MARTIN Wicks was most recently in the news in his role as secretary of Parks and East Walcot Community Forum.

Parks resident Martin has been speaking out against what he terms the failed regeneration of Cavendish Square.

To say he is passionate about the value of community assets is an understatement.

This, along with parallels he draws between the Swindon housing situation of today and that of the early 20th century, spurred his research to mark next month’s centenary of a piece of legislation which allowed early social housing, including the Pinehurst estate, to be built.

He is also researching and documenting the history of Pinehurst itself.

“I’m not doing this as some interesting academic historical analysis,” he said.

“I’m doing it because council housing did liberate many, many working class people from poor and overcrowded living conditions, and I think the situation today is that a new round of council house building on a large scale can actually liberate a younger generation of people who have no choice but to live in expensive and sometimes poor accommodation in the private rented sector.

“I enjoy research, and the thing I’m doing in relation to the building of Pinehurst…it’s something which virtually nobody knows about. I find it fascinating but it’s also, I think, useful to disseminate information which virtually nobody knows about.

“I also enjoy the process of drawing together historical and economic information, analysing it and endeavouring to draw conclusions. It’s an interesting intellectual process but it also has a social purpose.”

The 1919 Act of Parliament which paved the way for council house-building is known as the Addison Act, as it was largely the work of Christopher Addison, a politician and doctor.

At the time, he was a London MP, but in later years he would represent Swindon.

Initial work on Pinehurst involved The Circle and some nearby streets. The first tenants arrived in 1921 and discovered modern features absent from much existing housing, such as indoor bathrooms and running hot water.

Three years earlier, the council had set up a committee to consider ways of providing housing for ordinary people.

One councillor, a Mrs Noble, became frustrated with the slowness of the process.

“She said there appeared to be some members of the council ‘…who were already comfortably housed, who did not care one iota what was going to happen to people who were wanting a house so badly and could not get one.

“‘In many streets today they would find houses in which two or even three families were residing.

“‘In numerous instances they would find couples in apartments paying 10 shillings [50p in decimal currency but a large sum a century ago], 12 shillings, 15 shillings per week for the use of rooms because they could not get a house.’”

Coun Noble, evidently something of a firebrand, also noted that builders seemed less inclined to build homes for needy people in the rental sector than to build them for sale at great profit.

Martin also discovered a local medical officer’s report which said in part: “The housing conditions of Swindon generally are not good. There are roughly 11,000 houses in the borough, and at the present moment, in common with other parts of the country, there is a great scarcity of suitable dwelling places.”

Martin said: “In parallel with what is said about a great scarcity of suitable dwelling places, I think today, although conditions are broadly speaking not as bad there certainly is a scarcity of suitable, affordable dwelling places.

“Rents over the past 10 years have outstripped increases in earnings and inflation.

“The easiest and probably the cheapest way of resolving the crisis is to fund a large-scale council house building programme. You don’t have to be a raging left winger to draw such a conclusion.”

Martin welcomes information, images and other items relating to the history of Pinehurst. His email address is