From International Socialism, No.10, Autumn 1962, p.33.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Societies in the Making
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 32s.
Barton Hill was a homogeneous working-class district in Bristol, with a high proportion of owner-occupied houses. Three out of every ten wage-earners had realised their ambition to become property-owners; to this the stability of the district was probably due. The people reacted to the totality of their environment; kinship, occupational and social ties were strong and community feeling was high. As Miss Jennings says: ‘There were standards and values associated with kinship, home, and financial independence and stability which were accepted as the norm.’ Bristol suffered considerable war damage and much of the city was consequently scheduled for redevelopment – including Barton Hill. The available local government machinery was inadequate to bring home to Bartonians how the Barton Hill Redevelopment Scheme would affect them since no statutory machinery for consultation on a local basis exists for one-tier local authorities such as county boroughs. Rehousing in other parts of Bristol led to widespread dissatisfaction at the destruction of the interdependence of family and neighbourhood. The terraced streets of Barton Hill itself were razed and redeveloped as multi-storeyed flats: the failure to intersperse old people with the middle-aged and young tenants has been a factor operating against social integration in the new community.
The officials of the Bristol City Housing Department doubtless administered the Barton Hill Redevelopment Scheme (which Miss Jennings describes in detail) as humanely as possible; nevertheless one gets the impression of a soulless machine relentlessly subordinating social and personal needs to administrative convenience. The whole scheme exudes an air of unreality, of detachment from home and familiar things which are so much a part of personality framework. Former kinship and social loyalties were destroyed and much that was valuable – though intangible – was lost. Like Peter Marris’ Family and Social Change in an African City (also Routledge), the book illustrates the difficulty of of reconciling traditional values and social progress. Socialism attempts as high a degree of such reconciliation as possible; certainly higher than that achieved by the Labour-controlled Bristol City Council.
Last updated on 27.10.2006