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Housing

Mr Alex Acheson came to live in Highfields in 1938.
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The bath was in the kitchen but it was separate from upstairs because the staircase had been divided. The front room that we had as a lounge was also our bedroom with a put-you-up. Then there was a middle room, there was also what we would call a living room/dining room and then the kitchen/bathroom combined with an outside loo, as was common in Leicester for health reasons and there is still some argument that it was a good idea at the time.

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Roger Cave came to live in Highfields in 1940, the year he was born.
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the house we lived in is still standing. It was originally a six roomed terraced house. In the early days it didn't have a bathroom, we had a bathroom put in but that wasn't until 1950. Before that we used to make do with a tin bath which would be brought out on a Friday night in front of the fire in the living room. I think everybody managed like that. The bath was about 6 foot in length which you'd keep in the backyard and then it would be brought out. It was a ritual having this bath, it was such a lot of trouble that probably that's the reason that it was only brought out once a week! But then grants for home improvements started coming in. I would think it would be about the 1950s when we had a bathroom and so were reduced to two bedrooms.

Right, so you lived in a six bedroomed house, which is quite large for a terrace!

No, a six roomed house, just the six rooms.

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I remember dealing with instances concerning Highfields. One day we had a hurricane, it was a freak thing really, it swept through Highfields and it took chimneys and roofs off houses in Guthlaxton Street and round this area here. I remember St Hilda's Church (which isn't the existing building) as was, but during this hurricane the roof came off in the wind and came down back on to the building! To all intents and purposes, it looked as if nothing had happened to it, but on closer examination they found the roof was loose so they had to pull the whole building down.

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a lot of the houses were used for different types of people. The houses on Melbourne Road had servants' quarters whereas houses in Twycross Street were ordinary six bedroom terraced houses. But the houses on Melbourne Road were of a better quality. I can remember playing as a child, meeting up with friends. We went into their house and in the basement there was a row of bells hanging up with the names of all the different rooms. That would obviously be the servants' quarters so anybody needing attention could pull a cord which would ring the bell. There were quite a few houses like that. I don't know if it could be that perhaps people who acted as servants perhaps lived in the terraced houses (in the basements) in Twycross Street, the side streets, and then they worked at the houses on Melbourne Road

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As you work you way down through Highfields towards the railway, I remember going into houses where the toilet was in a court yard so it probably did for half a dozen houses! I think they were the first homes to be demolished. I think that was when I first joined the fire brigade so it was probably the early Sixties.

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I can't remember any spectacular buildings that were knocked down to provide flats, they were just these poor terraced houses really, the worst of the terraced houses in Highfields were knocked down. The better quality terraced houses are standing over the side of St Peters Road. Particularly the area of Connaught Street and Tichbourne Street, it has quite massive houses up there. I think that was an upper class area of Leicester then in those days.

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Helen Edwards interviewing Sandy Coleman for Highfields Remembered.
Extract
Can you remember the house that you lived in?

Yes I can, very clearly....it was a little cottage, which sounds very nice and grand, but it was just a row of terraced cottages, two up, two down, with a shared yard with toilet and tap! There was no traffic at all, it was a cobbled stone little avenue. At the front of our house was a small garden. Then you had the cobble stones and then we were actually facing the back of Mere Road. The back garden and their gates came onto our avenue.

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When I was older, I was allowed to actually play in the street and in the entries. If you know the Highfields area you know that houses are back to back, and you go down in-between the terraced houses. Then you go to the bottom of that entry and there's another entry along the bottom that actually leads to everyone's back garden. Well, there's a wall in between these two entries from one street to the next street. So you could actually go from one street to another street without actually coming in contact with streets except to cross them, and when you're playing hide and seek it used to be brilliant!

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200 for their cottage . We had new floors, we had all the walls replastered, it was a little palace. My dad came from nothing, (he used to go to school in his mother's shoes), and lived in Wharf Street which was a really rough area of Leicester. I can remember my grandma, (she was dirty) we used to drink out of jam jars in her house. My dad really did something with himself. Our house was brilliant. We even had a fountain!

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I'm glad to see the renovation that has gone on. I've been down East Park Road recently and there's terrific renovation gone on there which I'm really pleased about because some of the property was beautiful. The lovely big houses have been made into flats now because ordinary people can't afford to run a house like that.

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Mr Boleslaw Dobski came to Highfields in 1947/48.
Extract
Was there a lot of empty housing in the area then?

No, no but houses for sale were immediately bought, yeah. We had been buying and that's how we bought our church there you see. We bought the church with cash.

Was the church empty when you bought it?

