A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 1, the City of Chester: General History and Topography. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2003.
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HOUSING AND SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENT, 1945-74
The city's problems in providing sufficient houses after the Second World War were exacerbated by the fact that many workers at Ellesmere Port, Shotton, and elsewhere chose to live in the city because of its attractiveness as a residential area. (fn. 1) Immediately after the war, the council built 160 prefabricated houses from components produced at the aircraft factory at Broughton. With higher levels of government subsidy, and despite difficulties in finding sites, it went on to build almost 6,700 houses between 1947 and 1974, far more than the 1,600 completed between 1914 and 1939. (fn. 2)
Even so, the housing problem remained acute. When the government restarted its slum-clearance policies in 1954, there were still 1,000 families in accommodation which on average shared a tap between six houses and a lavatory between eight. (fn. 3) As earlier, tenants in the clearance areas were inhibited from moving to new council houses by the higher rents charged for them. Nevertheless, by 1964 there had been over 1,000 demolitions, (fn. 4) and in 1972, encouraged by the 1969 Housing Act, the housing committee announced that further slum clearances were necessary and that because of high demand it would continue to build 300 council houses a year. By then those who needed rehousing included a greater proportion of single, widowed, divorced, and elderly people wanting smaller accommodation. (fn. 5) From the outset, planners tried to ensure that mistakes made between the World Wars were not repeated, and provided new housing estates with open spaces, community centres, health clinics, libraries, churches, and old people's homes. (fn. 6) The pre-war Lache estate acquired a community centre in 1955. (fn. 7) At Blacon, developed entirely after 1945, there were eleven schools, two shopping centres, an old people's home, a library, a community centre, a public house, and five churches by 1970. (fn. 8) At Newton, however, although a full range of community services was planned in 1955, there were still no playing fields, community centre, or old people's home in 1972. (fn. 9)
Post-war council housing was concentrated in the areas added to the county borough in 1936. A very large estate was built at Blacon, and smaller ones adjoining each other in Newton and Upton. At Blacon, where temporary dwellings had been erected in 1946, (fn. 10) the building of some 684 houses was approved in 1949, 600 of them in a single section focused on Blacon Avenue, which was also to have 24 shops and a community centre. (fn. 11) Another 50 houses were approved in 1950, (fn. 12) and building continued into the 1950s on a generous layout with plenty of open space in the form of broad roadside verges and larger greens on the main thoroughfares, Blacon Avenue north of the railway line, and Western Avenue south of it. East of the latter, the streets around Fowler and Wemyss Roads were lined with widely spaced semidetached houses, while Blacon Avenue was developed with the neo-Georgian shops and flats of the Parade, and, stretching east, terraces with the flavour of prewar garden-suburb cottages. In the early 1960s the estate was extended north along concentric rings of streets, including Stamford Road and Hatton Road north of the Parade, where a second block of shops and flats, modern in style, was built in 1964-6. (fn. 13) By then the city-wide shortage of development land influenced the layout of the southern neighbourhood, where two 12-storeyed blocks of flats and a compact square of shops were built; other multi-storey blocks were planned but not built, largely because they were unpopular with tenants and expensive to erect. (fn. 14) Building continued into the 1970s with low-rise housing at higher densities, mainly short terraces of mixed construction, until by c. 1980 the estate was built up.
A spacious layout prevailed also at Newton and Upton. The Newton Hall estate was built between 1957 and 1960, Plas Newton between 1960 and 1966, (fn. 15) and Upton Park, stretching east from Stanton Drive and Dickson's Drive to Wealstone Lane, between 1954 and 1961. (fn. 16) Churches, schools, and other community facilities were sited on slices of open land between Newton Lane and Kingsway in Newton, west of Wealstone Lane in Upton, and in the grounds of Plas Newton Hall, with shops in a commercial centre on Newton Lane. The largest of the other council developments was at Hoole, around a long road looping north from Hoole Lane to Hoole Road. Otherwise council housing was restricted to small pockets, for example at Melrose Avenue north of the railway and canal off Vicars Cross Road, and tucked into the Lache estate, where a small site off Willow Road was developed in the late 1960s or early 1970s with terraces similar to those built in the later phases at Blacon. Chester was subject to only one, very limited attempt at comprehensive redevelopment in the 1960s, when an area of 19th-century housing between City Road and Crewe Street near the railway station was replaced by a mixed development of two 11 -storeyed blocks of flats and 4-storeyed walk-up blocks, with one or two 19thcentury buildings preserved.
Most houses on all the outer estates were plain and brick-built with shallow-pitched roofs, and were arranged in straight terraces or semi-detached pairs. The walk-up blocks of flats, including those in the spine road through the Newton Hall estate, Coniston Road, were similarly conservative but flat-roofed; even the multi-storey slab blocks were brick-clad, and low compared with tower blocks in other cities.
