I believe that I have the dubious distinction of being the only baby to be born in the confines of Jacqueline Close (happy to be proved wrong if there are any more of us?!) The top bedroom of number one, January 1970 to be precise.
Three years prior to that, my parents had ploughed all their savings into a brand new ‘forever’ home… how sad that sounds now as their ‘forever’ home has become a house that they are stuck with forever.
Just a few months after moving in to No.1, a long spell of heavy rain began to wash away the footings of the houses just yards from my parents’ house – the whole site of more than thirty homes had been built upon Victorian chalk mines. Chaos ensued; people abandoned their homes and the residents were then abandoned by those that should have taken responsibility!
I could point fingers and lay blame at the doors of various persons and institutions but that would be pointless and a waste of energy. In our present world of compensation claims, people and their companies would have been chased through the courts and ‘made to pay’. However, fifty years ago the Jacqueline Close residents were deemed ‘lucky’ to be re-housed by the local council.
The cry of ‘’surely someone knew’’ has echoed down the years to which the answer is a resounding ‘’yes’’. The most telling tale is that of when my Mother went to the Council to ask for a mortgage – apparently it was a thing in the 60s. My parents had enough for a 40% deposit so were only seeking a mortgage of 60% of the £4,250 asking price. However, the council refused to offer them the mortgage suggesting a local building society instead. There are countless more stories but I shall leave that to those who can recount them first hand.
My Father can, and does, wax lyrical about the trials and tribulations of owning a property in Jacqueline Close; most recently seen interviewed for Channel 5’s documentary: Sinkholes. But, as a child growing up in an abandoned residential development, it was our own private paradise. The empty houses provided the backdrop for all the creative games our little minds could imagine. We even managed an (unauthorised) trip down into the chalk mines below our playground before the remaining houses were torn down in 1981 and the rubble pushed into the holes.
Today, it is little more than a wildlife haven – an overgrown wasteland where the foxes and muntjacs run free. As to the last remaining homes? My parents will continue to own No.1 and no doubt it will be passed down the generations; after all, what building society will give anyone a mortgage to buy it?
Following on from the Channel 5 documentary ‘Sinkholes’, aired in November 2017, which featured the infamous Jacqueline Close, the last remaining resident, Brian Cross, has re-published his 2005 book ‘’A Blight at the end of the Tunnel’’. Being one of the first to buy a property in the ill-fated development more than 50 years ago, and also the ‘last one standing’, Brian is ideally placed to re-tell the story of ‘Heartbreak Close’, as it was dubbed in the press.