Leeds was infamous for the squalor of it’s slum housing after the World War by the 1920′s. The insincerity of Homes Fit For Heroes from local Tory politicians led the Rev Charles Jenkinson a friend of the ‘Red Vicar’ Conrad Noel to stand as a labour candidate and produce a paper on slum clearance.
Flats were seen to be one of the key solutions but the idea was not universally popular:
- In 1930′s many cities had no experience of modern flats.
- Flats were considered akin to tenements for special categories of households like the elderly, poor or single.
- Slum dwellers were reluctant to move and angry at compulsion (what were we fighting for?).
- Communities feared being broken up and segregated.
- The English as opposed to the Scots can be very snobbish about their home and disliked the idea of flats
Quarry Hill Flats were perceived to be one answer and the Director of Housing R A Livett and C Jenkinson visited France and Vienna to inspect workers flats including the massive Karl Marx Hof. Then building at Quarry Hill commenced based on a plan for 5000 flats to be built as an ‘experiment’. Modeled on the social developments in Europe they were built on a quick, less skilled, structural system of pre-cast ferro-concrete cladding, mounted on steel frames. The development started in 1935. By 1941 the flats provided accommodation for 3,280 people.
Only 40% of the area was built on the balance was for roads and communal space.
- The development housed shops, apartments, laundries and a range of communal facilities.
- Lifts and and a chute based waste disposal system were included although the later was a bit of a failure.
- Many flats were filled with none local residents including overseas visitors.
- Oral history in Leeds has a series of commentaries and personal histories that are evocative of the era. link
1. ‘……York Road to get the bus into town and, of course, everywhere you walked, the flats were just there on the skyline; massive, often looking a bit austere. I always remember them as being off white and grey, and our parents telling us that… that inside the flats was full of nasty people…’
Quarry Hill Problems
- The second World War interrupted the development.
- The new build techniques were very expensive to maintain and repair.
- Rusting below ground was a serious threat and the buildings life expectancy had been dramatically over estimated.
- Black spots, vandalism and intimidation developed within the estate.
- Despite the working class public spirit and demands for action the council failed to tackle and solve the issues.
- In 1972 four options were put to council none included full renovation and retention. The flats were demolished between 1975 and 1978.
3. Oral History of Quarry Hill
4. ‘Memento Mori – The Flats at Quarry Hill Leeds’ by Peter Mitchell
5 Flat Flats at Quarry Hill