Refurbishing the 1933 Flats Fifty Years Later

Bringing the 1934 flats in Lordship Terrace up to 1984 standards

Fifty years after they were built, the flats in Lordship Terrace needed refurbishment. They had survived the wartime bombing but required ordinary repair and refurbishment. This refurbishment revealed how our living conditions and expectations had changed over the period. Many of the people who moved into the flats in 1935 had come from places like Nesbet Street, cramped, insanitary slums, verminous, damp and unhealthy, with shared outside lavatories, no hot water or other things which we take today for granted. The fresh air and healthy living conditions in Stoke Newington, the luxury of an inside lavatory must have come as a breath of heaven: Those in the flats under fifty years old, perhaps been born there, had never known anything else and they had still further expectations.

This account of the 1985 refurbishment reveals how the way we spend our lives had changed in the previous fifty years.

By 1984, the work had been completed and the tenants are living in what amounted to new properties.

How does one bring 1934 flats up to 1984 requirements? There had been some natural deterioration, but basically, the buildings were sound. The woodwork had lasted well: hardly any window frames needed replacement. Everything had to be redecorated but the fundamental problem was to deal with the way we lived in 1984 compared with fifty years before. Then, every flat had a downstairs shed in the yard, for a pram, bicycle or coal, but today most babies travel in fold-up buggies, or by car. Car ownership was rare in 1934 but was common by 1984. The flats were built to be heated by coal. The coalman could be expected to take coal up to the fifth floor but certainly not higher. This was the fundamental fact which controlled flat height when they were built. Extra fuel was stored in the sheds.

By 1984 however, Stoke Newington was in a Smoke-free Zone. In the 1960s London pea-souper fogs had become so bad, killing and injuring so many each year, that no other course was possible and Smokeless Zones were declared. One may still burn smokeless fuel but many people preferred central heating.

The Council decided to install individual central heating systems in the flats, with radiators in all rooms including the bathrooms, where the worst condensation is likely to occur. Chimneys were no longer necessary, but they are part of the structure of the buildings. They would have been difficult and expensive to remove so they were made safe and left.

The flats were re-roofed with pantiles. Instead of the earlier rubbish chutes, which became smelly, large paladins (dustbins on wheels to take plastic sacks of rubbish) were installed. Fire safety was improved by building on new escape staircases, providing alternative escape from bedrooms and putting 'fire resisting' doors within the flats. (All British Standard Code of Practice 1971).

The sheds were not needed for prams or fuel. They were often vandalised, so tenants preferred to carry their bicycles up to their flats. The sheds could be removed and Cedar House was demolished. This reduced the number of flats but made room for off-street parking,separated from the flats by high walls.

The changes can be followed on the plans (which also show the phases (1-4) of the refurbishment.

The work was completed in 1984 and tenants found they were living in what amouned to new properties which would serve well for another fifty years.



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Revised: December 28, 2008 5:26 PM