The British industrial townscape – street after street of dense terraced housing.
The Industrial Revolution drew a huge influx of people into burgeoning towns and cities in search of work and opportunity. They needed somewhere to live and employers wanted their workers nearby. The solution was to build large areas of dense, low-quality terraced housing around the mills and factories. Communities sprang up almost overnight.
Terraced houses are essentially rows of identically designed homes sharing a side wall and featuring small back yards and gardens. The many areas of older terraced housing still found in Britain’s towns today often date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
They were originally built for the growing lower middle class such as skilled craftsmen and factory foremen; many, but by no means all, have since been done up (gentrified).
The garden cities
The period after the Second World War was a time of rapid social change for Britain. Young families wanted homes of their own rather than living with their parents. And people wanted more space and a better environment. There had been early attempts in the 1920s and 1930s at building new, greener towns - the Garden Cities - such as those at Letchworth and Welwyn.
Estates, such as Becontree in Dagenham, had been built for soldiers returning from the First World War. But the boom in building new towns really took off in the 1950s, partly because of damage from the Second World War; partly to accommodate the increasing numbers of families in the baby boom years, but mostly for exactly the same reasons of quality of life.
Many of the immigrants who arrived from the old British Imperial colonies such as India and Pakistan to work in the new ‘service’ industries and in factories found themselves living in poor quality, high density, inner city housing. The closed in, small houses were very different from the open courtyards for extended families that they were used to. The experiences of this first wave of Asian immigrants were mixed.
Most only planned to stay in the country a few years, sending the majority of their earnings home to their families. But many settled down and had families here. Despite initially suffering discrimination and hardship many rose, through hard work and persistence, to prominent positions in the community.