William Acklam

William Acklam’s name repeatedly appears in the minutes.  He is a fairly typical example of a slum landlord in Sunderland.

Acklam owned several properties in the squalid, overcrowded East End of Sunderland whilst he and his family lived in the comparatively spacious and pleasant parish of Bishopwearmouth.

His properties were often tenanted by Irish immigrant families who had fled to England to escape the Great Famine of 1845 to 1852, and who found work on the new docks being built in Sunderland at the time.  The 1851 Census records for Baines Lane, one of the streets on which Acklam owned several properties, show that 7 families, comprising 42 people, were living in one house.

One of the entries our group found relating to William Acklam shows that the Council was ordering that ‘water be connected with the closets constructed by the following parties’.  It appears that, having been ordered to construct water closets, Acklam and other landlords did so, but failed to connect them with water.

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Some of Acklam’s properties were left to deteriorate to such an extent that they were considered a public nuisance.  One of the entries we found shows that one of his properties in Spring Garden Lane was condemned by the Sanitary Inspector as injurious to health and was ordered to be removed under the Nuisance Removal Act.

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Acklam had meanwhile moved out of Sunderland to live in Yorkshire, where the census describes his income as ‘deriving from property’.

The family had returned to Sunderland by 1883 and were living in Argyle Square, a private street newly built in that year.  This was situated in the leafy suburb of Ashbrooke, one of the first suburbs of Sunderland and a world away from the conditions his tenants were living in.

Acklam died the following year, leaving assets worth £119 to his son, Cuthbert.  This is roughly equivalent to £50,000, based on average earnings, showing that being a slum-landlord could be lucrative.