3. The Development Corporation 1950-1955

By Joan Cobern, David Irving, Christine Martindale

Maryland, Roe Green
David Irving
Show House, Roe Green
Design Archives. University of Brighton
Show House, Roe Green
Design Archives. University of Brighton
11, Cranborne Road
Photo taken from "The New Small House" by F.R.S. Yorke

Barbara Hutton chose a terrace of four houses in Roe Green to illustrate the first housing in the New Town. These are the same four houses in 2008, virtually unchanged over fifty years later. The first 124 houses and 81 flats at Roe Green were built at cost of £252,464. The Rents, exclusive of rates were, £1- 2/- per week. As building labour was at a premium and in order to recruit a building force, houses were allocated to men engaged in this work. This system operated until 1953 by which time the corporation felt that there were sufficient builders living in the town.  On 7 April the Parliamentary Secretary for Housing opened the first 3-bed terraced house for rent. A Show-House, completely furnished by the Council of Industrial Design, was opened to the public. Over the following year it was visited by over 4,600 people, including Hatfield residents, Government Departments, Local Authorities and overseas visitors.

 The houses had an open plan, the staircase leading straight up from a room which had a dining area at one end and sitting room the other. They had an asymmetrically balanced facade, one larger window balancing two smaller ones on the upper storey. There were only load bearing party walls to each house, the front and back walls being merely skins of lightweight heat insulated material. This was the consequence of a national shortage of bricks which forced Lionel Brett to devise types of houses requiring few or no bricks in their construction

Freda Whittaker, writing in “Woman’s Outlook “  (1953) observed: “Pastel shades of yellow, green, pink and blue (front doors) add gaiety without being blatant, and everywhere trees and grass verges add nature’s restful complement of colour. Roofs vary from slate grey to red, deep yellow or golden brown. Here there is a close of charming red brick houses; there a golden brown streamlined block of flats; there a group of “ Swedish” houses with wood fronted upper storeys above brick, enlivened with asbestos panels in varying colours beneath the ground floor window…………. Some houses have the combined dining and living room running the length of the houses. A housewife I visited …. preferred this, saying that in the one big room everyone could be warm in winter and yet have room for different pastimes. Another home I saw had a cosy living room opening into a dining recess and yet another had glass doors leading from sitting room to small dining room. Kitchens, small but adequate, were purely working quarters. Coal storage indoors, cased in bath, electric points in all rooms, airing cupboard, slow burning living room fire with back boiler and radiators were all features which struck me. I was disappointed that not all houses had a separate lavatory and bathroom, and a common drawback was a naked dustbin by the front door – though some houses have a brick recess built into the wall to conceal this rather unsightly object. An excellent idea in some of the larger houses is the tradesman’s locker, fitted into the side wall near the door. It is painted the same colour as the door and here the housewife can be sure of finding her groceries, bread or fish if she is out when the delivery van calls.”

In May of the following year Harold Macmillan, the then Minister of Housing opened the first block of flats in Pondcroft, and in August work began on a further 456 dwellings in the Roe Green area.   To the Development Corporation’s satisfaction, the Roe Green housing won the 1954 regional Housing Medal and Diploma for Lionel Brett.   A survey of tenant satisfaction found:-

(1)   The through living room with plenty of glass and light is well liked in preference to two independent rooms, but there are no clear cut views on whether the dining/kitchen  option is preferable to the dining/living.

(2)   Solid fuel fires are considered essential. Alternative forms of heating are expensive.

(3)   Back gardens of 45 feet depth are sufficient but every 7th tenant requires an allotment.

(4)   Every 4th tenant owns a motor car and the provision of garages is inadequate.

(5)   The great majority of tenants consider a refrigerator a necessity.

(6)   Small two bed roomed houses with the staircase leading out of the living room is preferred as a feature.   However, Government funding was limited.  The Development Corporation announced that the houses in Hatfield were costing too much to build and proposed to cut costs reducing the storage areas and cutting out second lavatories.

At the same time Lionel Brett and his partner Kenneth Boyd designed the first private house in the New Town, for Mr. & Mrs. Simmons at 11 Cranborne Road. This was part of a deliberate policy on the part of the development Corporation to foster a mixture of public and private housing. In their annual report for 1953 they wrote that:  “The Development Corporation is anxious to avoid any risk that Hatfield shall become a purely artisan town and they have therefore introduced some better class development including 36 houses which, when completed during the coming summer, will be offered for sale”.  Roe Green was considered complete by 1955 and attention turned to the second of the  proposed seven neighbourhoods that at South Hatfield.

This page was added on 06/11/2010.

Comments about this page

  • This ariticle is assuming that Cranborne Road was in the New Town area, It was not, Cranborne Road is off the east side French Horn Lane  leading towards the railway line and the footbridge and was there long before the New Town Authortity was created. The Mr Simmons was the Mr Simmons of the old company Hill and Simmons the bakers. I remember seeing the house built as I was a junior with the engineers dept. of the Hatfield RDC. at the time, and knew Mr Simmons as I worked for his company as a washer upper in the bakehouse after school. 

