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20th century Hull through a local man’s lens

We’ve teamed up with Hull Museums to bring you a series of historical facts and tales. This time, we’re focusing on the incredible portfolio of a local photographer.

Since the invention of the camera in the 1800s, photographs have played a huge part in documenting our lives and legacy.

Nowadays, with a quick snap on our smartphones we can preserve a moment forever. Despite first being active a century ago, Harry Cartlidge (1893-1987) shared this passion for capturing everyday life ever since he was a young boy.

Born in Hull, Cartlidge was gifted his first camera by his mother when he was just thirteen. Many years later his work was printed in national newspapers, and today his images are used to look back at major milestones in Hull’s history.

Photography wasn’t Cartlidge’s first job. When he left school he took a seemingly more stable career as a clerk in the Territorial Army Office. Later, he joined the London and North Eastern Railway Company as a shorthand clerk.

He furthered his career in Hull working at the bustling St. Andrew’s Dock and the central Dock Offices, as well as the Police Office at Paragon Station.

During this time he developed his skills as a photographer, often taking portraits of the staff he worked alongside, Simultaneously, he provided wedding pictures for soldiers who were on leave.

In the 1920s, Cartlidge began to take his creative work more seriously, submitting images to publications. He had much success, with a number of photos appearing in magazines and newspapers, also winning several competitions.

However, it wasn’t until 1929 that Cartlidge’s photographic potential was realised. One day, whilst out and about in the city, he spotted smoke billowing out of the Hull Fish Market. Rushing to the scene, he set up his camera and took some photos.

These images were quickly developed and sent off to the national newspapers. The fire insurance companies and fish merchants also asked for copies for their records.

From then on, Cartlidge managed to capture several other events in Hull. For example, in 1935 he created a detailed series of the Wilberforce Monument being moved to Queen’s Gardens.

To achieve the right shot, he climbed the scaffolding that surrounded the enormous statue (pictured above). By doing so, he was able to showcase the city from an unusual viewpoint, which can be seen in his collection.


As well as Hull, Cartlidge also snapped the surrounding East Yorkshire area and further afield, including Beverley, Scarborough and Whitby. A photo of the floodlit Minster in Beverley town centre proved very popular, even featuring in an album for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later to become The Queen Mother) in the late 1930s.

After retiring, the skilled photographer continued to pursue his obsession. He dedicated more time to his work, regularly documenting the many street scenes, businesses and shop fronts of his hometown.

You can enjoy Harry Cartlidge’s work at the Hull Maritime Museum, one of the buildings where he used to work when Hull was a thriving fishing port.

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