Louise Shore, born 1930s: Housing in London

One of the biggest struggles Louise Shore faced when she emigrated from Jamaica to London was finding somewhere to live. Shore’s female cousin was already in London: “my cousin, she was over here, she and her daughter, and she send and tell me, if I want to come, I must come now” (Shore, Pure Running, page 31) so Shore went to live with her initially. Shore was one of the lucky few who had somewhere to live secured before she actually arrived in the UK. Shore’s brother followed suit and arrived in the UK shortly after her although Shore never saw him after she left Jamaica: “My twin brother came up after I left, but I never saw him, he went to Birmingham” (Shore, 33).

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Shore, Pure Running, page 34. (Although there is no caption with this photo in Shore’s memoir it is very likely this is the door of one of the houses she lived in, in London.)

Procuring a house was already difficult in 1960s London, even for people who had been born and raised there: “Housing had been the great disability of London life for countless generations. There had never been enough housing to go round. And what there was, disappointed through its age, disrepair, inconvenience, and lack of uptodate amenities” (White, Social and Cultural Change in 1960s London). Shore was deemed inferior in class, race and gender so her struggle for housing was even greater than many others. Because of Shore’s social position she struggled to gain well paying employment and could not afford a lot of the accommodation on offer: “the gap between what Londoners could afford and what London could provide had never been wider than it was in the 1960s” (White). Shore lived in numerous houses throughout London: “It was terrible to find somewhere to live” (Shore, 35). She was turned down many times because she was a woman of colour, Shore explains: “they tell you they want a man…But some, as soon as they see you, and they see you black, they shut the door in your face” (Shore, 35).

Although there were numerous black people in London by this time, racism was still very prevalent. One of the first places Shore lived in was a shared room  and many of her things went missing: “I begin to miss my things. I miss my panties, my knife, my fork – I didn’t say nothing, until one day I was going out, I fry some fish before I go, and when I come back, half the fish was eaten” (Shore, 36). This was not the only place she lived where she was a victim of crime. Shore was not there for long and moved on to a house in Battersea, where she witnessed adultery: “This friend must have got permission to come back and watch TV with the man’s wife…one morning they wait for him and beat him. So I said I wouldn’t stay there” (Shore, 37). The last time Shore shared a house with someone she was tricked into believing the man was single and so she contributed to house costs but one day she returned from work to find the man’s wife had returned: “his woman come back again, and Mrs Johnson reported I was living there, and when she come and she see the room let, she come and take my things and put them outside” (Shore, 38). From then on Shore vowed never to share a house with anyone: “That’s why no matter how my rent is, I wouldn’t share with nobody, and I wouldn’t want nobody share with me” (Shore, 38).

 

Louise Shore, Pure Running: a Life Story, Hackney Reading Centre at Centerprise (1982). Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:707.

White, Jerry. Social and Cultural Change in 1960s London.

 

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