Victorian London - Houses and Housing - Housing of the Poor - Model Housing


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    It is curious to observe what various impressions different persons are apt to receive from the progress of the improvements of our Metropolis. The visitor to the great town, at this gay season of the year, rejoices in the widening of streets and the cleansing of roadways, for personal convenience. Another, by aid of the last published map, and the recollection of paragraphs in the newspapers, picks out the lines of new streets in progress, and is almost lost in self-glorification at the sweeping away  of so many vile courts and alleys - "rookeries" of vice and crime - to make room for architectural displays of sumptuous character, though intended only for commercial purposes. Then, perchance, arise reflections on the vast sums of money expended in these improvements, calculations as to their investment for profit, and other speculations of a mercenary class.
    It has, probably, occurred to few such observers to inquire what has become of the poor persons who have become unhoused by these great changes? On the other hand, it appears to have suggested to an excellent Association, "The Society for Improving the Conditions of the Labouring Classes," a very interesting experiment, in building a certain number of houses as models of the different kinds of dwellings which they would recommend for the industrious classes in populous towns. For this purpose they have taken, on reasonable terms, an eligible plot of land, on the estate of Lord Calthorpe, and thereon they have erected a model street. In the arrangement of buildings, the object has been to combine every point essential to the health, comfort, and moral habits of the inmates; reference being had to the recommendations of the Health of Towns Commission, particularly with respect to ventilation, drainage, and an ample supply of water.
    The Committee of the Society, in a circular of recent date, show the importance of their design, by reference to the exceedingly bad and exorbitantly dear accommodation provided for the poor, in houses let out in lodgings. The lower-priced apartments are, for the most part, positively unwholesome, from the want of drainage and ventilation, and frequently from positive dampness and exposure to the weather. The rent usually demanded in such unhealthy situations, if from three shillings to six shilling for a single room weekly - a price which usually compels the mechanic to be content with one - in which parents and children, boys and girls-  not only dwell during the day, but sleep during the night. So common is this practice, that in the closest contiguity to some of the principal streets of the metropolis are courts and lanes, the houses of which are filled with mechanics - six, eight or even ten, of whom sleep in one room nightly.
    It is obvious that such a state of things is equally destructive to health and to morals. Hence, the Committee of the Society have been induced to make this experiment, and have, accordingly, built a double row of small houses, divided as follows:
    Nine houses of three room each, let at 6s.
    Fourteen houses of two rooms each, let at 3s. 6d.
    One house, containing 30 rooms for widows or single women, to be let at 1s. 6d. per week each.
    Of these houses, one half have been occupied since the month of July last; and the other portion has just been completed. The Committee, being desirous of submitting this their first attempt to the judgment of the public, invited them to view the buildings; and the interest excited by the subject has been abundantly proved by the large number of persons of high rank and distinguished character who have visited the spot, during the week of "public view." . . . . The result has been such unqualified approval of the design as, we trust, will induce the Committee to commence their projected work of the same kind, in the very heart of St. Giles.
    The following are the details of the annexed plan:-
    The six houses, Nos.1,2,4,5,10 and 11, are intended for the residence of twelve families, each occupying a floor with two rooms; the large 13ft. by 10ft., the smaller 10ft.6in. by 7ft. 6in. All requisite conveniences are provided separately for each family, with distinct access to the upper floor.
    The eight houses, Nos.6,7,8,9,12,13,14 and 15, are intended for the residence of eight families, each having on the ground-floor a living-room, 13ft. 6in. by 12 ft. 6in., with a lobby, enclosed recess for beds, closets, and a scullery under stairs, with a small coutrt-yard: the upper floor, as shown by Nos. 11,12,13,14 and 15, is divided into two bed-rooms; the larger 12ft 6in. by 10ft. 6in., the smaller 13ft. by 7ft. 6in.
    The house, No.3, is intended for the residence of thirty widows or aged females, each having a room, 12ft 6in. by 8ft. 6in., approached by a corridor, to be lighted and ventilated in the centre and at both ends. A sunk wash-house, for the use of the inmates of this house, is provided at the back of No.4, and one adjoining it, for the occasional use of the other tenants.
    Additional houses to accommodate three families have been built on the east side of the ground, towards the entrance, which are not shown on the plan.

