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Slum living conditions in the UK 1

Context

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.

Transcript

INTERVIEWER:

How many people are there in this wee room?

WOMAN:

Eight altogether. Six children, my husband and myself.

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

WOMAN:

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.

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