Kate Andrew has been investigating the Beehive council houses and the introduction of the village water supply. Here she writes about some of her findings…
At our last research group meeting, Cherry reported that Abberley’s first council houses had been built in 1928 at the Beehive and at Fieldbrook. We all assumed that the Beehive houses were the white semi-detached dormer-bungalow style houses on Suffolk Lane, but weren’t sure where Fieldbrook was.
A quick check on the large copy of the 1911 Ordnance Survey map in the Village Hall committee room showed that Field Brook was the field next to the brick yard and indeed on my next trip in the direction of Clows Top, I discovered that the house name for the first of the pair is still Field Brook.
This style of house is common in the area: there is a row in Great Witley, others at Shelsley Beauchamp. Some such as those on the road from Stanford to Shelsley Beauchamp are in rather surprising places that these days seem fairly remote from the rest of the village or other settlements. I was surprised to learn they were built as early as 1928. In 1928, The Beehive Colliery was presumably still operational as was the brickworks, so perhaps the housing provided convenient living for workers in these industries.
Gill, a long-time resident of the village, lives in one of the Beehive houses today. She told me that the original toilets were brick built earth closets outside. The water supply for the houses came from a tank on the brick structure that can be seen on the higher ground close to Bank Lane – I had often wondered what this was, imagining it to be a WWII defence structure like a pillbox or something to do with the colliery.
Gill tells me the water came originally to outside standpipes at the rear of each house, but how did the water get to the tank?
During Gill’s time of living in the house, the council re-designed the interior arrangement, making the bathroom and kitchen at the rear bigger (so a full size bath could be fitted in), but making the sitting room and dining room at the front smaller. Previous to this, the bath was only big enough to sit in.
Had the houses always had an indoors bathroom, or were the bathrooms designed as something else originally? Investigations continue…
For a brief introduction to the history of social housing, see the Wikipedia entry from which this extract comes:
‘Until the 19th century, housing for the poor and working class was predominantly provided by local charities or wealthy philanthropists. It was not until 1885, when a Royal Commission was held, that the state took an interest. This led to the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890, which encouraged local authorities to improve the housing in their areas.
As a consequence the London County Council opened the Boundary Estate in 1900, and many local councils began building flats and houses in the early twentieth century. The First World War indirectly provided a new impetus, when the poor physical health and condition of many urban recruits to the army was noted with alarm. This led to a campaign known as Homes fit for heroes and in 1919 the Government first required councils to provide housing, helping them to do so through the provision of subsidies, under the Housing Act 1919.
While new council housing had been built, little had been done to resolve the problem of inner city slums. This was to change with the Housing Act 1930, which required councils to prepare slum clearance plans, and some progress was made before the Second World War intervened.’