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History project uncovers forgotten past of Bradford's Ravenscliffe estate
Updated 1:09pm Thursday 17th July 2014 in News
Actress Irene Lofthouse, researching co-ordinator for the 'Seeds of the Past' project on the Ravenscliffe Estate
IN THE aftermath of the Great War, Lloyd George promised homes fit for heroes and Bradford's Ravenscliffe estate was to form part of that pledge.
After several generations and mixed fortunes, modern observers might not immediately make that link but a Seeds of the Past project running since the start of the year has successfully started the process of recording the social history of the community which was ground-breaking when it was constructed as a so-called 'garden estate'.
Ironically the Seeds of the Past idea sprang from another project, to teach residents to prepare meals with fresh produce at the Gateway Community Centre.
The estate had been built with deliberately large gardens to encourage residents to grow their own, although that purpose has largely been lost to generations who have come to rely on the supermarket.
But it was enough to spark an idea with workers at the Gateway Centre and they successfully bid for £8,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to kick-start the work.
That resulted in an exhibition at the centre yesterday, displaying some of the photographs and memories collected from those who grew up on the estate.
The cash was meant to last for six months but the project has been stretched to take in the rest of the year, with the hope a further grant will allow the team of volunteers and the professionals assisting them to delve deeper into the area's past.
Among those with memories to share was Grace Hilton, born Taylor, who lived on the estate until her family moved away at the age of 15.
"I was crying my eyes out because I didn't want to leave," she said.
She remembered her parents buying a redundant tin Anderson air raid shelter after WW2 and installing it in the garden: "It wasn't sunken into the ground and it was everything to us as children, a house, dressing room, school and museum," she said.
"I hit on the brilliant idea of sliding down its sloping sides, even though it only took a split second.
"Then I thought we could grease it, so put margarine on it. The little girl next door was at the top, ready to go, and we heard a rip. The back of her dress was hanging from the bolts at the top of the roof.
"Even now, when I walk on Ravenscliffe Avenue, it is like a magnet pulling me back to where I lived," she said.
Irene Lofthouse lived on the estate as a child and is also one of the professionals working on the project.
She said the estate was "aspirational" when built, with running hot water and bathrooms which were luxuries virtually unknown to most people.
"People hated moving off because it was back to an outside toilet," she said.
"People really took care of it, it was a huge community. Some people say the rot set in during the 1950s, others say the 70s or 90s and some still talk of the fantastic community spirit in the area."
The work so far has been masterminded by a group of around 15 volunteers but there are still many gaps in the estate's history to fill, such as the lack of photographs from the early years.
Should another Heritage Lottery grant be available, the objective will be to involve school children in producing live performances to reflect the story of the previous generations who lived in their homes.
It is hoped the work will help to restore pride in the area among current residents, to compliment the regeneration work being done by Incommunities.