In the vanguard of social housing after the Great War

Bourtonville: The first four houses
Bourtonville: The first four houses

Back to the Past with historian Ed Grimsdale

Bourtonville was created after the First World War in imitation of the ‘garden suburb’ of Bournville in Birmingham.

Bourtonville: the old road sign inlaid on the fence

Bourtonville: the old road sign inlaid on the fence

Bournville had been built 25 years earlier by George Cadbury for his chocolate factory’s employees – a model village to ‘alleviate the evils of modern, more cramped living conditions’.

Bourtonville was the response of our local politicians to the ‘Addison’ Housing Act of 1919.

Dr Colin Addison was the Minister of Health who introduced state-funded housing to Britain.

In part, it was a reaction to the lack of fitness found in many men called to serve in the Army during the war.

Dark, dank and overcrowded living conditions plus a diet with few vegetables were thought to have contributed to their spavined appearance. Buckingham was in the vanguard when its first four houses were handed over in July1920, for they were the first ‘Addison’ homes to be occupied in Bucks.

After the mayor, Alderman Tailby, had performed the opening ceremony, chairman of the housing committee Alderman Osborne trumpeted that he’d be sending a telegram to Dr Addison to announce the first completions in Bucks.

Each of the planned 56 houses would cost ‘enormous’ sums, varying between £730 and £800 to build, but their weekly rents were to be set at an uneconomic 10 shillings (50p).

Councillor Osborne hoped young married couples would occupy them.

Buckingham’s first estate dwellers were so keen to move in that we’re told: “during the [opening] ceremony furniture vans were unloading their contents to the new houses, which have been built on high ground on Bourton Road, and possess an extensive view of the surrounding countryside”.

The new houses were termed ‘parlour houses’.

Parlour is a dated word in the 21st century.

In 1920, it would have indicated a best room retained for Sundays, high days and for visitors.

It might be cluttered with sofas and chairs, room for everyone.

For in those days it was bad form for a gentleman to offer his seat to a lady as it might still be warm!

Family heirlooms, fancy china and photographs would be displayed in the parlour and the more genteel might gather around its piano to sing hymns of a Sunday night or listen to a youngster tinkling the ivories in Rustle of Spring.

Rear or side gardens were huge compared with 21st century estates – everyone was expected to grown their own veg.

At least one side garden was so large that in the last decade or two, it has ‘grown’ a new-build house that matches the existing stock of homes.