Hi Pat, A 'Yard', if the one you refer to is in a town, were often
horrendous places by today's standard.
As the name implies it was the originally a 'backyard' usually of a shop
on the street. Behind this was a group of buildings all cramped into
what was original the back space. They ranged in size from 2/3
dwellings to some which were quite long and contained 15 or more
dwellings of, usually, at least two stories and perhaps a cellar. Each
building would often house 2/3 families, one on each floor and maybe one
in the cellar. There was one tap in the yard and one or maybe two
'privies' at its end for everyone's use; depending on the slope,
sewerage would often flow from this through the narrow yard entrance to
the street, or pool in the communal rubbish pit, the middle of the yard.
Yards were entered through a narrow entrance on the street about the
size of a normal doorway.
The buildings may have been owned by one person, but larger ones were
often divided up and the dwellings sold off in twos or threes. Each
dwelling would then be let to one tenant who would usually sub-let as
much of the property as they could.
If you can find it I suggest reading "Vanished Dwellings" Early
Industrial Housing in a Lancashire Cotton Town - Preston by Nigel