Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection

Trafalgar Flats - Life at the Top

Trafalgar Flats

What is it like living at the top of a tall block of flats? A "seventh heaven" with panoramic views and welcome seclusion; or a nightmare of broken down lifts, isolation, and no garden? Whichever it is, multi-storey blocks are the shape of things to come.

To find out something about (literally) high-living, we spoke to three families who live on the top floor of Victory House, the end block of the Trafalgar Street flats - and Burnley's highest accommodation.

Mr & Mrs Williams -Aerial photograph

Jose and Norman Gaskin have four children, and live in one of the three-bedroom flats. For them the height is more like hell than heaven. "If you want to look over the top of a load of dirty old roof tops, it's OK." commented Mr Gaskin, who is a baker.
Mrs Gaskin finds drying clothes a problem - it has to be done indoors, so she can only do a small wash. And there's nowhere for the children to play up there, she said. The lid is continually out of order because children resort to playing in it and push the wrong buttons, and the caretaker spends much of his time taking the top off the lift to release them. When the lift isn't working, it means a long climb up the stairs, often with shopping to carry. When it is working, there is a continuous noise from the mechanism, clearly audible in the flat. But for the children, it is a different story. They all enjoy living in a top flat, although they had lived in houses before - some with gardens - while their father was in the Forces.

The Gaskins

Eleven-year-old Andrew likes the flat because he has never lived anywhere like it before. Yolan (9) says she enjoys watching the trains from up above and John (8) said "It's lovely up here. And if we want to play, we go in the car park downstairs. We can even play football". 12-year-old Rosemary like the height, too, but is sad that they had to get rid of their cat and dog, as pets are not allowed in the flats.

For Sylvia and Joe Durkin, both 24 years old a similar three-bedroom flat a few doors away is 'ideal.' In fact, they chose to rent it in preference to staying in their previous home, a house which they were buying. They find the flat is more spacious, and they do not mind the lack of garden because their house didn't have one. Playing space for their one-year-old daughter Kimberley is ample, says Mrs Durkin, and indoor drying cabinet works well so she does not miss an outdoor clothes line. Anyway, there aren't many days when the weather is fit to hang out clothes, are there?

Mrs Sylvia and Kimberley Durkin

Good Views


Her husband who is a training instructor at Prestige, said that they enjoy the advantage of a good view from the windows, and that on a clear day, especially in summer, they can see for miles. What's more he added,"the air is cleaner up here and we get early any traffic noise. The flat is virtually soundproof, and we're not disturbed by sounds from inside the other flats. "We hope to stay here indefinitely. It's ideal for us, and we wouldn't swop for a house."

Violet and Leonard Walker are one of several couples living in the flats who have come from London. mr walker, a GPO employee is an ex-Barnoldswick man, and he and his wife lived in a bed-sitter in London before moving to Burnley. Although Mr Walker found the height of the flat difficult to get used to, he now appreciates the view, the privacy and the lack of noise, which are characteristic of their home. Now both Mr and Mrs Walker would choose the top deck in preference to a lower flat. "Of course." said Mrs Walker, "there are aspects which we like which other people would not. But it suits us very well"
A native of London, Mrs Walker who works for the Ministry of Social Security in Burnley, says that the flats compare favourable with their counterparts in London, and enjoys the amenities such as the rubbish shute at the end of each block which makes housework relatively simple regardless of the height of the flat.
Mr Walker added: "I think the corporation here has been very good to provide accommodation of this quality, not only for local people, but for people from other areas."