The last remaining court houses were demolished in the 1960s but they once provided much of the housing for working class people in the city. The clearances that began in the 1930s assumed a new urgency after the war when the council was faced with replacing many war-bombed houses down by the docks.
They were court houses where we lived. The rest of the street was more or less warehouses where we used to play around and enjoy ourselves.
The people lived in the courts. There were four houses each side of the court with about twenty feet between the middle of the court separating the two sides. We had a communal toilet which was cleaned by the ladies in the court who would have turns at keeping it tidy.
We had one bin which may sound surprising but nevertheless one bin covered the eight houses. In those days there was no paper, we burnt everything we could get our hands on, coal and firewood, so there was no waste other than dust or coal waste. You walked down the steps into the cellar. The cellar had one fire, an iron grate and an oven. Now that fire really created the heating for the whole house. If you wanted warm water it was boiled in the cellar. You wanted the cooking done that was done in the cellar with the use of the oven. With eight people in our house, it was quite an ordeal for my mother, and for all the other mothers, to cook and wash until before the children eventually grew older and left and got married.
We didn’t have toilets but we had one tap in the cellar. The coal went down the cellar from a hole in the ground in the court, that’s how we got our coal. Of course the house kept warm by the use of the coal in the cellar and any wood we could find to light the fire or to use for heating.
The wood for the fire, the boys would get from around by the warehouses. You see the warehouses were used for various things. They were used for storing cotton, big bales of cotton, bags of sugar, rice, all ripe foods that that came from the docks and were put in the warehouses. That didn’t just go for our street, Upper William Street, but most of the streets in the parish and along Great Howard street. In these warehouses the floors were sometimes broken by the big heavy weights coming on to them so the planks in the warehouses had to be renewed. So eventually the planks were renewed and the old broken planks were thrown down into the street where us boys would pick up the broken planks of wood, take them home and chop them up and use them as firewood, – one of the things that helped the heating of the houses.