In the first half of the 20th century, just a stone’s throw from St Nicholas Priory, a quiet revolution took place which changed the face of the city. Once the thriving commercial district of Exeter, by the early 20th century the West Quarter was notorious for its deprivation and slum housing. The poor health of many First World War recruits from such areas triggered a wave of concern about working-class housing conditions, resulting in new powers for local authorities to build their own houses. Released from the frustrating constraints of 19th century attitudes to housing, Exeter City Council embarked on a massive housing campaign, building over 2000 houses in less than 20 years. The new estates of Burnthouse Lane and Buddle Lane were built to rehouse the West Quarter and used the latest planning ideals and innovative techniques. Things did not always run smoothly however, with the schemes set against a background of recession, rising prices, parlour squabbles and the unfortunate nickname of ‘Siberia’ emerging for one of the new estates.
Dr Clare Maudling is a researcher, historian and former library professional. She spent fifteen years working in specialist libraries, including the Exeter Performing Arts Library and the Westcountry Studies Library, before undertaking postgraduate study in history at the University of Exeter. Born in Exeter, Clare’s interest in history was inherited from her father, who used to take her on walks around the city’s historical landmarks. She developed a love of architectural history and her main research interest is the evolution of urban planning and housing in the UK. She completed her PhD on post-war reconstruction in Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol in 2018, culminating over a decade of research into Exeter’s post-war rebuilding. Clare currently works for Exeter Historic Buildings Trust and is a researcher for the university’s politics department, working on a project investigating the structure of UK government.