In the 1920’s the block bounded by Tenby Street/Albion Street/Carver Street/Tenby Street North was a block of back-to-back houses, where the houses fronting the street had a front door onto the pavement but the ‘inside’ rows of houses only had doors leading onto shared courtyards.
Numbers 10/12 Tenby Street
These houses fronted onto Tenby Street and is where Marie Haddleton was born (author of The History & Guide issues 1 & 2, Editor of The Hockley Flyer and Hon. President and Secretary to the Jewellery Quarter Association for 23 years) – She has also been featured in many books about the heritage of The Jewellery Quarter and is the recognised Jewellery Quarter Heritage Consultant.
When number 10/12 became derelict, it was still recognisable as one of the few back-to-back houses left in the Quarter and although only the facade was left standing, English Heritage decided it was worth Grade 2 Listing.
Of course all the back of the houses were gone, including the communal yard with its one water tap shared between several families. There was no bathroom, and the kitchen comprised of a table in the corner of the room and all dirty water was carried out to a drain (known as the ‘suff’). Bath water had to be heated in kettles on the open fire and a galvanised bath carried in from where it hung on a nail out in the yard, placed in front of the fire and filled with water from the kettles. Naturally this was very laborious, and the precious hot water could not be wasted so the whole family took a bath in the same water, dad first, then mom and right down to the smallest child, then the water had to be ladled out again.
Laundry washing took place in the shared ‘brew house’ in the yard and again water had to be carried across the yard and a fire lit under the ‘copper’ to heat the water. The tenants around the yard had their own ‘washing day’ and could only use the brew house on that day.
The toilet (‘closet’) in the yard had a double wooden seat with a large hole for the grown-ups and a small hole for the kids. It was shared between two families.
Lighting was by gas, and ironing by ‘flat’ irons heated on the fire. If you couldn’t afford a dustbin (and few could) then rubbish was just thrown into the ‘miskin’ (a walled off area) and the dust bin men would shovel the rubbish into tin baths, hoist them onto their heads and take out to the cart. Because of the ash from the fires, dustbin-men in those days were always covered in a fine pale grey dust and frequently suffered burns from the still hot ashes and part of his attire would be a ‘cap’ to stop his hair catching fire.
Marie’s father was a local ‘copper’ PC77 Jones, stationed at Kenyon Street Police Station – but that is a separate story.
Disease was Rife
In the 1920s – especially after the 1929 Severe Depression, adults and children in Hockley were dying of starvation/malnutrition, and rickets and TB were rife, mostly caused by unemployment and poor food quality, but also lack of sunlight (due to overcrowding and closed-in streets).
There were no hand-outs in those days – if you had no wages then you didn’t eat!
Conversion to Workshops
Before WW2 as part of the Slum Clearance scheme, most of the housing on this site was demolished, just leaving a few houses standing which were quickly colonised by jewellers (you can still see how windows were added to the roofs to allow light into the workshops and openings were made into the adjoining attics to allow workers access to adjoining attic workshops without going down to ground floor level, thereby saving time and money!.
E Camelinat’s large factory was built near to the corner of Tenby Street North and Tenby Street. Camelinat manufactured units for Landrover.
MSS Timber Merchants
For several years the space on the corner of Albion Street and Carver Street was occupied by a Timber Merchant –
(MSS) and when they moved on the area was used as a Council Pay & Display Car Park.
It was quite a shock when one Monday morning we found Travellers had moved onto the car park – but they didn’t stay long.
Mayhan & Co.
The only industrial unit remaining on this once busy site today is Mayhan & Co. on the corner of Tenby Street and Tenby Street North.
With the outbreak of WW2 an air raid shelter was built on the corner of Albion Street/Tenby Street and every year until it was demolished, cards and flowers were fixed to the wall of the shelter in memory of a small boy (son of a GI) was killed at this spot.
Ripe for Redevelopment
With the Air Raid Shelter demolished, the Timber Merchants gone and any tenants left in the Camelinat building evicted, the area was ripe for redevelopment and Albion Court Apartments were built, with commercial premises on the ground floor.
The rear of Number 10/12 was rebuilt where necessary, and turned into commercial premises.
Camelinat’s factory was turned into housing including social housing but there was a disaster when during reconstruction a whole floor collapsed and crushed several workmen.
Dayus Square was created on Albion Street in March 2012 and a Sculpture erected to commemorate the life of Kathleen Dayus – Author of ‘All My Days’.
Source: Marie Haddleton