Wiltshire Publications

Memories help mark housing centenary

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Memories, old photographs and even a rent book from 1927 will form part of a unique housing exhibition in Westbury.

Celebrating a centenary of social housing, the special exhibition has been curated by Westbury Town Council, Westbury Heritage Society and Sovereign Housing. It will be on public view on Thursday November 21st at the Laverton in Bratton Road for three days. Everyone is welcome to see the exhibition which will be open during town council opening hours.From January, the exhibition can also be viewed at the Heritage Centre in the High Street. 

People who remember Westbury’s earliest council housing helped share their knowledge to mark the special centenary, recalling everything from parlours and Rayburns, through to life in former prisoner of war huts.

Westbury deputy mayor, cllr Sheila Kimmins said, “This project has really tapped a rich seam of memories, which we are delighted to put on show for everyone to share. This is an integral part of our town history and we are so grateful to everyone who has helped.”

As well as artefacts, news cuttings, and photographs, the exhibition features a film capturing the memories of the town’s earliest social housing.

The Housing Act in 1919 promised government subsidies to help finance the construction of affordable housing, and houses in Haynes Road and the Crescent were some of the earliest to be built. Disused wartime huts doubled up as temporary housing for families at Penleigh Grove until Oldfield Park was developed in the 1950s. Other developments, including Phoenix Rise, followed later.

But our town seems to have been ahead of the game – long before the 1919 act, the town already had a form of social housing. In 1869 millowner Abraham Laverton built Prospect Square and in 1890 Mary Brown, daughter of Westbury vicar Stafford Brown, funded 10 cottages at Ivy Court, off the Warminster Road. These were known as the Stafford Brown alms houses and were for poor parishioners who were members of the Church of England.