Monthly Archives: May 2022

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 39.

(This is post number 39 because the last one should have been number 38, not 37 again).
With a development like Orchard Park Estate it’s hard to think of it just in an historical context as reputation-wise it comes with so much baggage. Ironically it’s the East European tenants who take it at face value as they don’t have preconceived subjective opinions – although I have talked to one who lived there and was appauled at the behaviour of some tenants. The layout plan for the estate was compromised from day one. The idea of separate units (‘villages’, s.p.b.) is attractive theoretically but has no meaning on the ground when a tenant can walk from one village to another in a few steps. In other words such a layout plan was never afforded sufficient space. The cost of the land is/was always a principal factor in determining a development’s viability. The same criticism can be levelled at the residential tower blocks in that pioneer architects of modernist ‘brutalism’ actually envisaged each tower block surrounded by considerable areas of grass, shrubberies, ornamental trees etc., these being the first things to be sacrificed to keep within a predetermined budget. Within each ‘village’ terraced houses were laid-out to imitate the terraces of the 1880s housing either side of Hessle Road in the belief that this would have heritage appeal for tenants re-located from this slum clearance area. A noble idea but too simplistic. Nostalgia set-in and the notion that ‘back on Division Road you could leave your front door open and nothing would ever get pinched’ was more selective memory than truism. But what could not be denied was that back then most were physically near their place of work.
I’m sure some people liked, and still like, living on Orchard Park, it’s not houses that act in a delinquent way, it’s the occupants.
(Just Bransholme to consider and the 1980s before closing this topic).

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 37.

The photo above, Wikipedia credit ukhousing/images/8/8b/IMAG0239, shows Mildane, one of Orchard Park Estate’s 10 tower block housing units built in the 1960s. Until their staged demolition since 2002 these tower blocks formed a bold feature in the landscape visible across much of Humberside, this emphasising one of the potential advantages of tower block living – panoramic views from all windows – on the Homes in the Sun tv. programmes the salesperson’s often used punchline for the more expensive properties is ‘What about that view?, usually a parched scrubland or unfinished building site! On a very clear day I can imagine that from the top of Milldane with binoculars Lincoln and York cathedrals could well have been visible.
Milldane was the last of Orchard Park’s tower blocks to be demolished, August 2013. It had been 22 storeys high and comprised 54 flats. Some tenants who had been in their flat since it was nearly new, and who had determined to stay despite the deteriorating environment around them, were sad to leave and still felt part of the ultra modern housing provision that these flats had once been.
Orchard Park Estate, a classic model of Corbusier inspired modernist housing provision, was begun in 1963 on farmland to the north of North Hull Estate (s.p.b.s) and west of Barmston Drain (s.p.b.s). The estate was named after a local farm that was demolished, this, in turn, having been called Cold Harbour Farm (a recurring name in the East Riding the reason for which I know not). The lay-out plan for the estate was for there to be four ‘villages’, each with the word ‘park’ in their name and each with their local primary school. Two secondary schools were built on the northern edge of the estate, these taking students from the age of 14 as Hull Education Authority then used the ‘Leicestershire system’ of primary, junior highs and senior (secondary) schools.
(to be continued)

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 37.

Just a one blog break from the above title. The photo above shows a band of cow parsley growing along a hedge bottom beside the set-aside headland of an arable field. Early to mid May is the time when cow parsley suddenly seems to grow upwards a few inches overnight and come into flower with lots of tiny white flowers forming umbellifers at the tops of the stems. It is the time of a profusion of white blossom all flowering at once – hawthorn bushes often a mass of tiny white flowers standing-out from the bright green leaves which developed last month, white dead-nettle showing its bugle-like white flowers beloved of bees, maybe some early hogweed coming into flower with umbellifer flowering heads more robust than those of cow parsley and maybe some white bluebells able still to hold their own in the dense undergrowth.
The lower growing spring flowers have had to give way to the more vigorous growing plants, hidden from view for another year.
This is the most colourful time in the English landscape, far more so than in the summer months when most of the flowering wild plants have run-to-seed or, tragically, been mown down since first of June, the date when ‘legal’ mowing can begin. This is the time to be out and about in one’s own bit of the countryside so as not to miss the display.
Local to myself these days is Oak Road, a pedestrian way with wide tree-lined verges where a local group of activists have put up ‘do not mow’ signs in agreement with the City Council. There is no need for this area to be mown anyway as there is no traffic. If nearby allotment holders claim it is a source of wind-blown weed seeds, as farmers do also, they ignore the fact that the air is full of such seeds anyway from other sources. Oak Road follows the route of an ancient track that led from Cottingham parish to the North Gate in Hull’s medieval town walls. In more recent times the Cottingham and Skidby Drain was dug alongside it, this now filled in.

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 36.

(Above, Harold Wilson by an unknown photographer). Coming forward in time to the 1960s the ‘modernist’ movement dominated the scene. This was the decade when everything was going to become different typified by plastic household objects, mass car ownership, central heating, motorways, diesel trains, washing machines, ‘cubist’ building plans and prefabrication, these much influenced by the ideas of Corbusier (apparently a pseudonym with the 1950s trend of having, in public, just one name), 1887-1965. It was a time when science (men in white coats in laboratories – witness early soap powder adverts) were going to solve the world’s problems and lead the way to a brave new world, and leave behind the grubby old one. I like to think that despite growing-up in the early 1960s in a rural backwater that I sensed some of this, it being crystallised in the form of a friend’s new-build bungalow in Downham Market which had picture windows, an open-plan layout with a square footage probably five-times greater than the cottage in which I lived. My mother always wished she could live in a bungalow – but she never did. The age of the ‘white heat of technology’ (Harold Wilson) was going to transform living conditions and life in general – hop on board and don’t look back.
In fact time has shown that the 1960s was probably the most destructive peacetime decade of the century, although many ascribe the 1980s to that status, and justly so. How could we have imagined that the seas and oceans could absorb all human waste and rubbish, ejected through outflow pipes, with no harm caused? How could we have imagined that huge anticipated population increases could be accommodated in tower block after tower block, ‘castles in the sky’ and how could we have imagined that ‘modern’ farming techniques of prairie-like fields, insecticides and herbicides would not ‘kill-off’ the countryside?
(I’ll get onto housing next time).