SPECIAL REPORT: Meet Northampton's longest running council home residents as social housing celebrates its centenary

Tony Mallard, 87, says his home is like a living museum. His own paintwork hangs proudly on the walls of his Eastfield home where he once lived with his late wife, Betty.

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 6:26 pm
Tony Mallard sits telling stories in his Eastfield living room surrounded by his original artwork.

“It’s all artwork that I’ve done,” Tony said. “I was told: ‘when you die, Tony, they want to make this house into a museum’. People tell me, which I think is a compliment, that when they come in here they can relax.”

The dad-of-four has lived in social housing all of his life and was born and raised in Kingsthorpe during the Second World War before going on to do national service in the army.

A crucifix - given to Tony after the battle of Dunkirk - holds up his living room mirror. It has been a symbol of good luck to him since he moved to Eastfields.

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87-year-old Tony enjoys pottering around in his garden and it's the brightest in the row of houses.

“I’ve always had a home, and I’ve always had a decent home,” he added.

“We didn’t have two ha'penny's for a penny but there was no stigma attached to it whatsoever.

“We didn’t have no money, nobody did. When we moved to Eastfield I think there was only one person who had a car.”

Tony has lived in his house for over half a century but never chose to buy it. Though he diligently maintains its appearance.

Gladys Jervis is a born and bred Northamptonian. She recited her younger days in the sewing factory, her time as a florist and how she met her husband at Abington Park.

His terrace is the most colourful in his row of houses, which is a testament to the hours he spends outside potting plants.

“We have a moral right for social housing or council housing to be there for the future generations who can’t afford a mortgage,” he said. “They need the right to have decent social housing.

“Personally, I wouldn’t have been able to afford a house because I had four children.

“My wife never went to work and I only had my wage coming in. When I got married I was earning about £5 a week. When we moved into Grange Road in 1957 my wife was expecting our first child. In those days we were offered a three-bedroom house and we were only expecting a child, you know.”

Under new plans, Belgrave House, is set to be called The Clock House. It will be a complete redevelopment of Belgrave to create 124 flats in Northampton town centre. It will be spearheaded by NPH and the borough council. (Architect drawings).

Yesterday, marked the centenary of council housing in the UK.

On November 23, 1918, less than a fortnight after the end of World War One, Prime Minister David Lloyd George set out his “homes for heroes” vision and started a national house building programme of 213,000 council homes of the time.

Large scale council house building came as result of the Addison Act, which was passed into law on July 31, 1919.

But as the country pauses to reflect on 100 years of the act's passing, Northampton finds itself in a period of social home decline.

Former Overslade House was reopened at the beginning of this month after a 3.6 million project. To mark 100 years of the council house it has been renamed Centenary House.

Since Northampton Partnership Homes launched in 2015 Northampton’s housing stock has dwindled year on year.

Although they have built 147 new homes and have 124 more to complete by 2020, as of July 1 this year, there are still 2,988 people waiting to be homed. 520 of those are on an emergency waiting list and 1,237 people are in urgent need.

But the management organisation says it is hard at work trying to make improvements in the town centre.

Stephen Hibbert, the borough council's cabinet member for housing added: “We are delighted to be celebrating this special anniversary at a time when delivery of new and affordable social housing remains a top priority for the council.

"In the last month alone, we have seen the opening of Centenary House in East Hunsbury and the proposal to transform Belgrave House into apartments for town centre workers.

“In 2018 we agreed to deliver more than 1,000 new affordable rented homes over the next ten years, and we continue to work with Northampton Partnership Homes to provide homes to those who need them most.”

But some argue there is a real urgent need for more council houses since Right to Buy was introduced in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher's government.

There's no doubt it has been a controversial policy. But did she present an opportunity for hard-working families or cause a long-spanning housing crisis?

Council house tenant Norman Adams said he feels strongly that Northampton needs more social housing at social rent.

He said: “The 1980 Housing Act - Right to Buy - has, in my view, been a disaster for this generation in housing need.

“It’s time the government treated social housing with the value it deserves and ended the Right to Buy scheme, which has pushed stock to crisis point.

“I feel strongly that the town needs more social housing at social rent, a rent that would be covered in full by the housing benefits system if the tenants' circumstances needed it.”

Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) once lived in social housing in Dagenham, Essex.

She said: “It is pleasing that in Northampton, at least, with new properties built and developed by NPH, we are seeing a return of high standards and good design.

“I am thrilled with the new properties in my ward - Castle. Spring Boroughs is a joy these days, with yet more high-quality new build being promised.

“However, we have a housing crisis with not enough social housing to meet the current need. We need a huge expansion in council house stock and we need to stop the Right to Buy.”

Gladys Jervis is a real tonic. At 99 she struggles to get out and about but she manages to set her daughter, Anna, to task in her well-kept garden while she “supervises” and dotes on her blackbirds.

The former florist moved to Gloucester Crescent in Delapre with her two sons and daughter in 1956.

She felt she could leave baby Anna, who was five weeks old when she moved in, with the greengrocers to look after.

Back then she remembers how she had a mangle outside and an airing rack the width of the kitchen. Now she sits in her comfy magnolia flat with a television.

In the 1950s Gladys moved into the three-bedroom home after living in her parents' house with her husband Arthur and two sons while she was heavily pregnant with her third baby.

"I've never known anything else," she said. "I couldn't really afford to buy a house.

"I had lovely neighbours around Gloucester Crescent. I had Mrs White one side and Mrs Kemp the other.

"There wasn't bad attitudes around council houses, not like there is now."

Now she lives in Briar Hill, where's she's been living comfortably for the last 17 years.

And although she turns 100 next year... she still manages to do the dusting.

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