Ripleyville remembered : ‘Victorian’ poverty in the 1960s

My most recent post on Ripleyville in 1969, pre-demolition year, has as yet attracted no comments. It has been clear since this blog started that the life experiences of people who lived in the village could be very different.  Of those experiences it has tended to be happy ones that dominate on this blog. Contributions have been skewed in another way. Very little has been written by the women of the Villa; those who were girls, teenagers, young women or young mothers through the 1950s and 60s. Very little has been written on this blog by those who suffered hardship, though, from personal experience, the book by Brian Mynott gives ample evidence that it existed.

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Not just bare feet

Aware of these gaps I have been haunted for much of latter part of the week and over the week-end by the account of Ripleyville in the 1960s that I heard in a chance meeting last week. This was with someone who worked with those who were suffering with mental health problems in ‘the Villa’ and who was shocked by conditions of ‘Victorian’ poverty seen there. So I asked them if they would write something for the blog. This what they wrote:-

My work in Ripleyville was as a young psychiatric social worker in 1960, working out from the Mental Health Service offices at 181A, Barkerend Rd, in the pre-Seebohm Report days when there was also a Children’s Dept and a Welfare Dept for the elderly; all separate services but regularly linking up.

I had a number of clients in Ripleyville and this was my first real experience of the level of deprivation in the poorest areas of Bradford.  Quite apart from the condition of the adults and the poor living conditions, it was the condition of the children which disturbed me most.  I’d always thought that young children without shoes with blue feet in mid winter had disappeared in Victorian times, but here it was in Ripleyville.  And children exhibiting pica by eating car batteries.

monochrome photograph two street children 1890 London

detail of a photograph taken with a hidden camera 1893 in Lambeth by Paul Martin

Many of my clients had unseen physical problems such as epilepsy, deafness, speech problems or minor physical defects which undermined their everyday functioning, in addition to their mental health difficulties.  Multi-Agency working was the norm.

Small wonder that I went on to a career with children and families.

My thanks to yet another person, this time someone coming to it from the outside, who are willing to share their experience of Ripleyville.

When I was talking to them they explained that the pica, the compulsion to eat batteries, was probably connected to the individual’s lack of minerals in their diet.

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The photographs by Nick Hodges in the Shelter Collection, showing people in their homes elsewhere in Bradford and a little later in the sixties, give an indication of the connection between poverty, poor housing conditions and personal circumstances. They can also suggest resilience and a very sorely tested personal dignity in the face of hardship – in some of the images.

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2 responses

  1. Christine Barraclough | Reply

    My mum was born in Ripleyville in 1930, and her older sister and brother in the 20s. The poverty was dreadful. Mum almost died from bronchial pneumonia due to the awful condition if their house. Thankfully she and her elder sister are alive today, aged 86 and 89.

  2. Thank you for writing my great grandmother was called hall

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