In one sense, I mean literally. I want to tell the story of this council house. From not long after I was born until they went to live in Ireland in 1980, this was my parents’ home. From when it was built until they bought it in 1977, they rented it from Epping Forest District Council. I was bred there, my sister born and bred.
It is a very ordinary house. In the ‘sixties and ‘seventies it would have been a bit smaller and plainer than it is now. It had a good sized kitchen, and a large living room, the far end of which was taken up by the dining table we sat round on Sundays and Christmas, our everyday day meals being eaten round the still pretty large kitchen table. It had three storage rooms downstairs, three bedrooms upstairs along with separate loo and bathroom. It had a smallish, if very neat, front garden, and a good sized back garden which, in turn, backed onto the fields of the farm.
My family were pretty typical of the families in the estate. My dad was local, from the next village; my mum was a Londoner. The estate was a mix of the young families who moved in when it was newly built, or soon after, and the elderly folk who lived in the specially designed bungalows. The majority though were young families like us, or my cousins (on my mum’s side) who lived next door, or my best friend’s family who moved in when he was little (his dad still lives in the same house). They were, I would say, typical working class families of the period: deeply respectable, good neighbours and very upwardly mobile.
In the late ‘sixties, new houses were added. They were perhaps a little smaller though, in a real sign of the times they had garages. Until then, there were relatively few cars. In another, badly timed, innovation, they had central heating. Why badly timed? The power source was oil, just before the oil shock saw prices soar. Instead, two years later, we were converted to natural gas and got central heating. By the late ‘seventies every family had at least one ot two cars, colour TVs, three-piece suites and went on foreign holidays. In the years that followed almost all of those houses were bought at around half price.
Unlike many estates, our one was in a prime position and the houses were not sold on to private landlords. Instead, the houses had porches added, extensions built, new windows put in. Ours was bought by the daughter of the family across the road. They are still family homes. Last year, my old house sold for £326,000. In its own small way, it is an emblem of the social mobility of its era.