'Council' Houses

Local Authority Housing

On this page is information and photos of houses built - or rebuilt - by the Local Authority from 1921 until the 1980s. Road names are highlighted.

'Homes for Heroes'

There is a prominent date '1921' on some houses in Long Lane. As far back as 1914, the Mulbarton parish council minutes record: 'in the opinion of this council, some houses are required for the working classes: six houses to be asked for this purpose'.

'Homes for Heroes' in Long Lane, dated 1921
'Homes for Heroes' in Long Lane, dated 1921

After the First World War, the 'Homes for Heroes' policy was implemented, and the first council houses were built in many villages. But in 1920 the parish council was not fully satisfied: the clerk was instructed to write protesting against the unsuitability of the site of the proposed houses. Was that the Long Lane site? If so, why was it unsuitable? By 1921 the first residents were able to move in.

By 1930 the parish council was dissatisfied again: 'a discussion arose as to the desirability of building houses for Mulbarton people in Mulbarton parish instead of, as is now being done, building houses in Swardeston or Bracon Ash, and sending Mulbarton people out of the parish to live'. In 1931 their protests were stronger: 'strongly protest against the policy of building houses in neighbouring parishes and placing Mulbarton people in them, so taking them away from their own parish, often against their wishes'. However, anyone walking up Birchfield Gardens cannot fail to spot a prominent 1931 date facing them on the houses in Long Lane. Perhaps their protests were dealt with more quickly than protests are today. 
(By David Wright, first published in the Parish News)

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The first group of houses - dated 1921 - are in Long Lane. Soon afterwards, five pairs of houses were built round the corner in Cuckoofield Lane. It is said that the people living in Mulbarton Hall demanded that a screen of trees should be planted to hide the washing... Hence the row of Horse Chestnut trees (now much depleted) between the east end of Cuckoofield Lane and Birchfield Gardens! When first built, each group of houses was served by a pump for their water supply and the houses had no electricity. When the houses were connected to the electric grid, they had surface wiring that eventually had to be renewed. In 1933-4 more houses were built in Long Lane, and two pairs added either side of the Cuckoofield Lane row. These had a limited number of electric points and lights installed - with proper wiring, but no running water or drainage.
Evelyn Smith, who now lives in one of the older Cuckoofield Lane houses, writes:

Pair of houses in Long Lane built by Henstead RDC in 1931
Pair of houses in Long Lane built by Henstead RDC in 1931

'I was born at no.10 (now no.28) Long Lane. I still have the letter addressed to my late father, Mr. Stackyard, from Henstead RDC offering him the tenancy when the house was new. It is dated 28th March 1934, with a rent of 3/6d per week (now 17½ p) plus rates.'

In 1932, the RDC bought a field adjoining Birchfield Lane for further housing. Two terraces, each with four single-storey dwellings, were built on the land east of the road - with a shared pump. All these were rented out by 1935. The opposite side was not built on until after the war. Meanwhile, another plot had been bought at the north end of the village....

St. Omer Close was the next to be built, in 1936, and celebrated 50 years in 1986. Bill Alborough wrote an item for Parish News, Summer 1986, which also appeared in The Mercury & Advertiser, July 18th 1986:

Gordon Andrews in the garden of his new home in St Omer Close soon after he moved in, in 1936
Gordon Andrews in the garden of his new home in St Omer Close soon after he moved in, in 1936

Eighteen very basic houses were built on an old orchard with no running water or drainage. Water had to be collected from a central pump (see in Services) and all night soil had to be buried in the garden. Electric fittings were sparse: one power point in the 'back room' and three lights - one in the backroom, one in the front room (parlour) and one in the front bedroom. The roofs had Norfolk reed under tiles but powdery snow came into the roof space with the inevitable problems when the thaw arrived!
The 'back room' served as kitchen, dining room and bathroom. It contained a wall oven and cast-iron copper, both separately fired, either side of the central open fire. There was a pantry off the back room, an outside privy and a shed under the stairs which served as an Air Raid Shelter in World War II....
Over the years improvements were made: running water was provided and the electrics extended. In the mid-1970s extensions were built to provide a separate kitchen and bathroom, and, to prove that civilisation really had arrived, an inside flush lavatory was fitted! Later the roofs were refurbished and replacement windows fitted.

Clearing the overgrown orchard where St Omer Close was to be built
Clearing the overgrown orchard where St Omer Close was to be built

Mrs. Aggie Cooke remembered arriving from Swardeston as a young girl with her family and leaving garden tools for safe-keeping with Mrs. Mickleburgh, then at no.37. Mrs. Alice Alborough [Bill's mother], who lived at no.48 until she died, remembers moving in on 11th November 1936 when the rent was 8 shillings and 6 pence (43p) a fortnight. There was a small shop in the front room of no.38, the home of Mrs. Robinson - her father (Mr. Rix) had owned the orchard on which the houses were built.

'Despite the seemingly primitive conditions I got the impression that my parents thought it was a vast improvement on where they had been living. That was in Scott's Terrace - a row of five three-storey houses on the site of what is now the vet's.' [At the North End of Mulbarton]
Bill Alborough

Before the Post Office renumbered many Mulbarton houses, the 'Council Houses' were numbered consecutively from Long Lane, along part of Cuckoofield Lane, to the most northerly council bungalow in Birchfield Lane (no 36). Houses in St. Omer Close were numbered 37 to 54. The house opposite no 36 Birchfield Lane began the sequence again - at no. 55 - which then continued into the rest of Cuckoofield Lane. This road has numbers - but still has significant gaps. Interesting for historians, but hopeless for delivery drivers!!

After World War 2 there was a desperate shortage of housing. The RDC built 'Airey Houses' - of prefabricated concrete - on the vacant plot of land west of Birchfield Lane which they had purchased for housing almost twenty years earlier. The first residents moved in around 1950, and among them was Monty Norman who later played football for Norwich City, Tottenham Hotspurs and England. These distinctive concrete houses lasted some 35 years, and in 1985-6 the residents were gradually moved into temporary accommodation while their houses were replaced with a new style of prefabricated dwelling.

The RDC obtained more land bordering Cuckoofield Land by compulsory purchase to build a mixture of brick bungalows and houses. Many of the first people in these houses were moved out of 'temporary' accommodation at Hethel Airbase after the USAAF moved out. Barbara Gent was one of the first and remembers both the camp and the move to Cuckoofield Lane very well:

Mrs Gent's daughters playing in Cuckoofield Lane c.1953
Mrs Gent's daughters playing in Cuckoofield Lane c.1953

'We lived [at Hethel Camp] for 5 years - my two daughters were born there. On the morning of my second daughter being born we had a letter from the Council to say we had been allocated a house in Cuckoofield Lane - the first to be built. There were lots of families from Hethel Camp moving in as the others were completed. We often spoke of the happy days there - that was 54 years ago, and some of us are still here in Cuckoofield!'     Barbara Gent

Houses on the south (left) side were built c.1960
Houses on the south (left) side were built c.1960

Around 1960, a mixture of one and two-storey homes were built for the District Council by Mickleburgh Builders of Mulbarton on the opposite (south) side of Cuckoofield Lane on a strip of land also obtained by compulsory purchase. 

Nowadays, any council houses that are not privately owned have been transferred to a Housing Association, and the newest housing estates include some 'affordable housing'.