The Barbican, City of London
Your Home's History

5 Innovative Ways of Living

How we create our homes and the spaces around them reflects our constantly evolving lifestyles, needs and social trends.

How we create our homes and the spaces around them reflects our constantly evolving lifestyles, needs and social trends.

Here we take a look at 5 ways of living that broke the mould.

Kinver Edge Rock Houses, Staffordshire

Kinver Edge Rock Houses AA92_02165 Holy Austin Rock, 1992
Kinver Edge Rock House. ©  Historic England Archive. View image AA92/02165.

Cut into the local sandstone, these dwellings were inhabited until the 1960s and were the last caves in England to have been lived in.

Although it is difficult to know exactly when they were constructed, there is an Iron Age hillfort on the same ridge which dates back to at least 200 BC, so this area has long been a centre of human activity. It is thought locally that the caves may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbit houses.

St Ann’s Allotments (Hungerhill Gardens, Stonepit Coppice Gardens and Gorseyclose Gardens), Nottingham

NMR_20653_41 Hungerhill Gardens, 2007 c historic england
Hungerhill Gardens, 2007. ©  Historic England.

In the heart of Nottingham, the oldest and largest area of Victorian detached town gardens covers 75 acres of land.

A home away from home for residents of densely occupied cities, St Ann’s allotments still provide a much-loved resource for people living in Nottingham.

The Barbican Estate, City of London

Post War BuildingsThe Barbican, City of London. General view of exterior.
The Barbican, City of London. © Historic England Archive. View image DP100590.

A key example of Brutalist architecture, The Barbican was built as a utopian vision of how high-density living could be integrated with schools, shops, restaurants and cultural venues.

The coarse concrete surfaces of three towers and thirteen terrace blocks were built between 1965 and 1976. Occupying a bomb-ravaged site at the northern end of the City of London, raised pedestrian walkways around elevated gardens combine to make the Barbican Estate one of the most distinctive housing projects from the era of post-war reconstruction.

Grove Road Housing Scheme, Nottinghamshire

The Independent Living Movement of the early 1970s campaigned that disabled people should be able to live in their own homes rather than in institutions against their will.

Disabled activists Maggie and Ken Davis met in 1972 as outpatients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and formed a cooperative to buy land and commissioned a housing scheme that suited their needs. They moved into what was thus called Grove Road Housing Scheme in 1976, a pioneering independent living for disabled people.

Must Farm Bronze Age Roundhouses, Whittlesey

Household items including whole pos. Copyright Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) Photo Dave Webb_DSD8777_ (1)
An array of household items, including whole pots. Source: Dave Webb © Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU).

This incredibly well-preserved Bronze Age settlement provides an extraordinary time capsule of everyday life 3,000 years ago. Unearthed by archaeologists in 2016, what were once timber roundhouses on stilts above the marshy land of the Fens had been destroyed in a fire, collapsing into the river and preserving its contents.

Among the finds were finely woven textiles made from plant fibres, small cups, bowls and jars with past meals still inside. Archaeologists also found the earliest and largest complete Bronze Age wheel and exotic glass beads, hinting at sophisticated trade routes with the continent.

Further reading

3 comments on “5 Innovative Ways of Living

  1. Peter Waterhouse

    I always find this blog interesting – but this really made my day. My maternal grandmother was widowed in the first world war – so life was hard and she ended up living in a “house’ built by her grandfather in Hungerhill Gardens. I remember my father telling me of playing in and around the allotments and having to fetch water from the communal pump.

    I have an old chest of draws which I always imagine must have come from there as it is converted from an older pine rack for storing Champagne. I remember being told that this and other pieces of furniture in my Grandmothers flat had been made by an old handyman.

    I cannot imagine what it must have been like – perhaps I might go there and see where my father spent his early years.

    Many thanks for bringing these memories of my father back for me.

  2. Kathleen Murphy

    As my brother owns a Barbican flat I found the comparison with the Bronze age materials found in 2016 quite similar; upper stilted dwellings near to water with a view and good trading near by.A pity it was destroyed by fire.

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