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19 April 2014
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Legacies - Humber

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Immigration and Emigration
A piece of Britain that shall forever remain foreign

Health worries

As Hull developed a pivotal role in the movement of people via the UK originating from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Russia, and Sweden, the number of transmigrants passing through the port increased. Yet as the European transmigrants were transported to Hull in a poor condition, the medical risks associated with the travellers gathering in the main railway station were a constant source of concern for the town of Hull.

This plaque commemorates the migrant lodging house, Harry Lazarus Hotel, which operated in the 1870s and 1880s
After 1866, as a preventative measure necessitated by the outbreak of cholera in most of the European ports, the railway company, the North Eastern Railway, agreed to transport those migrants arriving at the Victoria Dock by rail to Paragon station, rather than allowing them to pass through the town on foot as they had done previously.

Those arriving via the dock increasingly remained onboard ship until shortly before the time their train out of the town was due to depart. Although these were only small measures, they helped to alleviate some of the risks posed both to the emigrants and to the inhabitants of Hull alike - by preventing the emigrants from coming into contact with unscrupulous racketeers who preyed on travel weary migrants and halting the spread of disease between the migrants and the inhabitants of Hull.

Because of the risks to the town's health from the large numbers of European migrants passing through the port, the North Eastern Railway Company built a waiting room near Hull Paragon Railway Station in 1871. This waiting room had facilities for the emigrants to meet the ticket agents, wash, use the toilet and take shelter from the weather. At no time throughout the age of mass migration did the authorities in Hull provide purpose built emigrant lodging houses for the migrants.

The emigrant waiting room at Hull
The emigrant waiting room at Hull before it was converted into a pub
© Courtesy of Nick Evans
Although 20 emigrant lodging houses were given licenses by the Town Council in 1877 alone, the emigrant lodging houses differed from other common lodging houses only by their description and size (the emigrant lodging houses licensed after 1877 held between 20 and 80 people at a time). Most emigrants only stayed in these lodging houses when necessary, most arrived in and departed from Hull within 24 hours.

Although the majority of emigrants were only in Hull for a short period of time, the emigrant waiting room at Paragon Railway Station was doubled in size in 1881 due to the numbers passing through the town.

The extension provided a separate waiting room for the women and children and more extensive toilet and washing facilities. A second emigrant railway platform was built in 1885, but this was by the Hull & Barnsley Railway Company who had built the facilities as part of their new dock - the Alexandra Dock. This was the first purpose-built dockside railway platform for emigrants, with deeper docks to cater for larger steamships and a longer platform for the large numbers of emigrants who needed to board the long train.

Words: Nicholas J. Evans

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