Saturday, February 17, 2024

What replaced Desborough High Street? Nothing

Back to one of my current rabbit holes: the demolition of Desborough ironstone high street in 1970, which seems inexplicable to us today.

This video shows you the buildings that were lost and what replaced them. In many cases you find that nothing replaced them. 

Even Station Street, which was the town's second shopping street and left untouched, seems to have dwindled since the calamity of 1970

I can say here just what I said in a post about the 1958 British film No Trees in the Street:

I am reminded of what I wrote about Wheat Street and Wharf Street in Leicester's most notorious slum district:

all that life was swept away as though Wharf Street was the city's dirty secret. The district was not improved: it was destroyed.


Having cleared the slums decades ago, Leicester has found nothing to do with the area since.

You can see the same pattern in Nottingham, where the slums of The Meadows district were cleared and the area still feels empty today.

Except that Desborough High Street wasn't a slum area. It was a thriving shopping area with buildings that should have been cherished.


tonyhill said...

OK, so Desborough isn't a place that I'd go out of my way to visit, but I'm not sure from watching that film that it is much more dreary than most other small towns in England. If the Council hadn't destroyed the shopping streets then the onward march of capitalism would have done the job anyway, and I'm actually quite surprised that there as many small businesses surviving, albeit obviously precariously. We run one of the very few surviving long-running businesses in Winchester, but our days are numbered and when we are gone we won't be replaced.

tonyhill said...

Incidentally, the early part of the film seems to show that Desborough had a very strong Co-Op presence, which tends to support your contention that it was probably a Labour run council that was responsible for the destruction of the High Street. My partner grew up above her grandmother's corner shop - she hated the Co-Op and voted Conservative - until Reading Council compulsorily purchased it and demolished it for no apparent reason. The site is part of a Tesco car park now. Don't get me started on what has been done to Reading.

Jonathan Calder said...

That's right: the Co-op owned everything from the corset factory to the local ironstone quarries. Someone told me that if they sold land in town they would add a stipulation that it shouldn't be used for a shop that would compete with them.