis and undernourishment. They were small in height and usually underweight.
Children were still treated much the same as adults. In 1900 children were able to smoke, drink and gamble and often went into pubs, with their parents. Children were also responsible for any crime they committed and were punished and put in prison like adults. It was not until the ‘Children’s Charter’, an Act of Parliament in 1908 that juvenile courts were established to treat children under 14 years as children. It became illegal to sell tobacco or alcohol to those under 14. After 1908 children were sent to special Reform Schools rather than prison and had to stay in school until they were 14.
Food in 1914
Food was expensive in 1914. Some working class families, typically sat down to a tea, of a plate of potatoes and malnutrition was common among poor children. In 1914, a working class family spent about 60% of their income on food. Sweets were a luxury in 1914. However, for those who could afford it, new types of biscuit were available. The Digestive was invented in 1892. Custard creams were invented in 1908 and Bourbons were invented in 1910. Bread was the staple food for most of Hull’s population. Bread made from wheat was expensive, so people ate barley and rye bread. In years of bad harvest as in the late 18th century, high grain prices caused terrible hardship and starvation, in Hull. Potatoes replaced bread as the staple food in the 19th century. Meat such as beef, mutton, pork, game and poultry, could be afforded by the wealthy and eaten regularly. the poorest in Hull would have gone without. River and sea fish were eaten fresh, salted or dried, and traditionally eaten on a Friday. many of the vegetables grown today, – parsnips, broccoli, or artichokes were used in the 17th Century. at the time, people were suspicious of raw vegetables and Fruit and tomatoes did not become popular until the 20th century.
In 1914, railways were the main form of overland transport. Cars were very rare, although number plates were introduced in 1903. The same year a 20 MPH speed limit was introduced. Most towns had electric trams. In many towns by 1914, there were also motor buses and Hull had it’s own trams. Below is a picture of the Botanic Station, Spring Bank, Hull.
Working Class Leisure in 1914
In 1914, the average working week in Britain was 54 hours. By then, many people only worked half a day on Saturday. Skilled workers often had paid holidays, but most people only had bank holidays. Nevertheless, the working class were starting to have more leisure time and football matches beca
me a popular pastime. Many towns had free public libraries. Newspapers also became much more common. The Daily Mail was first published in 1896, The Daily Express was first published in 1900 and the Daily Mirror began publication in 1903.
By 1914 life expectancy in Britain was about 50 for a man and about 54 for a woman.
The war lasted 1,566 days – four years, 3 months and one week. During this time, over 7,500 Hull men were killed. Another 14,000 were wounded, of which 7,000 were maimed and this rose to 20,000 wounded by 1924. On average, there were 15 war deaths received in Hull every day.
These casualties including the wounded accumulated almost every day, for four and half long years. Some days were worse than others. For example, on the the 3rd May 1915, eight Hull Trawlers, were sunk by German submarines. On the 13th November 1916, 247 Hull men died, when the East Yorkshire battalions attacked the village of Serre: Another 139 Hull men died on the 3rd May 1917, when the ‘Hull Pals’ attacked Oppy Wood: 91 Hull men died on the 1st July 1916; the first day of the Battle of the Somme. 127 Hull men also died between the 21st and 23rd March 1918 during the great German Offensive.
The returning wounded reminded civilians of the brutality of war. Hull’s four main hospitals and VAD units were constantly busy. Hull was also the main port for repatriated prisoners of war which added to their work load. Hull cemeteries are littered with servicemen that died in Hull far form home. Those with sight impairments were found work at the ‘Blind Institute’ on Beverley Road. Shell shock victims were treated at De La Pole hospital which also had wards for gas wounds. The Brookland’s hospital, on Cottingham Road looked after Officers. The Reckitt’s hospital cared for some 3,000 patients during the war. The wounded were very visible in the community. They were often amputees, mutilated, or with appalling facial injuries. Many houses with drawn dark curtains, marked a casualty. It seemed that every family had lost someone, or knew someone that had been killed in the war. Civilians wore dark mourning dress, or black arm bands, to indicate that they were morning the loss of a loved one.
