Tuesday, 18 November 2014

8 foots, 10 foots and Passageways.

Cleethorpes and Grimsby.

I said in the previous post that I was born in Cleethorpes, it's a small seaside town on the east coast of England.  Next door is Grimsby, once the largest fishing port in the world but now reduced since the decline of the fishing industry in the late 70's.

Once these two towns were quite separate with open farm and coastal land between them; in the Victorian period the land between the two towns was built on and now Grimsby & Cleethorpes are as one large town with no obvious border to tell the visitor which town they are in.  The railway came to Grimsby in 1848 and later to Cleethorpes in 1863,  this lead to more trade and Cleethorpes became a very popular seaside resort so more housing was needed.

Harrington Street, where I was brought up, was one of these new developments and although very old then, the houses survive today. 
Harrington Street.

Harrington Street was just one of many rows of terraced houses built in long rows in the back to back style which was prevalent throughout England in the Victorian era.  The back gardens of one row backed onto the back gardens of the next, this building style was repeated all along the areas streets.  They were separated at the rear by an open walkway between the gardens (known as either "8 foots" or "10 foots" depending on their width) and along the row of houses there would be an enclosed passageway between the houses to allow a way through from front to rear.
By using the network of "8 foots" & passages residents could swiftly move about the area without needing to go to the ends of the terraced rows of houses.  It was also one of the reasons no-one used their front doors, at least not on Harrington Street, as the houses only occupied one side of the road because the railway lines through to Cleethorpes Train Station were on the opposite side.

This shows how close the railway is to the houses on Harrington Street.

Sadly, it's a sign of the times that all these inter connecting "8 foots" "10  foots" and passages have had to be closed off. Gated and chained for security reasons the residents no longer have their networks of short cuts and socially don't tend to meet and talk in the back ways any more.
Photographed recently.

The passage I used to come & go from my grandparents house which can be seen in the distance. 
My Grandparents House.

My grandparents house where we lived was typical of the period with almost none of the inside services that we take for granted today.  No electricity, no inside toilet/bathroom and no inside water!  There was gas for cooking and lighting in the kitchen but that was all.
Although my grand parents rented the house (from a private landlord) my granddad paid for electricity to be installed downstairs but this was limited to lighting and a couple of low capacity power points.  He retained the gas lighting in the kitchen and I can still remember when the gas mantles were lit and the lovely light they gave off.  I used to go with my mam or grandmother (Nanna) to Ron Ramsdens' hardware store to buy the mantles.  More of "Rammys" on another occasion.
The only water was from a tap out in the back yard, all water had to be brought into the house for cooking and bathing.  The toilet was an outside "privy" in a brick outhouse adjoining the wash house. Very basic but it did have one item of comfort, a wooden seat, very welcome in colder weather!
We all washed daily from water in an enamel bowl, heated up in a very large brown enamel kettle which was permanently over an open fire for the purpose.  When not required a kettle of boiled water would be left "singing on the hob", a metal stand on the hearth  in front of the fire.
I can still remember my granddad  washing when he came home from work, he would strip to the waist and let his braces hang down at the sides.  (American readers might like to know that braces are what men hold their trousers up with here, you might know them as "suspenders".  In England suspenders have an entirely different use and it's best to leave it there!)  Back to my granddad, he would finish his ablutions with a grand flourish by throwing water up into his face to rinse the soap off and blowing out through pursed lips at the same time!  This made a loud noise that made me laugh every time. 

In the next post I'll talk about daily life. 



  1. Delightful memories! I lived in an old row house many years ago with similar arrangements to what you have described. I hope you write sometime about food preparation in that dimly lit kitchen! It must have been nice to have lived so close to your grandparents.

    1. I certainly hope to write about Nanna's kitchen, when I look back it was really primitive!