British Social History: Photos By Thurston Hopkins

In the 1950s, immigration from the West Indies was becoming a political issue. At the same time, many people all over Britain were still living in slum conditions and poverty. Thurston Hopkins travelled to some cities in Britain to record what was happening.

1955. Three West Indian men photographed on the streets of Birmingham. Racist attitudes often made it very difficult for them to find accommodation and employment.

1955. Mr Siebert Mattison from St Anne in Jamaica now lives, sleeps and cooks in the same room with his Welsh wife and their three children.

1955. Kwessi Blankson from Jamaica offers a light to workmate Jack White at The Phosphor Bronze Company where he is in charge of the oil burners.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
A child sleeping in a slum dwelling in the backstreets of Liverpool, where 88,000 of the houses are deemed unfit for human habitation.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
A woman washing her face over a basin in her rundown Liverpool home.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
A woman sitting by a stove with two children at their home in the Frank Street slum clearance area of Liverpool. She is probably their grandmother.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
Three teenage boys with fashionable hairstyles on a street corner.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
An elderly woman standing among the litter in a back alley of the Liverpool slums.

Liverpool Slums, November 1956
A group of children playing weddings.

43 thoughts on “British Social History: Photos By Thurston Hopkins

  1. Through the ages, children have always loved dressing that last photo and the ones of the slums there are places like that here and some worse but I am guessing every country still has areas that should be demolished and are just slums nought changes ..xx

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  2. My best friend as a kid had come to the UK from St Lucia with her family. She introduced me to reggae and I never looked back! We lost touch when I moved to Kidbrooke though. I often wonder what had happened to them all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I was in secondary school, we only had two black pupils in a school of over 1,000. One girl from St Kitts was in my class and her name was Ruth, the other one was an African boy who was good at sport. I still remember his name, Shai Badulai.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In my primary school I don’t remember any black pupils, nor in the Grammar school I went to from ages 11 -13. In my secondary school in Kidbrooke I only remember one black girl, Verna, who one day in the classroom caused much mirth when she announced she wanted to be a bisexual secretary (she meant bi-lingual I think!).

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          1. Many of the shops in our part of the East End were owned by Jews. Another of my best friends was Jewish, and I used to go to her house on Fridays and do things like switching on the light and making a cup of tea, because their religion stopped them from doing anything on Fridays.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. It is true that images convey much more meaning than words, don’t they? Considering how the economy is going, one wonders where everything is headed. Thanks for sharing those, Pete. Certain things should never be forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very heartrending, and consistent with the portrayals in “Call the Midwife,” which I absolutely love. I don’t know why, in this day and age, we still struggle with problems of poverty and prejudice and all the other social issues that arise as a result. Sigh.

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  5. (1) “It was hard squeezing the three of us in that telephone booth for the long distance call to mama, but somehow we were able to keep our suits wrinkle-free.”
    (2) “How about we put the babies away and play a few games of cribbage?”
    (3) I’m assuming that Jack White is the white guy. Maybe if he got more sun, he could bronze his skin. That would allow him to better relate to Kwessi Blankson.
    (4) That girl is dreaming of being in the news.
    (5) There is a Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada. I assume the people who live there wash their face in a basin and cook their meals on a range.
    (6) Stoves can be used to cook meals, keep one warm, and dry clothes.
    (7) Wouldn’t those boys rather have slummy hair and live in Woolton?
    (8) The woman in the narrow back alley poses like Moses.
    (9) After playing weddings, the children played honeymoons. That’s how they all got in trouble…

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  6. And whilst the Caribbean poured into England, 77,000 English & Scots and 6,000 Dutch poured into NZ. They all had skills NZ were short of post war. They took over our soccer clubs like my coach.
    I remember them very well and still come across them today. They got branded as POMs (Prisoners of Mother England) but in fact that term has been incorrectly applied. It was originally used by the English immigrants jibing to their family “back home”. Now back to the photos – what stands out to me is the guys dressed in suit jackets. All the English immigrant kids (like in my class) all wore suit jackets. We here only saw England as Coro St and the stories of these immigrants. They taught us Bingo (called Housie here) but couldn’t teach us to queue.
    20 years ago to solve a shortage of police here , hundreds of current British cops were recruited. Whilst many are still here now, for some it was a disaster and they went home. They were not treated well at the College, lost rank etc.
    To sum up these photos = the world goes round & time goes only forward but photos take us back!

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  7. Hi Pete, the last picture of the children is nice despite their surrounds while the picture of the elderly woman is sad. It is strange how the two pictures generate different emotions and feelings despite the poverty in both. Perhaps its because small children always find a way to play and enjoy themselves. It’s much harder to deal with poor conditions when you are older and your body isn’t as robust and strong.

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    1. I think those slums were unchanged since Victorian days, Cindy. WW2 bombing did some cities a great favour, (especially London) as many slum areas were destroyed by the Germans and rebuilt with better housing. Those ‘back to back’ houses in Liverpool were still much the same into the 1970s.
      Best wishes, Pete. x


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