A Better Life

Peter Campbell

  • Homes fit for Heroes by Mark Swenarton
    Heinemann, 216 pp, £14.50, February 1981, ISBN 0 435 32994 4
  • The Shell Book of the Home in Britain by James Ayres
    Faber, 253 pp, £8.95, March 1981, ISBN 0 571 11625 6

The ‘homes fit for heroes’ of Mark Swenarton’s title – or some relation of them – can be found on the outskirts of almost any British town. Yet they are more seen than noticed, and it may take a description to bring them to mind: ‘two-storey cottages, built in groups of four or six, with medium or low-pitched roofs and little exterior decoration, set amongst gardens, trees, privet hedges and grass verges, and often laid out in cul-de-sacs or around greens’. They enter architectural history as a footnote, to the English vernacular and Georgian revivals, or the Garden City movement, but appear in social history as an impressive statistic: one family in 20 still lives in this kind of inter-war council housing.

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