Seventy years ago, the first moves were made which would re-shape the landscape of a huge swathe of Hightown.
Although it was to be another few years before the Windybank estate was built, the first seeds were actually sown in 1943.
A wonderful history of the estate and the Hightown area was written back in 1987 as part of a Windybank community project, from which the information and pictures in this feature on the estate is taken.
The Windybank Community Association spoke to local people to capture their memories of the area and collate them into the book Windybank - It’s what you make it, edited by Pat Roberts and Sue and Colin Weston.
The idea for the estate was first planned by Spenborough Council before the Second World War. At the time, most streets in the Spen Valley were unmade and disease was rife because of insanitary conditions.
It was apparent that new homes were needed, so the council looked to clear the slums and build modern houses with bathrooms and kitchens.
Towards the end of the war people in small-holdings could no longer renew their tenancies and land-owners sold their land to the council for building the estate. Part of the estate, together with the land used for High Bank School, was originally War Common Farm. It was owned by the Kershaw family who moved there in 1904.
On September 8 1943, preliminary plans were submitted for 600 houses – an ambitious scheme for council housing on an unprecedented scale.
In November 1944, Spenborough Council recorded the termination of tenancies for the estate, to clear the way for the estate. Some of the work on the estate was actually carried out by German prisoners of war who were stationed at Bradley.
The first 54 houses in First Avenue were built by Barraclough’s and it is said they were told by the council that, as there was a brick shortage, they should re-use use any good bricks from air raid shelters which were being demolished. Other builders on the projects were Crosslands and Yorkshire Builders – which later became R T Haley’s.
Work on the estate progressed steadily – by 1946 200 houses had been completed, and the bungalows on Second Avenue were finished in 1950, with other bungalows in Fourth, Central, Eighth and Nine Avenues following soon after.
For most people, the new homes were luxurious.
According to one resident quoted in the book: “We moved from the top, near Airey Houses, Roberttown. It were all old cottages. When we first came here I looked out upstairs and I said: ‘I shall never live ‘ere, I’ve never seen as many flippin chimneys!’ We’d allus lived where there was nothing.”
Another said: “We’d moved from a one-up and one-down house to a two room and kitchen downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs. The house seemed massive. When I was a child at Little Gomersal I was nearly always ill, it helped my health moving up to Windybank.”