Hard Times 1850 to 1950.
Our speaker Bro Rick Hudson looked at life’s difficulties experienced by the poor in the hundred years up to 1950. His overview was illuminated by examples from the lives of local people and from his own family history research.
Looking at mental illness he named locals who were registered with mental health problems around 1850 and the treatment of those who were sent to the private asylum of Moor Cottage, near Warley Cross. He explained how the later use of larger institutions like Broadgates hospital near Beverley was perhaps less humane.
Even the hale and hearty can be brought down when illness strikes. Antibiotics did not come into use until the 1940’s. Rick used an example from his own mother’s family. He never knew two uncles and two aunties who all died before their thirties. Just one uncle survived.
Rick argued that the improvements in welfare provision have had the biggest impact on the poor. Examples he gave included the introduction of the old age pension in 1909, and the introduction of National Assistance Act and the National Health Service in the late 1940’s.
This was a period of the Poor Law, charities, and self help. Using family examples again, Rick contrasted the fate of two sisters, one in the workhouse and one who emigrated. He also showed a heart-breaking photograph of the female inmates of the Driffield workhouse in 1922.
He reviewed housing, including a look at Bridlington’s housing stock in the period and his own birthplace cleared as a slum in the 1960’s. He concluded that the supply of decent housing for all at an affordable price is still an unfulfilled promise today.
A look at law and order provided some lighter moments including Rick’s own link to the “Mad Axeman”. A review of employment revealed how Bridlington has lost that feel of local independence.
Considering the effects of wars in the period, Rick chronicled our move from empire to commonwealth, and from the impotence felt by the poor to true democracy.
Rick concluded with the premise that it is science and technology that have really brought about the improvements we see. As a Nobel prizewinner put it “scientists have changed our way of life more drastically than television stars, statesmen or generals”.
The vote of thanks was given Gillian Pudsey. She thanked Bro Rick for a well researched presentation brought to life using stories of family and locals.