It’s a popular misconception nowadays that the results of World War II bombing was cleared up by the early 1960s, but this was not the case.
Many towns and cities still bore grisly scars and reminders of the war. The remnants of shattered buildings seen here would have been a depressing and disturbing sight to many local residents to whom the Blitz would have been a far from distant memory. Imagine going into the centre of your nearest town or city and finding much of it reduced to rubble. London still had unrecycled bomb sites into the new millennium.
Hull has the unfortunate record of being the most bombed provincial British city. Some 1200 people were killed, 400 of them in a concerted bombing campaign on 7-9 May 1941. It was probably of little compensation that this area was being put to good use for car parking when this picture was taken from Holy Trinity Church in, we understand, the winter of 1962. Chapel Lane, complete with cobbles, which led from Lowgate to High Street, is in the foreground.
So, we’ve parked up and noticed quite a few new cars in the line-up, with most of the vehicles echoing a new era, seemingly a world away from post-war rationing and hardship.
As in many places, temporary buildings were often put up on bombsites, as is the case with the ‘half-timbered’ construction on the right of the picture, though in practice these would often be standing for much longer than intended. This also applied to the infamous ‘prefab’ houses, built from preformed concrete sections, which sprang up across Britain on bombed streets and industrial outskirts.
Many a gentleman of the automobile trade jumped at the chance to set up business on land made vacant by the policies of A Hitler and the term ‘bombsite car dealer’ entered British parlance.
Note the remnants of snow behind the advertising hoarding and on top of several vehicles including the Mini van fourth from the camera in the second row back. Several vehicles have their windscreens covered over to avoid an ice scraping session. Who cares if you couldn’t see out of the side windows?
There are lots of cars to go through so let’s start. Standing away from us in the foreground is a Wolseley 16/60. Facing it menacingly are, from the left, a Ford Popular 103E, a model frighteningly only out of production for some three years, a 105E Anglia van, a Hillman Husky, Ford Consul MkII, Austin A40, Standard 8 and Singer Vogue.
After a Morris Minor on the end of the next row back we have one of three VW Beetles seen here. Interestingly from the 200 or so vehicles in this shot only seven are foreign models. Apart from the Volkswagen split-screen camper seen in the back row, and the three Beetles, we have couple of Renault Dauphines from the two million built worldwide from 1957-64, and an earlier 4CV, seen with its back to us, behind the Bedford CA van on the road furthest away from the camera. These would almost certainly have emanated from Renault’s British assembly plant in the non-too Gallic domain of Acton. There’s also a rare (in Britain, at the time) Citroën 2CV. Though these were offered on the British market and built at Slough, the side-mounted indicators suggest this is a French car. Perhaps it’s a tourist who’s got slightly lost?
Otherwise we have good old Blightymobiles. We reckon Minors are most numerous, with 13 examples, beating the dozen BMC Farinas. Ford Anglias are next on 10, then Minis with eight. Mathematics was never our strong point though, but trust us! Two cars, the extremely early Morris 1100 (fourth vehicle along from the right of the third row from the wall in the back of the picture) proves the picture was taken in 1962. There’s also, would you believe, what would appear to be a two-tone 1100. It’s in the fourth row back from the wall, diagonally opposite the gentleman in the peaked cap. We wonder whether he was a ship’s captain, traffic warden or worked on the buses. The car is more intriguing though. Was this one of the first MG variants? At the end of this row nearest to us, behind the magnificent Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire 346, is the big rarity of this collection, a Frisky, conceived by the commercial vehicle and marine engine manufacturer Henry Meadows and built from 1958-1961, using Villiers and Excelsior engines. This was a well put-together tiny car, with its glassfibre body designed by Giovanni Michelotti!
Looking further, we note but few pre-World War Two cars, presumably due to the new MoT test which had been introduced in 1960. The several MkII Austin A40s and FB Victors, which debuted in 1961, have little cause to worry about it yet though.
Our greatest sympathies lie with the owner of the vehicle in row five, 14th car from left, We think this is a Singer Roadster rather than an MG, but the driver would certainly need to be wearing his or her woolly muffler for the freezing journey home. Many other motorists will have regretted not spending that £17.4s.2d or whatever on a car heater.
Today, an office block, a branch of Argos and a multi-storey car park occupy most of this site and only a couple of the buildings in the background remain. Wm Gilyott and Co Ltd, later Gilyott & Scott, was well known locally, having major warehousing and shipping interests, Next door, with the lightcoloured (we think Ford) lorry being loaded outside, was George Buckton, the grain merchant. The firm that occupied most of the site prior to the bombing, wholesale chemist Lofthouse and Saltmer, lost its entire premises but did managed to relocate. It was taken over by Glaxo in 1967.
Hull is on the up, having been nominated as City of Culture 2017. The city is, however, preserving the National Picture Theatre in its bomb-damaged state as a poignant memorial of the Blitz.