Neil Oliver is in Hull to retrace the footsteps of 19th-century immigrants who passed through the port on their way to a new life in the New World.
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We're in Yorkshire now, with well-known holiday destinations like Whitby,
and Scarborough, which has been attracting visitors for over 350 years.
Nestled between these two holiday hotspots is Ravenscar.
Ravenscar is a resort like no other.
It's known as the town that never was.
The question is, where is it?
I've programmed my sat nav for the main street of Ravenscar,
the wonderfully named Marine Esplanade.
'Turn left, then take the second right.'
Whoopsy, we're going straight into a rutted road.
There's some sort of curb running up the middle of the road here.
'After 200 yards, turn right.
'You have reached your destination.'
That's it. Marine Esplanade.
That's the strangest Marine Esplanade I've ever seen.
According to sat nav, there should be roads here,
and Marine Esplanade IS here, it's just covered in years of vegetation.
But if you look hard enough there are clues left.
Look, drains, for no apparent reason.
Look, it's some kind of base, a sort of octagonal concrete thing.
The further afield you look, the more of Ravenscar you find.
There's even an old railway platform.
These are all that remain of a grand scheme hatched by Victorian entrepreneurs.
They drew up detailed plans for a new resort on the Yorkshire coast, Ravenscar.
Hundreds of workmen laid roads and sank drains.
They even constructed a brickworks ready to build the new town.
Ravenscar was to be an elegant seaside resort to rival its neighbours Whitby and Scarborough.
A hundred years ago champagne-fuelled auctions were held at the Ravenhall Hotel.
The estate company sold Ravenscar, plot by plot.
The plan was for the new owners
to build their own houses, so a new seaside town would be born.
But, in spite of roads being laid out, Ravenscar was never built.
On the platform of the old station I'm meeting the grand-daughter of one of the original investors.
So, Monica, your grandmother bought a plot here in this town, but WHAT town?
My grand-mother bought a building plot here.
-And this is the proof.
-Indeed, this is the conveyance.
-Does it give us the address? Because I've got a map here.
It's in Loring Road, and Loring Road is just over there.
Can we find your grandmother's plot?
Let's have a try.
-Presumably these gates must represent the old roads.
-So this gate must be St Hilda's Road.
-Yes, it is.
-There we go.
-So where are we on your plot?
-Right, we're on Loring Road,
and the plot was the second one along, and it was 25 feet from here.
Which is what? That's going to be about six metres, so off we go.
One, two, three, four, five, six.
-So that is your plot, just a field.
-Just a field.
'Monica's grandparents paid £18 for their plot,
'and then waited for the town to grow around it.
In fact, I have a letter here dated in 1937,
after his wife's death, when he tried to sell it.
"Unfortunately, sites on this estate have not turned out as happily as was first anticipated."
-That's a wonderful lawyer's understatement, isn't it?
So just why didn't Ravenscar turn out quite as "happily as anticipated"?
Well, one thing every resort needs is a beach,
but the beach here looks a long way down.
I've enlisted Mel Cunningham as my guide.
So how high are we above sea level here?
We're nearly 500 feet above sea level here.
A completely mad place to build a resort.
Yeah, on a day like today it would be super, but this is quite unusual,
normally the weather is much more inclement.
'The going gets tougher from here, but I'm hoping after the scramble the beach will be worth it.'
The last leg.
Mel, now we've got all the way down, where's the sandy beach?!
I'm afraid there isn't any sand as such, it's all rock and shale.
The most inhospitable place ever, and we've come from all the way up there.
But how did all those Victorian and Edwardian ladies expect to come down to the beach?
There were some stone steps constructed which did take them
right down to the beach, but they've since slipped away.
The steps never did draw crowds down to the beach.
Many prospective buyers were put off by Ravenscar's wind-swept location,
and those who did buy were reluctant to build.
Today this villa on Marine Esplanade stands alone, but could Ravenscar ever have worked?
Well, the same entrepreneurs successfully established Lee-on-Solent on the South coast,
and on a day like this you wonder whether a little bit more commitment
was all it would have taken here in Yorkshire.
But the chance has gone.
The National Trust bought the land in 1977,
so now Ravenscar, the town that never was, will never be.
Spurn Point reaches out into the North Sea and marks our entrance to the Humber Estuary.
We've arrived at our final destination, the port of Hull.
Because this seafaring city faces east, Hull has been a vital link
in a chain connecting Europe with the rest of the world.
In the 19th century,
millions of people were desperate to escape Eastern Europe and make a fresh start.
