Book detailing 19th Century migrants crossing through Grimsby featured in exhibition

Book detailing 19th Century migrants crossing through Grimsby featured in exhibition

An artist’s book which details European migrants’ crossing from Hamburg to America, in which the route passed through Grimsby, is being featured in an exhibition after it was shortlisted for the prestigious Sadler Award in the Cooper Prize Competition.

Artist Lynne Barker came up with the idea for her project ‘Crossing: Grimsby to Liverpool’ when she attended a conference in Switzerland which explored the links between national identity and the rise in nationalism in Europe.

She said: “I became interested in stories of migration around the UK, so I was doing some research and discovered the work of Dr Nick Evans, lecturer in history at The University of Hull, and he published a work about migration in Europe in the 19th Century.”

The migrants were collected from Hamburg, shipped to Grimsby via train, and then on to Liverpool, where they would catch the boat which travelled to the United States of America.

In total, there were around 500,000 migrants crossing through Grimsby from 21 countries, which included Norway, Spain, Italy and Russia, in which migrants were escaping war, famine and persecution from 1850 until just before the First World War began.

“They were called trans-migrants because they travelled across the country by train on the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire railway line,” Lynne said.

Lynne explained that there was a waiting room for migrants crossing through Grimsby, which was located at Grimsby Docks.

The shelter for the migrants was established after its use as a shelter for first-class railway passengers failed to take off.

In her book, Lynne provides details for all the stops along the route from Hamburg to Liverpool, and explains what the experience would have been like for the migrants.

It reads: “Migrants were locked in the trains for the duration of their journey to Liverpool. Travelling along this Transpennine route, they passed through many stations without stopping, kept separate from those living and working in Grimsby.

“On arrival from Hamburg in Grimsby, migrants were kept separate from the residents of the town, at the emigrant shelter on Grimsby Pier, in part to prevent the spread of disease. The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company also ran the shipping company and so controlled the migrants, from ship to shore, to train.”

Lynne said: “People have always wanted to improve their lives and their family’s lives and that’s the thing that really struck a chord with me.

“That migration isn’t a new thing and that there have always been people have always wanted to improve their lives, so that’s what I learned from it. I wanted to shine a light on something that had been forgotten.”

The famous photographer Lewis Hine famously photographed thousands of European migrants arriving by boat at Ellis Island, New York; many of these would have been the trans-migrants who travelled through Grimsby.

Browse Lynne’s book ‘Crossing: Grimsby to Liverpool’ here.

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