Bert Lowe discusses his job as a builder [Text only]

'That must have been in the winter of '51 I came down here it was snowing like a b****r...'

Stevenage Museum

That must have been in the winter of ’51 I came down here it was snowing like a b****r. And I walked from the Old Town got off in the Old Town there was an old boy in the church yard you know the little church in the bottom of Sish Lane. I said can you tell me where Aston House is mate, aye he says, but you missed the bus there’s only two a day. I had to walk all the way from Stevenage up to Aston.

And Mary Tabor, she was the Housing Officer, we had an interview up there and she said if I could get a job for 6 months I’d get the house. I came back, walked all the way back down here and got a start with Tersons.
Tersons had a fleet of white buses at the time and they used to transport them from London, they used to travel back every day, every day we used to travel backwards and forwards. Some lads used to stay here, there was a hostel at Sish Lane, not Sish Lane, Aston House in the beginning. Some of the lads used to stay up at the hostel and then there was one opened in Sish Lane. But we used to travel backwards and forwards we used to pick the bus up from Ealing Common at 6 o’clock in the morning and travel down to Stevenage and then go back, I’d say about half past four, five o’clock at night.

Well in the first instance of course it was the fact that it was the only way you were going to get a house, because you realise after the war the housing shortage was terrible and there were no prospects anywhere else. The housing lists in London were astronomical you had no chance whatsoever. But once I think after the first six months in Stevenage then you begin to develop this sort of inner spirit, you warm towards it. Because it was new and because it was a pioneering experiment, it was something which the first Labour government did, as one of the first times it had ever attempted to build anything like that, you know a number of new towns throughout the country and we felt we were part of it.
You had to have a London address, that was the first criteria and you had to work for the contractor until the house was available, normally was about six months.

In order to get away with things that they wouldn’t normally get away with some of the contractors were unscrupulous enough to use that as you say as a carrot. There were no canteens; there was very inadequate toilet arrangements, drying arrangements and all that sort of thing. I mean Monkswood was the main toilet, the wood out the back here when we first came down here. But once the lads got their houses well then we got ourselves sorted out, all those things came. We demanded them and we got them. We got reasonable canteens; we got proper toilet facilities and welfare facilities and the 40-hour week to go with it. But at the same time we produced the goods. So everybody was reasonably content although there were a number of stoppages.

This page was added on 16/04/2018.

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