Between 1961 and 1971 the amount of council housing increased by 6 per cent to 30 per cent of the housing stock and private accommodation for owneroccupiers by 4 per cent to 52 per cent, while privately owned rented accommodation fell from 28 per cent to 18 per cent. Only in the 1970s, after severe cuts in public funds for housing, did private house-building within the county borough exceed that by the council. (fn. 17) There was more private building in Upton and Great Boughton, outside the borough boundary, and the influx of middle-class house purchasers into Chester as a whole was so marked that in the late 1960s estate agents reported that the city was becoming a dormitory for middle and higher income groups. (fn. 18)
Immediately after the war, particularly in 1946-7, many large houses in areas such as Curzon Park and Stanley Place were divided into flats. (fn. 19) Building of individual houses in established roads, especially at the west end of Curzon Park, restarted in the late 1940s, as did medium-sized developments such as the Grosvenor estate's 40 houses in Brown's Lane, Handbridge, (fn. 20) and the 23 houses off Earlsway, Curzon Park, designed by A. R. Keane for Walker and Dawson in 1947. (fn. 21) The first very large scheme to be approved, in 1949, was the Newton and Upton estate proposed by the Newton Upton Land Co., which involved 177 houses. (fn. 22)
Individual private houses were built in the early 1950s at Blacon, (fn. 23) and throughout the 1950s and 1960s along main roads, cheek by jowl with pre-war homes, for example in Lache Lane and in Saughall Road, Blacon, where bungalows had been popular since the 1930s. (fn. 24) Existing suburbs also grew or were finally completed. In Curzon Park, empty plots were filled on the south side of Curzon Park North and in Curzon Park South, and some large gardens were subdivided. At Queen's Park, houses were built on the south side of Lower Park Road away from the river Dee, spreading east into Elizabeth Crescent c. 1964, and as a single scheme into Queen's Drive. North of the city centre, houses off Mill Lane continued the development of the isolated 19th-century speculation at Upton Park, and development continued until the 1970s along the east and north sides of Upton-by-Chester golf course. Groups of houses or estates of middle-income type were kept small, for example the Lache Hall estate, begun in 1959 south of Circular Drive, and the Queen's Drive group. Nearer the centre, building continued on very small pockets of land off Liverpool and Parkgate Roads, for example in Garth Drive in 1953-4, (fn. 25) and Dawson Drive, and more houses were squeezed into the closes already developed, such as Abbots Grange and Abbots Park, where additional culs-de-sac were formed c. 1960.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s cheaper private housing was built next to council estates. At Blacon 44 houses in Western Avenue and Highfield Road were designed for sale by the council itself in 1960, and at Lache c. 1960-2, Oldfield and Snowdon Crescents and Clifford Drive were laid out like adjacent council-estate roads. One of the largest schemes was at Upton and Newton, where the east end of Plas Newton Lane and the area south of it was developed with over 100 semidetached houses and bungalows along streets including Ullswater Crescent, Ambleside, and Derwent Road; planned in 1955, the scheme was not completed until the mid 1960s, (fn. 26) and was continued east into Ethelda Drive and Kennedy Close from 1963. Similar housing was scattered throughout the area north of Vicars Cross Road, for example in Green Lane and Queens Road, and was built in Hoole from 1954-5 in Kilmorey Park Avenue and Woodfield Grove. Other groups were built from 1958-60 on the western edge of Blacon, south of Highfield Road, and at Blacon Point farm by Invincible Homes.
Sites between existing housing and new or improved roads were also exploited. In Hoole, cheap semidetached housing in Pipers Lane was built as a fringe between council housing to the west and the bypass (A41) on the east. In Lache, an estate approved in 1966-7 was built between Lache Lane and Wrexham Road, with its focus a sizeable shopping parade on Five Ashes Road.
There was almost no innovation in the design of speculative houses built in Chester after 1945 even among expensive architect-designed homes, one of the modest exceptions being the International Modernstyle house designed at no. 11 Curzon Park North by T. O. Pottinger & Partners in 1967-8. (fn. 27) Indeed, most houses of the 1950s were indistinguishable from those built between the World Wars, and some of c. 1955 in Daleside, Upton, (fn. 28) still had the metal windows and Art Deco styling considered particular to inter-war architecture. Cheap speculative housing was of brick and had little embellishment beyond shallow bay windows with some tile-hanging. The same house types continued to be built into the 1960s, when the Scandinavian-influenced style characterized by lowpitched roofs, weatherboarding, and large horizontal expanses of window also became popular.