Putting Our Houses in Order

Some people thought the end of the war could be a clean slate for the town, wiping away ‘ugly’ old buildings and replacing them with car parks.

Writing shortly before the end of the war, a resident wrote to the Horncastle News under the pseudonym calling for the towns Georgian and Victorian buildings, and its crooked streets to be swept away:

“I often wonder as I walk around how the town came to be such a dilapidated and ill-planned conglomeration of ugly buildings and wall-eyed chimney stacks.

I suggest that the river from Town Bridge to Church Lane should be covered over and we should provide ourselves here with a large car park and bus station.

The Cagthorpe area should then be wiped out and all the pigsty houses of East Street, Foundry Street, Prospect Street and West Street should be demolished.

Before we plan the new Horncastle let us have some of the old and unsightly building cleared away. Horncastle is now years behind other places. We have got to have improvements all over the place if we are to have a more assured future for our population”.

Some suggested Horncastle’s older terraced housing should be demolished rather than modernized.

Today we can be grateful that such views, which captured the spirit of that age for progress and improvement, did not succeed in Horncastle like they did in many bigger towns such as Gainsborough or Leicester. There medieval streets and historic buildings were swept away in the name of modernity.

Yet ‘Townsmen’ was not wrong when he said that many houses needed improvements. In accordance with the recommendations of the “Hobhouse Report,” a Survey of Housing Conditions in Horncastle Rural District was undertaken not long after VE Day in September, 1945.

To this end “a specially trained Lady Investigator” was appointed, and by January 1947 2,708 houses had been inspected out of a total of 3,312 to be inspected. The results of inspection then were as follows:

Category I        Houses fit in all respects                                                     129

II                        Houses with minor defects only                                                          552

III                      Houses requiring structural alterations or repairs        1,395

IV                      Houses requiring to be reconditioned                                                387

V                       Houses requiring to be demolished                                          245

Prefabs like this of the ‘Terran’ style were building Horncasle as temporary housing.

A proposal for the purchase of prefab housing units was raised in a council meeting at this time. Objections were raised, one councillor claiming that proper houses could be built for the £800 cost of a prefab and make use of the “piles of bricks” that were available.

A compromise seems to have been reached, with the first 10 prefab houses of ‘Tarran’ type erected on The Wong in 1946, and brick council houses in Mareham Road following sometime after.

The level of house building recorded in the reports is small compared to current activity, but was led by local authorities rather than private developers. The findings of a Survey of Existing Houses suggested that a considerable amount of work was required to bring the housing stock up to an acceptable level.

A. NEW HOUSES

 194419451946
By Local Authority1044
By Private Enterprise  3

UNDER CONSTRUCTION ON 1st JANUARY, 1947.

Local Authority—32.

Private Enterprise—10

Looking on the positive side, in life today (in 2020) we take many things for granted that in 1945 were either only dreamt of or not even imagined. The austerity of the post war years did eventually give way to better times. We now look forward to leaving the present covid-19 pandemic behind us, working through the inevitable aftermath, and ourselves moving on to new horizons.

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