Everyman’s Castle by Philippa Lewis

Everyman’s Castle by Philippa Lewis was first published in 2014, and it’s subtitled The Story of our cottages, country houses, terraces, flats, semis and bungalows.

This is such an interesting and informative read, but it references quite a lot of other books, mainly novels which of course I’ve taken a note of – it has bumped up my book list considerably! It also has plenty of lovely illustrations, and obviously there’s quite a lot of social history involved too.

I had always wondered why a great-uncle of Jack’s had insisted that his house was NOT a bungalow. They were the kind of house popular in colonial India amongst the Anglo Indians or ‘ex-pats’. But the early UK versions were often little more than wooden shacks, often built by soldiers after the end of WW1 when decent housing was difficult to find. Then after WW2 the prefabricated bungalows erected to try to alleviate the housing shortage tended to be despised, although they were loved by the people who actually lived in them.

I was surprised to discover that people in England were really reluctant to live in flats, so they were difficult to sell or let when builders first offered them. Eventually service flats became popular among the wealthy in London, it must have seemed like living in an hotel as meals could be sent up from the kitchen or you could go down to the restaurant, but there would have been more privacy than in an hotel. But flats have always been very popular in Scotland’s cities, they tend to be roomier than the narrow terraced housing on offer in England, but even those tiny houses ended up being split up into bed sitting rooms with kitchens being shared as the housing difficulties got worse.

It’s not all about grim housing problems though, having said that the ‘nobs’ who lived in country estates had problems of their own as new death duties took effect, and some were just abandoned and demolished but others such as Longleat took on the challenge and made a successful business out of the estate. It’s the suburban villas and semis section that I enjoyed most, and it was interesting to read that people in privately owned homes were building walls to separate themselves from newly built social (council) housing nearby.

This book has all sorts of interesting bits and pieces in it about old places such as Edinburgh and Bath as well as information about the ‘garden cities’ that became popular.

So this was a really good read, and I love the cover too. I really like those 1930s art deco homes – Crittall curved windows and all.

4 thoughts on “Everyman’s Castle by Philippa Lewis

  1. I came across the word “bungalow” when I first read the Nancy Drew books at about 7 or 8 and I found it very peculiar – I guess I realized it was a type of house but I certainly didn’t understand what style or size. When I see my nephews and nieces searching online for info all the time, I am impressed by their curiosity (although sometimes it is just procrastination).

    • Constance,
      Bungalow is such a common word here, I didn’t realise it wouldn’t have been well known elsewehere too. Of course it’s the links with India that introduced the word to us.
      Even now when I look up something in a dictionary I sometimes get waylaid by other words – and might forget why I was looking at it in the first place!

  2. I lived in a “Prefab” until I was 11, and never thought of it as a Bungalow – my grandparents lived in a bungalow on the south coast and that was different! I was taken by surprise on a recent visit to St Fagans (the museum of Welsh Life) to encounter a prefab just like I remember – although I shouldn’t have been surprised as they were such a classic feature of Post WW2 life.

    • Janet,
      There were still some prefabs in the town that I grew up in (Dumbarton) in the 1970s and the people in them were devastated when they were told they had to get out as they were being ripped down. They loved their wee houses, I’ve never been in one though.

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