In 1957 they still live in
hovels like ‘The Dark Ages’
The plight of the people of
The circumstances under
which many families are living in Providence
Street, Horseley Heath, are reminiscent of ‘The
Dark Ages’. Children are reared in rooms lit by
oil lamps, heated by cracked range grates, and
in which meals are often prepared on a single
Washing day in Court 2. 11 years
old Michael Griffiths uses the
brick-paved yard for a football
Rear courts, whose centre
piece in nearly every case is a dripping water
tap, which represents the only water supply for
up to eight houses, are shared not only by dogs,
cats and poultry, but also by the children, for
there is no remaining play space but the road. The courts also have to be
used for the dumping of refuse, and are
surrounded by broken down, rain-soaked toilets
and wash houses.
The houses are small, badly
lit hovels, made semi-habitable only by the
perseverance of the disillusioned occupiers.
Even with constant care, little more than one or
two rooms are in most cases worthy of use.
Windows cannot be opened, and yet let through
the rain and snow. Crumbling brickwork is to be
seen everywhere and wallpaper peels in shreds
from damp-ridden walls.
Visiting Providence Street
on Thursday, a reporter found no difficulty in
getting householders to speak of their troubles.
So strongly do they feel about their position
that they came out of their houses and made an
urgent plea for action to be taken to get them
settled in modern homes.
Many spoke of illnesses,
among both children and adults, as being a
direct result of prevailing conditions. Many of the houses have now
been taken over by the local authority with a
view to future development, but a large
percentage of the homes are still in the hands
of private landlords. Our reporter crossed a
roughly paved courtyard and entered the home of
72 years old Mrs. Phoebe Howes. Such are the
conditions of the property she calls home, that
the bedroom is unusable.
72 years old Mrs.
Phoebe Howes in the only
habitable room of her
house in the court. Her
upstairs room is sealed
off and is unsafe.
A dingy room
She spends her life in a
dingy downstairs room which she has to use as
kitchen, washroom, living room and bedroom. Her
cooking has to be managed on a single gas ring.
By the side of her double bed was a bucket of
coke and a couple of bread bins containing all
her food. Mrs. Howes said “I cannot
go upstairs because water comes through the roof
and the side wall is falling in”.
Two doors away lives Mr.
Samuel Homer who has been in ill-health for the
past four years. He shares one bedroom with his
wife, nine years old son, and eight years old
daughter. So damp is the room that wallpaper
will not stay on, and high in one corner is a
large hole through which you can see daylight. Mr. Homer has to make do
with oil lamps for lighting and an old range
stove for cooking. Washing has to be dried in
the lone kitchen-come living room.
A glimpse into the
past in present day
Tipton. Mr. Sam Homer is
compelled to read his
newspaper by oil lamp.
No gas or electricity
has yet reached this
Across the way at number 38
lives Mr. and Mrs. Lily Morris who have to share
a bedroom with a son 14.
Waiting 17 Years
Mrs. Morris told me that
she and her husband had been waiting for a new
house for 17 years. Shortage of space means that
she has to store the chairs of her three piece
suite at her mother’s. Damp is ruining the
bedroom furniture. “We try to keep our house in
good order but what can you do under these
conditions,” commented Mrs. Morris. At the rear
of her house, she showed me a water well, thick
with green scum.
Mrs. Lily Burrows at number
14 stated that the rain was finding its way into
her home, while her outdoor toilet was
‘falling-in.’ The house was in such a condition
that it seemed beyond repair. Her great problems, as with
her neighbours, is having to share water and
washhouse facilities. Mrs. Gwen Barnfield at
number 25, has to visit her sister-in-law’s to
do the weekly wash.
Through the Boards
Mrs. Beryl Billingham of
number 27 commented “We would not mind doing
repairs if the council would say how long we are
going to be here. We do not wish a lot of
expense, however, if we are going into a new
home. I go to my mothers to do our weekly wash
because naturally, I prefer indoor facilities.
Like others in this street, my husband and I
have to share our bedroom with our little boy of
three, but it is not healthy because rain drops
through the ceiling.” Mrs. Billingham added “My
greatest fear is when my little boy goes out,
for he has to run straight into the street.”
Mr. S. Saxon of number 3
said he had his name down on the housing list
for nearly 18 years. An ex-serviceman, who was
in the forces from 1940-46. He said his main
complaint was that his three children, a girl of
17 and boys of 13 and 8 had to share a bedroom.
He added “I have had to put
in the modern amenities of a tiled fireplace and
electric light myself.”
The drama of the
slum. 13 months old
Melody Abrahams, just
able to walk. Her
playthings, a cat, a
bucket and an empty milk
Mrs. Elsie Taylor, of 4
House 4 Court, said that some 16 to 18 months
ago, Mr. Arthur Henderson, M.P. for Rowley Regis
and Tipton, had visited Providence Street and
had commented on the very bad condition of the
houses. “At this time we were told we would be
out by September.” Added Mrs. Taylor, “but we
are still here.”