In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

Slum living conditions in the UK 1


1953. Slum living conditions 1.

At the end of World War 1 soldiers returning to the UK were promised homes 'fit for heroes' for themselves and their families.

Many large cities throughout the UK had expanded rapidly during the industrial revolution and the Victorian era in particular.

However, the Victorian housing stock was often in very poor repair, had inadequate sanitation and homes were often over-crowded.

As a consequence, these slums became the breeding ground for disease, crime and poverty.

Public housing schemes provided by the local authority were initially encouraged by the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890. However, it was the scale of destruction in World War 2 – when 4 million homes were destroyed in the UK – that paved the way for large-scale slum clearances.

All UK cities had slum areas. The clips here were all recorded in Scotland in 1953 for a BBC radio programme exploring housing conditions in that country and have been selected because of the strength of the personal testimony they offer. The image shows a Glasgow family pictured in 1948.



How many people are there in this wee room?


Eight altogether. Six children, my husband and myself.

Yes...and where on earth do you all sleep?


Well, these two beds…this is what you call a 'hole in the wall' and a bed cabinet, which we put down at night for the children. The children's ages are...the girls are 13, 6 and 4, and the boys 11, 4 and 2½.
Well, the children are used to going to bed early. The result is that I've got to put the children in this hole in the wall, owing to the fact that when the cabinet's down, we have no room at all. This table has got to be moved over to the sink and these chairs piled on top, and the awful thing is that my husband had TB, he was in hospital for 11 months, and I've got to put those children in that bed that my husband has to go into.

Programmes to download

Programmes to download at any time

Download programmes

A collection of programmes to download as mp3 files at any time. Includes dance and music.



Current podcasts

See all School Radio and other Learning podcasts available from the BBC Podcast Directory.

Contact us

Contact us

Contact us

We are always pleased to receive your feedback, suggestions and pupils' work.

'War Horse' by Michael Morpurgo

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

War Horse

All 10 episodes of Michael Morpurgo's famous story are now available to listen to online.

'Carrie's War' by Nina Bawden

Carrie's War by Nina Bawden

Carrie's War

Catch up on 'Carrie's War' by Nina Bawden. All 10 episodes are now available to listen to online.

Perform our School Musicals

Perform our School Musicals

School Musicals

Our performance scripts for 9 to 11s, complete with music, songs and special effects to download.

Our brand new Macbeth pages!

Macbeth videos for mobile and tablet

Macbeth - the musical

Check out our new pages for our Macbeth musical with 8 songs to learn! See the Teacher Notes.

Curriculum for Excellence

100 years since World War 1

WW1 Performance Pack

WW1 Performance Pack

Commemorate 100 years since WW1 by staging our specially-written play 'Archie Dobson's War'.

Private Peaceful - listen now!

Click to listen to Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

Private Peaceful

All 13 episodes of Michael Morpurgo's moving WW1 story are available to listen to online.

Teacher's notes

Teacher's Notes

Online Teacher's Notes

Notes to support the programmes including details of all the series content.