From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes

Mapping History 2

In the three decades after the Second World War, the changing picture of Wester Hailes revealed by successive maps is no longer one of slow, small-scale development. The alterations recorded are huge and, from the perspective of the previous hundred years, very sudden.

It begins immediately after the war with the construction of 537 prefab houses in an area of land between the A71 in the north, the canal in the south and west and Wester Hailes Road in the east as part of the Temporary Housing Programme launched by the government in response to the tremendous housing shortage of the time. The OS map published in 1956 shows a complete mini-estate, arranged in a regular pattern on what had been open fields before 1945. The names of the streets are redolent of the grids and curves of planned suburbia: Calder Gardens, Calder Broadway, Calder Drive, Calder Circus, Calder Terrace.

The 1966 map still shows the prefabs in their entirety but, in that very year, this short-lived community was actually being bulldozed to make way for the Calders housing that exists today. Begun in February 1966, by the summer of 1969 a total of just over 1,300 houses and flats and 9 shops had been built on the same area that the prefabs had occupied. The map of 1973 shows a very different layout of angular blocks distributed in an almost cubist arrangement that gives some clue as to the “modernist” nature of the design. What it can’t do, of course, is to give any sense of scale in the third dimension and, therefore, the contrast in the densities involved. In this map, a shaded rectangle which, for the prefabs, would have represented a terrace of 6-8 houses, is equivalent to a multi-storey block of over 130 flats.

Map details from historical Ordinance Survey documents

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