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Britain & The Squatters Phenomenon

Discussion in 'Post War 1945-1955' started by GRW, Nov 4, 2019.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Heard about this a while ago, and was sure I had posted something, but can't find it.
    Anyway, here's an interesting article on how Britain's homeless in the postwar period took a "direct action" approach to the housing shortage-
    "While many trace the history of London’s contemporary squatting movement back to 1968, the seeds were sown well before then. After the First World War, for instance, a sharp rise in unemployment and rent strikes in the East End saw occupations of municipal buildings with a view to setting up neighbourhood relief organisations. The interwar years also saw a rise of self-build housing on land in Essex which was no longer used for agriculture (known as ‘three-horse land’) as well as reclaimed coastal sites (such as Jaywick Sands and Canvey Island), although many of these weren’t strictly squatting as the land was often paid for.
    It was after the Second World War, however, that squatting took place on an unprecedented scale ‘as a direct-action movement against rising homelessness and the lack of social housing for veterans and their families’ (Vasudevan 2017, p44).
    An early precedent was set by a group in Brighton known as the ‘Vigilantes’ who occupied 3 empty homes in July 1945 to much national media attention (representatives from the movement even travelled up to Hyde Park Corner to explain the theory and practice of squatting). The Vigilantes won a small victory in that the Ministry of Health (which, at the time, was still under the war-time coalition government) subsequently gave local authorities full power to requisition unused residences for housing.
    Another defining moment came the following year in May 1946 when James Fielding of Scunthorpe (who had been working and sleeping in a cinema) moved his family into an officer’s mess on an abandoned army camp, before being joined by 20 more families in early July. An interview with Fielding by ‘Newsreel’ was shown in cinemas nationwide and there were, of course, thousands of empty military bases and POW camps all over the country. Fielding’s occupation was soon followed by further squats in Sheffield and Doncaster, before spreading nationwide."
    The 1946 Squatters
     

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