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'.
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
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)
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
Evelyn Smith, who now lives in one of the older Cuckoofield Lane houses, writes:
'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:
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.
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.
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]
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:
'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
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'.