Project content to be supplied by Professor Nicholas Evans

The foremost authority on the Northern European transmigrant journey.

Migration from Northern Europe to America via the Port of Hull, 1848-1914

The town of Kingston upon Hull lies at the point where the River Hull and River Humber meet. Throughout its history the port has enjoyed successful trade links with most of the ports of Northern Europe, from Antwerp in the west, to St. Petersburg in the east, Le Havre in the south and to Trondheim in the north. These commercial links have brought great revenue to the town, as well as adding to her cultural and communal development. Though migrants have been travelling to or via the port for most of her history, it was during the period 1836 – 1914 that Hull developed a pivotal role in the movement of transmigrants via the UK. During this period over 2.2 million transmigrants passed through Hull en route to a new life in the US, Canada, South Africa and Australia. Originating from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Russia and Sweden, the transmigrants passed through the port, from where they would take a train to Glasgow, Liverpool, London or Southampton – the UK ports which offered steamship services to the ‘New World’ they had dreamed of.

Before 1836, the number of migrants travelling to the UK via the port of Hull was negligible and was not mentioned in the minutes of either the municipal authority or private businesses. The trade was small and insignificant, with less than one thousand European migrants arriving annually. Most of those who came did so for predominantly commercial reasons and they settled in the urban areas of Hull, York, Leeds, Manchester or Liverpool. Although some did travel through Hull en route to Canada and the US, the small numbers who made the journey reflected the size and infrequency of the vessels that plied the North Sea route to these transatlantic destinations. The sailing vessels were cramped, their timings irregular, and the frequency of the North Sea crossings rendered them unsuitable for the movement of substantial numbers of transmigrants. Whether the emigrants originated from the Baltic, Germany or Scandinavia, the experience of the voyage from mainland Europe to the UK was the same – an ordeal. The journey varied in length depending on the weather and the captain of the vessel, but generally took between 3 and 4 days.

Humber Dock is the enclosed dock in the middle of the photo.

After 1848, there was a gradual emergence of emigrant passenger services via the UK. What started off as limited services by the founding steamship companies in Hull, Leith, Hamburg and Gothenburg quickly developed into regular services operating on regular routes. The steamships not only shortened the time taken to travel between mainland Europe and the UK, but due to the their Royal Mail postal contracts, they offered services throughout the year and not just during the now established ’emigrant season’. From Norway and Sweden, the Wilson Line of Hull began operating steamship services as early as 1843 and was joined by the North Europe Steam Navigation Company in 1853 who quickly built up a fleet of nine steamers to ply the Christiania and Gothenburg route. For each company, the human ‘cargo’ they now transported offered easy revenue, supplementing their existing services to the various ports of northern Europe. Although the N.E.S.N.C. ceased operations in 1858, the Wilson Line and a few other Norwegian lines continued to develop the routes between Scandinavia and the UK and between them transported nearly all of the Scandinavian transmigrants.


Most of the emigrants entering Hull travelled via the Paragon Railway Station and from there travelled to Liverpool via Leeds, Huddersfield and Stalybridge (just outside Manchester). The train tickets were part of a package that included the steamship ticket to Hull, a train ticket to Liverpool and then the steamship ticket to their final destination – mainly America.

(Right) Humber Dock Entrance with the Minerva Hotel on the right.

Sometimes so many emigrants arrived at one time that there would be up to 17 carriages being pulled by one steam engine. All the baggage was stored in the rear 4 carriages, with the passengers filling the carriages nearer the front of the train. The trains took precedence over all other train services because of their length and usually left Hull on a Monday morning around 11.00 a.m., arriving in Liverpool between 2.00 and 3.00pm.

In 1904 the number of emigrants travelling through the UK via Hull was so great that the Wilson Line leased a separate landing station called Island Wharf. This Wharf was located just outside the Humber Dock in Hull and was one of 4 separate landing stations used by emigrants to enter the town. After 1905 the numbers of emigrants travelling via the UK was severely restricted by the Alien Immigration Act. This new law limited the number of European immigrants who entered Britain each year, but did not limit the number of transmigrants who travelled through Britain.