This great port of Hull became the unlikely gateway
to a new life of freedom and opportunity in America.
Howard Wolinsky's grandfather Henry was one of those migrants, en-route from Lithuania to Boston.
Though he never met his grandfather, Howard has arrived in Hull to retrace his footsteps.
-So is that a photograph of your grandfather?
And what age is he there?
He's almost 70 years old, in Boston.
What do you hope to find here in Hull?
Well, more answers. I'd like to know more
about what his life was like the brief time he was in Hull.
My sister and one of my sons and my wife are here now, and the four of us went to Lithuania last year
and actually went to the town he was from, and walked where he walked,
and now we're sailing where he sailed.
Like many people migrating to the New World, Howard's grandfather
was an Eastern European Jew, escaping Tsarist Russia.
The Jews were confined to a region along Russia's Western border,
which included much of present-day Lithuania.
Conditions were poor,
and brutal repression set in motion a mass exodus.
Between 1870 and 1914, for over two million European refugees, Hull was a lifeline.
To get to America, Howard's grandfather brought a one-way ticket.
The first stage was a train to Hamburg, and then on to Hull,
a 32-hour voyage across the North Sea.
We're meeting local historian, Nick Evans to retrace the next stage of Howard's grandfather's journey.
Having navigated a series of locks and docks,
this is where on the 1st of August 1892 your ancestor would have landed.
The vessel would have moored alongside this dockside here,
and your ancestor would have disembarked here and then gone...
-This very spot.
So this is where your grandfather would have taken his first steps on British soil.
So I am walking the walk.
You are walking the walk, and we know from documentation in the local archives
that he arrived on Monday the 1st of August.
You can see here the Sprite, a steamship from Hamburg,
which actually arrived on the 1st of August at Prince's Dock.
Alongside the passengers there were all different commodities,
including fruit, a piano and a variety of other commodities.
These are some of the images he would have seen upon arrival.
-So this is 19th-century Hull?
-This is from 1890.
-This is the sights he would have seen.
-Is that that building there?
Yes, this is the docks office at the time.
Was the port of Hull the equivalent then of an airport transit lounge,
just for people passing through?
It was a major transport artery,
just like Heathrow or Schiphol or JFK Airport are now.
That was the real hub of this transport movement, on which millions of migrants would come along.
It must have been exciting to know you were on this journey to America.
Even though you put up with the seasickness and everything,
I think you have to keep your eye on the prize.
21-year-old Henry Wolinsky wasn't alone.
Along with oranges and pianos,
millions of names record the people who, for a few brief hours,
passed through the port of Hull en route west.
Immediately after disembarkation they would have walked along streets
such as this, where they would have gone to nearby lodging houses...
Just like being in transit in an airport today,
people passing through Hull over 100 years ago on their way to the New World
had time on their hands, and needs to be met.
This was where most of the migrants would have enjoyed a much-needed meal.
Howard's grandfather would certainly have come in here,
because it was the only one which was run by a Jewish housekeeper
and provided kosher food.
Are there any records of what they ate, what was on the menu?
Dry bread, herring, familiar foods for these migrants.
-No bagels, unfortunately, no.
Once fed, Howard's grandfather was moved to the railway station to start his onward journey to America.
The migrants were moved through Hull under escort, and kept increasingly apart from the locals.
Cholera was the big fear.
There'd been outbreaks of the disease in ports across Europe, and cholera was a killer.
Public concern over disease resulted in a purpose-built platform being added to the train station,
along with a special waiting room for migrants.
These days it's a pub.
I wonder what your grandfather would have thought, if he'd known that in 120 years' time
one of his grandsons would be in the same building that he waited in before he went to the New World.
Well, I would hope he would find it ironic, and satisfying,
that the generations continued.
Many of his other descendants...
of his brothers were killed in the Holocaust, so we're survivors.
After a rest, Howard's grandfather made his way to the platform.
Here he joined a long roll call of names who continued their journey westward.
The train took them to Liverpool,
where they boarded a steam ship bound for America.
'Howard's family are joining him where his ancestor stood on the brink of this new beginning.
'A successful American family,
'here today thanks to one young man's journey from the Old World to the New.'
This platform is completely overgrown, and this story is overlooked by history,
but it's no surprise, because for the millions of people who passed through here
this was just a stepping stone.
The real story was going to happen somewhere else, somewhere far away.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Mark Horton travels to Ravenscar to investigate the resort that never was, and Neil Oliver is in Hull to retrace the footsteps of 19th-century immigrants who passed through the port on their way to a new life in the New World.