I set about writing this Blog in September 2021 in the hope of bringing together local history and the community. I set out to share what has been one of the most interesting parts of my work as a member of staff at Hobs Moat Library, and that was talking to a customer who has been with us from the start since we opened in 1957.
Mr Ken Waugh was born in 1924 and was a member of the Sparkhill Self-Build Association, or SSBA who in 1951 undertook the challenge to build his own bungalow.
Mr Waugh got involved in celebrating Hobs Moat Library’s sixtieth anniversary in 2017 by letting us have information and photographs of the Self-Build project. I recently had the pleasure of being invited into Mr Waugh’s home to talk about his experience of the build. He happily showed me around the bungalow and his beautiful garden, which he upkeeps with the help of his son, who visits him regularly.
In 1949, whilst on honeymoon in Cornwall, Ken Waugh had a chance encounter with another couple from Birmingham, who told the newlyweds about the SSBA, whose members had the opportunity to build their own homes in Solihull. The locations of the builds were in Ebrington Avenue and Charingworth Road. At the time this area was mainly grassland and an ideal spot for a new home.
Most of the SSBA worked at Lucas Group, a Birmingham-based British manufacturer for the motor industry in Sparkhill. Ken was doubtful that he would get accepted for the self-build, as he was a non-Lucas employee, but he decided that it was worth a try. However, he did eventually get accepted, as people had started to drop out.
Ken was a white-collar worker at the Midlands Electricity Board or MEB in Aston. He decided to buy a motorcycle to get from Sparkhill, where he lived, to Aston, where he worked, and then on to Ebrington Avenue. He and the others would spend three hours on three evenings a week, six hours on a Saturday and nine hours on a Sunday on site and 2 weeks of their annual leave hours labouring, digging foundations, and carrying bricks and cement both after work and over the weekend.
The forty members from the SSBA undertook some training in bricklaying and also combined their skills in carpentry, plumbing, tiling, and electrics. Official contractors undertook the plastering and roofing. Ken remembers how the group of forty men worked together so well and shared their skills and abilities for the greater good. When asked what role the women played, he remarked that they kept the men going and would come with tea and sandwiches. He noted how vital their support was.
Having completed the building of the bungalows, Ken and his wife moved into their new home in January 1954. They then worked on the internal decorating and their gardens, which was hard work. In 1956, Ken built his garage with the help of his father. When I asked if there is anything that he would have done differently in terms of the build, he replied that he would have had the kitchen overlooking the garden.
I asked Mr Waugh how he financed the build. He said that each week he would spend a lot of money on tools. He had a mortgage for £2,000 (the value of the bungalows) and paid £13 for the leasehold, which he could buy. For many years after they had all moved in, some remarked that it was like living in their own small village.
Ken Waugh is an incredible gentleman. I am impressed by him and what he achieved alongside others at a time when money was tight as well as their determination and sheer hard work in having built their own homes.
Hobs Moat Library