England once had what were called play streets. We have a photograph of Cleminsion Street in Salford during 1928. This is an example of the play streetsthat were established in many English cities at the time. The photo shows lots of children playing there. They are clearly enjoying themselves. Some children are in a group playing hop scotch; others are likely to be skipping. Other children are riding bikes and tricycles. A group of boys are having fun taking it in turns to ride a peddle care. I expect the young boy in thee driving seat is having most turns. He is likely to be the owner of this magnificent toy. And they are all playing quite safely. What is striking about the picture is that the children look so happy. The boy on the right is grinning like a Cheshire cat. They are playing happily in the street. They do not fear the arrival of motor cars. In fact there are none in the street. The children are unlikely to meet with a traffic accident on this particular summers evening or any other evening for that matter. The boys are dressed in short trousers, knee socks, shoes, sandals and boots are worn. Most boys are wearing jumpers. Two boys are wearing suits. These are most likely school clothes. A boy is wearing a tie. Few children are wearing caps.
The reason is that Salford city council had passed a byelaw banning cars from this street from sunrise to sunset. In 1929 Cleminsion Street was the first of many streets to become a ‘Play Streets.’ These streets were closed to traffic, giving children a safe place to play. In 1929 there were 48 such streets in Salford. In 1936 there were 200 streets that had become designated play areas for children. The scheme was passed into English law in 1938.
Cars were not as common in England before the War than is the case today, but there were enough thst it was adanger for children to play in the streets. The streets were an attraction because they were paved.
John Cook recalls living in Bridson Street between 1944 and 1946. This was a designated play street. He describes the games which were played there. “Children played hop scotch on chalked flags. Children played football. Their coats were used as goal posts. When a game of cricket was played a house’s gable end was best and cricket stumps would be drawn on it. A lamp post also was used for cricket too. Sometimes cars accidentally strayed into the street then we’d get out of the road until it passed.”
A play street could easily be identified by a driver because there was a sign which said that between sunrise and sunset vehicles were not permitted. By the 1980’s play streets were almost forgotten but currently new urban developments are reviving this idea.
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