A Blog From member Sue Hogarth

I have always wished to go back in time and see how York was in the 1930s and often said ” would love to have lived in York then” ,however after working in the archives and actually reading letters from people who did live in that era I’m so glad that I didn’t live in the 1930s.the letter that really touched my heart was one to the council begging them to  put his mum in the “York city infirmary” the first letter was wrote in 1936 saying that his mum was desperately needed relocating, we do know that this area had a compulsory purchase order on it, so did the son not have room where he lived for his mum or was it because he couldn’t cope with her illness, his mum however was adamant that she didn’t want to leave her house and go into the “institution” ,the son continued to write letters to the council for a whole year, eventually the council officer visited the lady with the intent of persuading her to leave the house, they visited her regularly pestering her to leave, eventually she gave in and was signed permanently into the “institution” ,her pension book was taken off her as she would no longer need it, on inspection of the house it was filthy and overrun with vermin, it wasn’t fit for human habitation, but she spent many happy years there , her furniture was deemed unfit to be sold at public auction and was sent to the “Destructor” to be burnt along with her clothes, bedding etc. This true story made me feel so grateful for what we have today, the poor lady fought so hard to stay in her home and when she eventually did leave all her earthly belongings were burnt.

I enjoyed looking through the archives because it gave me a glimpse into the past, without the archives this wouldn’t be possible, I have always enjoyed history, so Thankyou to the people who made this possible.

Sue Hogarth

Housing: histories and futures

  • Poplar Grove in New Earswick, between 1902 and 1907. New Earswick became influential in the development of national social housing policy in the early twentieth century.

Housing was a key issue that came up on the first My Future York stall we ran on Parliament Street in March. It was also the focus of a pilot project we undertook in November last year called ‘York and Housing: Histories Behind the Headlines’.

As part of the project, we invited a wide range of people to comment about the challenges York faces in terms of housing. Alison Sinclair in her piece ‘From New Earswick to Tang Hall: How York set the agenda for social housing’ explored York’s tradition of innovation in high quality and affordable housing. Darren Baxter and Alison Wallace, from the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy, asked ‘What is it that drives unaffordability in York?’. Through a specific focused project using the city archives we explored some of the stories behind York’s big changes and trends in housing, Carmen Byrne, in ‘Emotional Trauma, Community Upheaval, Long Silences’ uncovered the impact on people of compulsory purchase in 1970s. We have built on these pieces through commissioning a new piece, published last week, by Richard Bridge, giving a specific account how legislative changes will impact on York as a livable city, ‘A Right to the City?: The new legislation driving York’s gentrification’.

One key theme that emerged through ‘York and Housing: Histories Behind the Headlines’ was about public engagement in future decision making. An openness to public discussion in the context of the new Local Plan and York Central was set out in a piece by Council Leader Chris Steward and Deputy Leader, Keith Aspden, ‘Don’t wait for us to come to you, please come and talk to us’ . Phil Bixby, Chair, York Environment Forum and partner in the My Future York project, suggests that, while there are a lot of external drivers, one of the reasons the York is experiencing a housing crisis is that the city has found it hard to make decisions, ‘The real crisis York faces is a crisis of decision-making’.

The histories, analysis and ideas contributing as part of the ‘York and Housing: Histories Behind the Headlines’ project are shaping My Future York. One way we’re building on the work we did in November is through the Hungate Histories project. You can find out more by join our public event sharing the findings of the Hungate Histories project on 21st June, 3.00-5.30pm.

Hungate Histories project

  • Images from the York Past and Present Hungate Histories project in collaboration with York Explore Libraries and Archives

Just a thought !!!

After writing my “where will I be in Ten Years” piece it set me wondering. Maybe another set of questions should be How do you View York now and What do you think York will be like in the Future. Would be interesting to know the different ways people respond as there are so many different views of the City and where it’s heading