Men physically and mentally broken, or young men who had sacrificed their apprenticeships to go to war, now faced unemployment at home. Rationing of food and basic goods added to the community tension. There were no psychologists or social workers, to treat the victims of shell shock or counsel the large numbers of bereaved. Many families had to cope as best they could.
Newspapers of the time, are full of incidents of violence, drunkenness and anti social behaviour. This reflected the general, poverty, illness and the untreated madness or war casualties. Initial enthusiasm for the war quickly gave way to sadness and shock and a deepening psychological affect on the civilian population. Returning Servicemen had been assured a ‘Land Fit for Heroes’, only to find unemployment, austerity and indifference.
Every aspect of home life was affected by the war. The ‘Hull Times‘, showed how Hull’s 2,128 allotments, (over 280 acres), were cultivated for food production. The railways and trams were given priority for war business. Buildings were taken over for recruiting, for wounded, ‘soldiers’ rest places and even ‘social clubs’.
The Soldiers Club based at Beverley Road baths had a library, weekly concerts, a rifle range, a reading room, writing facilities and refreshment bars. So popular and well known was the club that soldiers wrote about it in newspapers all over the country.
Hull Residents set up a number of funds to help the war effort. Among these was the ‘Christmas Pudding Fund‘ for local soldiers, that helped raise 5,000 shillings, helping to feed 10,000 Hull men. Another, was a national fund, to help East Yorkshire soldiers, serving on the Somme. It received donations from across Britain and raised £250 to help the men at the front. Hull theatres helped the war effort by providing entertainment. One such show was named “The King visits his troops on the Somme Front”. It was an officially made short, from the War Office, and showed at various theatres, including the Theatre De Luxe. Other theatres, such as Sherburn Theatre, in Sherburn Street, east Hull, showed “The Battle of the Somme”, a five-part movie, featuring graphic war images from the frontline.
The war, took thousands of young men away from home. Many were were exposed, for the first time, to new vices, such as alcohol, tobacco, violence and prostitution. They would return home with bad habits, swear words and bawdy songs. The war had trained them to survive, take risks and show initiative and for some this would lead to new careers in organised crime. Church attendance also began to fall as people struggled to reconcile their losses with their faith. New religions, such as ‘Spiritualism’, became popular as people tried new ways to reconnect with the dead. Citizens also wanted to travel abroad to visit the battlefields and cemeteries. Travel companies, like Thomas Cooks, emerged to offer organised tours of battlefields for civilians, for the first time.
The First World War also introduced new words and phrases into the language. Some of these words included, “camouflage, pill box, tank, plonk, bumf, guff (rumours), dud (a failure), demob, conchie (conscientious objector), and streetcar (a name for a shell)”. “Snapshot”, “bloke”, “scrounge”, “washed up”, “binge drink”, “trench coat” and “duckboards” were other trench vocabulary, brought home. “Skive” came from the French word ‘esquiver’ (“to escape, avoid”) and Strafe” meaning to ‘punish’ in German, was also adopted. “Swipe” was a Canadian word, “Cushy” was a Hindi word meaning pleasure. “Lousy” and “crummy” both referred to being infested with lice, while “fed up” emerged as a widespread expression of weariness among the men. “Shell shock” and “Trench foot” became new medical conditions. “Conked out”, and “blind spot” came from Airforce expressions. Several phrases from the criminal underworld also entered wider use, among them “Chum” – formerly slang for an accomplice – “rumbled” (to be found out) and “knocked off” (stolen). Soldier phrases, like, “Having a chat“, (sitting around de licing clothing), ‘copped a packet’ (wounded or killed), ‘pushing up daisies’ (an euphamism for death), “a Fair Whack” (sharing parcels) and ‘Over the Top’ are still terms, widely used today. ‘Zepps in the Cloud’ became a popular term to describe sausage and mash. Fashion, hair styles, clothing, and cosmetics, also changed with the war. Tight corsets and bodices were replaced with more free flowing clothing. Women wore shorter hair and skirts, and sometime wore trousers to be practical. They wore lipstips and courted sun tans to display affluence. The phrase a ‘Girls night out‘ was first coined during the war, to describe female munition workers, spending their wages together, unchaperoned around town.