from The Illustrated London News, 1846


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The cellar

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The Model Lodging House

Punch, Jan.-Jun. 1850

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The countless visitors to the great international Exhibition will not pass unnoticed the contributions of Prince Albert to the World's Show, if they are but made acquainted with the fact that his Royal Highness, who seems to unite goodness of heart with clearness of head in no usual degree, has exhibited, without the walls of the Crystal Palace, a contribution not less important, and in many respects far more interesting than most of the works of art and utility within. The contribution of his Royal Highness is a block of model houses, erected at the Cavalry Barracks, Hyde-Park. The houses are designed for the accommodation of four families, and were erected by the Prince at his own expense with the view of conveying practical information calculated to promote an improvement in the dwellings of the working classes, and of stimulating visitors to the Exhibition, whose position and circumstances may fit them for the task, to imitate his example.
    In its general arrangement, the building, as we learn from the explanatory document which has been put into our hands, is adapted for the occupation of four families of the class of manufacturing and mechanical operatives, who usually reside in towns or in their immediate vicinity; and, as the value of land, which leads to the economising of space, by placing of more than one family under the same roof, in some cases renders the addition of a third, and even of a fourth story desirable, the plan has been suited to such an arrangement, without any other alteration than the requisite increase in the strength of the walls.
    The most prominent peculiarity of the design is that of the receding and protected central open staircase, with the connecting gallery on the first floor, formed of slate, and sheltered from the weather by the continuation of the main roof, which also screens the entrances  to the dwellings. The four tenements are arranged on precisely the same plan, two on each floor. The entrance is through a small lobby, lighted from the upper part of the door. The living-room has a superficial area of about 150 feet, with a closet on one side of the fireplace, to which warm air may be introduced from the back of the range; the corresponding recess may be fitted up with shelves; and on the opposite side of the room a shelf is carried above the doors, with a rail fixed between them.
    The scullery is fitted up with a sink, beneath which is a coal-bin of slate. A plate-rack at one end, drained by a slate slab into the sink, covers the entrance to the dust shaft, which is enclosed by a balanced self-acting iron door. The dust-shaft leads into a closed depository under the stairs, and has a ventillating flue carried up above the roof. At one end of the scullery is an inclosure forming a meat-safe, ventilated through the hollow brick-work : shelves are fixed over the doors, and a dresser-flap against the partition wall.
    The sleeping arrangements, being three in number, provide for that separation which, with a family, is so essential to morality and decency. Each has its distinct access, and a window into the open air; two have fire-places.
    The children's bed-rooms contain 50 superficial feet each; and opening out of the living-room, an opportunity is afforded for the exercise of parental watchfulness, without the unwholesome crowding of the living-room by its use as a sleeping apartment.
    The parents' bed-room, with a superficial area of about 100 feet, is entered through the scullery - an arrangement in many respects preferable to a direct approach from the living room, particularly in case of sickness. The recent in this room provides a closet for linen; and a shelf is carried over the door, with a rail fixed beneath it - a provision which is made in each of the other bed-rooms.
    The water-closet is fitted up with a Staffordshire glazed basin, which is complete without any wood fittings, and supplied with water from a slate cistern in common of 160 gallons, placed on the roof over the party and staircase walls. The same pipes which carry away the rain-water from the roof serve for the use of the closets.. . . . 
    His Royal Highness, who is President of the Society for Improving the Dwellings of the Working Classes, could have devised no more appropriate contribution to the extraneous utility of the Exhibition than this unpretending block of buildings. It needs but to show the working classes that they pay a higher rental for wretched hovels than they would be called upon to pay for such comfortable homes as these, and to prove to the capitalist that such buildings would yield a fair return for the money invested in them, to make the dwellings of the bulk of the people more worthy of the intelligence and good feeling of the age than they are now. Hitherto, although considerable attention has been directed to the subject in several of great towns, the promoters have neither reconciled the people to their new abodes nor induced capitalists to embark largely in such undertakings. It is likely, however, that the subject will grow in favour as well as in importance.

