Saturday, 4 March 2017


Nothing much seems to happen on the Middlefield estate in its third year of existence. It seldom gets a mention in the Gainsborough Evening News over 1967, and so we can only assume that the estate’s residents on the whole were leading quiet, settled lives. On the 3rd of January, there’s a short piece about someone living on Sturgate Walk who tried to claim £6. 6s. (£6.30) from the Gainsborough Urban District Council, for damage to wallpaper and lino due to a burst pipe. Somewhat inexplicably, the council agreed to pay for the wallpaper, but not for the lino. A month later, the council’s housing committee met and agreed not to raise rents that year – and so in 1967 a two-bedroomed home like ours cost us 23s (£1.15) per week. 

On the 14th of February, the News reported that the council had also agreed to reduce the rental of garages on the uphill estates from 7s 6d (just over 37p) to 6s (30p) per month. When Middlefield was first conceived, the council were keen to embrace the car economy of the future, and 142 garages were built on the estate (about one garage for every three homes, significantly more generous than in the new towns, where the ratio tended to be one garage for every ten homes). But Middlefield’s garages always struggled to be let, which might have accounted for the reduction in rent.

In the same edition, there were indications that the council were nevertheless continuing to think of the future. Talks had long been established with the London County Council to build an overspill estate in the town for what Gainsborough’s Tory MP, Marcus Kimball, described as ‘real Londoners’. Kimball did not like the idea. Gainsborough, he argued, was too far away for those 'real' Londoners to seriously want to move here, but he also had another reason – the town should not be expected to take in London’s ‘problem families’. The council did not agree, and one councillor’s response to this is worth quoting verbatim: ‘the people who will move to this town are human beings, who will move because they have the initiative and the zest to seek pastures new in pleasant surroundings where work and housing will be available.’ Within two years, building had commenced on a new estate – the Park Springs Estate – which would be Gainsborough’s contribution in helping to alleviate what might appear to us now to be London’s perennial housing crisis. I need to do some research on whether there are any sociological studies of the whole ‘overspill’ phenomenon of the 60s and 70s, but I wonder what parallels can be drawn here between that, and what we tend to see now as very twenty-first century issues, of ‘decanting’ and social cleansing?

On the 25th July, the Gainsborough Evening News reported that parts of the uphill housing estates (including Middlefield) were said to be ‘overrun by dogs’ – and one councillor moved to have notices put up instructing owners to keep their dogs under control at all times. For reasons not specified in the article, this idea was outvoted.

On the 12th December, the council were considering a scheme for providing playing fields for children at Aisby Walk. This did indeed come to pass over the next couple of years, causing what the News described as ‘jubilation among parents’. 

And that’s it for the estate in 1967. But as I was trawling through the microfilmed editions of the News for that year, I was also keeping an eye out for one other thing: the week that the latest James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, came to Gainsborough’s ‘State Cinema’. And there it was, in the edition for Tuesday 28th November: an advert announcing that the film would be shown at the State for a week commencing Thursday 30th November. Over that week I saw what is still my favourite Bond film no less than three times: twice with my Mum who was quietly besotted with Sean Connery, and once with my reluctant Dad, who preferred war films. I was seven and a half then, and I was besotted in turn with the look of the world around me, whether it was the fictional (and still utterly fantastic to my eyes today) volcano-as-space rocket launching pad/SPECTRE lair, or the equally fictional (but more plausible, in that it was essentially based on the ‘Autopian’ landscape and architecture of 1950s and 60s America) of Thunderbirds because, in my innocence, I thought I was living in it.