Somerstown 'slum' clearance made way for hated flats: RETRO

High rise flat in Somerstown called Cannock Lawn, although there was little lawn to be seen. Photo: John Taylor collection.
High rise flat in Somerstown called Cannock Lawn, although there was little lawn to be seen. Photo: John Taylor collection.
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In the 1950s and 1960s much of the area that we now call Somerstown was  demolished as it was deemed by the council to be a slum area. 

It was a bit of an insult to the residents of the area, so I am told.

An invitation to a reception at a city hall but only come if you bring your own glass. Photo: Christine Allaway.

An invitation to a reception at a city hall but only come if you bring your own glass. Photo: Christine Allaway.

Admittedly, some of the houses still had  a toilet at the bottom of the garden, but that didn’t make the interiors slum-like. 

In the early 1960s a large block of flats called Cannock Lawn, right, was built to house the people from the demolished houses in Warwick Crescent.

These high rise buildings, although quite comfortable inside, were not the best places to live.

Lifts were a curse with obscene graffiti painted on the insides and often out of use. 

Target Road, Tipner greyhound track was not just used for dog racing. There was stock car racing too. Photo:Steve Daly collection

Target Road, Tipner greyhound track was not just used for dog racing. There was stock car racing too. Photo:Steve Daly collection

Eventually the blocks were also demolished to make way for flats with fewer floors.

John Taylor, who sent me the photograph, tells me he hated living there and couldn’t wait for a move and married quite young so that he could do so.

Christine Allaway of Gosport sent me the invite, below, to a City Hall reception back in 1942.

She found it while having a clear-out. Attendees were asked to bring their own glasses. I suppose it was due to the wartime shortage. I wonder what would have happened had a glass got broken half way through the evening.  

The Black & White coach company had some sleek vehicles for the times. Photo: Jackie Baynes postcard collection

The Black & White coach company had some sleek vehicles for the times. Photo: Jackie Baynes postcard collection

I see the doors would be closed between 8pm and 8.15pm. Perhaps this was for grace to be said and they didn’t want it interrupted. 

Christine said it really brings home the indomitable spirit – no pun intended – of the British people in wartime.

Steve Daly of Waterlooville sent me a stock car racing poster for the greyhound stadium in Target Road, Tipner, below right. 

In 1954 the American sport of stock car racing was introduced to the UK by a flamboyant showman called Digger Pugh.

In 1954 the average weekly wage was  £10 but a stock car driver could earn £15 start money, plus prize money, with a £50 grand final win.

In 1955 Portsmouth began to promote the sport at the Tipner greyhound track.

The first stock car meeting was held on April 23.  Despite good advertising and a write-up in the Portsmouth Evening News most fans preferred the Southampton track.

It lasted five months, stock car racing in Portsmouth finished in the September. 

There were 45 UK tracks at one time but by the end of 1955  there were just 21.

Steve wonders if there are readers who can remember being at Target Road in 1955, as he has never seen any photographs of stock cars at the Tipner stadium.

They must be very rare if existing at all.

Here is one for all the transport buffs who read these pages.

Here is a sleek coach for the period made by Black and White coach company. The fact that it will be travelling on motorways dates it to around 1959, when the M1 opened.

The door was in the centre of the coach which must have made it uncomfortable for anyone sitting near-by. A rucksack can be seen on the ground. 

The driver’s screen appears to have an opening for fresh air – those were the days before air conditioning. 

If any of you buffs know more please pass it on.