In 1906 the Wilson Line formed a separate company with the North Eastern Railway Company to integrate some of their rail and steamship services. This new company, the Wilson and North Eastern Railway and Shipping Company, made even greater profits by shipping and then transporting by rail the thousands of emigrants they brought to the UK each year. The new joint company limited the numbers who travelled via any other shipping or railway company and ensured a degree of continuity in the journey from steamship to quayside not seen at any other UK port of entry. Although it was the AllanCunardDominion or White Star Lines who sold tickets throughout rural and urban Scandinavia to would-be migrants for travel to America, it was Wilson ships which brought almost all the migrants to the UK – thus generating huge profits for their owners. The Wilson Line was at the time the largest privately owned shipping line in the world and its size accounts for the dominant role it held over the migration of thousands of Scandinavian emigrants between 1843 and 1914.

By 1914 the level of migration via Hull had declined. With the outbreak of the First World War and the passing of immigration acts in South Africa and America, the era of mass transmigration via the UK, and from Europe at large, ended overnight. Although transmigration on a smaller scale did resume after 1918, it would never be of the volume witnessed in the period now known as that of mass migration. Between 1836 and 1914 a revolution in transport occurred in which the steamships became ‘trains on water’, linking Europe with America or Canada, transporting thousands of would-be migrants in ever shorter periods of time. Without this revolution in transport millions may not have made the decision to venture from their homes in Scandinavia to a new life in the west.


This article was written by Dr Nicholas J. Evans who has lived in Hull for most of his life.

Nicholas J. Evans is a Lecturer in Slavery Studies at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) at the University of Hull. He is currently engaged in a project that examines aspects of voluntary and coerced Jewish emigration to South Africa between 1890 and 1960. He gained his BA (Hons) Degree at the University of Leicester and has currently finished his Ph.D. (based at the Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull) that examined the neglected subject of European transmigration through Britain between 1836 and 1914. He is the former Caird Fellow of the National Maritime Museum, London, Kaarle Hjalmar Lehtisen Researcher of the Institute of Migration, Finland, and Research Assistant at the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen, UK.

He can be contacted at:
WISE (Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation)
University of Hull
Oriel Chambers
27 High Street
Hull, HU1 1NE

Any information on emigrants who travelled via Hull or any of the UK ports of arrival would be very welcome. If you have such information please contact Nick Evans or the web master. 

For more information on Transmigration through Britain see another of Nick’s articles “Indirect Passage from Europe. Transmigration via the UK, 1836-1914” in the Journal for Maritime Research. He has also written an article on Jewish immigration to Britain for The National Archives in London as part of their Moving Here Project. The Scottish Emigration database also provides information on transmigrants leaving Scottish ports between 1890 and 1960. Latter-day Saint Scandinavian Migration through Hull, England, 1852-1894

With kind permission Nicholas J Evans and the website.

 More images:

Tigers Lair
Transmigrant Waiting Room by the side of Paragon Station.

Open platform on the left was right next to the waiting room and was separate from the normal traffic.


Plaque found in the station buildings.



In 2001 a sculpture by Neil Hadlock was donated by Sea Trek Foundation of America. The bronze sculpture depicts a family of immigrants that have just left their ship and waiting for their train at Paragon Station.

Other Related Articles :

