Monthly Archives: January 2022

20th century Housing History in the Humberside Region 10

I have decided to linger with Grimsby for a while. As previously identified, the Nunsthorpe local authority housing estate was started in the late 1930s. As such it must have been an example of Lindsey County Council’s response to government legislation of the mid-late 1930s prioritising house building in which to rehome families living in overcrowded conditions (a legal term as applied in national legislation) in poor quality (possibly ‘unfit for human habitation’, another legally defined term) older housing within the local authority area. The Second World War interrupted this house-building initiative, although in the case of the Nunsthorpe estate some ‘prefabs’ were added in 1944 to help alleviate the housing shortage in Grimsby caused by enemy bombing. These remained in place for many years after the War. As elsewhere, in Hull for example, many prefab. residents were unwilling to give them up for demolition as, although heat was lost rapidly through the walls and roof, they were detached residences with sufficient garden land around to keep the avid gardener occupied. After the War both the Labour government up to early 1950s and the following Conservative government during the 1950s liberally funded local authority building programmes where the estates were organised by the local council (contracts, building materials, supervision of the standards and progress) while central government then paid the local authority an annual subsidy per house completed for the next 40, sometimes 60, years. The housing estates of the late 1940s and 1950s exhibit some of the best house-building outcomes of any house building in modern times, today sometimes it is the tenant letting-down the house rather than the house the tenant. The Nunsthorpe Estate was completed by this post-War house-building programme.
The Nunsthorpe Estate was so called because its location was near the site of an Augustinian nunnery up to 1539 (hence also Nuns Corner, the site of Grimsby College).
Today’s photo shows St James church, Grimsby as incorporated in a slide in my presentation on Henry VIII’s ‘progess’ through East Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire in 1541.

20th century Housing History in the Humberside Region 9.

To complete our time-traveller’s journey back in 1900 (see first five blogs of the section) he/she would travel south-east from Immingham to Grimsby.
The photo above shows part of Cleethorpes ‘prom’ and the pier, the mound on the left is/are the ‘regularised sand dunes that were Cleethorpes natural sea defence before commercialization. In fact Cleethorpes itself didn’t really exist before commercialization, early maps showing the inland village of Clee (now overtaken by suburbanisation) south of Grimsby and Thorpe on the coast little more than a few fishermen’s huts, the boats presumably drawn-up on the beach.
Events in life have not often required me to be in Grimsby so some parts are not well known to me. I really like Cleethorpes, particularly the natural lowland costline south of the Leisure Centre to Humberstone Fitties, and for about three years I treated myself to a monthly visit, taking the little train from Barton, Cleethorpes station being beside the ‘prom’, using the same cafe and walking the two miles to Humberstone Fitties an area of fascinating, mostly inter-War, hutments.
Western Grimsby always seemed to me to be a seemingly endless mass of housing, private and local authority, with little to divide one estate from another. I have some acquaintance with the Nunsthorpe local authority housing estate, this standing beside the old A18 leading into Grimsby from the west from Scunthorpe, on to a major rounabout at ‘Nun’s Corner’. None of this housing would have been seen in 1900, except that between Nun’s Corner and Grimsby centre would have been a linear development of Victorian residences, some surviving, and behind to the east Grimsby’s first municipal park, People’s Park, still so named, this surrounded by Victorian villas reminiscent of Pearson Park in Hull but mostly still private residences and generally in good condition.
Many of the by-law housing streets running beside the rail line and near to Grimsby Docks (as then) would have been there by 1900 (best seen from the train windows).
(to be continued)

20th century Housing in the Humberside region 8.

Today’s picture, admittantly only loosely relevant to the current topic, shows the grand cemeteryman’s house in Bridlington municipal cemetery.
There were other ways of tackling rising damp in domestic properties (s.p.b.). One that can be found being used into the early 20th century was to insert, usually between the first and second courses of brick walling, slates, usually Welsh Cambrian slates which, being non-porous blocked the upward passage of damp. Although a sound idea in theory there was a problem in that the slate needed to be set in a thick mortar in the hope of it not snapping as the wall ‘settled’, thus failing to achieve the objective. That said, it is still possible to find walls with the slates intact.
A bit later in the 20th century a thick, black, viscous mastic was used in the lowest part of the wall. This, presumably some sort of tar-based substance, can often be noticed as some of the material was squeezed out as the weight of the wall increased and the mastic then solidified.
Usually when a medieval parish church had a ‘Gothic Revival’ makeover (Oxford Movement and all that) a channel was dug around the exterior base of the old wall, this to allow air to flow arond the lower course(s) of the walling stone to wick-out the damp and thereby reduce the incidence of rising damp in the interior. I happen to have comes across documentary evidence of this for Walkington church from the Borthwick Institute in York, but there are many other examples, including that at my favourite church in Paull.
Just to mention a walk I did today through Elloughton golf course area, to Brough Haven, east along the Humber bank then inland to Brough and Elloughton. Having parked on Brough Road, Elloughton I realised I was beside a short terrace that had clearly originally been single-storey, stone-built cottage, these later given an upper storey in brick and slate roof. The join between the top course of stone and the bottom of brick required a thick course of mortar to provide a level bed for the bricks.
(to be continued)

20th century Housing in the Humberside region 7.

