Oh yes, yes the majority of them thought we were all slums and I had to say that “my husband was a great deal better educated than some of you and a lot of people” that were there. But it was an overspill for the bombed out in London and these people had never had a proper house before and they were, they were so pleased to come and have a proper house with a garden. This was what they liked and there was a lot of goodwill between the corporation and the, the people of Stevenage, the new people.
Joined ambulance service in 1948 which was the start of the Health Service. Stationed in Basil Road in the Old Town. Married in 1951, and moved into Stevenage in 1952. Offered house as emergency services. House was in Broadview top of Sish Lane, one of the first houses. Sish Lane was still a track, not a proper road. Very little existed other than some hostels in Sish lane.
“So when the job as housing manager at Stevenage came out, I mean I didn’t leave Holborn because I was unhappy there, except I was unhappy we couldn’t do much.
I remember this rather depressing time when all you had to let was an occasional vacancy you know going through agonies as to who this two rooms with a sink on the stairs was going to be let to and saying if only I could have a terrace of nice little houses with gardens.
And I kept diary that had terraces and terraces anyway so I got the job in 1951 when before apart from a few staff houses, before the houses started.
I was the first housing manager from the housing point of view I saw it from the very beginning.”
Audio not available.
There was a sort of code in them days how everybody knew when a house was going to be ready because they actually screwed the number on the front door. Once they’d screwed the number on the front door you knew that you would hear within a few days that your house was available. And your friends who lived local would keep you posted.
Most people thought all the roughs from the top of the housing list in London were coming out to Stevenage, that isn’t so.
You could only come to Stevenage if you had a job and the people who were allocated their housing nominations in the firms were not going to give jobs to people who were going to sweep up, they wanted their skilled workers to come.
“We were the very first people in Fellows Way and it was the very first house to be finished because at that time Miss Tabor was friendly with mum and dad, and she rushed through, so we could get the house finished, and we had a choice of number three or five. And there was a chap working for the corporation named Harry Byatt and he came to see mum and advised her to take number five, because he had a good look and he said that number three was going to have problems with the floor. So she said right. So she decided on number five, so they quickly finished the house. And number three since has had the floor in the lounge cracked twice, so you know – one of those things.”
And the only one we didn’t have to go to a labour exchange was Stevenage, because at that time the Korean War was on and they were calling up the navy reserve. So I burnt me papers and this was the only, because at that time you went to the labour exchange you know they traced you back.
So, Stevenage one you didn’t have to go to a labour exchange. I came here and got a job straight away.
“And I suppose I must have applied for, eight or nine different opportunities, one of which was Stevenage.
I didn’t get a reply very quickly, and we were, going back up to Doncaster to see our relatives, there was family who were still living there, and on the journey back as we passed through Stevenage, my, my wife said;
“I, I don’t know what’s the matter with Stevenage. They don’t seem to want you.”
Anyway, she stuck her tongue out at Stevenage as we went through on the old A1.
A week later I was interviewing.
We came and we were shown round by, Mary Tabor, who was the Housing Manager at that time, and I was, quite intrigued because we saw, I think about seven different types of houses, how, as we came to each house, somebody in the group would say,
“Ah, that’s the one for me.””
“…but still in a lot of mud, and rather rough conditions which one gets from a building site. We then walked back up through the mud to Stoney Hall and to Broadview, and this house was one that had been occupied for about 6 months, and was now empty.
And we rather liked that, it was in a situation the building had gone past that, things were clean and fairly tidy around. It was nearer the Old Town, which was the sole source of shopping in those days.”
When the new town was first built, there were strict rules for who could get houses. You had to get a job, work in Stevenage for six months, and then you got a house to rent. The houses weren’t cheap to rent, but they were generally new houses with gardens and many people came from overcrowded rooms primarily in London.
When you got a job you had to see Miss. Tabor, the first housing officer in Stevenage she had the job for many years and many interviews mention her as a key figure:
Click the link to read and listen.