As I said in the title Just a thought

Two Days in the life of me

Sunday 8th of may 2016

Wake up around half 7 am with the sun shining and the birds are tweeting and it’s quiet oh so quiet. As i lay thinking what the day brings My dog decides that I must need a good wash as he is desperate to get my attention and wanting to go for his morning walk. I get up go and quickly do my bathroom Antics before the dog starts to howl and wake up the rest of the house, No time for morning coffee first its out of the door and onto the backies. Clifton backies seems so much nicer first thing on a morning as we pass very few people who also appreciate the open space so early and Sam Is able to meet and greet his friends. After walking the four mile trip ( it seems so big once i say it ) it’s time to head home and the list of things that must be done to fulfil my day. Firstly giving Sam a Drink and his breakfast is priority and getting my first cup of coffee for the day oh that tastes good. Then my music goes on the washing goes in and the floors get swept and moped. Its quickly on to the computer to post on facebook events meetings and projects we have coming up. Then have lunch in the Garden (it is such a nice space now it has been done) that nice i decided that i can do what i need to do online outside and better than sat in a stuffy house when the weather is so lovely. Well that would have been the idea but then i get that look from Sam and he wants to go out again so as i don my walking shoes and off we go again to the backies it’s a little busier at this time of day but Sam doesn’t mind he has more friends to play with although getting him to listen is another matter (too busy having fun). As i start to walk away from him he decides to come bounding up and knock me on my bottom (good job it was on the grass and i have plenty of padding). Hobbled home and went for a bath to soothe it’s nearly tea time before we know it and Richard is making thank goodness don’t think i could manage standing and cooking. After tea its upstairs to watch a little tv before bed time.

 

Sunday 10th of May 2026

Wake up around 8am and the weather is lovely not too hot but definitely not winter thank goodness the house is a little more quieter these days it’s just the two of us at home now. Although we have visitors coming for sunday lunch, Its always nice to see my boys (even though they are fully grown men now) their partners and our First grandson. it’s time to get up and strip the bed ready to go in the washing Machine. Time for some quick updates on Facebook although things are much easier now as we have become more established and wider known. As i quickly do the usual sunday chores of cleaning the house, There is a knock at the door and My Grandson shouting “Nanna” we welcome our visitors in discuss whats been happening and how things are going in general life over a nice pot of tea sit and watch our grandson play in the garden with his toys another knock at the door and its our youngest son with his girlfriend and we are ready to go out for lunch we chose our favorite restaurant its where we celebrated our wedding and many anniversaries thereafter it’s also seen us celebrate our eldest’s 18th, 21st and our youngest’s 16th,18th and 21st. The food has never faltered always delicious and good value for money. Our grandson likes the play area although so many heart in throat moments but he knows no fear just like his dad at that age. Three hours later and we are all pleasantly full time to leave Youngest son and his girlfriend are going straight home as they have many things to do before early to work. We are giving Eldest and family a lift home or so we thought as grandson decided he wants to sleep over at nana and grandads house which we don’t mind he doesn’t go to school yet. So we take dad and mum home and then back to our house for bath time then super and then reading stories before bed (phew forgot how hard little ones are) but wouldn’t change it for the world ah now my own bed beckons me but maybe a little tv time (Snore).

My Present and My Future – Only Separated by 10 Years

My Present and My Future – Only Separated by 10 Years

Sunday May 8th 2016

This morning is the same as most weekday mornings, up between 7-730, usual bathroom routine and then downstairs for a cup of Tea (no better way to start the day in my opinion).

Sat with Drink the computer goes on and I start posting all the information and images I need to upload to Facebook, then it’s logging onto the York Past and Present website for some fine tuning and some editing.

Finally, it’s about 11am and all is finished, for a quiet Sunday it’s not so quiet when you have your youngest son running around the house and your eldest son visiting you and talking about all that’s going on.

Most of my afternoon is filled with sitting in the garden talking to my son and learning about what he has been doing as we exchange what’s been happening in our lives and how things are in general.

4pm comes around and my eldest bids us farewell and heads home to his house and his girlfriend, leaving the 3 of us sitting quietly and enjoying the sunshine for an hour or so, before I turn my computer back on and start to organise some of the things that we have coming up (meetings, Events, gatherings, that sort of thing).

I finish around about 5 and judging by the rumblings in my stomach, I ask the family what they fancy and catch a late dinner.

After washing pots my youngest son goes into his room to play on his Xbox and me? Well I retire into the bedroom to relax on the bed and watch a bit of TV for a few hours before bed and the start of another busy day.

 

Sunday May 8th 2026

My alarm goes off and I get up, it’s about 8:30, I lay in bed for a while looking at the latest news on my phone for 20 mins or so, before I do all the usual bathroom stuff, I get dressed and head downstairs.

