Monthly Archives: April 2022

20th century Housing History in the Humberside Region 35.

The above picture (attributed to Howard Coster on the relevant Wikipedia page) shows Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health 1945-1951 in Clement Attlee’s Labour government, and thereby responsible for housing in Britain. His, and the government’s, policy was to focus on building council houses rather than leaving housing provision to the free market. As in the 1930s, this was to be put into practice by local authorities ‘on the ground’ with financial support from central government in the form of grants or long-term loans at preferential interest rates. This policy, with some changes in funding details was continued through the 1950s by the Conservative government.
This, in turn, led to hundreds of thousands of houses being built which today still grace almost every community across the land. These houses, built as semis or in terraces and easily identified by the full-length ridge roof, were very well-built and to high specifications for the time, the brickwork today often being as good as when laid. Most had indoor bathrooms and w.c.s although most of the yorkist ranges that formed the fireplace of the kitchen/sitting room have subsequently been replaced. Three bedrooms became standard for a family.
The eastern boundary of Hull was vastly expanded by the building of Bilton Grange, Longhill and Greatfield estates, all three exhibiting some aspects of Parker and Unwin ideas.
Also the potential for prefabricated construction systems was recognised with Airey and Tarran houses being examples of housing with a steel skeleton and pre=cast sectional wall panels. All this so-much-so that by 1960 a quarter of the nation’s housed population lived as tenants in council houses.
Bevan envisaged council estates where there was social mixing between classes – doctors, dentists, teachers, lawyers, working people all living on estates together. This vision was reflected in the planed for the New Towns of the 1950s and 1960s but not so much on urban estates. Purpose-built housing was often allocated to schoolteachers with local education authorities advertising these as an incentive to prospective interviewees.

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 34

Today’s photo is taken from Wikipedia (despite what I stated last time) and has the author’s attribution as ‘By Peter Church, CCBY-SA20,https://commons’. It shows the Regal cinema in Ferensway, Hull, built in the 1930s by Tarran Industries and demolished in 2005 to make way for the new St. Stephen’s shopping, entertainment and eating emporium. Robert Greenwood Tarran (1892-1955) built-up from scratch a large-scale building firm based in Hull, this very active in building public buildings and airfields before, and during, the Second World War. Tarran also designed and constructed a particular type of pre-fab constructed on many sites in the mid-to-late 1940s.
During the Second World War (1939-’45) the 1930s house building initiatives came to an abrupt end. With the end of the War the country found itself in a self-same position as after the Great War, but more so as there had been much more destruction of civilian structures than had been the case 1914-’18. As in the wake of the Great War, there was a national resolve from 1945 to improve the country’s housing stock, this embodied in the form of the 1946 and 1949 Housing Acts. However, in the short term the priority had to be the repair of damaged housing and temporary homes for bombed-out families. The latter was taken-up by the commitment to building pre-fabs (s.p.b.s), these produced and erected by centrally organised businesses which had previously produced goods for the war effort, this a good example of the effectiveness of centralised economic activity in times of crisis and of the potential for prefabrication in the building industry. Pre-fabs were built in urban areas, where destruction had been greatest, rather than rural areas.
I think it is the case that no pre-fabs survive in Hull, despite their advantages (s.p.b.s) heat was rapidly lost through cavity-less walls, a weakness that could now be solved by modern construction methods.

20th century Housing History of the Humberside Region 33.

Today’s photo shows the Georgian entrance to the market hall in Hereford town centre, picture taken Christmas Eve.
After writing blog 32 I realised that there may have been a connection between the Charterhouse Board school picture and the development of North Hull Estate as some of the children that attended Charterhouse may have been re-home as their old homes were being demolished, in the Alfred Gelder Street area for example.
North Hull estate and Preston Road estate, built in the late 1920s and 1930s, were edge of town housing estates and thus tenants experienced the fors-and-againsts often associated with post-war new estates. As regards shopping facilities the 1930s big estates were allocated shopping ‘precincts’ but they, unlike the houses were not directly under local authority control and relied on private tradesmen paying the ground rent. The town centre facilities were now much more distant than they had been before the tenant’s previous homes were demolished. Tram services or bus services may have been extended to the new estates but fares had to be paid. Schools were also built (remembering that the school leaving age in the 1930s was 14 so that many children left school having attended just one school, no secondary school) and this level of public service provision not always matched in modern developments. Psychological impacts tended to emerge also for although the space and internal fixtures and fittings were far better than in the tenant’s previous accommodation, nevertheless, housewife isolation sometimes weighed-heavy. Expenses increased with increased travel costs, especially for workmen, and a degree of inevitable nostalgia for the old days.
I have only recently discovered an absolutely brilliant blog related to our current topic – ‘Municipal Dreams’, very thoroughly researched.