Demographically, Hull’s population fell by 45,000 people during the war, such was the rate of male enistment into the armed services. Women replaced many men in the workplace, and in Hull, women found new jobs in the Post Office, railways, trams and factories. The Hull Daily Mail ran articles on women’s war work, saying “they were being trained in ship building, the dock yard, transport and munitions,” as well as growing food, postal work, telegraph messengers and even taxi driving. The National Union of Women Workers, organised voluntary patrols in Hull, acting as a ‘morality’ police force, curbing crime and prostitution. ‘Joesph Rank Ltd’, employed nearly 3,000 women, in wheat production. ‘Rose Down and Thompson’ Munition’s factories, employed 359 women, 13 under 18 years of age and 341 between 18 and 51 years old.
Madam Clapham’s, dress making salon at Hull’s Kingston Theatre Hotel, employed another 150 women. They redesigned women’s clothing to make war fashion more comfortable, modern and easier to wear. Emily Clapham’s gained a thorough training in the dressmaking trade. She had a good eye for fashion and colour and combined this with good business sense. She went into business with her husband Haigh Clapham in 1887 and invested their savings to purchase No.1 Kingston Square, Hull. Her reputation as a fine dressmaker was at its height from 1890 until the outbreak of the First World War. This was an era of strict dress codes and dressing for many social engagements, like race meetings, balls and dinner parties. In the 1890s the salon was so successful that Madame Clapham purchased number two Kingston square in 1891. Number three Kingston Square was purchased just before the First World War, with a legacy left to Madame Clapham by her aunt.
Madame Clapham died aged ninety-six on the 10th January 1952. Emily Wall, Madame Clapham’s niece and employee continued Madame Clapham’s legacy at number 3 Kingston Square under her aunt’s name until 1967. Madame Emily As Madame Clapham’s reputation grew she received many orders for dresses for clients, to be presented at court, wearing during the “coming out” season. Madame Clapham added the title of Court dressmaker to her Salon’s labels in 1901 as a mark of her highly regarded reputation. The First World War had a big impact on Madame Clapham’s business as it resulted in a decline for the exquisite dresses of the earlier years. Attitudes and Social codes changed after the war and women gained a greater degree of freedom. Madame Clapham still created evening dresses in the new styles and expanded into corsetry and under garments to fit under certain dresses. Madam Clapham is pictured on the right.
Women entered the armed forces in 1917, in non combatant roles, so releasing men to fight. Many women also became V.A.D.’s (Voluntary Aid Detachments), working as nurses. In Hull, ‘Reckitt’s’ had their own hospital with 45 beds, and there was also a Naval hospital at Argyle Street, with room for 220 patients. The Report of the ‘East Yorkshire Women’s Agricultural Committees’, showed that 600-700 women registered for land work. In total, 928 Hull women did some type of work on farms, alloments or market gardens. Male labour was not scarce and there was a strong prejudice against women.
It is well known, that many young people lied about their age, to enlist in the war. It is perhaps less well known, that nearly 1,200 Hull teenagers, died in action during the First World War. Searching by age, on this data base, shows that Hull’s war casualties, included, three, 14 year olds; sixteen, 15 year olds; forty two, 16 year olds; eighty two, 17 year olds; three hundred and forty, 18 year olds; and six hundred and ninety, 19 year olds. Children also played an active part in the war effort at home. Boy Scouts, guarded telephone and telegraph lines, railway stations, water reservoirs or any location that might be militarily important. From late 1917, many Scouts assisted with air raid duties, including sounding the all-clear signal after an attack . Girl Guides packaged up clothing to send to British soldiers at the front, prepared hostels and first-aid dressing stations for use by those injured in air raids or accidents, tended allotments to help cope with food shortages, and provided assistance at hospitals, government offices and munitions factories. Sea Scouts were part of a network of observers, that stood watch on the coast, in anticipation of German air attacks or a possible invasion. Children across Britain gave their pocket money to the war effort. The children raised money for a number of charities, including St Dunstan’s Hostel for blinded ex-servicemen, the Blue Cross for sick and injured animals, and local military hospitals. Children also collected scrap metal and other essential materials that could be recycled, or used for the war effort. Children younger than the school leaving age of 12, also worked in factories or on farms. In some cases, a child’s earnings could be a helpful addition to a family’s income. In 1917, Education Minister H A L Fisher claimed that as many as 600,000 children had been ‘prematurely’ put to work.
