Monday, 5 November 2012

Bus Stop

Back in the day when governments actually planned a future, the 1944 Housing Manual envisaged new 'neighbourhoods' of 5-10000 people in 3 forms. The first was characterised as ‘open development’ with a low density of around 30-40 persons per acre; the second was ‘inner-ring housing’ with a density of 70ppa, and the third was called ‘central area development’, that would consist of housing within the centre of a town or city with much higher densities of 100-120ppa (naturally involving high-rise blocks of some kind). 

The Middlefield Lane estate fell into the ‘inner-ring housing’ camp. When it was completed in 1964, the estate was situated on the very edge of Gainsborough, and about a mile and a half from the town centre. The estate looked out onto open countryside  - one reason why the estate seemed like such a paradise to me when I was a kid - and for several years our house looked out onto this:

At that time, the estate clearly wasn't yet 'inner-ring' but within ten years of this photo being taken (1966) it had become just that. By 1976, a by-pass ran across the middle of this field, and a large 'London Overspill' council estate (the Park Springs estate) was being built just beyond the hedgerows you can see to the right of the photo. 

One of the frequent criticisms lobbied at new council estates like Middlefield Lane was that they were too isolated from the centre of town and its amenities. The front page of the Gainsborough Evening News on Tuesday 29 December 1964 held a report on 'The Likes and Dislikes of a New Estate'. According to this piece, the Middlefield Lane residents had 'few complaints'. 'Top of the list' of 'likes' was the 'fresh-air feeling', as one woman put it. High on the list of 'dislikes' ('the biggest bone of contention') was the lack of an adequate bus service into town. The Lincolnshire Road Car Company diverted a service that ran through the nearby Heapham Road and White's Wood Lane estates to the Middlefield estate, but the service was reported as being 'infrequent' and over crowded. The 'News reported however that the company was planning to put on extra buses at peak times, and a new bus stop was created on Thurlby Road, against the end wall of the North Parade flats. 

The stop consisted of a steel, flat-roofed, shelter that stood on a broad paved area which was built up in order to connect to the road where the bus stopped. I remember sheltering under there as a kid with my Mum, waiting for the bus in the rain, but it is another one of those original features of the estate that has disappeared over time, and the photo at the top of this post shows where it used to be. Against the end wall you can see a rough rectangle of lighter bricks and a darker line above where the bus shelter roof was. The patch of grass wasn't there in those days and the old ground level of the former paved area is indicated by the line of lighter bricks along the bottom of the wall just above the grass.  All quite boring, I know, but I become obsessed with finding these almost archaeological traces of the estate - they act like conduits in space and time, carrying me to the place as it was in its hey-day.

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