20th century Housing History in the Humberside Region 32.

This morning (Wed.) I attended a meeting to discuss a revised website for Hull Civic Soc. (incidentally, the meeting room was part of the ‘Clubhouse’, Elm Avenue, Garden Village estate, East Hull – a fine Arts and Crafts building, more inside than out, and open to the public in the morning throughout the week usually, the cafe is very well run and organised and serves refreshments and lunches, all thoroughly to be recommended. The first cup of tea in a bone china cup and saucer I have had in a long-time). At one point the person leading the session reminded us of the potential for legal action if images are used from the Internet without the owner’s consent, which I have occasionally been guilty of. I need to rely on my own images in future even though they may not be directly relevant to the text.
The photo above shows Charterhouse Board School (now, and for a long time, disused), designed by the architectural partnership of Botterill and Bilson and built in 1881. Charterhouse referred to the Georgian almshouse nearby, itself a site descended from the pre-Reformation Carthusian monastery. The design of the Board School building reflecting the medieval geometric style of gothic architecture.
Anyway – back to housing history. Inter-war urban house building in towns had, arguably, a greater impact on housing provision than in the countryside (s.p.b.s), this particularly true in Hull. Nearly half the new homes built in Hull in the 1920s and 1930s were council houses, as opposed to subsidy houses (s.p.b.s) or speculative built housing, this, as in rural areas, particularly so in the 1930s as a result of national legislation (s.p.b.s). Across what became North Hull Estate over 4000 houses had been built by 1939. The design of these houses showed, to some extent, the influence of Parker and Unwin (s.p.b.s) having bay windows over two floors, front as well as end gables, canopy porches and some decorative tile-hanging.
(to be continued)

20th century Housing History in the Humberside Region 31.

Today’s picture, taken from the internet, shows a short section of a street in Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Raymond Unwin (1863-1940) was, arguably, more committed to the ideal of improving working class housing that Barry Parker (s.p.b.). ‘The partners preferred the simple vernacular style and made it their aim to improve housing standards for the working classes’, in 1901 they were joint authors of an influential book ‘The Art of Building a Home’ which reflected their commitment to the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Unwin was appointed chief architect to the newly created Ministry of Health in 1919.
The vision of Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker has influenced areas of new housing and house design through the 20th century although in a very muted fashion often and almost obliterated by ‘new age’ building in the 1960s and’70s. Their influence filtered down in ideas such as;
modest homes should incorporate no underused space (i.e. the working class snobbery of the ‘front room’ aping the middle class ‘drawing, withdrawing, room’), housing areas should be as green as possible with public areas of grass to diversify street frontages, tree-lined streets, domestic utilities should be built into the house design (not consigned to outbuildings) and diversity of estate lay-out plans.
I imagine Parker and Unwin assumed that householders would take pride in their front gardens, this in turn adding to the diversity of the area and its greenery, how saddened they would have been by today’s hard surfacing of ever bit of ground, or the sheer volume of neglect. Perhaps it makes sense, then, for modern housing having minimal garden space despite costing the Earth to afford.
The best place in Hull to see Parker and Unwin’s ideas put into practice is the Garden Village area of east Hull, how much more interesting to walk around than new estates where the only activity is to compare the cars in the front gardens.

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 30.

Although sounding for all the world like a comedy double-act Parker and Unwin were very significant in the history of house design in the early 20th century, their residual influence stretching on through the century.
Barry Parker (1867-1947 and see above) started an architectural and town planning partnership with Raymond Unwin (his brother-in-law) in 1896. Both men were disciples of the Arts and Crafts Movement and sought to apply these principles to working class house design. In fact there had been a long-running public debate about the design of working class housing with the objectives of making working class communities more appealing (Parker and Unwin disliked the by-law housing and grid-plan street pattern so prevalent in Hull at the time, this especially so north and south of Hessle Road), housing better-built, lay-out plans considering aspect and as much greenery as possible. The then periodical The Builder provided a platform for much of this debate.
In 1902 the partnership secured the contract to design the new industrial village, New Earswick, to the north of York for the Rowntree family. Soon after they were designing houses for the first new town influenced by the principles of the Garden City Movement at Letchworth, north of London. Their third great contract of the early 20th century was to design some housing for the developing Hampstead Garden Suburb, outer north London.
The Garden City Movement had been set in motion following the publication of Ebenezer Howard’s book ‘Garden Cities of Tomorrow’, 1902.
Between the wars Barry Parker concentrated on town planning and the planning for large new estates such as Wythenshawe, south of Manchester. Like North Hull Estate before it, Wythenshawe was for a time one of the largest new council estates in Europe.
So why are we noting these things when our remit is Humberside? The answer is simple, because their ideas and plans influenced so much that was to follow across the whole country.
(to be continued)