Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Moving Experience

Alan’s prompt picture for this week’s Sepia Saturday features a roadside stall in in 1930s Alabama. Fish and fruit are offered for sale, but there is also a large sign above the doorway advertising a reliable house mover. This took me on a quest for examples of removals captured by photographers of the past. I am no stranger to moving house myself, and whilst my husband was serving with the RAF we moved several times. I therefore feel qualified to say that it is one of the most stressful experiences we have to deal with. However, it pales into insignificance compared with the trials of the people in my story this week: ‘The Great Timberyard Fire, Hartlepool 1922’.


Beginning at about 1.00 pm on 4th January, the fire was, apart from bombardment, suffered by the North East of England in 1914, the greatest disaster in Hartlepool’s history. Over one million pounds worth of damage was caused and, although no-one died, many people were left homeless, having lost all their possessions.


Those who could salvage some property and furniture, had to find whatever means they could to move it either to a relative’s house or to a storage warehouse.


The photographs taken after the disaster have been made available by Hartlepool Cultural Services on Flickr Commons, with no known copyright restrictions. There can be seen many more poignant scenes like this one, labelled ‘Remaining Belongings’.


Those without access to any means of transport, just had to brace themselves and carry what they could to safety.


A hand cart made the job easier for some.


Larger pieces of furniture required everyone to rally round and lend a hand.


In this photograph, labelled ‘Family Evacuating’, the horse stands patiently whilst the family’s possessions, which have been stacked against the wall, are loaded. First on is the precious mangle.


A collection of chairs on a cart and a single chair which is the repository for this woman’s prized collection of pots.


A warehouseman labels a chair so that the owners can collect it if they ever find somewhere to live.

The cause of the fire was never established; it could have a been a spark from a locomotive shunting in the area earlier in the day. What is certain is that the disaster was prevented from becoming a larger tragedy, (the nearby gasworks are visible in some of the pictures) by the teams of firemen from several surrounding fire services, who worked tirelessly to get the fire under control, and are depicted in this remarkable series of photographs.

The victims, mostly from the surrounding tenements of Union Street,  quickly gained sympathy and the Mayor’s Disaster Fund even received contributions from the Royal Family. Within a year the fund had swollen to over £11,000, which was used to compensate local businesses and households. Sadly, many would never be able to reclaim what was rightfully theirs, as so much was lost or abandoned in the ensuing rush and panic to escape the fierce heat.

When you’ve viewed the fifty photos in this set, an read an expanded version of the background to the fire, why not gather some more sepia stories on your handcart over at Sepia Saturday.


21 comments:

  1. Great Sepia Saturday post! I can't help but be put in mind of the evacuation scene in "Fiddler on the Roof". Displacement must be an awful thing to experience.

    Kat

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  2. It seems such a far cry from today doesn't it? The way people seemed to just pick up and get on with saving everything they could and rallying together - but then there was a lot of that after the London Riots too so perhaps I'm being unfair there.

    Jem xXx

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  3. incredible and moving. I'd never heard of this at all. On one of the last photos a woman balances a couple of chamber pots on a chair. These people inhabited a different world to us.

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  4. That's an interesting set of pictures.

    When I saw "house movers" on the sign, I thought it meant they moved buildings not household goods!

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  5. Heartbreaking. Every possession is precious when you have so little to begin with. I wondered if those pots on the chair were chamber or washstand pots, but maybe they are too small.

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  6. The Hartlepool Museum site is a regular place for me to visit. I've trawled through these fire pictures before. You have hit my local area(within 15 miles. Hartlepool had the Tall Ships visit this year.
    It's a long time since I could say I've been there on someone else's post. Still we do seem to follow one another around.

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  7. What a fabulous post. Informative, entertaining, and a well chosen selection of pictures.

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  8. Very sad and frightening it must have been to experience that.

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  9. I have seen so many movies and read so many books about evacuations that my heart aches at the thought. This was quite an interesting post.
    QMM

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  10. They are absolutely fabulous photographs aren't they. How I wish more Local Authorities would make their photographic archives available through Flickr instead of trying to convert them into an income stream (which never is successful and always ends up costing more than it makes) And your explanation really did keep me "hanging on your words"

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  11. Very thoughtful post. I enjoyed it.

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  12. What Desperately Sad Moment For These Folk.& Equally Impressive Organisation & Dignity On Display.

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  13. Wonderful photos capturing a tragedy...I am moved by those who had to walk and carry as well. Interesting to me that none of the faces show as much emotion as they had to feel.

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  14. Little Nell, I've been reading a lot of books recently about WWII experiences and your photos are SO appropriate. Little lads made a bit of extra money for their family hiring out hand carts for removals for families who had been bombed out and lost nearly everything. We modern softies would be hopeless in that situation. Jo

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  15. Wonderful post, your words and images are very sobering.

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  16. The full tragedy of the situation comes out when you see the effect on ordinary people.

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  17. Such a heart breaking event. Knowing that those families could only gather just a few things besides their other family members. So glad there were no deaths.

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  18. Terrific collection and story. The images are probably no different from the horror of fires in earlier centuries.

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  19. Odd, after such an event, that people seemed so calm, some even smiling a little, possibly because they were able to salvage a few belongings, or maybe because they had found a new place to live in...

    Brave of them, I daresay.
    :/~
    HUGZ

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  20. Oh, Nell, this is very interesting. I guess that I didn't study the photo long enough to see where you and Bob came up with housemoving. These are wonderful pictures! Thanks for the website info too.

    Take care, and thanks for visiting,

    Kathy M.

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  21. Such wonderful images. Makes me think of some photos I've seen showing people fleeing with belongings following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

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