Rising damp, that is wetness seeping up from the soil on which a property is built, can endanger the health of the inhabitants and compromise the strength of the building. This relates to the large-scale trend in the 20th century to build housing on flood plains, so-much-so that initially it was a trend that excited little interest – people like to live near water bodies – and, despite various government prohibition orders continues to this day e.g. the northward expansion of housing on the Kingswood estate, north Hull/East Riding. It is surprising that mortgages are still available for such properties, although, there can be mitigating circumstances such as where each house is constructed on a concrete ‘raft’.
Medieval Man knew better than to build on a flood plain (except in such circumstances as central London and Hull’s Old Town), and Hull is an example of a town that expanded through the centuries blind to its precarious location. In Barton the Humber flood-plain north of the town remained undeveloped until the mid 19th century by which time local industries were prepared to move there to take advantage of a Humber-side or Haven location as well as level land facilitating large-scale building, plus a clay-bank Humber flood defense that had been raised and re-configured over the centuries. Once the industries moved there housing followed.
Various strategies were employed across the centuries to reduce the impact of rising damp. Timber-framed properties with wattle-and-daub walling were sometimes constructed on a low brick wall of four to six courses, the bricks, although themselves porous, reduced the impact of rising damp. However, this made the building more expensive to build as throughout the centuries brick was always seen as an expensive option. Black bricks, ‘overcooked’ in the kiln, were often used for the lower cources of walls (see above).
The photo above shows two very well preserved lodges at the entrance to Hornsea’s municipal cemetery. Now lived in they were almost certainly originally chapels of rest, one for Nonconformists, one for C. of E. worshippers.

20th century Housing in the Humberside Region 6.

Both Immingham and Scunthorpe have a varied collection of 20th century housing styles, much of it originally built as local authority housing. Various styles were pioneered in each community, both inter-War and post-War. The above photo. shows one such pioneering post-War style, the ‘Airey house’, so named from the surname of the architect/designer (the photo. above is of some examples in South Yorkshire and taken from Wikipedea). Airey houses were constructed from prefabricated walling sections bolted to a steel or concrete skeleton erected on site. Like the ‘prefabs’, small detached bungalows in ‘grounds’, Airey houses were designed so as to be built quickly to address the post-War housing shortage as well as the national commitment to build better housing. Initially things went well although transporting the ‘panels’ was not easy by road. However, it became apparent by the 1970s that the houses were suffering from ingress of water and damp which was weakening the structure, indeed by the 1980s it was difficult to get building society mortgages to buy such houses. There was also a problem with heating the houses as much heat was lost through the walling. Since then various ‘remedies’ have been tried as an alternative to demolition, some, I am informed, more successful than others. Damp and water getting into a building has been a constant problem across the ages, particularly in Great Britain, our variable maritime climate is as troublesome for buildings as it is for us (bronchitis use to be known as the ‘English disease’). Indeed the history of how this problem has been tackled is an interesting theme in itself.
It is interesting to note that medieval timber-frame buildings with wattle-and-daub infill as the walling could be surprisingly resistent to damp, especially if built on a low brick plinth. It was down to the carefullness that the daub was applied and the level of permiability of the bricks used.
(to be continued)

20th century Housing in the Humberside region 5.

Moving east to Immingham in 1900 the town seen today did not exist because the building/excavation of the Dock was not started until 1906, eventually officially opened by King George V in 1912. As with Alexandra Dock in Hull opened in the 1870s, Immingham Dock was built to export coal from the South Yorkshire coalfield, indeed it could be seen as ironic today that a hige coal importing site exists on the west side of the Dock complex, some of this coal coming from Australia! and destined for the Drax and Ferrybridge power stations, for as long as we need them!
In 1900 Immingham was a spring-line village with its very interesting parish church incorporating some Saxo-Norman features. As previously stated, Immingham retained an interesting collection of mud-stud-and-thatch cottages until the 1930s. The one catured in the photo above was said to have dated from the 17th century, had two bedrooms reached by ladders and an outside pump for fresh water. The outside pump would have been dug down to the bedrock chalk, thereby being a very clean water source. The dating of such houses can be misleading and should be more accurately stated as ‘A house on this site had existed since the 17th century’. Mud-and-stud or wattle-and-daub walling rarely lasted more than two or three generations so such housing was then re-built on site (re-building usually being a d.i.y. skill of the time with no builder as such involved). Tenants slept on platforms looking up at the underside of the roofing thatch, The last tenants here were a shepherd and his wife.
The central chimney stack shows this to have been a ‘baffle-entry’ house, on walking through the front door you faced the side of the central brick chimney stack with a fireplace on both its sides heating the either side rooms.
(to be continued)