THE WESTERN MAIL
& SOUTH WALES NEWS, May 11th, 1933
War on Unemployment
SLUMS OF MERTHYR AND DOWLAIS
Development Prevented by Lack of Money
like Swansea has to bear the burden of its antiquity, for there are numerous
houses built a century or more ago which are now unfit for human dwelling.
of a total of 16,000 houses, 1,000 are not fit and should be demolished. About
1,500 houses are occupied by two or more families. There are still 138 cellar dwellings inhabited, while nineteen families
live in sheds, vans, or tents. Extensive
repairs should be carried out in almost 1,500 houses.
are the Merthyr slums? In the town
there is a district near the river which contains Temperance Street, Bridge
Street, and, Riverside. In Temperance Street the houses are over 100 years old and
while they are in good repair the ground floor rooms are stuffy from lack of air.
Bridge Street, near the river, the conditions are also bad and there is over-crowding.
I visited a house where
the husband had been ill in bed with silicosis for twelve months and where the
whole family of seven lived in two rooms. The
wife explained to me: “The children have to sleep in a temporary bed in the
kitchen it at night.”
I asked whether she had made any
attempts to move, she replied: “Yes, but I can’t get a new house because the
owners of the houses always say: “You
have got too many children.”
which once reputed as a rough centre, there are unsatisfactory houses but it is
remarkable that there is no refuse in the streets. Indeed, the slum-dwellers, and the health department are to
be congratulated on the cleanliness of the houses and of the streets.
oldest houses in Merthyr, which are to be found on the Tram road side (where
Crawshay Bailey once had an engine) and are about 150 years old, have the defect
that some of them lack back doors, back windows, and yards. The good gardens in
front, which are well kept, do not make up for the bad ventilation caused by the
absence of back openings. In one of
these old houses a family of seven was living in three rooms on £1/13s. per
week of which 7s was paid in rent. There were no damp houses, however, and the
repairs were good.
Glebe Street there are many defects, in the houses. Lamb Lane, for example
contains no back-yard and the windows looking on the back are too small for the
health of the dwellers.
are in other parts of the town a number of black dingy bedrooms for which the
only light and ventilation are provided by a small piece of grating opening on
to a pavement through which the rain sometimes comes in.
we climb out of Merthyr and go to Dowlais we find conditions which, I think, are
still worse then in the town below. One
row, for example, standing almost under a dusty coal tip, has houses which are a
disgrace to any country. There is
no back window and the coal cellar is usually in the house, which is built up
against the earth of the hill. In
one house in this row which I chanced to visit there was a man and wife with six
children sharing two stuffy rooms.
another row I saw most of the faults of slums. There are back-to-back houses, dampness, lack of through ventilation, bad
windows which are smashed in or which ate difficult to open and overcrowding.
The stuffiness of the buildings even outside in the yard, is
task of clearing these shuns is made especially difficult by lack of funds, due
to the economic stress, which has hit Merthyr almost more than any other town in
Wales. The depression has a
firstly leads to non-payment of rent, which, in turn makes, it difficult for
owners of property to carry out extensive repairs.
it has caused a financial stringency which has prevented the corporation from
taking advantage of the facilities offered under the 1930 Housing Act for the
building of new houses