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Friday, 23 June 2017

'Slums' and Tower Blocks

The previous post, or the relevance of it, angers me.

I joined Bradford City Police in January 1966 and was posted to Bradford's Central Division.   From a middle class upbringing in Leeds I was pitched in to a raw and very different world in neighbouring Bradford.

I witnessed Bradford's Victorian built heritage being torn apart in the race to 'modernise'.   That was bad enough in the city centre where merely magnificent commercial buildings, and two main railway stations, were reduced to dust.   In the outer reaches of Bradford Central were the 'inner city' so-called slums.   They too bit the dust in what now seems to have been an orgy of destruction, then regarded as unquestionably right and proper as the world moved on.

Gone were the days of fabulous wealth and prosperity in the wool capital of the world.   The mills were burning with suspicious regularity.   There were no more Rolls Royces.   "As high as the hat on a Bradford millionaire" by then had a hollow ring.   Only Undercliffe Cemetery, on the very edge of Bradford Central gave a lasting clue of what once was.   I spent summer nights there reading the inscriptions and wondering at the mausoleums of the Great but horizontal.

At the other end of life's fortunes were the workers.   They lived in what appeared to me to be substantial and, by world comparisons, elegant and functional terraced streets.   Mile upon mile of them.   Each street had been a proud community but they were being systematically and ruthlessly torn down.   They were deemed to be unfit - slums the then word.   At colossal financial and social cost people were being 'rehoused' on estates with charming sounding names like Buttershaw, Holme Wood and Ravenscliffe.   In the housing mix were tower blocks.   Later at the Police Staff College, Bramshill I and others pondered on how these monsters could be 'patrolled'.   Of course, they couldn't.   This was the Brave New World and it seemed inevitable.

Communities from the 'slums' - horizontal tower blocks if you like - were dispersed and erased from history.

click to enlarge

Demolition men and others grew rich.   Alderman Foodbotham grew fatter and tower block builders reached for the skies.   Architects occasionally went to prison.

Police Constable 45 Rand was confused.   This apparent madness was the way of the world.   An unstoppable social revolution explained in some measure by a post-war perceived need for change and the eradication of inequality.  For change - the clarion call of politicians down the ages.    Out with the old and in with the new and self evidently better.

Well, the 'slums' were awful though those that have survived have been made into bijou residences.   But not as awful as have turned out to be tower blocks.   The slums were not fatal.   But they are gone.   Not adapted or adopted - gone.

Here is Bradford's Newby Street, the lower and ironically safer, floors boarded up.   It replaced the slums.   Shame on you Alderman Foodbotham and your paymasters.

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