[Imagine the smallpox era, and with no Sanitation!]


When poverty meant more than just not having the latest PlayStation or trendy trainers: Shocking photos capture the real squalor of Britain's slums that existed just 40 years ago



PUBLISHED: 21:30, 1 October 2014 | UPDATED: 16:41, 2 October 2014




Standing against moulding wallpaper in a small, dank bedroom, a woman known only as Mrs M, looks grimly at the camera as she clutches one of her four young children close to her chest.

Her three others, two boys and a girl, huddle beneath two grubby rain coats - their blanket for the night - as they fight for space on two sodden cushions so they are not forced to sleep on the rickety bed's exposed metal springs.


The house that they share with Mrs M has no bathroom, no hot water and the walls are running with damp. Outside, there is a thick layer of snow and blasts of the freezing winter air sweep through a hole in the broken window.


This harrowing scene of a young British family living in abject poverty is just one of the shocking images included in a new photography collection that captures the real squalor of what it was like to live in the nation's slums - just 40 years ago.


Scroll down for video 

Squalor: Mrs M huddles with her four young children in the council house that they share with her husband in Balsall Heath, Birmingham. Their home has no bathroom, no hot water and the inside walls are running with damp. The children slept on sodden seat cushions covered by a couple of old 'macs'. They are pictured in January 1969, when a thick layer of snow lay outside and the windows were broken


Desperate: Mrs H lived with her husband and her baby boy in a tenement block in Glasgow which had been deserted by all other families. One morning the couple woke up to find that a demolition gang had started to tear down their home. Here, Mrs H is seen pushing her child over building debris into the cold, unlit building


Deprived: Mrs T and her family of five, including her child pictured in this photograph in May 1969, lived in a decaying terraced house owned by a steelworks in Sheffield. They had no gas, no electricity, no hot water, no bathroom and no bathroom. Mrs T's cooking was done on the fire in the living room


Cramped: Three generations of this Irish family, pictured in November 1969, lived together in a single basement room in a multi-let house in Toxteth, Liverpool. The nine family members pose beneath their washing that is strung up on a makeshift washing line as a fire heats the room


Poor Britons living in squalor in 1960s London City's slums



Photographer Nick Hedges spent three years visiting areas of deprivation throughout the UK in the 1960s and 1970s to create these stirring images for the housing charity Shelter.

Launched in December 1966, the charity's campaign aimed to dispel the myth that only living on the streets were homeless and to change the way people think about social issues, using the power of photography.


Hungry: A woman and her child look up from the kitchen of a council-owned property in a slum in Balsall Heath, Birmingham in November 1969. Above them a makeshift washing line is tied to the exposed water pipes attached to the peeling, damp-ridden walls in the dank room


Grasping at normality: Peering into a fragment of mirror stuck on the wall, a young woman puts on make-up in her Glasgow basement flat in October, 1970. Next to her a tap slowly drips into a dirty sink as light pours in through a shattered window - hastily covered with cardboard taken from discarded cereal boxes


Infested: Mr and Mrs Gallagher lived with their four children in a ground floor tenement flat in Maryhill, Glasgow. Their bedroom was covered in pools of rainwater and at night they sleep with the light on to keep the rats away - one night they counted 16 rats in the room. Above, Mr Gallagher with one of his children in January 1970


Harrowing: A young girl tries to soothe a crying infant by holding it close to her chest. The pair stand in front of peeling, moulding wallpaper in what the photographer describes as a 'substandard property' in Balsall Heath, Birmingham in June 1969


Slum: With mould and cracked plaster adorning the walls, and a makeshift washing line sweeping across the cooker, a young boy stands alone in the kitchen of a slum house in Birmingham, Duddleston, in August 1970 

Mr Hedges photographed slum housing in major cities such as Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and London, documenting the daily struggle of the nation's poorest and the distressing conditions faced by more than three million people.  

At the time it was highly unusual for a documentary photographer to focus on domestic issues, as war and international stories were more favoured in the media world.  

Despite being taken decades ago, the photographs have not been shown publicly since then following a 40-year restriction to protect the anonymity of the subjects. He donated 1,000 prints from his work to the National Media Museum in 1983 but they could not be used for that reason. 

During the project, Mr Hedges came across families who slept with the lights blazing to keep the rats from scurrying around their house at night; bedrooms filled with pools of rainwater and kitchen walls decorated with reams of peeling wallpaper.

In one photograph taken by Mr Hedges, a father looks desperately at the kitchen wall in his rat-infested Glasgow home as his young son looks innocently into the camera. In another, a young girl dressed in rags cuddles a screaming baby close to her as she stands in a lonely, dark house.  