Air Raids and Trawler losses.
On the 3rd May 1915, Hull mourned the loss of eight trawlers on one day. On the 6th June 1915, Hull civilians, experienced the first of eight bombing raids by Zeppelins. The next day Anti German riots broke out throughout Hull, and many German owned, businesses, were damaged. Hull was the scene of one of the most moving funeral possessions of the war, when the victims of the E13 disaster were brought ashore. The E13 submarine had left England on 15th August 1915, for deployment in the Baltic. On 18th August it ran aground in the neutral, narrow waters between Denmark and Sweden, whilst sailing on the surface. A German destroyer opened fire on her, badly damaging her before being stopped by Danish motor boats. Whilst transferring survivors to Danish ships, the Germans continued to torpedo the submarine which blew up. Fifteen men died in the incident, which caused world wide outrage, as it occurred in neutral Danish waters. (Denmark later gained an official apology from Germany). The bodies arrived in Hull, for transport to their home towns, on 27th August 1915. The next day, a funeral procession for the E13 victims, passed through a packed Victoria Square, en route for Paragon Station. Of the dead, one was a local man, Herbert Staples, an engine room artificer. His body was taken home to Grimsby by tug.
Cinemas, Halls and Picture shows The ‘Tower’ Cinema, opened in June 1914, on Anlaby Road, as a a Picture Palace to entertain audiences in World War One. It was one of 30 cinemas in Hull. Viewers walked into a venue, holding 1,200 seats, across stalls and a single balcony with a cafe, that overlooked the street outside. The Tower showed the latest silent movies, provided news in Europe, and. It also presented patriotic films, produced to raise money for the local war Trust. During WW1, the Tower played a host of patriotic films including ‘The Heroine of Mons’ and even a live concert in 1915. Cinema not only changed the Hull’s perception of war, but turned the experience of going to the cinema into a desirable, class-free commodity that is still much loved today.
Hull’s Royal Visit
On the 13th June 1917, King George V and his wife Queen Mary, visited Hull, driving through the City in an open carriage. Huge crowds came out to see them and Hull was decorated with flags, bunting and streamers. The Royal visit took in a number of sites including Earle’s shipyard, the Holmes engineering works, the VAD hospital on Cottingham Road and the naval hospital on Argyle Street. They also went to Hull City football ground and met members of the Volunteer Forces.
Video of the Kings Visit to Hull – http://www.britishpathe.com/video/king-george-v-visit-to-hull/query/Hull
The Government introduced new laws to help pay for and win the war. This started with the ‘Defence of the Realm Act or (DORA) in 1914’. Basic tax increased from 6% to 30% and the number of people in Britain who paid tax, tripled to 3.5 million. Clocks went forward to make the most of daylight hours. The Government took over coal mines, shipping, railways and land to secure supplies and food production. It set up ‘state run’, munitions factories and worked with Trade Unions to prevent strikes. All beaches along the East Coast were closed during the war.
Trivial peacetime activities which were banned, included using fireworks, flying kites, starting bonfires, buying binoculars, feeding wild animals bread, discussing naval and military matters or buying alcohol on public transport. People were not allowed to whistle for a Taxis in case this sounded like an air raid
alarm, or loiter around railways and tunnels. You could not spread rumours, trespass on railway lines and bridges, ring church bells, melt down gold, or silver, or use invisible ink when writing abroad. Alcoholic beverages were watered down and pub opening times were restricted to noon–3pm and 6:30pm–9:30pm (the requirement for an afternoon gap in permitted hours, lasted in England until the Licensing Act 1988 was brought into force). The law was designed to help prevent invasion and to keep morale at home high. It imposed censorship of journalism and of letters coming home from the front line. The press was subject to controls on reporting troop movements, numbers or any other operational information that could be exploited by the enemy. People who breached the regulations with intent to assist the enemy could be sentenced to death. It is estimated that almost one million people were arested for breacing DORA rules and 11 ‘German Spies’ were executed under the regulations. Though some provisions of Dora may seem strange, they did have their purposes. Flying a kite or lighting a bonfire could attract Zeppelins, and after rationing was introduced in 1917, feeding wild animals was a waste of food.
The DORA legislation was amended six times during the war, to increase social control, help prevent invasion and keep morale high. Curfews were introduced and their was censorship of letters and newspapers. Germans living in the City could be interned. Pubs shut at 11pm for the first time, and ‘treating’ or buying your friends a round of drinks was banned. New factories were built with work canteens, wash rooms for women and even creches for children of working mothers. Exempted trades or reserved occupations were introduced. On 27th January, 1916, there was compulsory conscription of single men, aged between 18 and 41 years. Four months later, this conscription was extended to married men. In May 1916, clocks were brought forward for the first time, to maximise working daylight hours. ‘Blackouts’ were introduced in certain towns to protect against air raids. People were fined or faced imprisonment for breaking any one of hundreds of new regulations. In Hull, fines of 10 shilling and sixpence were imposed for breaching lighting restrictions, and £5 fines were not uncommon.
During the First World War, propaganda was employed on a global scale. Unlike previous wars, this was the first total war, in which whole nations and not just professional armies were locked in mortal combat. This (and subsequent modern wars) required propaganda to mobilise hatred against the enemy; to convince the population of the justness of the cause; to enlist the active support and cooperation of neutral countries; and to strengthen the support of allies. Government’s tried hard to persuade people to think in a certain way. This is called propaganda. The British Govenment created ‘The Ministry for Information’ to produce propaganda. This was directed by the Canadian newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook and actively influenced public opinion towards the war, using posters, news articles, and new mediums, like cinema film. For example, posters were printed that made the army look exciting. Other posters told men it was their duty to join and they would feel proud if they did.Some posters even tried to make them feel guilty, saying that their children would be embarrassed if their father had done nothing in the war. The messages were simple; support your country, support your soldiers, support your family, enlist, contribute, work. Posters were colourful and caught the eye, they were also everywhere.Stories about bad things the Germans had done were also encouraged. The Government knew people would be angry and even frightened. Everyone would want Britain to win the war and make the Germans pay for the dreadful things they were supposed to have done. Many of the tales were untrue. The Germans told the same stories about the British.
Access to the front was strictly controlled and journalists were frequently given stories and facts to publish by official press contacts; in the early years of the war, the British government for example, continually put a positive spin on the bad news from the front, casting every failed battle as a heroic last stand. To bolster public hatred against the enemy, both sides also turned to atrocity propaganda, spreading stories about rape, murder, and torture to ensure that the civilians at home continued to call for war against the “savage Huns” or “British dogs”. As the war dragged on, civilians and soldiers became increasingly distrustful of official news and the use of propaganda became subtler and more refined. By the end of the war, winning hearts and minds was just as important as winning a battle, and propaganda at a national scale became an essential prt of any military action.