Yes it was. It was owned by the Baptists. That church, (you probably will not remember) was built where the present railway station is 120-130 years ago. It was transferred to Melbourne Road brick by brick then we bought it for fifteen thousand pounds. It didn't have a roof and was very neglected. It was leaking all over the place. We got some money together and bought it and that's why there was a sort of Polish ghetto there at that time in the Highfields area.

What year are we taking about?

1956

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Dr Stuart Fraser lived in Highfields from 1946 the year he was born.
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I remember the house was very cold. My mother would keep one coal fire in the house somewhere but I think the problem was carrying the coal around the house and I think it was very dirty for her. The kitchen was always warm. The kitchen was a bit primitive, well I say primitive but it was much better than a lot of people would have had in the sense that there was a brick scullery and a plastered kitchen with a big welsh dresser style, fixed onto the wall of the scullery room. There was no central heating of course, had a great big sort of – mother used to call it "a bomb" that heated up the water for the house, and a large porcelain sink, and again that was very cold and was the one startling thing about the house and that was cold and it had no fires at all.

Extract
when my grandparents lived here along with the time in the 1920s of course they had always had at least one resident maid servant and my grandfather always said when they came to the area that a lot of the houses, the bigger houses in the area had at least one maid servant resident, some had two and there were some up Melbourne Road and at the top of Melbourne Street they had two uniform, that's black and white uniform servants and certainly I know that my grandfathers predecessors who lived further up Melbourne Street, they had at least one resident servant and a bell boy who used to run errands for him. I remember that because his daughter told me that one of these boys had tried to strangle her mother and the poor lady had never really recovered from it much from this psychologically.

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The interesting thing is about the servants that my grandparents had is that my parents never had any servants at all in the house from 1947 onwards, after the war of course, but up until before the war my grandparents had always had servants and they used to get their maidservant by going to the Countesthorpe Cottage Homes for orphans and when a girl had to leave school she then took up residence and lived in the house and then went usually because she was getting married, and in fact the last servant my grandparents ever had in 1939/40 she married from my grandparents house, this was of course in Evington and she kept in touch with my grandmother until she died.

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the side streets off Melbourne Road were still all cobbled with the granite sets, the main roads were all tarmaced but the side roads were all granite sets.

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well it was a working class area but an upper class working area. There were people around who were skilled people, shopkeepers, they did a variety of things, it was by no means a rough area at all. If you wanted to get into rough areas, my mother warned me never to cross into the Humberstone Road and get into the Wharf Street area, that was bandit territory, that was bad news, that was a rough area down there.

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Dr Stuart Fraser has lived in Highfields from 1946, the year he was born.
Extract
the built environment. The Highfields area represents literally the high field area of the city, as I said in St Margaret's Parish; and the buildings now standing in it started in about 1840 literally to the present day, and include at least 2 to 3 major re-developments;

1 the devastation of the Charnwood Street area and the rebuilding into the Charnwood estate in the 1970s

2 the demolition of the St Peters Estate and the rebuilding in the 1960s, and the second demolition in a smaller way, and the rebuilding in the 1980s.

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Mr Abdul Haq came to live in Highfields in 1963.
Extract
When did you come to Highfields Mr Haq?

I came to Highfields in 1938.

Where did you come from?

India.

Where did you stay?

I lived in New Walk.

In a house?

Yes, opposite the museum, next door to Dr Somerville's house.

Did you come with your family?

No, I came on my own.

Did you move to Highfields?

No, from there I moved to Stoneygate and lived there for 11 years in a house next door to Dr Morris Milard. My wife arrived in 1963. I bought a house in Buxton Street (no. 33) and lived there until 1972.

Can you describe the house?

It was a terraced house, with 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, dining room and living room.

Toilet?

It was outside at that time.

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Mrs Betty Hoyland was born in Highfields.
Extract
The house in which I was born and spent all my early childhood, was a red bricked Victorian cottage which stood in a row with five others, like small red peas in a pod. The district was considered good class. In the larger houses which faced ours across a small cobbled road, the wealthier families employed maids and nannies for their smaller children, or in some cases both.

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Next door to us and divided from us by a tall brick wall, lived our neighbours, – three spinsters, they were not related. The house belonged to one of them, and the other two worked and lodged with her. They had a shaggy black dog called Ben and a snow white cat called Toss. They were all really nice, but their house was dark, and full of shadows. The eldest one worked in a high class drapers in the city and sometimes used to bring us boxes of odd buttons home to play with, and on special occasions would make fancy bonnets for my best doll. The other lodger was a small wispy woman with glasses, and we used to call her Pethwick, why I don't really know, it certainly was not her real name. The owner of the house was a sharp voiced, jolly little woman. In her front room, (the darkest of them all) she used to keep a square flat box of tangerines each wrapped up in silver paper. Sometimes she would ask us in, and then, with excited shivers running down our backs we would brave the dark brown hall and the bead curtains which clattered behind our backs as we passed through them, and be invited into the best room to be handed a tangerine. When we came away, we felt as if we had braved some deep dark forest to reach Aladdin's cave which held the gold and silver treasure in the square box.