Cup of Tea in hand, I retire to the garden to enjoy my drink and enjoy the day, no need to rush to get things done these days, Facebook is as it always has been and the York Past and Present Website is now merged with many other York History websites so there isn’t so much of a rush to get all the latest news and images on there.

After enjoying my drink and my sit down I now start looking at some of the events and meetings we have coming up. I must admit this is a lot easier now than it has been in the past because York Past and Present has grown and become part of a bigger network now we are well known to all and out mission (so to speak) is in full swing with many organisations and groups involved.

I finish just in time for my eldest son to come around with his wife and our first grandchild, it’s great to spend time catching up and watching my grandson play.

It’s now pushing 6pm and after my wife has made something to eat I slip into my slippers and retire to the bedroom to watch some television.

Around 10pm I go downstairs make myself a nice hot chocolate and retire to my bed for an early night and the start of a new day.

My Future York: First Planning Meeting

Housing was an issue that surfaced repeatedly, from concern about York's street homelessness, to the need for more social housing and the affordability of private rented accommodation.
Housing was an issue that surfaced repeatedly on the Parliament Street stall, from concern about York’s street homelessness, to the need for more social housing and the affordability of private rented accommodation.

We had our first My Future York planning meeting on 30th April – we identified some emerging themes, clarified what the framework for the project and made some plans for the project’s next steps.

Emerging themes

A key aim of the project is to take really seriously any contribution made and so we began by looking over the postcards that people had left with us at the Parliament Street stall we ran on Good Friday.

We worked out there were some obvious clusters: Housing, Green Spaces, Family Activities, Democracy, valuing York’s heritage, Food, Transport.

These are areas we will develop history projects around and public events to open up new approaches and ideas.

Beyond consultation

A key aim of the My Future York project is to develop different way for publics and communities to be involved in local democracy and local planning. Too often consultation means a choice between two or three options and doesn’t allow the people of an area or city to be involved in shaping the overarching framework.

In the planning meeting one idea crystallized that My Future York was about involving as many people as possible in, in effect, setting the brief for York’s future planning.

This way of thinking about what we’re doing also fully recognizes professional expertise and role. Once a brief is set then there will be a need for the city’s planners, designers and architects to help realize the city’s needs and visions.

A day in your life?

Then we were working out the best way of starting to openly – and with the whole city! – set the brief. We talked a lot about how to start and thought that, rather than ask people more abstract questions about the city as a whole, it might be best to ask people to think about what they do and would like to do.

To experiment a bit we’re just going to pilot with our friends and families two invitations:

2016: Tell the story of a day in your life.

2026: Imagine your ideal day – a work day or a day off – in ten year’s time.

We’ll see if these day-in-a-life invitations work. Any ideas for alternatives – or if you have a day in the life you want to share contact My Future York.

Hungate Histories: lots of paperwork…and people’s lives glimpsing through

The Hungate Histories team match up the archive records with a map of the area.
The Hungate Histories team match up the archive records with a map of the area.

The last two Friday mornings have seen a group of us, all members of York Past and Present facebook group – Lianne Brigham, Richard Brigham, Helen Graham (also University of Leeds), Sue Hogarth, Victoria Hoyle (also City Archivist and University of York), Catherine Sotheran, Dave Ruddock with support from Justine Winstanley-Brown, Archivist (Civic and Public Records) – meeting up at the city archives to explore the histories of Hungate.

As with the My Future York project more generally our aims are to see how collaboratively producing histories of urgent issues facing York can enrich public debate so that more of us can be actively involved in shaping the future of the city.

The idea for focusing on Hungate came from the pilot project we did in November 2015, York and Housing: Histories Behind the Headlines. In November we took our first look at the archives to see what was there – what type of records, what types of ways of knowing – and then ran two public events to explore what we found with a wider group.

Having realized how big the task could be, we decided at the end of our first session to focus on two streets in Hungate – Hungate itself and Garden Place – and have started to use a wide variety of records to gather everything that we can find out about these streets, the forces that shaped them and which ultimately led to them being demolished.

