Poverty In Britain 1968-1972: Photos By Nick Hedges

At the peak of the ‘Swinging Sixties’, Britain was just not all about Mary Quant, mini-skirts, pop music, fashion models, and fast cars. Much of the working class still lived in conditions of abject poverty, all over the UK. Photographer Nick Hedges went on a tour of the country, and he captured these images in London, Scotland, and the industrial cities in Yorkshire and Lancashire. You could be forgiven for thinking thay were taken during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

A depressed-looking woman holding her baby. There seems to be no joy in her life.

A young child in poor living conditions. It makes me wonder what happened to her later in life.

A mixed-race little girl clings to a woman who could be her mother or grandmother.

A woman using what passes for a kitchen in her house. It is situated on the landing between flights of stairs. Hard to believe this was taken in 1972.

All the children of one family sharing a bed with a single blanket.

A young woman with her baby, entering her slum dwelling in a run down area. Looks more like 1930, than 1970, and hard to believe anyone lives there.

This child holds a baby that she has been left to look after in awful conditions.

A young family living in one small room.

A run down area in a northern city in 1972.

At least this little girl looks happy. But the photo feels more like it was taken in 1940, instead of 1971.

58 thoughts on “Poverty In Britain 1968-1972: Photos By Nick Hedges

  1. It is unbelievable that governments cannot seem to be able to root out poverty—at any time. If one looks around, it is always there, even in affluent times. I travelled to many Balkan countries in the 80s, the conditions for the common people were unbelievable (you felt a century back…) And nowadays, so many people are living in misery in Europe—refugees in those awful camps, the homeless…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is estimated that almost one third of people in Britain are living ‘below the poverty line’ in terms of income in 2022, Marina. Yet the rich continue to get richer, and the government is so callous it doesn’t care.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  2. Hi Pete, these are very interesting pictures. A lot of non-British people think life in the UK has always been as it is now (although there are still people who live in poor circumstances in the UK). That is why people from Africa want to go to the UK. They think it’s all benefits and free healthcare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You could take similar photos in parts of Britain today, Robbie. The economic migrants should be aware that things are not so good in modern-day Britain unless you are reasonably ‘affluent’.
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. I lived with my parents in two rooms with a ‘landing kitchen’ like that one, until I was five. Some of my friends at primary school still lived in what were considered to be ‘slums’ until I was much older, and as an only child I did notice the difference in how larger families (5-6 kids) lived.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When I started working in Clerkenwell during the 1960s I couldn’t believe how many flats around our factory were slums. Having never seen housing conditions as bad coming from north London middle class suburbia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew of some poor living conditions in parts of Rotherhithe, after visiting the houses/flats of schoolfriends and being shocked at how they lived. Most were from large families though, and I was an only child.
      Best wishes, Pete. x


  4. And now you know why post WW2 up to 1975 – 77,000 (2.7% of our population then) from the UK emigrated to NZ – given passage, jobs & homes.
    They became our football coaches & union reps.
    My dad was the same but post WW1

    Liked by 1 person

  5. These photos are stunningly bleak, but kudos to Nick Hedges for offering us a Dickensian glimpse into the misery of a certain class of people at a time when such misery should have already faded well into the past.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I am a black and white aficionado so I appreciate the photos, but the subject matter is heartbreaking reminding me of Dorthea Lange’s photo ‘Migrant Mother’ but they were taken during the depression unlike your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Black and white photos add to the bleakness of these heartbreaking scenes. What is even more dreadful is that people are still living in appalling conditions today with overcrowding and poor maintenance by greedy landlords. We desperately need more social housing and protection for people who rent.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Some have better (slightly) living conditions, but many just manage to exist because of charitable Food Banks and government benefit payments. Most are in areas of high unemployment, after coal mining and heavy industry like steel production was closed down.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. It seemed to be something like a lottery, Wrookie. My own working-class family experienced something of a boom time during the same period. On the other hand, many families were destitute and living in appalling conditions.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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