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Celebrating 100 years of Council Housing with our oldest tenants and residents

Lord Mayor with Vera
Lord Mayor with Vera

This summer we’re celebrating a landmark event that saw large scale council estates spring up across Sheffield.

We’re highlighting how 100 years ago The 1919 Addison Act meant that local authorities could develop new housing for working people. It followed a speech by Prime Minister Lloyd George as British troops returned from The Great War, calling for ‘a country fit for heroes to live in.’

The aim was to produce high quality, well-proportioned housing, with gardens where possible, a very big change from working class housing at the time. Sheffield embraced this challenge and new housing quickly got underway on the Norwood estate, followed by the estates at Walkley, Woodhouse, Handsworth, Wadsley, Brushes, Stubbin and the Manor.

We’ve been remembering how important council housing was for many people and last week our Lord Mayor, Tony Downing, hosted a celebration event at the town hall for 12 centenarians who are our most long-standing tenants and residents. They are aged between the grand ages of 92 to 104 years old and have over 700 years of Council experience between them as loyal council house tenants.

One of those tenants is Vera, our oldest tenant, who will be 104 years old in August. She moved into Hartley Brook Road in 1950 and for the last three years she has been living in sheltered housing for companionship rather than medical reasons.

Vera said: “I wanted a new house but I didn’t get one, I had to modernise it, but you didn’t have a choice in those days. I loved my home on Hartley Brook Road though. I’ve made so many fond memories there and so many friends. I never thought I’d stay so long but I was very happy. When I reached 100 I had become very isolated and needed to be somewhere with more people around me where it’s easier to do activities, so the council moved me to Copley House. I’ve got a lovely flat with everything I need, there’s always something to do, always someone around and I’ve made lots of new friends. I couldn’t find a better place to live, I love it.”

Rosie, aged 98, has lived in her council house since it was first built 67 years ago in June 1952.

Rosie said: “I moved into my council house when it was built in 1952 and I’ve been there ever since. It was a brand new property and when I moved in it felt like being in heaven, a place of my own where I could please myself. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over the years but my neighbour next door moved in a week after me and we’ve been friends ever since. I never bought the house but I’m the only tenant that’s ever lived in it so it feels like mine. The house has seen a lot over the years and with my son, my two grandchildren and my three great grandchildren we’ve made many wonderful memories that I will always treasure.”

Over the last few weeks we’ve been asking our residents if they can remember their relatives talking about life in their new council home or watching new estates being built? We’ve not been disappointed - people have been sharing their memories, stories and photographs by sending them to us or sharing them on social media.

Local resident Bridget said: “I have several photos from the 50s, including of outside our house on Weston Street. My grandparents lived on Radcliffe Place in Netherthorpe and my dad's brother and family nearby, all until the early 60s when they also moved due to slum clearance. I have a photo of my first Holy Communion in the summer of 1959 taken on Weston Street and this photo of me stood on a stool next to my dad's motorbike and sidecar. The girl facing the camera lived a couple of doors away. I posted it onto Facebook a few months ago and she recognised herself. We met up in a cafe shortly before last Christmas!”

“By the way, those tower blocks opposite Weston Street, I can remember when they were first under construction. I have a story about that. It was coming up to Bonfire night and I was stood at the bottom of Weston Street asking for a penny for the guy. Great, but I didn't even have a guy. Nevertheless, I got a good amount. I bought some chocolate then buried the rest under some rubble across from our house. Trouble was, I couldn't remember exactly where when I looked and it was gone forever.”

We know that there are many more lovely Sheffield stories like these and people are invited to our event celebrating the history of council housing in Sheffield on Tuesday 16th July in the Town Hall, 2pm to 5pm,to share their stories. There will be an exhibition of the photos and memories that people have contributed from all across the city.

Councillor Paul Wood, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety said: “Since the beginning of council housing there has always been a need for an affordable, safe and warm home and we’re proud to still be providing council housing for our tenants and residents. We know that there is a need for many more new council homes and we are embarking on the largest stock increase and building programme since the 1980’s - our absolute priority is to improve the type of homes in each neighbourhood across the city.

“We look forward to hearing more lovely stories about Sheffield’s first estates at the event on 16th July and what it was like for people moving into these new homes back then.”

For more information about the celebrations please call 0114 2930000. Additional photos are available.