I see that some twelve months after their neighbouring edifices were carried to dust, the last two blocks of 1960’s maisonettes in Brownhills, on the corner of High Street and Ogley Road, are being razed. I could be wrong (and please do correct me if I am) but I believe these to be the last Wimpey tenement-style blocks to remain in the town. They were constructed using a now-discredited system building technique consisting of precast concrete and brick panels, common to the remaining two tower blocks, Severn House and Humphries House. Other sites that shared the blight of these pattern-built apartments were Deakin Avenue, Silver Court Gardens and Wessex Close. There are, of course, still prefabricated buildings remaining in the town, but the grim bleakness of these hideous rabbit hutches left a huge impression on the social history of Brownhills. Unloved, unlovely and abandoned, I doubt that many will miss them. The era of social engineering and experimentation they represented took a heavy toll on this area, and left a legacy of poverty, depravation and decay.
When I took these photos in the middle of a frozen, wintry Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to see a woman recovering objects from one of the ground floor flats – not apparently valuables but household objects. This not only struck me as dangerous, but somewhat sad, too. Somebody appeared to have scaled a palisade fence in order to recover what seamed to be old mugs. I didn’t understand it at the time, and I still don’t now.
Soon, these blocks will be gone, and will be replaced with a new development of affordable social housing – let us hope that the architects of that one are more conscientious than those of the sixties.
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