Monday, 12 October 2015

Nottingham council housing gets its own history with the publication of Homes and Places

I bought Homes and Places from the Five Leaves Bookshop stall at the Angel Row Historyfest on Saturday. It is a history of Nottingham council housing.

By chance I have a photograph of Matt on the Five Leaves Bookshop stall selling me Homes and Places, along with Ten Poems about Nottingham, which has also just been published.

Now, where was I? Ah yes. I have just finished reading Homes and Places and happen to know Chris Matthews and Dan Lucas, who were closely involved in writing and publishing the book. It is such a work of reference, that I will have to create myself an index and chronology. 

The book contains a full-colour map from 1932 showing the extent of Nottingham's council housing at the time and next Tuesday, by chance, I am hoping to see the map when I visit the Special Collections Library at Kings Meadow with the WEA Beeston mapping class I am a member of. I did not expect to have Homes and Places with me.

I look forward to reading extracts on the Municipal Dreams blog/website (which posted a contribution in May 2014 by City Councillor Alex Ball about the city's first council housing and is my favourite website). 

Also congratulations to Chris on the book's layout. I love the white space and a gutter which didn't break whilst I read the book (a real failing with many books today!).

Homes and Places has seven chapters which chart the history of council housing in Nottingham, beginning with 'The Old Problem' and ending with 'To Build Again 2005–2015'. From what knowledge I have of council housing (I was a regional and national supported housing officer with a housing association for twenty years) and from my twenty-two years working as Reviews Editor for Local History Magazine, I know a good local history when I read one and, I promise you, this is good!

I have led a few walks around Lenton looking at public and charitable housing and on my old Parkviews blog, I document several of Chris Matthews's TravelRight walks around Aspley, Bilborough, the Broxtowe and Strelley estates (both in the city — not the Borough of Broxtowe). No person in Nottingham is better qualified than Chris to have written this history, and with Dan backing him, the result is an exceptional local history, for that is what it is — local history.

Homes and Places offers a great focus for further research and, perhaps, the creation of a local history group devoted to promoting the Nottingham's great garden city heritage (which I hope will cover the conurbation, as Beeston Fields, where I live, is very much in the Nottingham style in terms of layout and architecture).

Council housing needs its champions and in Chris and Dan Nottingham has two champions it can be proud of. You have to believe to write local history like Homes and Places.

In a couple of weeks I will read it again and see what sticks in my head when read a second time.

Truly wonderful stuff which swells the heart and puffs out the chest.

I plan to write a longer post about the book and council housing sometime in the next few weeks. Right now I simply want to draw attention to Homes and Places. At £9.99 from Five leaves Bookshop in the city centre, it is a bargain, worth its weight in gold. 

Five Leaves is the best bookshop we have in the conurbation and it deserves our support. To access the bookshop at 14A Long Row, opposite the City Centre Tourist Information Office, you need to walk down the narrow passage leading to the Coral betting shop (there is a sign pointing the way to Five Leaves, but smokers can block it from view). I will also do a post about Five Leave, so watch this space...


From the back of our Lenton home on Devonshire Promenade, where we lived for thirty-five years, until we moved to Beeston last November, you could see the New Lenton high-rise flats. The photograph below is from 2008 and I have never used it before. It does not do Lenton's five high-rise tower blocks justice, for they were coloured pink by the setting sun, but you can glimpse every tower and I have to admit to being sad that four have been demolished, with the final tower (Newgate Court) about to go. I understand why. I believe they were a great achievement and were loved by many until their very end. Other high-rise flats were not so lucky and with good reason.

Susan grew up in a council house in Tipton, in the heart of the Black Country, and my parents lived in a council flat in Eastbourne until they died a few years ago. My aunt and uncle in Harlow, both Labour Party councillors, never bought their council house because they opposed the sale of council houses, so I am sure you can understand why I welcome Homes and Places with a passion, added to which we now lived in a former Beeston Fields council house.

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