“THE walls were snobbery – plain and simple.”

Vernon Brooke lived the ‘wrong side’ of the Cutteslowe Walls and, along with his old neighbours, today remembers when the partition was pulled down 50 years ago.

The infamous wall divided private and council-owned housing on the North Oxford estate, but became a source of huge resentment for some in the community.

The saga of the Cutteslowe Walls began when Oxford City Council announced it was to house slum clearance families in some of its 300 houses on the estate.

In December 1934, the Urban Housing Company retaliated by building two walls to protect the owners of their homes from their ‘social inferiors’ the other side.

The 7ft-high brick walls, which had bundles of iron spikes on the top to discourage people from jumping over, divided Wentworth Road from Aldrich Road and Carlton Road from Wolsey Road.

Today all that remains of the contentious walls is a blue plaque bearing the dates 1934 to 1959.

But some residents still remember the strength of feeling that surrounded the building of the partition, which at one point sparked a riot.

Ian Cummings, who lived in Aldrich Road until 1953, but now lives in Abingdon, remembers the day the walls came tumbling down.

He was pictured on the front of the Oxford Mail that day in 1959 with friends Marilana Diginaro and Gordon Brown, with whom he has recently been reunited.

He said: “We were just kids then, we didn’t understand the social significance.

“To us the wall was just somewhere to kick a ball against and meant there was no traffic in the road getting in our way.

“I remember the day they came down, because we were all taken out of school and walked up there.

“It was only then, I think, that we knew something historical and important to a lot of people was happening.”

At one point in 1935, 2,000 people watched on as members of the Communist Party, headed by Abe Lazarus, leader and a member of the Transport and General Workers’ union, marched on the walls with picks. The men were arrested.

In the years that followed, a bizarre battle ensued, which led to parts of the walls being demolished by the city council – only to be instantly rebuilt by the housing company.

Vernon Brooke moved to Jackson Road, on the ‘wrong’ side of the walls, with his wife Beth, three months before they were pulled down in 1959.

He said: “The walls were just snobbery, plain and simple.

“It’s quite funny. I used to work at the Oxford University Laboratories and my foreman there, who lived the other side of the walls and was in favour of the partition, actually blamed me for them coming down.

“He used to say that things had been fine, and then I moved in, and all of a sudden they were pulled down.

“But you have to ask why on earth the walls were up in the first place. The only problem people had was with kids from the council estate coming to their gardens to pick flowers.

“Where these people were from, they had never even had a toilet inside the house, never mind a garden. It was all so new for them.“ awilliams@oxfordmail.co.uk