What follows is an article from January 1957 that appeared in the Tipton Herald newspaper. It describes what must have been some of the last slum housing in Tipton.

In 1957 they still live in hovels like ‘The Dark Ages’
The plight of the people of Providence Street

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 gas ring.

Washing day in Court 2. 11 years old Michael Griffiths uses the brick-paved yard for a football ground.

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 local backwater.

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.

Modern Amenities

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 bottle.

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.”

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