To make the project managable, the team has decided to focus on two streets, Hungate and Garden Place. Image credit: York Explore
To make the project managable, the team has decided to focus on two streets, Hungate and Garden Place. Image credit: York Explore

The type of records available are: Maps, which show in detail specific properties and businesses; Health Department, we’ve so far found Health Inspections from the 1910s and Compulsory Purchases Orders from the 1930s. One of the team was working with a box of the personal correspondence with people who were being affected by the compulsory purchase orders – and there’s so much more to come out of look through these more personal stories. We’ve also started cross-referencing with electoral registers and register of business and pubs. There is also very clear legislative contexts to the different phases of work (as you can see on the House Inspection Record below)– and we’ll get started on the council minutes in the coming weeks. So on one hand we’re doing really focused history work, but with a much wider-angle lens on policy and decisions making.

An example of a housing inspection sheet. Image: York Explore
An example of a housing inspection sheet from 1936 used as part of the compulsory purchase of properties in the area. Image: York Explore

Sue Glenton has been researching the compulsory purchase orders: In the last two sessions I have discovered an enormous amount, about the way archiving can be used as a tool for research and lots of local info from the other members of the group. It is really absorbing and is very easy to get distracted as one bit links up with somebody else’s discovery. After looking at the 1936 reports on the square footage of dwellings in Hungate prior to the Compulsory Purchase Orders being issued, I have a mental picture of an official from the Health Committee almost stepping over the wasted bodies of TB sufferers to accurately measure the rooms. Then returning to the  office to record this info in copperplate writing while people lived in squalor. It was a different world and comes home to me vividly after looking at these records. Fascinating!

Richard Brigham has been looking specifically at the maps: I think what has surprised me so far is the dis-organisation of things that should have been known, housing was not only in poor condition but also lived in by a wide variety of numbered people, (as little as 2 in one house and as much as 5-7 in others). The variety of places co-existing in one place was profound, Gas works, mills, brick works and homes all in one section of the City and ALL working within feet of each other, It’s clear to say that Health and Health and Safety clearly did not have any place in this time frame of life living in Hungate! Yet as bad as things were there was clearly a camaraderie within the community.’

Lianne Brigham, who has been looking at a mixture of health reports, environmental health inspections and compulsory purchase orders: ‘What has surprised me with working with the archives is not only the abundance of paper work there is but the amount of houses there were in Hungate. Ok we have had to narrow our research down… but in no way does this mean that task is going to be any easier. Really enjoying it so far.’

Helen Graham has been taking responsibility for scanning, so has seen lots of different things that the group have dug up: ‘I think what stunned me from reading the variety of materials in the archive is both how weak and how powerful government was – and how it was changing in the early 20th Century. It is clear, in the days before the land registry, the Health Department simply didn’t know who owned properties and were seeking this knowledge so they could start to regulate quality of house and ultimately, three decades later, buy the housing stock up to demolish it. It raises questions about what government does and can do – clearly massive leaps were being made in public health and working ‘on behalf of’ and ‘for the good of’ a wider population but the archives also indicate how hard bureaucracies find to deal with specific people and their specific needs’.

If you got any memories of Hungate or Garden Place – or what to hear more about the project – contact the group.

The Hungate Histories team will be running an event to share their work on 21st June, 3.30-5pm. You can book a free place via eventbright.

My Future York: Call for volunteer archive researchers

St Sampson's Square before pedestrianisation - what are the histories of travel in and around York and what might be future solutions?
St Sampson’s Square before pedestrianisation – what are the histories of travel in and around York and how might we imagine future solutions?

 

We are calling for volunteer researchers who are interested in the urgent issues facing York today – and who have the skills to develop compelling research and digital content to illuminate and share the histories of these issues.

  • You would join the My Future York research team.
  • You would pick an urgent issue facing the city.
  • You would use the city archives and other sources to build complex and evocative histories of these urgent issues. (This would be more akin to developing quality journalistic approaches to history than writing a PhD. Good skills for people wanting to work in museums or public history roles!)
  • You would develop digital content (social media and interpretive blogs) to communicate these issues with local people and to enrich and open up debate.
  • You would work with the My Future York research team to develop and feed into our public events.

Examples of issues might include – but you can suggest your own:

  • green belt and green spaces
  • homelessness
  • drinking / night life
  • housing
  • traffic and public transport

We would help you to develop:

  • archive-based research skills
  • interpretive and digital content skills

Travel expenses within York and refreshments will be provided.

To volunteer or find out more, contact the My Future York team via researcher Helen Graham, Director, Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage, University of Leeds

h.graham@leeds.ac.uk