Housing was a mixed bag in London in the 1960’s—council flats, squats, up-market flats and homes, semi-detached homes. Some were in buildings damaged in the war, others were part of the new post-modern architecture, some were above or in back of businesses, others were lovely Georgian town homes around a private and locked park-like square.
What was your neighborhood like in the 1960’s?
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The following are descriptions sand photos of some of the residences lived in by our subscribers and by actresses, writers, and a former MP
Finchley Central in the 60’s from subscriber Peter Grant
My family lived in council housing throughout the 60s. We started in a flat in Whetstone at the start of the 60s, were briefly on an old housing estate in North Finchley before getting a house in Finchley Central on a 50s built estate.
Seen through a child’s eyes, the three bedroomed house was large, although in reality it wasn’t. The kitchen always seemed small though, even then. My favourite feature was a little kitchen hutch, small doors that opened through to the living room, that were big enough to pass food through. This simple feature fascinated me as a kid. I also liked the french windows in the living room that opened up into the garden. We had a greengage tree out there that was easy to climb. I used to like climbing up there, perching on two sturdy limbs and reading my American comics.
I grew up at Number 23 High Meadow Crescent in Kingsbury, London NW9. The house was built in 1925. I remember when we moved in in May 1963 there was a fireplace in the kitchen where the previous owner for some inexplicable reason had left a pair of burned socks. There was also a fireplace in the front room. In the later 1960s, my parents had central heating installed and the coal bunker in the back garden was dismantled. Even after that, though, the concrete base remained as a reminder of earlier decades. I recall my brother and I digging in the garden one summer and we found a piece of fuselage from a WWII plane. My Dad made us throw it away! Our old house looks much better today than it did when we lived in it! By the way, singer George Michael sang about his 1960s Kingsbury childhood in the moving song entitled “ROUND HER.”
“This is Willesden Lane, Kilburn where I had my apartment on the other side of the bus stop on a side street off Kilburn High Road.” subscriber George Linterman
Lisa Baker, an American living in London as a child, remembers:
“The houses were cold and often the “hot” water was too, and there were still large areas of London that had not been rebuilt since the war. I especially remember bombed-out churches with rubble still strewn all over weed- covered lots. Some things were right out of the 19th century, too – the “rag and bone” man drove his horse-drawn cart up our street regularly, to pick up discarded clothing, car parts, and miscellaneous junk for resale. The nearby high street in Temple Fortune, where my mother shopped, had a green grocer, a butcher, a fishmonger, a baker, and a school uniform shop (Pullens!), but no supermarket.”
From his autobiography This Boy: A Memoir of a Childhood, Corgi Books, 2013 by Alan Johnson, Labor MP for Hull West and Hessle in 1997; Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010; and until January. 2011, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
“We [Alan and his sitter Linda] left North Kensington on 4 May 1964. It was farewell to Berriman’s, Maynard’s, and the little old lady in the ‘milk shop’ opposite us. Farewell to the people who’d managed to establish a community amid the squalor and poverty of Southam Street and Walmer Road. The south side of the Thames was unchartered territory for Linda and me. But that’s where the Council sent us—to Pitt House on the Wilberforce estate in York Road, on the border between Battersea and Wandsworth. Number 11 was on the first floor of a squat four-story block built in the 1930’s. Our flat was a maisonette. Our own front door opened into a sizable living room and there was a separate kitchen. Upstairs were two bedrooms, our first indoor toilet and a proper bathroom. To us it was pure luxury.”
By Julie Norton, co-publisher of Branchwood Publishing and editor of A cup of tea that is forever England: Lighthearted tales of working class life in 1960’s London
“It is easy to overlook a grey, two-storey nondescript building flanking the south side ofthe North Circular Road, opposite the Brent Reservoir, or ‘Welsh Harp’, situated between Neasden and Staples Corner in North West London. But I always look out for it with a sense of sadness as I pass by, en route to more salubrious destinations, because I remember when that disused pile used to be my home.
I was a young teenager in the early 1960s, and, before Neasden and Staples Corner
had been smothered by flyovers, that same building was a bright beacon for travellers:
a noisy, popular café, with vans and lorries constantly manoeuvring for space to park in the service road in front. Fluorescent lights beamed from the large windows and loud pop music blared out as customers came and went through the double front doors.
My parents moved from one business to another every three or four years, and this meant a succession of different homes and schools, and each time I had to make new friends all over again. But I now like to think that learning to cope with different environments made me more resilient, and every move brought new experiences.
Among these various businesses the café on the North Circular Road was certainly
the most exciting environment for me. And I guess it was probably my father’s happiest time too. When we moved in, he changed the name over the door from North Café to Morgan’s Café, using his own first name, an indication of how proud he was of owning it. It was a setting most suited to his gregarious personality and good humour. I can picture him now behind the café counter, happily chatting to the queuing lorry drivers, all readily calling him Morgan. He made frothy coffee with a state-of-the-art hissing espresso machine, and called out numbers when a meal was ready; he gave out cloakroom tickets when customers ordered a meal, to ensure everyone was served fairly in their turn, handing the ticket’s twin with the order written on it to my mother in the kitchen.
Being only aged 12 when my parents took over the premises, I had little idea of the
hard work running a café actually involved. I was more interested in the gleaming Wurlitzer juke box standing against one wall, constantly throbbing out a loud beat. This was stacked up with 50 of the the latest hits – the top 50 at any given time, which the customers could play at 6d (3p) a time. From my young and inexperienced vantage point the juke box seemed to be the focal point, the hub of café life, and I had a freedom, denied my friends, and tacitly sanctioned by my parents, to listen to all the current chart topping songs as often as I wanted – played loudly and repetitively.
By Anjelica Huston in her autobiography A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York, Anjelica Huston, Scribner, 2013
As a preteen and teenager, Academy Award-winning actress and director Anjelica Huston lived with her mother, brother, nurse, and a revolving door of friends at 31 Maida Avenue in London in the mid-1960’s. She describes their house:
“Away from Ireland, from the green fields and the open air, 31 Maida Vale, a graceful cream-colored Georgian town house on a quiet street in Little Venice, became the center of our new way of life in London. It looked onto the Regents Canal, an estuary that flows from the East End to the heart of nearby Paddington. Houseboats were moored on either side, and in summer the light filtered through the leaves of the plane trees lining the pavement above its banks.
The house, like all Mum’s creations, was beautiful. There was a large basement kitchen with flagstone floors and unvarnished pine cabinets that looked out onto an overgrown garden, at the far end of which was a wrought-iron four poster bed, where we lounged after long Sunday lunches, when friends came to eat or stop by after dates, for drinks and dancing. The living room at Maida Avenue was painted, in Mum’s words, “Irish-sky-gray.” She had applied the color with rags, so the effect was uneven and cloudy. The wall that separated the living and dining rooms on the first floor had been removed, and the light came streaming through tall windows on both sides. Against the far wall between the windows, the philosopher Rousseau’s daybed, framed by the curving necks of two red swans with golden beaks, had made the passage from Ireland alongside the figure of a bronze Shiva. Anemones in apothecary vials were clustered on top of a piano. A Regency chaise stood on clawed feet.”