This week, we’ve got the follow up article regarding Ogley Square from the Lichfield Mercury of Friday, 8th February 1935. This is a great summation of what’s happened, and also points out that Brownhills was one of the first towns to act on slum clearance legislation.
There is a further post to come, with a twist in the tale. Sharp readers may have already spotted the result here…
Again, this post wouldn’t have been possible without the eagle eye of Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler who spotted the original news report, and the transcription services of reader and top friend of the blog Richard Burnell. I am indebted, as ever.
We have tried to replicate the format as much as possible, including the odd blocks of capitalisation. The images are the best I could get from the archive, and I’ve tried to get as much definition into them as possible by post-processing. They’re credited in the article to one J. Tinsley. It would be interesting to know if there’s an archive of his work anywhere. Any clues on that very much welcome.
There’s also something else to think of; in the first picture, there are two children. They look about 6-8 years old. It’s conceivable that there are people alive now who lived in Ogley Square, and may well remember it. It would be great if we could find someone.
BROWNHILLS’ BIG SLUM CLEARANCE SCHEME.
COUNCIL ADVOCATES DEMOLITION OF OGLEY SQUARE.
AWAITING MINISTRY OF HEALTH’S DECISION.
AS EXTENSIVELY REPORTED IN LAST WEEK’S ISSUE OF THE ‘MERCURY’ BROWNHILLS URBAN COUNCIL, WHICH HAS IN RECENT YEARS GAINED A NATIONAL REPUTATION IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT FOR ITS FORWARD POLICY WITH REGARD TO HOUSING, HAS FORMULATED A SLUM CLEARANCE SCHEME FOR OGLEY SQUARE, WHICH IT PLANS TO ERASE.
THESE VIEWS OF OGLEY SQUARE GIVE OUR READERS SOME IDEA OF THE SUBJECT OF THE CONTROVERSY LAST WEEK AT A MINISTRY OF HELATH ENQUIRY BETWEEN THE COUNCIL AND THE OWNERS, WHO ARE OPPOSING THE SCHEME
This square which is on the site of an old iron foundry, stands cornering Ogley Road and Mills[sic] Road. The houses, it is alleged by the Council, which are tenanted to a large extent by mining families, are unfit for habitation because of their disrepair and sanitary defects, and dangerous and injurious to the health of their inhabitants because of their bad arrangements.
In the Centre of the Square are twelve w.c.’s and eleven common washhouses, and it was further alleged by the Council that the drainage of the yard was very bad, the lighting of certain living and bedrooms was very bad, the houses were damp without exception and in wet weather the common yard was a quagmire: In the majority of cases the houses were over-run with crickets, blackbeetles and cockroaches.
Mr. Norman Waine (Clerk to the Council), stated that the houses were below the general standard of working class houses in the district.
The owners, through their solicitor and agent for the property, at the enquiry, conceded that houses 7-16 probably ought to go, but said it was quite reasonable for the other three sides to remain.
It is not known when the ministry Health’s decision will be given.
Brownhills Urban Council has, during the last few years, made a very determined effort to provide the workers of the district with adequate houses, and has embarked on direct labour schemes to save expense and provide local men with work.
This is the first of their ‘Slum clearance’ ventures, and a hard task awaits them, but no one can deny they have caught the spirit of the legislation introduced to facilitate local Councils in this task, to the extent of very few other local Councils.
The task of redeeming the sins of our forefathers, who built houses willy-nilly without any thought of town planning as we know it to-day, is costing the country dear in labour and money, but is a worth-while task indeed.
Space, air, adequate ventilation and lighting, and modern amenities are necessary for everyone, and the drabber and more dangerous the job, the more necessary these factors count in the lives of the people. Brownhills and the district around – and for that matter, the entire ‘Black Country’ – badly needs, and is going to get, a thorough, ‘Overhauling’ in years to come with regards to its housing conditions, and a start has to be made somewhere. Inevitably this will lead to hardships on the part of owners – and indeed the case of Ogley Square is typical, and these persons have our sympathy. As was fully explained at the inquiry last week, the owners of Ogley Square would suffer if the demolition order was approved by the Ministry of Health; this is a difficulty that to be met and faced, but no one can gainsay that the principle is right, and where carrying their convictions into practice, the principle is right, material difficulties must be overcome.
Are these homes worth £1000 spent to put certain matters right? In many cases such expenditure on old property is justifiable, for if a house passes the prime tests of healthiness, sanitaryness, etc, it is justifiable, but in this case the Council say, ‘No, the only adequate way of dealing with Ogley Square is to erase it.’
This is by far the biggest slum clearance scheme that has yet been formulated in the district, and the Brownhills Urban Council must be congratulated on carrying their convictions in to practice.