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Mrs Hazel Jacques came to Highfields in 1942.
Extract
We all wrote a letter to our parents in hospital, how we didn't like it, and they made us work scrubbing the floors or dusting the bedrooms! Matron read the letters, I mean she shouldn't have. Then she said, "Well, you can't write that," she says, "You'll have to do it again." She gave me another piece of paper and told me what to write because then she knew how I really felt about her.

Gosh, as though you were in prison, really!

Oh yes!

As though it was some sort of punishment!

Yeah, that's right, we used to call it The Prison!

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Mr Amarjit Singh Johl came to Highfields in 1964.
Extract
What was the standard and condition of houses. What was the price in those days?

There is very big difference of standards and facilities if you compare now. The standard was poor and basic. There were no facilities of today. A large majority of houses had very poor standards. Nowadays there are facilities of heating, carpets, freezers, TVs. But in those days only rich people had those things.

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There were small shops in the Charnwood Street. It was like an Indian bazaar. They have been demolished. The shopkeepers moved to other areas such as Hartington Road or Green Lane Road. The standard of houses is very high now. The houses have been renovated with local government grants. There are all facilities such as toilets, showers, baths. There is improvement all round, such as outside of houses, streets and footpaths. The general appearance has changed but it has lost its peacefulness.

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Miss Alma Knight was born in Highfields in 1923.
Extract
were quite a lot of houses in Gopsall Street that had electric light. I don't think the small houses had electric light, I think they had the gas lights you know. They were quite small I believe, I can't remember them awfully well, they were taken down in the 1960s or 1970s, when the tower blocks were built. The little school and the day nursery were put there then.

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on the corner of Oxendon Street and Melbourne Road were some really beautiful houses, I think they were called Yeomandale Villas. They were like the mock Tudor style with front gardens. They were very beautiful, people were quite sorry when they went.

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Our house was considered quite modern, but it didn't have a bathroom which of course it was the Thirties, and then the war started and you couldn't get work done like that. Of course my sister was at school by then, so as soon as we could possibly get it done, our parents had a bathroom put in with hot water, which we thought was absolutely lovely.

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Mr Aidan Maguire came to Highfields in 1962.
Extract
Of course, everyone remembered the place at the top of Sherratt Road and St Saviours Road. It was the Black Boy. I think it stood out for a lot of people because it was a local public house.

Did a lot of people go there?

I think they did, it was quite a meeting place. People went on the Saturday night and some of them took the children and some of them didn't.

Were the children allowed in?

I think they were allowed if I remember rightly. I remember a chap I worked with, Joe Randall, he told me that he used to go sometimes with his father into the 'Snug'. His dad would take him on Saturday nights and they would have a sing song. It was one of those things in them days.

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Did it have a bathroom?

Yes, it did have a bathroom which was a bit unusual because I remember some people who lived a few doors away who had a tin bath in the kitchen. We didn't for some reason, I don't know why. But we had a bathroom.

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When I arrived in Highfields it was changing. A lot of places were in the process of being knocked down because they had been bombed. We used to call them the 'bombed buildings'. It was just another play area for us.

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We didn't venture too far away from Berners Street, I mean when we were really small. We would class Melbourne Road as miles away, we ventured no further than maybe two or three streets away. When we were growing up we used to always say once you got over Swain Street bridge, we were in a foreign country!

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Marjorie Marston was born in Highfields in 1942.
Extract
Can you tell me about the house that you lived in?

It was just a terraced house, it's still standing, I have been to see it several times, it's opposite the school on the corner of Twycross Street and it had just three rooms downstairs; living room, dining room and a kitchen. Upstairs we had three bedrooms, no bathroom, we used to have our bath in the kitchen in a tin bath.

Did you have a toilet inside?

The toilet was outside.

Was that a problem for you during the nights?

Not really, no I don't think so, we managed perfectly all right

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Around St Peters Road area where a lot of fairly rich people lived, my mother used to go and clean for someone in Highfield Street and I used to go along with her sometimes, elderly 1adies perhaps on their own. Not quite the same around there today I'm afraid.

Were they well paid, you know, people who used to go and clean?

I doubt if they were very well paid, I really don't know how much my mother used to get.

It was quite a rich area?

St Peters Road around there it used to be, yes.

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Mrs Margaret Porter came to Highfields in 1923.
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the back entrance to the workhouse which went round into Kent Street where men used to wait at the end of the day hoping to be given a meal and accommodation for the night.

