This project is collecting stories, memories and experiences of life in Seacroft from past and present residents. We want to find out about all aspects of life in Seacroft: from the mundane to the dramatic; and from the 1930s to the present.
We are creating a new ‘Seacroft Stories’ collection which will be deposited at the West Yorkshire Archive Service. The archives will carefully preserve the material collected for future generations, and for visitors to the archives and the website to explore. The West Yorkshire Archives currently do not hold much material relating to the recent history of Seacroft. We will fill that gap by collecting personal accounts of life in Seacroft from past and present residents. These accounts can be spoken, written or creative, and we are interested in photographs and other items which tell the history of Seacroft.
You can submit your story to the West Yorkshire Archives at any time, and we are running activities and events during 2021-2022 to collect memories. These will be held with local groups and organisations including Chapel FM, A Quiet Word artists, the LS14 Trust, Seacroft Friends and Neighbours, and Leeds Older People’s Forum.
We are also interested in mental health and wellbeing, and how this is shaped by the place that you live in both positive and negative ways. For this part of the project we are collaborating with the Mental Health Museum in Wakefield.
The Seacroft estate began to be built in the 1930s but construction was interrupted by the Second World War, and most of the houses were built after the war in the 1950s. This was part of a massive nationwide effort to increase good quality housing. In the years after the Second World War council houses were built on an unprecedented scale. These new homes were desperately needed to deal with overcrowding, to replace poor quality housing as well as buildings which were demolished as part of town centre redevelopment schemes, and, in some areas, to replace homes that had been damaged or destroyed during the Blitz. Between 1945 and 1980 about 4.4 million new homes were built by local authorities and housing associations, and this widened access to high-quality housing significantly. Many of these new homes were on large suburban council estates like Seacroft.
But these estates began to be criticised as soon as they were built. There was a fear that moving people to the suburbs had destroyed ‘traditional’ working-class communities and caused ‘suburban neurosis’ amongst lonely housewives who had become cut off from their neighbours. From the 1970s council estates began to be associated with violence, crime and drug use, and some people believed that residents had become even more isolated because they were scared of their neighbours. Council estates have continued to be stigmatised, and they have been repeatedly represented in the media as having low levels of community spirit and poor wellbeing.
The experience of residents, however, has been much more complex, and there have always been positive and negative parts of living in any neighbourhood. This project is examining life in Seacroft in collaboration with past and present residents. We want to find out – from the point of view of people who have lived there – the impact that friends, families and neighbours within Seacroft have had on residents’ lives, and how this has changed over time. Alongside this, we will be researching experiences of mental health and wellbeing in Seacroft: how has this changed over time, and what impact have residents’ social groups had on their mental health and wellbeing?
Will be organising a series of events and activities which anyone who has lived in Seacroft at any time can take part in. If you are interested in participating there is more information on the events page.
This project is led by Jessica Hammett at the University of Bristol. It is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/V001329/1]. If you have any questions about the project you can contact Jessica by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to Amy Levene, Alison Andrews and Matthew Bellwood for permission to use images.