First place we can call home

Squatters - ex-Servicemen and their families who moved in to one of the dis-used army huts on the searchlight battery site in Cleveleys. On the left is Mrs W.O.Fownes with one of the other ex-servicemen's wives.
Squatters - ex-Servicemen and their families who moved in to one of the dis-used army huts on the searchlight battery site in Cleveleys. On the left is Mrs W.O.Fownes with one of the other ex-servicemen's wives.
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At first glance some of these photos might look like families just enjoying a cup of tea together, or perhaps a get together.

But these families were actually squatters.

Squatters move into wooden huts off St Annes Road, Blackpool which were built for the army during World War Two . They had previously been living in overcrowded conditions with relatives or in rented accommodation. 'Here the families are seen with their rent books.

Squatters move into wooden huts off St Annes Road, Blackpool which were built for the army during World War Two . They had previously been living in overcrowded conditions with relatives or in rented accommodation. 'Here the families are seen with their rent books.

Desperate people, who had ended up homeless in the aftermath of the Second World War.

They literally had nowhere to go.

Many of them had been crammed into overcrowded, uncomfortable lodgings, with other families.

So when they took over empty and dis-used building across the Fylde coast, they were just glad to have somewhere to call home.

Squatters move into the old Red Lion Hotel, Bispham. Four Ex-Servicemen and their families took possession of the hotel, from left: Mr and Mrs W. Ratcliffe and their two children Doreen (3) and baby Jean, Mr and Mrs S.H. Sharp and their daughter Diane (2,  Mr and Mrs K. Cull, expecting a child in July and Mr and Mrs H. Proudlockand their daughter Marie Rhonda (2)

Squatters move into the old Red Lion Hotel, Bispham. Four Ex-Servicemen and their families took possession of the hotel, from left: Mr and Mrs W. Ratcliffe and their two children Doreen (3) and baby Jean, Mr and Mrs S.H. Sharp and their daughter Diane (2, Mr and Mrs K. Cull, expecting a child in July and Mr and Mrs H. Proudlockand their daughter Marie Rhonda (2)

And many of them took great pride in turning their new homes into somewhere smart, cosy – and capable of supporting, normal every day 1940s life.

They even managed to make cups of tea, do the cooking and washing – often without water and electricity supplies.

They took over ex-army huts in Cleveleys, St Annes and South Shore, empty houses and dis-used hotels, including the Red Lion Hotel in Bispham.

In September 1946, The Gazette reported there were more than 4,000 people on the housing waiting list.

Blackpool Corporation even started requistioning unused buildings to rehome them.

The Gazette reported, on September 14, 1946 on the 30th acqusition – a house in Leamington Road, Blackpool, a local magistrates’s residence, was now being used to house two ‘homeless’ families – ex-servicemen and their families.

The paper reported the largest family in a requisitioned house was one of 12 and the smallest was a family of four.

When squatters took over the old Red Lion Hotel, in Bispham, they were without water supplies or lighting, but the four families cooked on fires in their rooms on coal brought from their former dwellings – using candles after dark.

They told The Gazette: “We have been unable to get accommodation and decided that as this building was standing empty we would move in.

“We moved in between 10pm and midnight on Sunday.

“We have washed the whole place out with disinfectant, and have each taken an upstairs room, in which we have put some of our furniture.”

Among them was Mr S Sharp, with his wife and daughter, two-and-a-half-year-old Diane – who were expecting another baby. Mr Sharp had been serving right through the war with the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment.

Mr H Proudlock, a bricklayer and ex-gunner of the Royal Artillery who served at Dunkirk, came with his wife and two-year-old daughter Marie Rhonda – and told The Gazette: “I have been living in All Hallows Road, in a one-bedroomed house, our room being divided into two.

“We could not live under those conditions any longer.”

Other families moved in to 26 dis-used Army huts on land off St Annes Road, South Shore.

Cards marked ‘taken’ and ‘engaged’ were placed on them by the families, and the walls of some huts were marked with slogans such as “Home sweet home at last”.

The families were busy trying to make the temporary accommodation more hospitable.

They held meetings and set up a “fighting fund.”

Within a few days, the water and electricity supplies were switched on.

The squatters spoke of terribly overcrowded conditions at their previous dwellings, with one saying: “We had to sleep four to a bed in a tiny room.”

The chairman of Blackpool Council Alderman J D Bailey said – on being informed of the fact families were staying in the huts: “I am not surprised. They will probably be better off in the huts than they have been in some of the conditions under which they have had to live.”

Squatters also moved in to an old Army gun site, off Church Road, St Annes.

There were 13 families – 12 of the men had serviced in the Forces during the war and the 13th tenant was a widow, with a son in the service.

They said were it not for the huts, some of the them would have been on the streets.

A Gazette reporter went to visit some of the huts and wrote a feature about the “life of a woman squatter.”

Mrs Williams described the hut, on St Annes Road, South Shore, as “the first place we have had which the children can call home in the true sense.”

The Gazette reporter wrote: “The first thing I noticed was the very attractive way she had arranged her furniture.

“With pride, she told me how her husband had only recently boarded off a corner of the hut to make a kitchen.”

She was using an Army coke stove to cook all the meals, including successfully roasting meat.

The article read: “The only articles which Mrs Williams has to send to the laundry are blankets and sheets.

“The rest of the washing she does at the hut and the clothes are boiled very successfully on the top of the stove.

“A third of her room is divided by a long curtain from one side of the hut to the other, to make private their sleeping accommodation.”

There was no water supply, but water came from a series of taps a stone’s throw away.

Mr Williams had distempered the walls in a pastel pink shade, with a contrasting green – “very pleasing to the eye.”

Mrs Williams told The Gazette: “We are all ever so much better since we came here, especially the children, and for the first time, my husband goes to his work with a contented mind.

“He knows that we are all happy, and that when his day’s work is over, he can come home and really get to know us in a sanctuary of our own.”