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Stoke-on-Trent Districts: Bentilee


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Bentilee, Ubberley, Townsend

The background to housing development
in Stoke-on-Trent....

"If the 1930s had been the years of desperate depression, the later 1940s, after the war had been won, were the years of severe shortage. Surprising as it may seem now, food rationing did not end until July, 1954, but if other materials and commodities did not take quite so long to return to something like normal supply, the immediate post-war period had to pay the penalty of six long years of bitter struggle at the end of which the national cupboard had been swept as clean as a clinic. Everything was in short supply and most things were in short supply for a long time.

Stoke-on-Trent had been lucky. Structural damage from air-raids had been minimal but that notwithstanding, the problems facing the council were enormous. Since amalgamation in 1910 there had been two world wars and more than a decade of depression. Several parts of the city still displayed a Dickensian dinginess. Even as late as 1951 there were more than 900 households in the city without a piped water supply. Houses which were really not fit for human habitation in the middle of the 20th century and which should have been bulldozed out of existence years before, could not be demolished until new ones had been built. The first and most crippling shortage after the war was houses.

The housing committee of the council faced a truly monumental task with undaunted vigour. They accepted the challenge of lifting the city out of the last century and rehousing the people in pleasant homes in suburban surroundings. But large and far-sighted as were the measures of the housing committee, they could not be implemented overnight. The housing shortage was to be with us for along time. In 1951 an advertisement in the "Evening Sentinel" for a two-bedroomed house to let produced 874 inquiries.

One of the housing committee's first actions after the war was in the construction of emergency, prefabricated houses or prefabs as they came to be known. They were pint-sized but they were homes and happy homes for a lot of people who had hitherto known no place of their own. They mushroomed-up in mini-estates with an expected life often years. Many of them had perforce, to be pressed into service for much longer.

The council's housing record since the war has been quite outstanding, not only in the number of houses completed but in the manner in which whole new estates have been laid out.

A study of the year-by-year record of house building from 1921 to 1973 will readily explain why the council is so proud of its achievements in this field. It now owns no less than 30,500 dwellings out of the 96,500 known to be occupied throughout the city.

Since the end of the war, after a modest start in 1945, the record has been even more impressive. From 1945 to the end of November, 1973, a total of 34,799 houses were built in the city of which 23,025 were built by the city council and 11,774 by private developers."

"Stoke-on-Trent County Borough Council 1910-1974"



Bentilee valley before reclamation
Bentilee valley before reclamation


Bentilee valley after reclamation and housing development
Bentilee valley after reclamation and housing development


The Day the Rains Came Down

Article by Elsie Procter

"In the 1970s the area that is now known as the Bentilee Valley was a large expanse of waste ground where people dumped their rubbish, but with the help of government grants, the City Council, and interested local residents a plan was drawn up to convert the land into a landscapes area, with trees, walkways, playgrounds, bridges, seats, etc. When it was completed, it was a wonderful sight!

There is a brook that runs length of the valley, which has its source somewhere around Hulme, up in the sandhills. Normally a trickle, it can become a torrent when it rains heavily. Where the nursery now is, on the corner of Chelmsford Drive and Beverley, the brook runs through steep banks and sometimes gets flooded.

One day, in the summer, we had the mother and father of all thunder storms; the brook filled up and filled up and spread out until we had a lake; it was quite impressive!

The rain stopped, the sun came out and so did the kids. They came from everywhere, carrying makeshift boats in the form of baby baths, tin baths and hastily constructed rafts of all kinds, and descended on the lake with great glee. They used their hands as oars and were soon sculling around. Those without boats put their swimwear on and paddled about in the shallow parts. There was lots of laughter, shouting and splashing; they certainly enjoyed themselves.

Mums and dads came out to watch, and we stood around chatting and watching the kids, calling "Be careful!" now and again, and drinking cups of tea.

After a hour or two, the flood subsided, the kids came out of the water, picked up their boats and vanished as quickly as they'd appeared, and all was quiet again.

My own kids came home bedraggled, muddy but thoroughly happy, to be bathed, dried, and fed. Then, thoroughly tired out from their rowing, they fell asleep.

What a wonderful afternoon that was! Completely spontaneous, it was one of those golden moments in time that you recall now and then with great fondness. Something never forgotten. I lived in Chelmsford Drive for 26 years and never saw it happen again, but I will treasure the memory of it: the day that the rains came down."


Note: Elsie Procter, as well as once living on Chelmsford Drive, was involved with "UBB", the magazine published by the Bentilee Valley Project, which was set up to campaign
for the cleaning up of the brook area.


next: maps 1840 to 1922
previous: the area before 1851