100 years of Council Housing

Issue date: 19 September 2005

Issue date: 19/09/05

The Council House - College Green – exhibition opens to the public 22 September

Bristol tenants are celebrating 100 years of council housing this year and the council has joined forces with the University of the West of England to stage a major exhibition to mark the occasion.

The collaboration between researchers at UWE and Bristol City Council has resulted in a fascinating exhibition tracing the first 100 years of the history of Bristol’s Council Housing. The exhibition will be launched at the Council House on Wednesday 21 September 2005.

Professor Peter Malpass from UWE’s Faculty of the Built Environment has worked with researcher Jennie Walmsley and colleagues at Bristol City Council to make the exhibition happen. He said, “We have had fantastic support from the City Records Office and Bristol City Council. The exhibition brings together a selection of new and archive photographs, as well as filmed interviews with people from around the city. There is also a free booklet to illustrate the different themes that help tell the story. From the emergence of council housing at the beginning of the 20th century, the exhibition explores themes such as ‘Homes for Heros’, slum clearance and the growth of the suburban council estates.

“The exhibition also looks at the impact of experimental construction techniques, including prefabs and high rise flats. This is all set in the context of government policy, which has shaped the development of council housing over many years.

“An article published in the Bristol Evening Post resulted in dozens of people eager to share their experience with us and their stories and memories are recorded in a film giving an insight into their experience of living in Bristol Council Houses.”

Councillor John Kiely, Executive Member for Neighbourhood and Housing Services, said: “Good quality housing is the backbone of a successful city. The recent tenants’ vote to stay with the council as a landlord means that we can continue to make a difference to tenants’ lives, so the exhibition is very timely. Council houses remain part of the fabric of the city and we continue to strive to provide a quality service to our tenants. We look forward to another 100 years of supporting social housing in the city.”

One respondent to the newspaper article, Evelyn Tolley has taken part in the film that will be shown at the exhibition. Evelyn has lived in a council house all her life and moved to her current home in Southmead in 1947. Evelyn said, “When I moved in it seemed like a palace, we had electricity, good sized cupboard units and an upstairs toilet. I did all my washing using a scrubbing board and a wringer on the table. At first all we had was a table and chairs, a couple of armchairs and a big rug. There was no garden fencing and everything was completely open but we made our house a home over the years. These days people want everything straight away but we had to struggle for all we have and I think this makes us appreciate what we have so much more. There are still six or seven old neighbours who moved in at the same time as me but I have seen some changes.”

Colin Smith grew up in Hartcliffe and lived there for 23 years. Born in 1949 his parents moved from an overcrowded terrace in Bedminster to a new council house at Lynde Close. Colin has fond memories of his childhood, “When my parents moved into our new house it felt like a new dawn. Hartcliffe had and still has a great sense of community. We had great fun cycling up Dundry Hill and sometimes even went as far as Bristol Airport. We were on the edge of a beautiful area. I remember the estate being a bit of building site for ages and the infrastructure was not thought through very well. We had to walk to Bishopsworth Library to catch a bus into town and this was a major inconvenience as in the 1950’s very few people had cars. But the schools, buses and shops did come gradually. I feel very proud to represent Hartcliffe as a councillor now and I believe that the stigmas attached to the area are sometimes inconsistent and don’t live up to reality. Despite patches of unemployment and social problems there is a model community with people pulling together in much the same way as they have done since the 1950s”

The exhibition will be open to the public at the Council House on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 September and will then tour the city stopping off at the Central Library, Bedminster Library, Sea Mills Library, Hillfields, Library, Filwood Library and the Bristol City Record Office.

Editor’s notes

Images available from the Press Office.

Back to top