Money Goes Mad 50 Years Ago

Then and now – MONEY GOES MAD!

No cars were parked in Ashburton Road 50 years ago, when seven of us moved into an old five-bedroomed old house at 12 Ashburton Road. We were recently widowed and remarried – a 38 year-old woman, and a 49 year-old man with five children between us. Dianne was 12, Pamela was 10, Nigel was 8, Miranda was 3 and baby Rosalind was 7 months old when our respective worlds had collapsed earlier that year, within a week of each other. This was our brave but practical new start.

In 1959 the five children welcomed a new baby brother Stephen. Nigel, described by his father up to then as a “cock in a hen pen”, was very relieved not to have yet another sister. Nigel’s school fees and expenses took up one ninth of our family budget for our family of 8, so I had to make every halfpenny do the work of a penny.

So it was a shock in 1963 when the Official Receiver informed us that our landlord had gone bankrupt, and we could, if we wished, have first refusal on buying the house for £1,600. Both my grandfathers had owned property, but neither Jim’s socialist father nor mine believed in  the ownership of private property. Most people lived in  rented homes.

At first we were refused a mortgage. Then the Bank manager offered us a bank loan deposit of £160 and arranged a private mortgage, which would cost us only £12 a month instead of our rent of  £12.60. So quite painlessly, we became house-owners. In a flurry of activity, Jim set about redecorating our whole house from top to bottom, inside and out.

A year later, the old lady next door at No. 14 Ashburton Road died, and her house and its contents were put up for sale. The estate agent  came to ask us to hold the key for a prospective buyer, and told us it was on the market for £3.000. We expressed surprise because, though larger than ours, it was in dreadful decorative repair.

“Good Heavens” replied Mr Seymour “I could easily sell yours for £4,500!” The idea then came to us that if we sold No 12 and bought No 14, there would be £1,500 left over to pay for rewiring that whole house and installing central  heating as well, neither of which we could afford here. Early in 1964 contracts were exchanged, and we happily moved next door to transform No 14 into our centrally heated dream home..

A few years later an old friend who let out Nos 6 & 8 Ashburton Road as furnished flatlets was paying Miranda to collect her rents for her. One day Miranda rushed in to tell us that a developer had been there. He planned to buy and demolish the two houses and replace them with a block of modern flats. “Oh Jim” I wailed “How can we stop him?”

“What’s the asking price Miranda?” “£5000 each” Jim laughed. “She’ll never get it! How about buying them ourselves, and getting a builder to turn them back into Owner-occupation? Then we can resell them” he suggested. So we did. What our Estate Agent could NOT fortell was that by the time they were finished in 1971, house prices were rising at breakneck speed. Our credit-worthiness had started with £160 bank loan, The handsome profit seemed to come out of thin air!

In 1977 I suddenly developed an Obsession over rescuing Alverstoke’s derelict Old Rectory. I had discovered it was medieval in origin, and threatened with demolition to make way for a block of high rise luxury flats, whose rateable value “could earn a fortune for Gosport Borough”.

It was on the market for £25,000…