The Race

A Brief Note About “The Race” Hutments, Biggleswade
by Mike Strange

The location known as ‘The Race’ comprised hutments that were provided by the Ministry for Housing and Local Government during the 1939-45 war to meet the demand for housing as materials were in short supply. One of the major purposes was to house people who were needed in key locations to work in key industries for the war effort. Companies in Biggleswade, such as Smart & Brown and Pobjoys, were engineering companies who made significant contributions.

The origin of the location being called ‘The Race’ is speculative at present. However, the most likely reason is that a local man of some prominence was one George Race who owned ‘Road Farm’ located on the Potton Road on the eastern edge of the town. This has not been researched but he may have owned the land that the hutments were built on or he may have been a member of the local council and have some influence. Some research in the Biggleswade Chronicle may reveal the truth.

This map of 1948 shows the boundary of the hutment settlement.

"The Race" - BiggleswadeThe first evidence, in the School Admission Registers, of children going to school from there was 1942 and the last child admitted with that address was in 1954. The highest address number found here was No 70.

The hutments were demolished in 1955 in four phases and replaced by houses that included a lot of prefabricated concrete as well prefabricated bungalows. The contractor was Winton Hayes.

The replacement properties are still in place but those that were still Council-owned have been upgraded by having brick skins built around them or had external insulation applied.

The named locations now occupying the area are Rowan Crescent, Glebe Road, Sutton Avenue, South Walk, East Walk and West Walk.



Here are the progressive stages of demolition of the temporary habitable hutments that served a number of families adequately during the war years. This was by the new constructions using rapid methods of prefabrication that still stand today.

Photographs Copyright
Biggleswade History Society

Supplementary Information
Here is an excerpt from Hansard 11 May 1950  Commons Sitting: Housing: Prefabricated Huts

39. Mr. Sorensen asked the Minister of Health how many two-year prefabricated or Nissen huts have now been relinquished by his Department, and how many remain; to what extent they have deteriorated and are becoming uninhabitable; what grant is made to enable local authorities to deal with deterioration; and, in view of the continuing need, what 554 steps he has taken to ensure that these temporary dwellings shall not be closed or relinquished for some time to come.

Mr. Bevan
Nine hundred and twenty-four huts have been given up and 4,465 remain in use; the majority of those still in use are in good condition; where repairs are necessary I am prepared to approve reasonable expenditure, which is borne in full by the Exchequer; demolition requires my consent, which is given only if the local authority can rehouse the tenants and the site is required for housing or some other urgent purpose, or repair is not practicable at reasonable expenses.

40. Mr. Lennox-Boyd asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the Biggleswade Rural District Council is receiving applications for houses at the rate of 200 a year, while he has given permission for only 40 houses to be built in the current half-year; and whether he will increase this allocation to enable the numerous applicants on the waiting list to be rehoused more quickly.

Mr. Bevan
I am aware that Biggleswade have a substantial number of applicants, but their housing programme must be related to local resources and progress with existing commitments. Consideration to a further allocation will be given in the light of progress.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If the right hon. Gentleman does not at this stage feel able to increase the allocation, will he look again sympathetically at one or two local suggestions which have been made and which, I believe, could be carried out, without affecting the ultimate building programme? They would enormously help the present problem in a district which still has 1,000 people waiting for homes.

Mr. Bevan
I do not know what is meant by that supplementary question. All I know is that authority was given in January of this year for the building of 40 houses, but that only 12 of these are in tender.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd
My intention was to ask the right hon. Gentleman to look again at certain suggestions made by the local authority – the conversion of a large house into flats, for example, and one or 555 two other suggestions which would alleviate a very grave problem.

Mr. Bevan
I should have thought that the first thing for the local authority to do is to build the houses which they are authorised to build.

Here is another excerpt from Hansard 19 May 1953: Wartime Camps and Hutments

23. Commander Maitland asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what special guidance he has given to local authorities to assist them in dealing with the problems which must inevitably occur while people are living in wartime camps and hutments.

Mr. H. Macmillan
Since local authorities are experienced in housing management I have not thought it necessary to offer any special guidance. I recognise the problems involved, and I hope that the Working Party on Requisitioned Properties in Use for Housing which I set up will find ways of progressively shutting them down.

Commander Maitland
But does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is a considerable and growing social problem here because the most unfortunate people and also some rather unpleasant people are concentrated together? Has not the right hon. Gentleman said recently that he is proposing to deal with the slums, and will he not start with these settlements?

Mr. Macmillan
It is a serious problem, but I am happy to say that I do not think that it is growing to the extent that the numbers are growing. On the contrary, these people are being withdrawn gradually from the temporary accommodation.

24. Commander Maitland asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many wartime camps or hutments are still being used by local authorities in England and Wales to house families; and how many people are still living in these camps.

Mr. H. Macmillan
My hon. and gallant Friend will find the latest available figures on page 9 of the Quarterly Housing Return for March, 1953. The number of individual persons concerned is not known.