Architects Fry, Drew & Partners’ early 1950s plans for flats in Tony’s Dell, Harlow, included balconies and, unusually, central eating. Janet and John Shepherd /

By Mark McConville

BRITAIN’S decade of transformation in the 1950s after the austerity caused by the Second World War has been showcased in a new book.


Crawley New Town’s main architect was A. G. Sheppard Fidler, who also worked with Herbert Manzoni on Birmingham’s 1950s comprehensive re-housing scheme. Getty /

Incredible images show the low-cost housing that sprung up all across the country as the government undertook a huge building programme.



Other shots show children playing in the street in a new community, builders laying the foundations for the new homes and a hotel with tens of cars parked up outside it, displaying the new-found wealth people were enjoying.



Wisbey builders from nearby Haslingfield, constructing a large estate of brick council houses in Medcalf Way, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, 1950s. Cambridgeshire Collection /

The stunning pictures are included in a new book, The 1950s Home, by Janet and John Shepherd and published by Amberley.


BRITAIN’S decade of transformation in the 1950s after the austerity caused by the Second World War has been showcased in a new book. Janet and John Shepherd /

“The 1950s was a highly significant decade when the years of austerity gradually turned into affluence based on full employment, welfare state services and the relative prosperity of a consumer society imbued with rising expectations,” they said in the book’s introduction.

“The fortunate generation born after the Second World War, mainly in the 1950s, now known as the ‘baby boomers’, are currently reaching retirement age in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Brandon Estate, Southwark, 1959. ‘London’s tallest flats, almost ready for occupation.’ Prospective tenants lived in temporary prefabs awaiting completion. Getty /

“This book explores the homes into which they were raised during some of the most interesting years of change in post-war Britain.”

The post-Second World War years brought few changes for many people and indeed rationing didn’t cease until 1954.


A 1950s postcard showing semi-detached bungalows with neat front gardens. There are only three cars in Martins Avenue, Denmead, Hampshire. Ben Brooksbank /

Four million homes had been destroyed by enemy bombing during the war, particularly in the major cities.

During the 1950s 2.45million homes were built and two-thirds of these were local authority housing including large-scale new estates.


The 1951 Festival of Britain’s Southbank with brightly coloured building and umbrellas. Festival Hall is at the back of the lower image. Below: The 1950 plan for Poplar, later to be the Lansbury Estate, with housing, churches, schools (Catholic and Protestant), an old people’s home and community centre. The National Archives /

The authors, Janet and John Shepherd, were both brought up during the 1950s, an
important decade rich in continuities and contrasts in home life.

“The dominant architectural choice became ‘New Brutalism’ or ‘New Modernism’, known also as ‘brutalist’ or ‘modernist’ architecture and characterised by the use of heavy concrete slabs,” they added.


By the close of the decade, in a time of increasing affluence, more Britons had disposable cash to spend on cars and holidays. A full car park at Braid Hills Hotel, Edinburgh, late 1950s. Janet Shepherd /

“By the mid-to-late 1950s, with full employment bringing greater prosperity, a modern consumer society developed.

“By the close of the decade, the growth in car ownership meant that householders increasingly sought homes with garages.


1950s neighbours chat over the fence. Mid-terrace and end-of-terrace council homes, with commonly styled front porches. Sandra Lee / /

“This volume, which draws on a wide range of oral, documentary and media sources, explores a fascinating range of key aspects of the 1950s home at a time of significant developments in British society.”