Joan is a resident on the Fitzhugh Estate. The photograph here shows her on her balcony in the late 1950s.
One of the original residents to be housed on the estate, Joan was a young mother with two small children when she moved in with her husband in 1956.
They had been on the housing waiting list for 7 years. She recalls that she was so desperate to be housed, she would have been happy if they’d offered her a cowshed. However, the flats were beautiful when she first moved in, they had central heating and she loved living up high with the beautiful views across the Common.
In the early days it was mainly families on the estate and everyone’s door was always open.
Back then, there was a caretaker who lived on the ground floor who used to rule the place with a rod of iron. You couldn’t walk on the grass but only use the paths and if you missed your slot in the communal laundry on the ground floor of each block you were scuppered for the week.
For the children there was a playground at the back of one of the blocks, and at the front, a small sandpit to play in. The big grassy bank behind the outbuildings that housed the boiler was particularly fun especially when it snowed.
One of Joan’s son’s was there one day when I visited and I showed him the article in the Architects Journal from 1956 showing photographs of the Estate, some of which will be exhibited at the Blueprint for Living exhibition. He was fascinated. He seems to have really loved growing up there, always lots of children to play with.
Joan has now lived on the estate for 60 years. I asked her recently what her favourite view was. She says it’s when the chestnut trees on the common are in full blossom.