Census records from 1851 – 1891 tell us that the house was divided into four rooms, with each room housing a different family of up to 10 people. At this time, the house had three front doors, the middle door leading up to two first floor rooms and net loft with the two side doors leading to the rooms on the ground floor. Each room had a fireplace, including the net loft. A pend ran down the side of the building, offering access to the outside toilet and wash-house that was, at that time, shared by eight families. The small garden area immediately at the rear of the building would have been used to keep animals and grow vegetables.
The over-crowding and lack of running water resulted in poor living conditions that did not go un-noticed. The famous physician and pioneering photographer, Dr John Adamson, published a report on the housing at the east end of North Street, known as the ‘Ladyhead’, for the Poor Law Commission in 1842. In the report, he noted: “The east end of North Street… is covered with offal of every kind and upon the back of many of the houses there are dung-hills filled with mussel-shells, dung from pigsties… the houses of the fishermen are… in a very dirty and miserable condition, and would be insufferable by any other class of inhabitants.”
While Dr Adamson did not take into consideration the many factors, including low income and lack of facilities, that resulted in these living conditions the report does give an insight into the unsanitary and tough conditions experienced by generations of families that lived at 12 North Street.