Prices, Tax and Food Rationing
In Hull, income tax increased as did the number of people paying it. Whilst wages improved, many goods were more expensive and became un-affordable. Income tax increased five times between 1914-1918 and was paid by twice as many people. It would never fall to pre-war levels again. During the war, prices increased on all the basics: rent, fuel and clothing, as well as food. However, food prices increased most sharply and continuously throughout the war, sometimes at an alarming rate. Food prices overall rose by 60%, sugar, eggs and meat prices increased by 400%. Food became a growing concern for people, not just the quantity, but the quality. There were no fridges or freezers to preserve food, all food was perishable, and therefore had to be brought fresh and daily. Food became increasingly scarce due to enemy attacks on shipping and a poor harvest in 1916. These shortages provoked frustration, food queues and hoarding. Parliament announced in 1916 that there were only six weeks of food left in the country. The Government limited the number of food courses that could be served at meals in restaurants and hotels. In 1917 the harvests also failed in France and Italy. Considerable supplies of food also had to be diverted to those countries. To prevent Britain being starved into submission, the Government built more merchant ships, developed the convoy system, set up the Women’s Land Army and introduced allotments, to help increase food production. 250, 00 land girls, 84,000 wounded soldiers and 30,000 prisoners of war were put to use on the land, but they only increased the a surplus of food to last Britain for one more month. Despite appeals for people to cut down on food, potatoes, sugar, butter and margarine were in great demand and very scarce. Food rationing was introduced for the first time, in Britain, in February 1918. This started with sugar, and then restrictions on meat, butter, jam, and margarine. Cheese and tea were rationed locally. Ration coupons were issued to control rising food prices and share out limited food supplies fairly. Ration cards were issued and people registered with a local butcher or grocer. The weekly ration was set at 15 ounces of meat, five ounces of bacon and four ounces of butter or margarine. With rationing, food queues disappeared and everyone received a fair share. Prices kept high, but the threat of shortages was averted.
The Government set up 363 ‘National Kitchens’, including one in Hull, to feed people during World War One. These improved diets, cut down food waste and proved hugely popular. A bowl of soup, a joint of meat and a portion of side vegetables cost 6d – just over £1 in today’s money. Puddings, scones and cakes could be bought for as little as 1d (about 18p). These self-service restaurants, run by local workers and partly funded by government grants, offered simple meals at subsidised prices. A 1918 ‘Scarborough Post’ story about the national kitchen in Hull emphasised the ambition of the typical urban outlet: “The place has the appearance of being a prosperous confectionery and cafe business. The business done is enormous.”
Armistice, Peace & Hull Street Parties.
Hull Citizens celebrated the end on the war on the 11th November 1918. The final ‘Hull Pals’ returned to the City on the 26th May 1919. Official ‘Street Parties’ were held across Hull on the 19th July 1919 to mark the official Peace. There were wild celebrations and relief that over four years of struggle were finally over. With this relief, there was also sorrow at the large loss of live. Hull alone had lost over 7,500 men in the war, with another 14,000 disabled from an estimeated 70,000, who had served in the forces. To aid the disabled and the families of the dead, Hull established it’s own War Trust to raise money and by 1927, 1,040 recipients had received £74,000 between them. The war had affected everyone in some way, and the life for many could never be the same again.
Scarborough Street Peace Party to celebrate the WW1 Armistice
Housing and new Homes for Heroes
At the time of the First World war, almost all Housing in Britain was privately built. Home Ownership was for the privileged few and over 90% of people rented their homes privately. In Hull 98% of people rented their home. Newspaper advertisements, reveal that a “desirable” home in the Avenues of Hull could be brought for the princely sum of £350, (about £20,000 in today’s money),or rented for just £26 per year. Thanks to a heroic Rent Strike by Tenant’s in Leeds, and women in Glasgow, the Government introduced the 1915 (Rent Restriction) Act, whereby rents were restricted to their August 1914 level. This prevented landlords from profiteering during the war years when demand for housing exceeded supply.
Most people lived in “slum” conditions. Slum is a British slang word from the East End of London meaning “room”, which evolved to “back slum” around 1845, meaning ‘back alley, or “street of poor people”. Homes were tightly packed, poorly built, unhealthy, and overcrowded. They lacked basic amenities, such as reliable sanitation, running water and electricity. Neighbourhoods could also be unsafe and lawless, and there was limited security of tenure, meaning you could be evicted at short notice. Rents varied, but were affordable. The 1914 Retail Price index shows that the “Working Classes”, spent 60% of their income on food, 16% on rent and rates and about 12% on clothing. Rents in Hull did not exceed £26 per year during the war.
The 1890 Working Classes Act, had allowed local Authorities to build Council homes, but few did so. Britain’s first Council Estate, was the Boundary Estate, built in East London, in 1900. It still survives today. Hull built its’ first Council Houses at Great Union Street, in 1904, but the rents were high and only affordable to skilled workers with a regular income.
