Tenement Life

Immediately after the Second World War my Aunt lived in a tenement exactly like the model on display at the Central Library, Dundee. It had been an abandoned building, a “backland” in Nelson Street, but such was the need for more housing after the war that this and other buildings like it were hastily done up for homeless people.

The building my Aunt lived in was set aside for single women and each door on the plett opened into a short corridor from which opened four doors into a single room, each single lady was allocated one of the rooms; that was her “flat”, it just had a sink with running cold water. There was a “bunker” under the lid of the draining board in which the coalman delivered the coal for the fireplace. The lavatory was out on the plett in that rounded bit (on the model) which looks as if it has been added into the building as an afterthought (which it may well have been). The women, of course, had to take their turn to clean the stairs to their own landing, and also clean their shared toilet, the rooms were not very large but my Aunt managed to cram into hers a dining table and four chairs, two fireside chairs, a sideboard, a double bed, dressing table and free-standing wardrobe. Where she kept things like pots and pans, cutlery, crockery and other kitchen utensils, plus sheets, towels etc, I’ve no idea. It must have been a challenge then. But luckily the other three ladies who shared the corridor were all kind and considerate people who all looked after and helped each other, and so life was pleasant enough.

A few years later my Aunt moved from there to a 2-storey flat nearer her work, but it wasn’t until she was 60 years old that she got a Dundee Council flat and her inside toilet and bathroom at long last.

Submitted by Margaret Manning