Look Back With Little: Housing in the 1930s

Look Back With Little
Look Back With Little

The Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935 was not only a cause for celebration but also an opportunity to review the ways in which Banbury was changing.

Cheney and Sons, local printers since 1768, were at the forefront of this activity and published an attractive and informative brochure.

Today my focus is on housing construction, which was given a big boost in 1932 by the Oxfordshire Review order that came into operation under the umbrella of the Local Government Act of 1929. A significant consequence was that the Borough boundary was extended to take in parts of nearby parishes. In recognition of the new town limits the Mayor and Corporation carried out a beating of the boundaries.

The section of the brochure devoted to housing highlighted the role of the council.

Cheneys recorded that 737 properties had been built and that covered about 20 per cent of the built-up area of the Borough. The main areas were Edward Street in Grimsbury with further provision in School View and Howard Road and the Ruscote Estate with its low cost housing at affordable rents.

Despite this, at the end of the 1930s Banbury still had a housing problem and it was left to private enterprise in the shape of local builders to make a big contribution towards the extension of the overall residential area.

In Grimsbury Messrs Wardyard and Co Ltd were shaping the Manor Estate.

Their publicity featured an Easter bride and carried the challenge ‘make sure of buying a house she will be proud of!’

The incentive was presented as ‘the finest house value in Banbury! … From £500 and also the attraction of securing your site with a fiver.’

In anticipation of the development of this estate as a community Banbury brewers Hunt Edmunds sought to open a new public house at the junction of the Middleton and Daventry roads. The only way that his could be achieved was by transferring the licence of the Plough Inn in Cornhill, which had been closed.

At a magistrates’ hearing, arguments for and against grabbed local newspaper headlines before, in fact, the Bench finally and formally agreed to a licence for what was to be called the Blacklock Arms ( in fact the pub did not open until after World War II).

At the hearing Mr S.G. Farrant of Chipping Norton , who represented Hunt Edmunds, drew attention to the fact that considerable building activity in Grimsbury had extended the catchment area for the intended public house. He felt that it was reasonable to suppose that people with it, many of who were on the Grimsbury Manor Estate and would welcome the opportunity for alcoholic refreshment ‘in comfortable circumstances and surroundings within easy reach of their houses.’

Mr Farrand added that the other licensed house within a quarter of a mile radius, the Prince of Wales, was not a very large one. It had a single public bar together with a jug and bottle.

Not to be outdone in the context of Banbury, R.W. Messenger took a whole page advertisement in the Advertiser across which he could extol the virtues of his Orchard Way Estate. These included the assurance that the homes were ‘being built to a standard and not down to a price’.

Stated specifications ensured that this was not just a catch phrase. Each house had a large lounge, white tiling in the kitchen, roofing tiles with a 50-year guarantee, tradesmen’s delivery hatch and a substantial garden.

By contrast with Grimsbury close to the flood plain land, the new housing areas of Hill View and Orchard Way were characterised by ‘high, dry and healthy conditions. Added to that, and for people without cars, Midland Red bus Company offered a 1d ride from the town centre to Ruscote Avenue.

Hinkins and Frewin of Oxford was another company active in and around the Warwick Road, which was developing into a key axis of the town. Ark Farm Estate was heralded as an area of ‘better homes – attractive, convenient and freehold’.