In 1918, the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, promised that Britain would build homes “fit for heroes who had won the war”. A promise not only to reward ex Servicemen, but to avoid a Russian Revolution happening in Britain. In 1919, the Government passed the (Addison) Housing Act (named after Dr. Christopher Addison, the Health Minister). It encouraged Council’s to build more houses and led to Hull Corporation building 10,000 homes in West, North and East Hull. The 1919 Housing Act was passed initially as a temporary measure to help meet housing need, when private builders could not meet the demand. It was generally assumed that the private sector would resume responsibility for working class housing once the British economy had recovered.
There was a severe shortage of housing in Hull. The City’s population was nearly 300,000, even larger than today, and most people lived in the overcrowded City Centre and Hull Dock areas. War time conditions had prevented new house building and allowed only the minimum of essential repairs. As a result, the general standard of Hull housing in 1919 was well below that of 1914. It was estimated that in 1919, a total of 5,000 new houses were required in Hull, just to make good the deficit caused by war. A further 2,578 homes were needed to rehouse people living in unhealthy areas. Another 200 homes were required to rehouse those living in individually, unfit houses, in different parts of Hull. The 1919 (Addison) Housing Act helped established Hull’s first Housing Committee and made the Council the chief provider of new housing. As a start towards meeting this shortage of 7,778 houses, Hull City Council purchased three areas of land on the northern, western and eastern outskirts of the City to erect housing estates. These became known respectively as the Bricknell Avenue, Gipsyville and Preston Road estates and house building began in the 1920’s. The rehousing of people from the Victorian streets to modern estates on the edges of Hull meant the breaking up of old close knit communities and the creation of new ones.
On most estates, houses were provided with a generous sized garden to encourage tenants to grow their own vegetables, a privet hedge at the front and an apple tree at the back. The interiors varied, some having a parlour, but all with a scullery and bath.
For most new tenants, these new conditions were a huge improvement on their previous slum housing, where they had experienced overcrowding and often without water, toilets, electricity, and transportation. The quality of the new housing was generally high. Although some slum clearance took place during the 1920’s, much of the emphasis of this period, was to provide new general needs housing, on greenfield sites. The new houses had electricity, inside toilets, fitted baths and front and back gardens. The Council had strict rules for new tenants on housework, house and garden maintenance, children’s behaviour and the keeping of pets.
The 1919 Housing Act, made housing a national responsibility, and local authorities were given the task of developing new housing and rented accommodation where it was needed by working people. The 1919 Act provided 213,000 new Council homes across the country. Although insufficient to meet the National need, it was a marked increase on the 24,000 ‘social’ homes that existed in 1914.
Godfrey Mitchell, a demobbed Royal Engineer Officer, that had served in France, acquired the Wimpey Home Construction business and built many private homes in Hull during the 1930’s. The Woolwich Building Society lent 90% mortgages and allowed people for the first time to buy their homes. After the war, a typical 3 bed semi-detached house sold for between £540-£740. Buyers needed a 5% deposit, with repayments at around 26 shillings a week and buyers were given a Government subsidy of £50 as a further incentive. Most of Hull”s new council estates, provided good quality housing for the better off, working classes, but did not provide a solution for the poorer people in society. Rents were relatively high and subletting was forbidden, so naturally the tenants in the best position to pay were selected. High rents sometimes meant difficulty in paying, as more applicants from unskilled occupations were housed. Owner occupation increased rapidly in the inter war years, with first time buyers entering the market as the result of increased availability of mortgage finance, rising real term wages, job security and low interest rates, Social attitudes also shifted during the inter war period in favour of owner occupation, which increased from 19% in 1931, to 30% in 1951, to around 65% today. While many people were choosing to own the home they previously rented, the private rented sector remained the largest housing tenure, accounting for nearly three out of every five dwellings by the end of the 1930’s. The system of rent regulation remained in place in England and wales, until “fair rents” were abolished by the 1988 Housing Act.
The Short Lived Planning Legacy of WW1 –http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/analysis/comment-and-opinion/the-short-lived-planning-legacy-of-the-great-war/5042532.article