Mining village Airey house

Airey house, Sherwood Avenue, Creswell
Neal Potter

On Sherwood Avenue in the Derbyshire mining village of Creswell sat eight semi detached Airey houses built as part of a post-war development. The houses sat incongruously amid another 40+ brick built dwellings on the avenue. My parents moved into a brand new Airey house at the beginning of 1949 and I was born 4 months later.

Sherwood Ave was a very pleasant street compared the much of the village, enhanced by the grass verges between the pavement and the road. The avenue was full of post war baby boomer kids and it was an ideal place to be brought up. However, the house we lived in was a terrible piece of architecture from the plan to the finish. Let me describe the building.

The front façade of pebble dashed slab concrete included a kitchen window and a decorative porch (fronting a large hall) with pebble glass floor-to-ceiling windows . However the main entrance was at the side of the house. It led directly into small kitchen which initially only had a sink and a twin gas tap which could be connected to a gas ring by a flexible rubber pipe with no security fixings at either end. There was a pantry and a full height cupboard in the kitchen. Gas cookers and fridges came later in the 1950s.

The kitchen led into a main living room dominated by a Rayburn stove which had an ugly pipe bending into the chimney column. This room wasn’t large but it was the main room of the house due to the fact that the coal-fired Rayburn stove never went out and we always could keep warm. It became the dining room and sitting room.

The walls of all the house were plasterboard taped together across the clouts(nails). You could see the joints and the clouts. There was no skimming of any plasterboard or joints. The coal fires constantly dragged dirty air through the plaster board joints leaving a black line and accentuating the clouts. Therefore my parents had to wash the walls and decorate every six months. The metal windows were equally draughty. Luckily as my father worked as a bricklayer at Creswell Colliery we had concessionary coal so fuel charges were never an issue.

There were two doors into this main room which, when opened, took up a lot of space. My dad replaced them with sliding doors in the 1960s.

The second door of the living room led into a uselessly large staircase hall (behind the front façade porch) the door and the pebble glass windows caused the hall to be very cold and unfunctional space.

There was no insulation in the house and water pipes would often burst in the colder winters.

Off the hall was another small room with a fireplace. We never used this room due to the main source of heat (plus television and radio) being in the main room. It was mainly a store room which was cleaned out at Christmas or for me to do my homework.

Upstairs was a bathroom with no heating. My brother’s bedroom had no heating. My parents’ bedroom had a fireplace but I had the best room as it had the uninsulated hot water tank in a cupboard which gave out a background heat. Again all the metal windows were very draughty and would often have ice on the inside during the winter.

At the side of the house was a brick built second toilet, coalhouse and store room.

This really was a badly built house and my description may sound like a poor state of affairs but compared to the many other houses in the village we had the luxury of an inside toilet and proper bath  (no metal bath hung on the wall outside). What’s more in the post war age our parents were so pleased to have their own council house and garden. Everyone on the street looked after their gardens – back and front. And I can think of no better street or community in which to be brought up.

The rent man, with his brown leather shoulder bag called every other week to collect the rent. After paying rent for around 35 years my parents were told that the houses were being taken down as they were unsafe. Luckily they were able to move directly across the road to a brick built house and the political climate at the time allowed them to buy the house from the Council.

Comments about this page

  • Found this write-up very interesting Neal, especially as my husband’s mum and dad ran the Cresswell Rose and Crown in the early 50’s.
    We live in a prefab wooden Swedish House in Santon Downham, Suffolk.

    By Kayleen Parnham (25/11/2019)

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