Rag and Bone to be shown in Streetlife

The call of “rag bone” can be heard down the city’s tenfoots and passages to this day. 

For decades, men on horses and carts collecting scrap metal have issued this cry for people to bring out any unwanted goods for recycling.

Now an exhibition at Hull’s Streetlife Museum will see this uncelebrated aspect of the city’s social history recognised in pictures.

The Any Old Rag Bone exhibition will run from Saturday 2 February to Friday 7 June, displaying unique photographs from three generations of Hull rag and bone men at the museum in High Street. Entry is free.

The evocative images, from the Norris family collection, date from 1968 to the present day. The exhibition features black and white images of George Norris Snr at Wally Ellerby’s scrap yard at Goodwin Parade, off Anlaby Road, taken in around 1968.

Pictures showing George Norris Jnr continuing his father’s tradition in the early 1980s and colour images of rag and bone men on the streets of Hull, taken over the past five years by Norris Jnr, will also feature.

Norris Jnr, who has co-curated the exhibition, said: “Scrap dealers are the original recyclers. My family have dealt with horses for the past hundred years and are a well-known family in Hull.”

A short film interview with Norris Snr, produced by Hull-born director Sean McAllister, will be shown at the exhibition, while a hand-painted cart – or ‘rulley’ – has been loaned to the museum by Carl Norris. 

Research and documentation assistant Jocelyn Anderson-Wood said: “Rag and Bone men once played an important role in the community in terms of waste management and recycling. Unwanted goods collected by Rag and Bone men could be reused in other ways. Today, when everyone is interested in reducing, reusing and recycling, I think there are interesting parallels to be drawn.”

Councillor Marjorie Brabazon, chair of Hull Culture and Leisure, said: “Rag and bone men have been an instantly recognised part of the fabric of Hull for decades and it is fantastic that this is being recognised with this unique and fascinating exhibition.”

The Streetlife Museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4.30pm and Sunday from 11am to 4pm. 

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