Blantyre Squatter forced to leave in 1933

condemnedI’m often reminded while looking at Blantyre’s history, that there was a terrible housing shortage in our town especially during the 1930s and 1940s. One such story reinforces this.

A touching story of a squatter’s plight was told by a Blantyre man in Hamilton Sheriff Court on 2nd October 1933. He was Edward Cornfield, miner, of 3 Victoria Street, Blantyre. Edward when sentenced undertook he would leave the condemned house, of which was in illegal occupation, within forty-eight hours. He confessed to Sheriff Brown that he had been unable to get accommodation for his wife and four children.

The other squatters,” he explained, “have relatives to go to but I have nobody in a position of being able to come to my assistance. Two of children are very delicate. I have tried everywhere to find a room, but it is an utter impossibility. I have done my best, but I cannot see my children in the streets.”  Addressing officer, Sheriff Brown, had remarked that relief was open for the accused to which Cornfield replied. “Do you mean to say, sir, I have to go to poorhouse. I can do that and leave my things on the roadside.” Sheriff Brown pointed out that other squatters in Blantyre had complied with the undertaking and there seemed no reason Edward Cornfield should not do the same.  Cornfield maintained that others had their father and mother to go to, but he added, “Nobody wants us now. We have tried everywhere.”

Edward asked for a further short extension to make a thorough search for alternative accommodation. Sheriff Brown said that out of a desire to help accused, he would agree to continuance of the case for a week.  One Hamilton squatter, who had failed to implement an undertaking to remove from a condemned house within 48 hours, was fined 60s or 15 days’ imprisonment. He had been previously convicted for squatting.

Interestingly, at the exact day this trial happened, a young woman called Elizabeth Holmes, fell from the Criaghead viaduct. Her story is told here on Blantyre Project.

On social media:

Elizabeth Dobson Grieve The way things are going, it’s all gonna happen over again, as affordable housing becomes more difficult to get.

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