PART II: 1900 - 1950
generally from all sectors of trade and industry; in Peebles they were nearly all mill employees out of work.
The local unemployment figures were not as bad as in Lanarkshire where they were as high as 37.6 per cent of the insured workers in the 1920s and 1930s.7 Traditionally, the Peebles folk were careful and independent but, nevertheless, for those who depended on the mills for their livelihood - and that included a high proportion of the households in the town - these were long and disappointing years of economic hardship. It was a long, bumpy slide into the World Slump and a slow and hard climb out of it.
Fortunately, the town's economy between the years 1919 and 1939 was helped by an enterprising programme of house-building which began almost immediately after the end of the First World War. Twelve two-bedroom houses were built before the war in George Place in 1909 at a cost of £3,400. However, it was in 1919 that the 'march of progressive house-building' was really started when the town ventured upon the first of its 'housing schemes'.
The Housing Acts (Scotland) 1919 and 1932 gave financial scope to Local Authorities to consider housing requirements and made available government grants, which enabled the Peebles Town Council to undertake housing schemes at Eliot's Park, Dalatho, Connor Street, George Terrace, George Place, Rosetta Place, North Place and North Street. Another major investment project was the building of a new sewage works at a cost of £36,000. It was to be completed by the end of 1937 and the contract stipulated that fifty out of the eighty workers had to be local, to help reduce the number of unemployed. Two other major building projects undertaken during these years of Depression were the construction of the Playhouse Cinema in the High Street, which opened in 1932, and the new County Buildings at Rosetta Road, in 1936.
Much earlier in the century, the Hydropathic was re-built. On a summer evening while the guests were at dinner, the Hydro caught fire. This happened on 7 July 1905, the fire spreading rapidly so that, by eight-thirty at night, the whole structure was fully ablaze. The 'new' Hydro was built in less than two years. Numerous friends were invited to the opening on 25 March 1907, with the reassuring invitation: 'it is constructed fireproof throughout!' The new building is Georgian in style and regarded as a very fine replacement.
The Hydro had been greatly missed when it was no longer bringing in business to the town, and local shops had looked forward to this re-opening. The town still had a good array of