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On the opposite side of Conduit Street and Sparkenhoe Street was the Prince Albert public house and between there and Gartree Street a very nice row of houses with front gardens. These were still there around 1954 after our row of shops had been demolished. {I/J On the other side of Sparkenhoe Street on the corner of Lincoln Street was Dr Beith's surgery. In those days there were two waiting rooms, one for private patients and one for those on the panel. The 'panel' waiting room, I seem to remember, consisted of long brown forms, but we seemed to do very little waiting, and you certainly didn't need to make an appointment. Dr Beith made up his own medicines (mostly tonics and cough mixture) but prescriptions only had to be taken a few yards to Gearys.

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We walked to school and I can remember once meeting a flock of sheep being driven along Saxby Street (probably from the cattle-market) and hiding behind a tree.

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Brett Pruce was born in Highfields in 1955.
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Do you know why your parents went to live in Highfields?

At the time it was a very prestigious area. I think they moved there in 1946, it was a very prestigious address if you like. I mean, it was akin to winning the pools to get a house in Highfields! They were big houses with plenty of space. It was a very, very nice area in those days.

Do you remember the house?

Very much. It's still there now.

Can you describe it?

Yes. It was a terraced house, number 7 Stoughton Street. I think it's called Stoughton Street South now. One side of the road is gone, it's part of the St Peter's Estate now. The house was a terraced house with an entry. You entered quite a large hallway which dog-legged down to the kitchen and scullery and another washing room down at the bottom. There were two reception rooms: a front room which I was born in, and the living room at the back. There was an outside shed and toilet and a bit of a back garden, a back yard if you like. The floor was blue brick.

For most of my childhood, at least until I was thirteen, our family didn't have a bathroom, but there was four bedrooms. When I was thirteen the landlord converted one of the bedrooms, (the back bedroom). He chopped it in half and created a bathroom, which again was like winning the pools, because when you're thirteen and sitting in a tin bath in front of an open fire it's a bit embarrassing!

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I remember when I was very young, there were still gas lights. I've got this memory in my mind of the gas man coming along putting the lights on and off. I must have been very young then, because after that they sort of increased the lighting over the years. There seemed to be just one electric light. When the electric lights came in, there was one at one end and one at the other. We always classed our Stoughton Street as our piece of the street. It was really in three segments with other roads going across. A bit further down Stoughton Street was the big Rank-Taylor Hobson factory where they made optical lenses. My mum worked there during the war, or for part of the war. And then the road went down Stoughton Street and ended up on the Melbourne Road near the Moat Boys' School.

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Mr Charan Singh came to Highfields in the 1950s.
Extract
Highfield area homes were nice but only a few had baths. Mostly were about 250 but a good house cost 300-400. At the time I could not afford much so I bought a run-down house. I was here for 10 years without my family.

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Councillor Farook Subedar came to live in Highfields in 1972.
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Can you describe the houses you lived in?

It was a Victorian terraced house just right in the centre of Highfields. It was quite a special house. It's got five bedrooms with a cellar and high ceilings and in its original form and shape.

And how many people lived in that house?

There were several family members living in that house.

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Mary Thornley came to live in Highfields in 1912.
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What can you remember of that house in Evington Street?

Well, it was quite a nice house actually. The house deteriorated later, but there was some rather nice houses on one side of Evington Street. It had bay windows upstairs and downstairs at the front and a passage from the front door halfway through. Two reasonably nice rooms and then a kitchen and scullery at the back and the passage went right through. And the garden went through to Stoughton Street. There were no houses right up to it at the back.

What did you have upstairs?

Four bedrooms. There was no bathroom in the early days but they did make one of the bedrooms into a bathroom later on, but mainly it was two large bedrooms and two smallish ones.

So when you were small you were bathed in a tin bath?

Yes.

In front of the fire?

Probably, yes.

Extract
Well, I have described the house that I lived in. There were one or two quite different style houses before Oxendon Street. But the other side was quite different, they were smaller houses right on the street, the others were palisaded, they had a small bit of garden at the front and a hedge or a fence or something. I think the fences that they had when I was a small child were iron ones which had to be removed for use in the first world war. Then they had little walls and wooden fences or something like that instead. But the others were smaller houses on the other side, they were right on the street. We had some quite nice neighbours, I can't remember a great deal about them really.

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Mrs Muriel Wilmot came to live in Highfields in 1927.
Extract
Do you remember whether the flat had an inside bathroom or toilet?

It had one bathroom which was shared by everyone in the whole house, we had our own kitchen. There was a downstairs and an upstairs toilet, we had the downstairs toilet.

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