We all appreciate that if you go back 100 years or more and compare our living standards to then, how vastly improved they have become particularly in the ‘developed’ world. We, as a society expect and demand certain standards and rightly so. However, what astounds me is that we only need to go back as little as 50 years and the changes in standards are quite significant.
In a previous ‘blog’ I refer to my time growing up in the 70’s and 80’s when we lived in a council house (my parents eventually bought it off the council for just over £2000 but that story is for a different blog) and the ‘mod cons’ that we have now did not exist in council housing. My parents tell the story of when they first moved into the property in 1968 (I was 6 months old) and they were only the second ‘tenants’ since the property was built in the early 1950’s. The house was built in typical council style, 3 bed semi, plain brickwork (no decorative features) but well-built with a large rear garden. It also had a brick outhouse with a flat concrete roof which also housed the only toilet in the property. It was one of eight identical semis in a row. That is about as complementary as it gets.
The house was a mess when they first moved in, the previous family having had nine kids (to this day we have no idea where they all slept) and so a lot of work had to be done just to make it liveable. The kitchen had two cupboards and a wooden draining board (and I don’t mean the nice fancy wood block ones you can get now a days), this one had maggots on it from years of unhygienic living. My Nan apparently, was so disgusted she went round to the local council office (there was no phones in those days and she had to go on her bike as it was five miles away) and threatened to dump it on the ‘Councillors’ desk unless he got it replaced. Now my Nan was a formidable lady and had a reputation of taking ‘no nonsense’. She already had four kids when her husband (my Grandad) died of pneumonia when she was pregnant with my Dad. So she bought five kids up on her own and pulled no punches. Low and behold the Council quickly changed the draining board. She also found out where the previous tenants had moved to and demanded they returned all the electric plugs (two pin) which for some bizarre reason they had stripped from the house. The ‘Environmental Health’ would have had a field day if they had existed back then.
The house had no inside toilet (already referred to in a previous blog), no central heating, damp to all the internal walls (plaster was falling off), the concrete flat roof to the outhouse leaked and damp came up through the concrete floor as it had got no damp proof membrane. The house was heated by two open fires, one on the ground floor which heated a back boiler and one in the middle bedroom. The windows were of metal and single glazed and my Dad had a long running battle trying to stop the rust devouring the frames. In the winter condensation would pour down the frames and sit in the window cill and we had to have towels to soak it up. If it was freezing outside, the windows would freeze over and you could not see through them for days particularly if it was a hard winter. The windows had small panes of glass and every year some of these would crack due to thermal movement and would
have to be replaced. Dad tried all sorts of treatment on those metal frames and never did win the battle.
Once my parents owned the house, they slowly over the years began to modernise it but it was not until 1991 before they had an inside toilet, which if we do the maths is only 30 years ago. That was when the bucket placed on top of the landing in the evenings to be used in an emergency was finally removed. Of course, we knew no different and me and my siblings had a great childhood, but it does make me really appreciate what we have now. The next generation take for granted the central heating, the double-glazed windows, two or three internal toilets etc along with the mobile phones, broadband connection and satellite TV but from my experience we have come a very long way in a short period of time.
So, what will our homes look like in the next 50 years? There is a whole different agenda now adays and the priority is to try and make our homes and how we live as sustainable as possible and quite rightly so. The way we heat our homes I suspect will be vastly different as there are plans to phase out the traditional gas boiler and keeping that heat in is a priority. Times are changing and our quest for progress will not stop but sometimes it does us good just to look back and see where we have come from. I wonder if someone will write a ‘blog’ about it in 50 years time?
By Gareth Brookes – AssocRICS, MCIOB
Gold Crest Chartered Surveyors – (office) 01332 678416 / (email) firstname.lastname@example.org