Exposed - Hull's dens of vice
Hull is a proud city.
It hasn't always been that way.
Go back just over 100 years and you would find a very different central area, one which is almost unimaginable today.
Where cafe bars abound and hanging baskets bring summer fragrance to old streets existed some of the worst dens of vice and iniquity. One of them was used by solicitors and their clerks as a cut through to the Hull Police Court from Bowlalley Lane. Join Yorkshire pride on a walk back through time in a look at Hull after dark...
Descriptions in this feature are based on articles written in 1886 for the Hull and East Riding Critic edited by RICHARD COOKE.
It seems a peculiar thing that vice and crime should be permitted to have its fling under the very nose of law and justice. But so it is in Hull. Within speaking distance of the Police Court places exist reeking with infamous filthiness...
...We enter one of the houses and first see a dirty old man with limbs as crooked as his heart and mind. For many years he has got a living from the prostitution of women and the illcit sale of drink.
The licensing laws do not affect his place and the "time gentlemen" of the respectable vendor of alcohol is there an unknown tongue.
There are several females in the room, some young and some middle aged but all with dissipation and vice plainly indicated in their soddened features. They are the lowest of the low against whom some of the unfortunates of the town appear as angels of light.
The language of one young woman is most horrible. She is known as Saucy Poll on account of her vile tongue. Every sentence she uses is a disgrace to her sex...
We cross to the other side of the passage and in a house there find a procuress, her bully and a girl about seventeen or eighteen waiting for a 'mark.' It is difficult to say which is the most filthy, her tongue or her hands.
There is a knock on the door and they let in a respectable looking seaman. Then their bleared eyes brighten up. He is perfectly sober and what is more he will not buy drink from them. He has just returned from the seas and perhaps under the direction of some despicable tout in the service of the procuress has mistaken the place for a respectable lodging house.
He soon finds out his error, however, and is given the 'key of the street.' Had he been drunk nobody would have been so welcome. It would then have been an easy matter to get his six months wages out of him.
Dozens of poor misguided sailors go to this area after a long voyage and are made intoxicated, filched of their undoubted extremely hard-earned money, assaulted and turned out onto the street without the slightest means of making provision for the next voyage...
The general area referred to by Cooke is today a thriving commercial centre. Smart modern offices abound. Within the same area is the former Head Post Office, now being transformed into an entertainment centre and luxury living accommodation. Centuries ago the Post Fffice site was that of the Suffolk Palace.
Written by The Editor - 14/03/2001 16:10:03
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