  • The Transatlantic Crossing (20. February 2001)
    This article focuses mainly on the transatlantic journey. It is the story of how the Norwegians going to America in the time between 1825 and 1925 would travel. It also gives some insight to the amazing development in how ships were constructed and the transportation arranged to meet the demands of the increasing number of people on the move. Even though this is about the experience of Norwegian emigrants, the experiences and conditions of travel will be much the same regardless of the nationality.
  • Sanitary Condition of Emigrants arriving in the Port of Hull
    This is the 5th of 5 reports dealing with the conditions of Scandinavian emigrants traveling from Scandinavian ports on the Wilson Line ships, to the Port of Hull. This 5th report is written by Hubert Airy, the Medical Officer in Hull. It is a report about the Sanitary Condition of Emigrants arriving in the Port of Hull
  • Concerning the comfort and protection of emigrants passing through Hull
    This is the 4th of 5 reports dealing with the conditions of Scandinavian emigrants traveling from Scandinavian ports on the Wilson Line ships, to the Port of Hull. This 4th report is written by W. Cowie., to the Board of Trade in England in 1882. This is a report about the landing and lodging situation for emigrants in Hull.
  • Conditions for emigrants on the voyage from Christiania to Hull 
    This is the first of 5 reports dealing with the conditions of Scandinavian emigrants traveling from Scandinavian ports on the Wilson Line ships, to the Port of Hull. This first report is written by Charles P Wilson, Principal Officer at the Marine Department, Board of Trade in England. It is a report after he made a voyage on the S/S Angelo from Christiania to Hull in 1881 to observe the arrangements made for the conveyance of the emigrants.
  • Conditions for emigrants on the voyage from Gothenburg to Hull 
    This is the second of 5 reports dealing with the conditions of Scandinavian emigrants traveling from Scandinavian ports on the Wilson Line ships, to the Port of Hull. This second report is written by Charles P Wilson, Principal Officer at the Marine Department, Board of Trade in England. It is a report after he made a voyage on the S/S Romeo from Gothenburg to Hull in May 1882 to observe the arrangements made for the conveyance of the emigrants
  • Accommodation for emigrants in Hull
    Reports relating to the conveyance & transit of emigrants 1881 – 1882
  • Prospects from Hull (2002)
    Many emigrants traveled via Hull on their way to America, they would have disembarked from their steam packet at the “Steam Packet Wharf”. This landing stage was located within the Humber Dock Basin. This page shows a collection of prospects from the different places where the emigrants passed on their way.
  • The Diary of an emigrant leaving Trondheim on the ship “Juno” in 1893
    This is an extract from the diary of an emigrant who departed from Trondhjemn on the S/S Juno on June 1st – 1893, and arrived to Boston on the S/S Gallia of the Cunard Line on June 17th.
(Above) S/S Juno (5) at the harbor in Trondheim [old postcard].

The steamship “Juno” belonged to the Wilson Line of Hull, England. It carried passengers from Norway to England, mainly Hull, where they boarded trains for other ports in Britain. In Britain they boarded steamships for the voyage across the Atlantic. There were 6 vessels of this name owned by the Wilson Line. The S/S Juno (5) was built 1889 by Earle’s Co. Ltd. in Hull. She was 1 073 tons gross, 544 net.

The Diary of an emigrant leaving Trondheim on the ship “Juno” in 1893

May 24. I left my home for Kristiansund.

May 27. I left Kristiansund for Trondheim June 1.  The ship S/S Juno left Trondheim at 12 midday, and arrived Kristiansund at 8 in the evening, and from Kristiansund she left at 10 o’clock the same evening.

June 2. Arrived at Aalesund at 5 in the morning. From Aalesund the course was set for Hull, and at 6 in the afternoon we lost Norway of sight. Good weather, but fog.

June 3. Good weather, a little fog. There was music and dance on board the whole day.

June 4. In the morning it was clear sky and nice weather, at dinnertime we had rainy weather with thunder and lightning. Arrived at Hull at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. At 7 the ship was anchored at the pier, and there was a dance up on deck.

June 5. At 5 o’clock in the morning we had to leave the ship and go on shore in Hull. We left Hull around 11 o’clock and arrived in Liverpool at 6 o’clock in the evening. In Liverpool we stayed from Monday evening to Thursday morning. There was music and dance every day. I took Liverpool’s poverty and miserable state in to my eyes. Fallen women walking about with a bottle in one hand and a glass in the other, so drunk that they tumbled from one side of the road to the other.

June 8. I boarded the S/S Gallia of the Cunard Line around midday to depart for America.

June 9. Arrived at Queenstown, Ireland at about 9 o’clock. Nice weather. June 10. Saturday in the morning we had thick fog which later cleared and we had nice weather. Good wind.

June 11. Sunday – Nice clear weather with good wind. There was a service. We met an other steamer. June 12. There was roomers that a foreign girl had died, but this turned out not to be truth. We had a little wind against us. Vaccinations for men.

June 13. Today strong unfavorable winds. Vaccinations for women. Riots between two of the crew. Strong wind and rain.

June 14. Unfavorable wind and thick fog, calm sea. We meet an other steamer. Rain.

June 15. Misty weather, but unfavorable wind. An Englishman in his 50ies died at 12 o’clock, and at 5 o’clock he was buried in the depth of the sea. A sad sight. A sailing vessel in the horizon.

June 16.  Clear air. Good wind. We passes a sailing vessel an two other steamers. There was a concert on board.

June 17. Good wind. At 6 in the afternoon we had the pilot on board. At 8 in the evening we could see lights from the American coast. At 9 we entered the harbor in Boston, a splendid sight! The town with it’s numerous lights.

June 18. Sunday – I went ashore after having been examined by the physician. At 8 in the evening I left Boston by Train.

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