August 24th, 2001. To start with it was a morning like any other, I’d dragged myself out of bed and was unenthusiastically contemplating breakfast before another day of staring blankly into a computer screen in a bland office. However, my weekday morning indifference was to be interrupted by a vibrating mobile phone on my bedside table, making me wonder; who on earth is calling me at this time of day? As I flipped open the phone, there was the name ‘Dad’ on the screen, which was odd for two reasons; he was normally at work by now, and if they ever wanted anything it would usually be mum who rang, as dad and I never really see eye to eye. Casually intrigued, I pressed the answer button and said: “Hiya, what’s up?”
A trembling voice that almost sounded like dad, but not as I’d ever heard him before simply replied: “help”. Now, at that time, Dad’s car – a mk2 Vauxhall Cavalier – was notoriously shit, leading me to instantly assume that he had just dropped mum off at work and that the unreliable Vauxhall shit-box had broken down (again) leaving him stranded somewhere on the A47 between Norwich and Brundall. My short-lived assumptions were about to be stopped in their tracks like a car running into the side of a bridge by the next few words that would leave my dad’s mouth: “Your mum’s dead”.
My response, which still haunts me to this day was: “OK, I’ll just finish my breakfast and I’ll be right over”. A shock like that and the way a person reacts to it can be simply baffling.
Susan (Sue) Lane was a Tuckswood Girl born in 1955 and she grew up on Fountains Road on the southern fringes of the then fairly new estate, built during the post-war housing boom. She went to the nearby Hewett School where she performed well as a student and shortly after leaving her full-time education she was introduced by her cousin (as pen pals) to a chap he had befriended in the same regiment as him in the British Army, a young Glaswegian chap named John. After exchanging letters, they instantly hit it off and by November of 1974 they were married at St Paul’s Church in Tuckswood. The day of their marriage was the only the third time they’d actually met in person! As a result of this whirlwind romance I entered this mortal realm in 1976 as an army baby, born in Tidworth Military Hospital. For some reason and even though the Maternity Block had recently been refurbished the hospital closed 5 months later in March 1977. Perhaps it was something I’d said?
With the 100th anniversary for the first ever council-built homes appearing in Norwich approaching quickly, along with the fact that I’ve been contacted by various people from the City Council to the national and local press to offer up my opinions, I thought I’d better type something up about this interesting and important anniversary and take a look back over the last century of social housing right here in Norwich. Before I start proper I’d better mention that some of this info has been taken from (and in some cases corrected) the centenary section on the City Council’s website, which I’ve sorted into a crude chronological order, added to, and worded in my own way; a lot of which I’ve also already written about previously during the last three years of this blog.
As I’ve touched upon – frequently – before; by the end of the First World War in 1918 there was a huge demand for housing in the cities and towns throughout Britain, the problem becoming so large that it was now an unavoidable one for the British Government. By 1919, Parliament had passed an ambitious Housing Act, or the creatively-named: “The 1919 Act” (also known as the ‘Addison Act’) which promised generous subsidies to help finance the construction of up to 500,000 houses within a three-year timescale.
In 1958 Norwich City Council decided it would be a good idea to move their entire labour force to a brand new and centralised depot named The “Norwich City Works Department”. The new depot was to be located Just off Mile Cross Road, opposite Harmers Clothing Factory and the junction of Havers Road and it was to be built on 6.5 acres of former allotments and farmland situated in the fairly wide depression here at the bottom of the Wensum Valley.
The new depot officially opened its gates to its workforce in 1965, although most of the workers would have already being there for some time already, considering it was their job to construct their new premises. The marshy ground of the valley floor had been being steadily firmed-up since the Second World War when the area had was increasingly being used as a dumping ground for landfill and hard-core, most of being transferred here from the destroyed buildings of the nearby bomb sites around the St Benedict’s and Dereham Road area.
You can see it slowly taking over the allotment space as it’s being flattened out by a Corporation Steam Roller in this 1948 Britain From Above image of the area:
I recently stumbled across three fascinating images taken along the section of Drayton Road stretching from the Lidl roundabout to the junction at Asda. I’ve covered Drayton road fairly comprehensively over the course of this blog and those stories can be found below (all worth a read if you haven’t already):
When some people hear the phrase “Council Estate” they tend to form an image or opinion in their head. Often that image or those opinions can be slightly misguided. Read on…
The state of housing in the late Victorian era was becoming increasingly more dire as the century went on, partly because various initiatives to improve housing and sanitation had failed and partly because of a massive population explosion taking place in all of the major cities across the United Kingdom, further adding to the problem and ironically being the main reason that most of those initiatives were failing in the first place. The population of Norwich had more than doubled between 1801 and 1851 and this was leading to an increasingly severe shortage of housing and local amenities. Only the privileged tended to own their own homes whilst the rest of the working classes were left to put up with increasingly-expensive private rents whilst being restricted to the cramped and unsanitary conditions of the yards and terraces that were emerging all over Norwich as a by-product of the 19th century.
The housing and it’s associated welfare issues were becoming too large to ignore and It was time for change.
The Public Health act (which went by the rather catchy title: An act for consolidating and amending the Acts relating to Public Health in England ) was finally published in 1875 and in a nutshell it stated that state-owned housing needed to be built and that this housing needed to be built to a high standard; with running water, toilets and bathrooms, good light, plenty of space and with good local amenities.
In most households up and down this funny old country are lots of little hints of local history caught on film. Most people have a collection of old photographs from their or their family’s past, either sat on the bookshelf or hidden in a dusty box in that dark corner of the attic. More often than not, people often think that these little collections of windows into the past are of no real interest to strangers; after all, who wants to see that grainy photograph of Great Uncle Bob stood next to a tree? To the casual observer, that photograph of Great Uncle Bob in the 50’s is just that: a photograph of Great Uncle Bob. To somebody who doesn’t know Uncle Bob, these pictures can still reveal a lot, especially if you know where and when the picture was taken. A lot of hidden gems can be hiding in the backgrounds of some of these old photographs, especially if they were taken outside. If the shot is wide enough they can act as a handy little window into the area (and era) in which the photograph was taken. Photography wasn’t as easily accessible back then as it is today so people only tended to take pictures of things that they thought were important, mainly involving loved ones or important events. I love these old photos and am always on the look out for these taken in my sphere of interest: Norwich, Norfolk and Mile Cross.
A lady I work with has been following my blog since the beginning along with her husband, Stuart, who also happens to be an old ‘Miley’. Stuart grew up on the estate during the 50’s and 60’s. When I inquired (as I often do) into whether he had any old photos of his childhood on the estate, the response was that there were a few but probably not of any real interest. I asked if I could see them anyway and he kindly agreed. The next day Margaret brought in a handful of tiny photographs and I went through them like an excited School kid. Did they reveal anything interesting in the background? Let’s take a look at what I found…
When the finishing touches were being applied to the estate back in the late 1920’s, tree planting was an important aspect of the ‘Garden City’ design and layout. A mixture of trees were used, and their size depended on the hierarchy of the roads they were to be planted on. The two main arteries: Aylsham Road and Drayton Road were lined with Horse Chestnut and Lime and the smaller roads were lined with smaller species such as the Sorbus shown in these pictures. Continue reading “Sorbus’ final hour.”→