Memories and photos that pull at the heart...

THERE is something which pulls at my heart strings every time I see an old photograph of the places where I once lived, and the two photographs on this page are no exception.

Friday, 22nd June 2012, 9:00 am

Many of my generation in the 1950s and early 1960s were forced to move due to slum clearance.

This happened to me twice. The first time was when I was eight and living in Springfield, and the second time when my family was living on The Flatts.

Looking back I am glad I had the happy experience of living in two close-knit communities, both areas within walking distance of the town centre, and close to school and eventually work.

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We never had to catch a bus to go to school or church, to go shopping or dancing or to the pictures. There were shops and pubs all around us, and even the churches and chapels were on our doorstep.

The two photographs on this page show just how near to each other these houses were in those days, especially on The Flatts.

The smaller photograph showing the washing on the line, which has appeared on this page before, caused more speculation than any other previously shown.

The reason was because there were no means of identifying which street it was, and many people contacted me with their differing views as to which it might be.

Although we could never discover with conviction which it might be, many believed it was Granville Street,

ONE man who has come forward with his own views on which street it might be is Robert Brace who lived for some time on The Flatts.

He thinks it could be Trinity Place, but only because he thinks the lady sweeping her flags might be his old neighbour, and also that the owner of the bike could have been her husband.

Robert has sent me a number of photographs showing Trinity Place and I must admit the houses look like those on the photograph – but didn’t they all in those days?

This is what Robert has to say about our mystery photograph and also explains where Trinity Place was situated:

“As you come up Ashworth Road, over the Railway Bridge, the first road on the left was Vulcan Road, and Trinity Place was the next but one – but I can’t remember the one in between.

“We lived in the last house on the left before the passage to the toilet block. I do remember a shop at the end of Trinity Place on the opposite side of Ashworth Road which sold groceries et cetera but I don’t know the name.

“The first photo was taken outside number 11, myself on the bike our next door neighbour Effie in the side car and son on pillion.

“Her husband’s bike is in the background (BSA Bantam). My bike is a BSA 650 Gold Flash with Stiebe side car. Photo taken in 1961.”

ALL THE back-to-back houses in Dewsbury were built by private landlords who rented them out to the many workers flooding into Dewsbury during and after the Industrial Revolution.

There were no such thing as a council house in those days, because building houses was not considered the job for local councils.

This was left to the private sector who invested money in building houses and renting them o the workers.

Things began to change in the early 1900s when the Board of Health started taking a keener interest in how the working classes were housed.

Many houses were deemed as unfit for human habitation, especially the back-to-back types which had no through ventilation and councils were asked to do something about it.

Unfortunately, just as they started getting round to looking at ways of rectifying this situation, World War I broke out and all thoughts of building corporation houses were suspended.

After the war, the old Dewsbury Corporation began again looking at building its own houses but this was suspended with the outbreak of World War II. It was some years later before the council started addressing the acute housing situation.

One idea they came up with was reconditioning old back-to-back houses by knocking them through, especially those on The Flatts, which would make them into three-bedroomed houses with two rooms downstairs and a bathroom and inside toilet.

Those in favour argued that these were sturdy, stone-built houses which could easily be enlarged and it would be quicker and cheaper than building new estates.

They also argued that tenants would remain near their places of work and communities would not be split up.

They also felt that new housing estates built on the outskirts of town in places like Thornhill, at the top of the hill, would provide a healthier environment.

Needless to say, the idea of was not carried out and thousands of people were eventually relocated to various housing estates in the borough.

In Dewsbury people used to speak of the money classes and the working classes, implying that no matter how hard you worked you would never have any money.

Councils didn’t build houses in those days but relied on the private sector to build them and then rent them out to the working classes.

But some landlords got fed up with troublesome tenants and eventually formed an association to protect themselves from such tenants and introduced a black list of undesirable tenants.

The following is an article which appeared in the Reporter in 1912 pointing out the merits of such an association.

“In various part of the Heavy Woollen District it has lately been hinted that a scarcity of suitable houses for the populace now exists.

“We propose therefore, in this article to deal with some aspects of the housing question.

“Of course, some monied people prefer to invest their surplus cash in directions other than house property because of all the problems they have to deal with regarding some tenants.

“Some tenants have a mania for ‘flitting’ and are always on the move, for various reasons.

“Another class of tenants are constantly on the look out for a house which landlords are willing to paper, paint and decorate at their own expense.

“But when re-embellishments become necessary, the tenants give notice to leave, and go in search of the benevolent landlord, who will adorn the interior as well as the exterior of his property in order to get a tenant.

“There is an association, however, in Dewsbury whose avowed object is to promote the welfare of the owners of property, and to generally advance the interests of the community.

“Those on this ‘black-list’ are registered in books other than those of the police court, and the association exists also to protect its members against persons whose characters or circumstances render them undesirable as tenants and to keep a register of such persons.”