Appalling: Mrs Chichockjy and her daughter, pictured in July 1971, were visited at their home in Liverpool by then Housing Minister, Peter Walker. Speaking to the photographer at the time the picture was taken, Mrs Chichockjy said that Mr Walker had said it 'wasn't fit for human habitation', before adding 'and I'm still here'


Dinner time: Mrs T crouches over the open fire at the home she shares in Toxteth, Liverpool, with her husband Mr T (pictured). The photograph is one of 100 that will go on show in the new exhibition - entitled Making Life Worth Living - which opens at the Science Museum, London on Thursday


Bleak: A young girl stands in front of a row of terraced houses in Manchester's Moss Side. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Manchester City Council demolished many of the Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses to the west of Moss Side and replaced these with new residential properties


Imagination: These children, pictured in Glasgow in 1970, while using makeshift veils to play 'weddings' in the street. At the time it was highly unusual for a documentary photographer to focus on domestic issues, as war and international stories took precedence 


Desolate: Terraced houses stand in a deferred demolition area in Salford, Manchester, in June 1971. The photographs, including the one above, have not been shown publicly since then following a 40 year restriction to protect the anonymity of the subjects.


Mr Hedges came across one family living in Glasgow - Mrs Gallagher and her children - who kept their lights on at night, to keep an army of rats away from their home at night. They once counted 16 rats in their room. 


He met one woman - Mrs Chichockjy - in Liverpool in July 1971, who had been visited at their home by then Housing Minister, Peter Walker. She told the photographer that Mr Walker had said it 'wasn't fit for human habitation' - before adding 'and I'm still here'. 


Meanwhile, Mr Hedges photographed one property where three generations of an Irish family - consisting of nine people - lived squashed in a single basement room in a multi-let house in Toxteth, Liverpool. 


Just another day: Dressed in grubby clothes, a young girl poses for a photo in the East End of London in 1969, among the piles of discarded rubbish and trodden newspapers which surround the basement flat in which she lived


Haunting: A little girl looks out from a window panel in a door in a multi-let house in Toxteth, Liverpool in March 1969. With each moving image, the photographer Mr Hedges included detailed contemporary notes, extracts of which will appear alongside the collection of 100 photographs when the exhibition


Anarchy: Nick Hedges captures the face of young boy living in poverty, standing in a deserted street in Toxteth, Liverpool in 1969, with dirt smeared over his face


With each moving image, Mr Hedges included detailed contemporary notes, extracts of which will appear alongside the collection of 100 photographs when the exhibition - entitled Make Life Worth Living - opens at the Science Museum, London, on Thursday.


Mr Hedges said: 'Although these photographs have become historical documents, they serve to remind us that secure and adequate housing is the basis of a civilised urban society. 


'The failure of successive governments to provide for it is a sad mark of society's inaction. The photographs should allow us to celebrate progress, yet all they can do is haunt us with a sense of failure.'


Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said: 'Nick's pictures were crucial to the early days of Shelter's campaigning, capturing a stark reality that many people in Britain couldn't even imagine, let alone believe was happening in their community.


'Many of the scenes that Nick captured are from places that have long since been regenerated, but conditions not a million miles from these exist in our communities even now, with poor housing, sky-high house prices, rogue landlords and a housing safety net that's being cut to shreds leading three million people to turn to Shelter each year.


'It's nearly fifty years since these pictures were taken and the Shelter journey began; I truly hope in another fifty years our journey will have long been completed and that bad housing and homelessness will be a thing of the past, rather than a challenge for our future.'


The exhibition, co-curated by the independent Dutch curator Hedy van Erp and the National Media Museum's Curator of Photographs Greg Hobson, starts today and continues until 18 January, 2015 at the Media Space, Science Museum, Exhibition Rd, London SW7 2DD. Entrance is free.


Wasteland: A man, hands in his pockets, walks away from dreary terraced houses in Leeds in July 1970. Behind him, a woman walks her dog, a buggy next to her


Playtime: Children playing on swings in a playground by the shipyards in Govan, Glasgow - where Mr Hedges took many of the photos - in August 1970 


Grim: Three boys play with guns along cobbled streets between rows of back-to-back terraced houses in Leeds, West Yorkshire, in July 1970. The title of the exhibition - Make Life Worth Living - apparently takes inspiration from the Beechams Pills advertisement painted on the brick wall


Modern day poverty in the UK: Save the Children 2013 advert






Read more: