Looking back to when Richmond Flats were new in 1961

In 1961 each flat cost £1,810 to build but the project to revamp the block have cost £3.7m, which works out an average of £87,500 per flat.

John and Rose Morley
John and Rose Morley

 

The former Richmond flats in Huddersfield have been revamped and are now known as Harold Wilson Court.

But one reader remembers when the three imposing blocks of flats were brand new and his relatives were there at the opening.

Richmond Flats were named after Geoffrey Richmond, the former Huddersfield Borough Council architect, and were the second of the three blocks currently on the site. The first block opposite was Lonsbrough Flats, named after Anita Lonsbrough, 1960 Olympic Gold medal swimmer and council employee, with the third being the middle block Ibbotson Flats, named after Derek Ibbotson, the Huddersfield athlete who held the world record for running a mile.

Adrian Lee, from Almondbury, said: “My late grandmother, Rose Morley, and my mother Iris Lee were in the crowd of people who attended the opening ceremony of the Lonsbrough Flats on June 23, 1961 – and we still have the four-page booklet.

“We lived not very far from the flats and my grandparents had it in mind, as they were being built, to possibly move into one of them at some stage as my grandfather, John Morley, was developing what turned out to be emphysema, a greatly debilitating lung condition. He had worked down the pit and also in French polishing – and he smoked.

“It came to pass that they did move from their home in Almondbury into number 25 Lonsbrough Flats in the early 1960s and were the second occupants. They were both around the age of 60 at the time, much as I am now. Sadly, my grandfather died in 1971, but my grandmother continued to live there until the mid-1980s when she then went into a care home and died in 1988.

The new Harold Wilson Court dwellings looks splendid and deserve every congratulation. Their weekly rent is a little over £60 – a long way from the 36/2d (£1.81) in 1961! And the cost per flat then? A mere £1,810!”

Iris Lee
Iris Lee
 

The current project is costing £3.7m, which works out an average of £87,500 per flat.

Adrian, whose mum will be 85 next month, added: “I have spent many happy hours in that flat and when driving past I still look up to the windows – fourth floor, but fifth from the bottom, left hand side – and can still exactly picture in my mind each room.

“Smells in the building are also reminiscent. Boiling cabbage, on occasions, springs to mind and “rubriment”, actually in the flat as my grandmother had bad knees! Grandad used to spend hour upon hour sitting in the nearby St Peter’s Gardens, always in a suit and tie. Would he want to be doing that now, I regularly ask myself when I walk past or through. Times were different then. The gravestone flags and the railings stubs on the low walls, left from the taking of the railings for the war effort, are just the same, but the feel of the place is hardly as warm and welcoming as it might have seemed then.

“The people “allowed” to occupy these new flats were all very carefully vetted by the housing manager, Miss Sawers, whose name appears on the list of those in attendance at the opening. It seemed that they were all “right and proper folk” and no rowdy or unacceptable behaviour was to be allowed — including no hanging out of clothes on the balcony!

“The flats had a caretaker, Mr Cooney, who made sure the bins were kept in working order, kept the lifts going and clean and generally patrolled and controlled. Any children playing in the lifts would be duly scolded – until he got to know if you were a valid visitor! He was fearless in carrying out his duties and did, indeed, keep good order. Those were the days, perhaps?

“The opening ceremony document is a treasure and makes excellent reading. You will note from the front page photograph there is no sign of the Sports Centre which was opened in the early 1970s by a recently-engaged Princess Anne!

The day will soon come when the Lonsbrough and Ibbotson Flats do disappear. Our MP, Barry Sheerman, was campaigning for their demise some years ago as they had clearly become “not what they were”. Perhaps he will cheer? I, for one, will be saddened, but only because of my memories.”

 
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