Housing Conditions And Poverty
Housing had improved over the years but in the 1900 to 1914 period there were a great many low 3-room cottages. These were put up to house the men that worked in the brick-fields, and were usually in blocks of 8, with just a bedroom, small kitchen, scullery ( or washhouse ) and outside earth toilets. These are some of the names: Lowes Cottages, Tilly-Billy Bottom, Barrack Row, Buckingham Terrace, Woodlands Place. Just a little better were some two-storey houses with two bedrooms upstairs. The staircase would go up in between the front room ( or parlour ) and the kitchen. Many of these you would step straight into off the pavement, others had just a very small front garden. A good example is Hamilton Road, which has both types. Some very large families were reared under these conditions.
My mother was brought to Pluckington Place in a flat-fronted two-up-and-two-down house at the age of 3 years in 1871, when her father came from Northolt to work in Cullis’s brickfields. These houses were all built of locally-made stock bricks and were all more or less tied cottages, which meant that you worked for the owner and, if you left or got the sack, you were evicted. I saw this happen several times, all their posessions being put out into the road, because men were leaving the brickfield for the factories. The Gas Company had White Street and Spencer Street built to house some of their workers. Rents were on average 4/- ( 20p ) a week, but the bosses expected the men to be on call to deal with the brick kilns, especially in frosty weather. It was the practice to work in gangs and the boss used to pay the wages of the gang to their ganger to pay out. My Mother told me that this usually happened in a pub. You can guess what used to take place, the money spent on beer. My Granny got tired of this. One Saturday she waited her chance and when the pay-out started in the “White Swan” she grabbed some money and made off. I don’t know the sequel. Incidentally, the “White Swan” was then at the bottom of Pluckington Place. The new one was built in 1904. It is recorded that in the winter of 1885-6 , due to the bad weather the brickmakers being unable to work, poverty was so bad that Mr. Thomas at the Manor House provided 1d dinners for up to 100 children from 12 to 1 p.m., after which time anything left would be divided between those waiting outside.