Uncomfortable Scavenger Hunt
Cutteslowe Walls: Location 3
34 Aldrich Road, Cutteslowe, OX2 7SU
Welcome to the location of the former Cutteslowe Walls.
A Story of Class Conflict
Blue Plaque erected in 2006 to remember the Cutteslowe Walls.
In 1934, the Urban Housing Company erected a new housing development on this spot, complete with new roads and outdoor electric lamps. In order to keep the new development seperate from the so-called 'slum clearance' of the council estate, the company built ‘a high close-boarded fence’ between the new estate and the council housing.
The walls were meant to prevent mixing between the new middle-class residents 'of a certain type' and the tenants of the lower-class council estate area next door. With the erection of a surrounding wall, the roads in this area were made private, illegally cutting off traffic to Banbury Rd. A petition was signed by 164 residents of the council housing estates in protest, to no avail. The walls and private use of the roads remained.
A year after erection, two undergraduates were arrested for attempting to demolish the walls (the case was dismissed with a fine). This was soon followed by an organised attempt by the community to remove the walls, which was resisted by city police. Protest meetings were organised, eventually leading to legal proceedings being launched against the company.
You have made it to the final stop on this trail - the location of one of the former Cutteslowe Walls.
As north Oxford gained in wealth and continued to grow in residential housing between 1889 and 1936, the city once again faced increased housing pressures and looked to the north for an answer.
A number of immigrants were arriving in the city to obtain jobs in the prospering industrial sector. These immigrants often found affordable housing in council estates built on the outskirts - especially the one located here in Cutteslowe.
This is a drawing of the wall made in 1935, as part of a special committee hearing for City Council. You can see the wall enclosing the new development and the way in which the wall cut off access to the main roads for the poor residents.
The sudden change in street name is another reminent of the historical divisions within this community.
The legal suit was unsuccessful and the walls remained in place.
In 1938, City Council took matters into their own hands and demolished the walls, but were required to rebuild them again after being sued by the company.
During the Second World War, one of the walls was brought down by a tank crew that ‘took a wrong turn’ and decided to continue anyway. The wall was nonetheless re-erected. The walls were only officially removed after the city council purchased the land on which they were built in 1959.
Today the Cutteslowe walls serve as a reminder about the divisions caused by perceptions of social distance in places which are geographically similar.
With friends or family? Discuss the following:
The controversy of the Cutteslowe walls highlights key issues regarding class tensions and perceptions of land value.
Do you think that it was okay to erect the walls?
What impact did the walls have for the two communities on either side?
Today, private, gated communities are more common. What does this tell us about changes in urban living over the past century?