Alan Billings describes more about his St Silas Parish in the 1970s

Little changed since author George Orwell's visit in 1936

George Orwell Quote (Extract from Broomhall Calendar)
Photo: Mike Fitter
Houses in Thomas Street, probably c.1930s.
Photo: SALS PSu00937

Alan Billings was the vicar of St Silas church in the 1970s.

In this audio clip, Alan mentions the visit to Broomhall by journalist and author George Orwell, and describes some of his own experiences of working in the parish.

In his 1937 book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, George Orwell described a house he visited in Thomas Street, which at that time would have consisted of cheaply-built early Victorian back-to-back terraces. The Broomhall Community Group history calendar (1983) contained an extract from the book:

“House in Thomas Street. Back to back, two up, one down (ie a three storey house). Cellar hollow. Living room 10ft by 10ft and rooms above corresponding. Sink in living room. Top floor has no door but gives on open stalrs. Walls in living room slightly damp, walls in top room coming to pieces and oozing damp on all sides. House is so dark that light has to be kept burning all day. Electricity estimated at 6d. per day (probably an exaggeration) Six in family, parents and four children. Husband (on P.A.C.) is tuberculous. One child in hospital, the others appear healthy. Tenants have been seven years in this house. Would move but no other house available. Rent 6/6d. Rates included”

Social care provision remained extremely basic in an area of extreme privation. The houses are unlikely to have seen much improvement by the time Alan Billings arrived to take up his position as vicar at the local Anglican church of St Silas.

More about the regeneration of Broomhall

More about St Silas Church

The Road to Wigan Pier’ on Wikipedia


This page was added by Jennie Beard on 06/02/2015.

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