Illustrated London News,  June 14, 1851


It is a pleasing sign of the present times, that the condition of the labouring classes is attracting unwonted attention, and that the interest excited is of a thoroughly practical kind. The example has been set by the Sovereign, and it has been followed by the most influential and revered names in the kingdom; so that, within the last few years, united and effectual exertions have been made to better the condition of working men and women, in town and country, by the improvement of their dwellings, and by the extension of the allotment system, wherever practicable. Of these praiseworthy efforts, the former is that which here demands our notice, so far, at least, as it relates to the metropolitan dwellings of the labouring classes.
    That there is great and urgent need for the exertions of the benevolent is abundantly proved by the facts recently brought to light. The filthy and crowded state of the common lodging-houses, and other dwellings in those parts of London where the great masses of the people congregate, is a disgrace to a Christian country, and a constant source of physical and moral evil. Those, who in the course of their philanthropic exertions have explored the ordinary lodging-houses, both in the metropolis and the provincial towns, describe the majority of them as the very hotbeds of vice and crime, a disgrace to humanity, a reproach to the Christianity of England; and yet it is in such sinks of iniquity and contamination that the young artizan too often takes up his abode on first arriving in London, or when quitting the paternal roof, and there has every good principle undermined by evil associates, until he becomes a pest to society, and either sinks through disease and want into an untimely grave, or forfeits his freedom to the laws of his country. In fact, to use the words of the noble lord now at the head of the government, "As civilization progresses, we have not only the advantages but the evils of civilization, and unless we exert ourselves to counteract these evils among the people-and the greatest of these evils is over-crowding in insufficient dwellings-unless we exert ourselves from time to time to counteract such evils, our boasted civilization, instead of promoting religion, morality, and obedience to the laws, will tend to leave a great class of the population of this country Without sufficient means for the comforts which they ought to have - without sufficient means of education - and, above all, without sufficient means for religious instruction and improvement."
    Such considerations as the above gave rise, in 1844, to the foundation of the "Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes," under the patronage of the Queen, Prince Albert, the late Queen Dowager, and a large body of the nobility and clergy. This society endeavours to advance its objects by the following means:-
    1st. By arranging and executing plans, as models, for the improvement of the dwellings of the poor both in the metropolis and in the manufacturing and agricultural districts; by establishing the Field garden and cottage allotment system, and also friendly or benefit and loan societies, upon sound principles, and reporting the results, with a view to rendering them availably as models for more extended adoption.
    2ndly. By the formation of county, parochial, and district associations, acting upon uniform plans and rules.
    3rdly. By correspondence with clergymen, magistrates, landed proprietors, and others disposed to render assistance in their respective localities, either individually or as members of local associations.
    That this society has already done good service in the metropolis, is proved by the fact of its having erected three new model lodging-houses anti renovated and adapted three others, during the six years of its existence. These are -1. George Street, Bloomsbury, for 104 single men. 2. Streatham Street, Bloomsbury, for 48 families. Model Buildings, Bagnigge Wells, for 23 families, and 30 aged women. 4. No. 76. Hatton Garden, for 57 single women. 5. At 2, Charles Street Drury Lane, for 82 single men, with a small lodging-house also for men, in King Street, Drury Lane. Besides these undertakings, it has also commenced an important and substantial building' in Portpool Lane, Gray's Inn Lane, to be called, Thanksgiving Buildings, being intended as a lasting memorial of the deliverance of our country from the ravages of cholera, and easily raised by the offerings of the people of the metropolis on the occasion of the General Thanksgiving in 1849; offerings which were thus appropriated at the suggestion of the Bishop of London. In all these buildings the arrangements are of the most admirable kind; we give those of the George-Street "Lodging House for Working Men," as an example.
    The kitchen and washhouse are furnished with every requisite and appropriate convenience; the bath is supplied with hot and cold water; the pantry-hatch provides a secure and separate well-ventilated safe for the food of each inmate. In the pay-office, under care of the superintendent, is a small, well-selected library, for the use of the lodgers. The coffee, or common room, 38 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 10 feet 9 inches high, is paved with white tiles laid on brick arches, and on each side are two rows of elm tables, with seats; at the fireplace is a constant supply of hot water, and above it are the rules of the establishment. The staircase, which occupies the centre of the building, is of stone. The dormitories, eight in number, 10 feet high, are subdivided with movable wood partitions, 6 feet nine inches high; each compartment, enclosed by its own door, is fitted up with a bed, chair, and clothes box. In addition to the ventilation, secured by means of a thorough draught, a shaft is carried up at the end of every room, the ventilation through it being assisted by the introduction of gas, which lights the apartment. A ventilating shaft is also carried up the staircase for the supply of fresh air to the dormitories, with a provision for warming it if required. The washing closets on each floor are fitted up with slate, having japanned iron basins, and water laid on.