    Also I wonder how many realise that many of the names of the roads in what at the time was known as the Roe Green Neighbourhood i.e. Briars Lane to Bishops Rise were named after the farmers names for his fields.

    By Michael Browne (13/12/2015)
  • I’ve never researched Cranborne Road but, when researching other roads found the following approach useful.

    Hatfield Library has a wonderful collection of large-scale OS maps. It should be possible to determine roughly when Cranborne Road was built by comparing the different years.

    Also check the Kelly’s street directories for Hatfield. They were printed annually from 1900 until 1966. Cranborne Road should become apparent in the year after it was built. Kelly’s tended to list the houses and their occupants.

    The County Record Office at Hertford (HALS) holds all the past Electoral Rolls. Annually, they would show which voters were living in Cranborne Road in particular years.

    Assuming Cranborne Road was part of the post-war New Town development, then have a look at the archive of the Hatfield Development Corporation at HALS. Minutes and associated reports will show when the road was first envisaged, when it was built, who the first residents were, and who they displaced (i.e. the previous occupants of said land).

    I’m sure there are many other records as well. If the freehold was owned by the Salisbury Estate, then the archives at Hatfield House will no doubt be a treasure trove.

    By G Philip Marris (02/11/2015)
  • I am keen to know more about Cranborne Road. There seems to very limited information about this specific Road, and how become what its is today. 

    Any ideas?

    By Harry (02/11/2015)
  • Linda Dynes, remeber me? I was very good friends with you.

    Lived in Kestrel Green, I have a photo of us together somwhere?

    By Liz Davey formely Irene Dixon (19/06/2014)
  • I went to school with Derek Dunn. He lived with his parents in end-of-terrace house in St Albans Road West. He went to start a new life in Australia in the early/mid 1980’s long before the Galleria development was built further down the road.

    By Andrew Gardiner (06/01/2014)
  • Joan, of course I remember you! You and Christine were older than me, but your mum and dad kept in touch with mine even when they moved. I think you went to Canada? The character has changed but the old oak tree was still by the pond up the road, although it was looking sorry for itself. Mum is now 93. Those were the days when everyone knew their neighbours, not like now. So it was Dunn, Dynes, Thompson, Jeffries, Wright, Richards and Perks!

    By Linda Skelcey (07/12/2013)
  • Sorry about the error. Have now change the caption of the first photo to Maryland.

    By Christine Martindale (11/11/2013)
  • The photograph entitled Aldykes, is in fact one of 9 – 15 Maryland. The style of housing is the same – but I can see the terrace in question from my window and also the street name is visible in the photo!

    By Pat Adams (08/11/2013)
  • Linda, I lived next door to you at 187! I remember your Mum and Dad very well, in fact I was thinking when I read the article above that your Dad must have been one of those given priority as a builder. I was thinking that the photo above looked just like one of our kitchens. They were very well built houses, with lovely large gardens. I remember the Old Fiddle pub on the corner. I remember when we first moved in, their were no other houses around us, and cows where in the field at the bottom of the garden fence and use to put their heads over and scared me (at 3 years old) very much. I visited a few years ago. The houses still look the same, but a lot of the character of the area is gone.

    By Joan Reynolds (formerly Dynes) (23/10/2013)
  • My dad was one of the builders who was attracted from London in order to help create the new town and then get a house in Hatfield. When I was born in 1954 my parents had lived in 189 St Albans Road (later St Albans Road West) for quite a few years. I remember that the concrete floors of our house were painted dark red like doorsteps used to be and where the swimming pool was built there was a very old house which was empty when I was young and we used to explore. I used to go to a private nursery in Roe Green Lane where Mrs Norman used to look after us and George Martin’s daughter also went to and he would collect us (now Sir). The swimming pool was a fantastic place to go when I was a young teenager and I went to Dellfield Road Primary School, when Mr Preston was the Headmaster and I am sure the vicar at St Etheldreda’s. There was the Breaks youth club which I was never allowed to go to! Then I went to Hatfield Girls Grammar which was wonderful for me as girls were coached in from Harpenden and Wheathampsted so I met lots of new friends. My parents were very proud of their home in Hatfield. My mum worked at DeHavillands and I was one of the few children that had both parents working full time. They left in 1978 as Hatfield began to change.

    By Linda Skelcey (27/12/2012)
  • My family moved to 13, Aldykes ,Hatfield in 1953 from London into a house very similar to those shown.We were very happy there and lived there for 17 years.My parents loved the garden and won a prize for coming second in a national garden competition. Looking at a google map I noticed that the house I lived in was almost the same as it was then!

    By Geraldine Andrew (15/06/2012)

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