What did the UK’s cities used to look like?

Have you ever wondered (or even reminisced) about what a stroll around your closest UK city was like, pre-gentrification? 

Urban regeneration and revitalisation have reshaped the profile and population of large swathes of UK cities over the past few decades. In place of the old, in has swept a new breed of affluent and younger aspirational inhabitants. It’s fair to say that many of the physical changes would make it hard to recognise your own city even if you had been on a hiatus for the past 20 years. 

With a nostalgic nod to the bustling UK cities of yesteryear, we’re curious to take a peek at what the UK’s cities looked like before the hallmark changes of gentrification and urban regeneration. 

What did the UK's cities used to look like? York City Centre - Rachel Nicole UK Blogger

Beautiful buildings 

Originally manufacturing hubs of the UK; many northern cities such as Leeds and Manchester were home to textile mills focused on the production of garments. The same mills now home a modern mix of trendy city-centre flats and spacious open-plan offices. Typical city-centre streets were long and cobbled, with bustling markets and elegant grandiose Victorian buildings lining the same city streets. In SunLife’s recently released image tool, you’ll see many of these beautiful buildings. 

Many of the UK’s cities were home to social housing and tall prefabricated council flats, most having been demolished in the 1960s and 1970s. These flats provided affordable living for working-class families. Though often unsightly to the passer-by, they offered convenience to working classes who needed to be close to their jobs, especially if they were without their own modes of transport. Such a contrast with modern times, where most workers commute from the outskirts into city centres for work. 

Community spirit 

The pre-gentrification city centre was focused around a bustling local market community spirit. Mainly inhabited by the working classes, market stalls were meeting points for the community, with a plethora of independent traders, many of who were on first-name terms with their customers. Stallholders wholly relied on trade from local shoppers. 

So, if you and I were to time-travel back together and take an afternoon stroll around pre-gentrified UK cities, some things would look quite familiar – the markets, the grand architectural buildings used for their original purposes. But one thing you’d notice the most compared to modern-day UK cities is the spirit of local community which has been displaced by a new demographic of diverse city dwellers. 

XOXO
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