The 1960s ‘house of the future’

IN these days of the climate and cost of living crises, the government’s Net Zero Strategy, and efforts to make houses more energy efficient, things like ground source heating and solar panels may seem to be fairly recent developments.

But Nick Smith from local history group CHAP has found a short video which shows that these exact technologies were already being tested right here in Downend in the mid-1960s.

The black-and-white footage, shared on social media by the BBC Archives, was originally broadcast on BBC One West, on February 15, 1965 and January 23, 1969. 

The four-and-a-half-minute report comprises an initial visit to a family who had built a ‘solar house’, and then a follow-up interview four years later.  

The homeowner, Mr Cook, explained the energy-saving technology involved: a prefabricated, highly-insulated single-storey building, with a three-foot thick slab built underground to draw ground heat up into the house, and large windows with special insulation blinds to use sunlight to help heat the home.  He said that it was working well, and the home was nice and warm to live in.

Keen to know if these developments had lowered the family’s energy bills, the BBC interviewer was so astonished by Mr Cook’s answer – “Our actual heating costs are about £26 a year” – that he checked: “10 shillings a week?”. 

This contrasted with Mr Cook’s estimate that average heating costs for a house of the same size would be about £104 a year, so his technologically-innovative home was making a huge saving.

You can watch the video at

If your family lived in the house, or you can share any more information about this forward-looking building, please contact CHAP chair Janet Biggin at

Downend Community History and Art Project (CHAP) is a not-for-profit voluntary organisation that aims to build an identity and sense of belonging for Downend and Emersons Green through a community history resource and activities that bring history to life.

For more details visit or write to CHAP, 49 Overnhill Road, Downend, Bristol, BS16 5DS.

Helen Rana