YEARS of austerity have inflicted real misery on the people of modern Britain, UN envoy Philip Alston claimed in a hard-hitting report published last month.

Mr Alston said that changes to taxes and benefits had had the biggest impact on those least able to bear it, with the cost of austerity falling disproportionately on the poor, women, children, single parents, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

Cuts to council funding were 'damaging the fabric' of British society, he said. And compassion for those who were suffering had been replaced by a 'punitive, mean-spirited and callous approach'.

We all know people who are struggling: juggling part-time jobs on zero hours contracts just to make ends meet, with little hope seemingly of ever being able to afford a home of their own. With Brexit looming, these remain deeply uncertain times.

The photos on these pages, however, serve to remind us that while poverty in Britain today is real, it is also relative. How many today would really choose to return to the conditions of 50 or 100 years ago?

Taken mostly in the 1930s - and sometimes earlier - the photographs show some of the streets in York that have been knocked down (or, in the case of Little Shambles, at least partly demolished) as a result of slum clearances.

In the background of several of them, a huge building looms. This is part of Leetham's Mill. The mill was founded in 1860 by Henry Leetham on Hungate and at one point was one of the largest flour mills in Europe, towering over the Hungate slums. A later warehouse was built in 1880 on Wormald's Cut on the River Foss. After the mill closed in 1930, the warehouse was taken over by Rowntree. In 1989 it was converted into flats, and today is known as Rowntree Wharf.

The majority of the photos on these pages today, all of which come from Explore York's Imagine York archive, show Hungate streets which were long ago knocked down. A couple show Little Shambles, parts of which were also demolished.

There is also one photo taken from a high vantage point - actually on top of Leetham's Mill. The River Foss can be seen bottom left - and in the distance, just about visible, is the lantern tower of All Saints Church on Pavement.

The photos show:

1. Children standing by a horse and cart in Garden Place, Hungate, in the early 1900s. The massive silo of Leetham's mill, which was built in 1895-6, dominates the background

2. People in Bellerby's Yard, Hungate, in the 1930s before the street was demolished. Again, the background is dominated by the silo of Leetham's Mill

3. Garden Place, Hungate, in about the mid 1930s. The houses pictured were demolished in 1936. The men appear to be working on two houses in the middle of the terrace which have smashed windows. A pile of roof tiles lies in the road below. The silo of Leetham's mill looms behind

This picture of a man standing outside no 18 Garden Place in Hungate, was taken just prior to its demolition, and probably dates from the early 1930s. The silos of Leetham's Mill can be seen in the background

4. A man standing outside No 18 Garden Place in Hungate. The photo was taken in the early 1930s, not long before the street was demolished. The silos of Leetham's Mill can be seen in the background

5. A grainy but fascinating image showing the view from the top of Henry Leetham and Sons Mill in 1890. In the centre right, towards the top of the photograph, can be seen the lantern tower of All Saints Church on Pavement. The spire belongs to St Mary's on Castlegate. The River Foss flows from the bottom left hand corner and continues under the bridge in Fossgate. The building across the river is Dorothy Wilson's Hospital for Women

6. Children on Little Shambles, probably in the 1890s

7. Nos. 15-23 Little Shambles in about 1933. The left of the photograph is dominated by a half-timbered building and two children can be seen in the foreground. In the distance there is a pram and a bicycle. Much of this area was demolished in the late 1930s.

Stephen Lewis

All the photos on these pages, and thousands more, are held on Explore York’s Imagine York archive. You can browse it yourself at