    The contrast from their former wretched abodes to these most comfortable dwellings is so great, that workmen flock to the model lodging-houses in greater numbers than can be accommodated. The rent is neither more nor less than they have been accustomed to pay, for it is an object with the society not to excite enmity, by appearing as rivals of other landlords. In their model lodgings for families the society has endeavoured to preserve domestic privacy and independence to the inmates, and also to prevent the communication of infectious diseases, by disconnecting the apartments. This is done in the Streatham-Street houses by dispensing altogether with separate staircases, and other internal communications between the different stories, and by adopting one common open staircase heading into galleries or corridors, open on one side to a spacious quadrangle, and on the other side having the outer doors of the several tenements, the rooms of which are protected from draught by a small entrance lobby. The galleries are supported next the quadrangle by a series of arcades, each embracing two stories in height, and the slate floors of the intermediate galleries rest on iron beams which also carry the enclosure railing.
    These improvements in the dwellings of workpeople, taken in conjunction with the systems of baths and washhouses already described, are the more valuable, because, although originating in the kind and charitable feelings of the upper classes, they are yet maintained by the exertion of the labouring classes, and keep alive in the people a spirit of honest independence. It has been well remarked by Lord Ashley, the excellent chairman of the society whose operations we have been describing, "All that is done by the wealthier classes is to provide that for the working man which he cannot obtain for himself, namely, capital. But having provided the capital, and the institution founded upon it, they leave the working man the duty; and the pleasure also, of maintaining it entirely. These institutions are, therefore, of singular value, because they do not place the working man in any state of dependence whatever. They enable him to turn to account his wages and receipts. They enable him to do what is more - namely, to develope all his resources, physical, moral, and intellectual."
    The object contemplated by the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes has been the erection and completion of one model of each description of building required to meet the varied circumstances of the labouring classes, and at the same time the demonstration that such buildings may, with proper management, be made to yield a fair return on the outlay. This is all that can be expected from a society depending on the public benevolence for the funds necessary to the undertaking; but the good example thus set, and the experiment thus satisfactorily tried, has been taken up and followed in various quarters of the metropolis, in a way that is calculated vastly to improve the state and prospects of the working classes of London. And not only so, but our example is spreading on the Continent, and structures are rising in Berlin and Paris, similar in character to the model lodging-houses of our great city. A valuable essay on the dwelling of the labouring classes having been published by Mr. Henry Roberts, Architect, Honorary Architect to the society of which we have been speaking. it is gratifying to learn that it has been translated into French, and published by order of the President of the Republic, with the following prefatory remarks:-
    "This work is addressed to all good men, to all who love their country. It is offered to them as a sign of the lively interest which is awakened in another country for the amelioration of the condition of the labouring classes - it is offered as an example which may inspire them to imitation.
    "To provide for labourers in this country, as well as in towns, dwellings well-lighted, well-ventilated, dry, and clean: such is the first problem to be solved.
    "We do not hesitate to say, that long since this problem would have been solved if every person was fully convinced that, these conditions once realized, a multitude of the causes sickness, of misery, of disorder, and of corruption would disappear. 
    "Who is the physician, ignorant of the fact that the want of light, vitiated air, dampness and surrounding dirt, are as many causes which, singly, and with much greater certainty when united, contribute more than everything else to shorten life, and to render it miserable, by inflicting on those who are exposed to them, a multitude of personal and hereditary infirmities? Who is the moralist who does not admit that the human soul itself becomes degraded under the prolonged influence of such conditions? Who is the statesman who has not sighed to see all the hospitals and the prisons overcrowded with the wretched people which these causes have been the means of producing?
    "Yet it is almost always easy to obtain for rural dwellings the necessary amount of light .With regard to dwellings in towns, this is a feature roost deserving the attention of the commissioners charged by the authorities with this important oversight.
    "The regular renewal of the air in dwellings is a new problem for science, - it has never approached it. But is it not sufficient to propose such a problem, in order that it should give to it speedily, a happy and practical solution?
    "In reference to dampness, the healthiness of dwellings is everywhere a desideratum, even in the houses of the middle classes. Let us, then, direct the attention of our young architects towards this important subject. It is a great honour to be judged worthy of going to Rome; it is a great merit, in returning, to bring back the plans of some palace, destined to become the ornament of our cities; but he who finds, or who in vents the art of driving away the humidity which renders unhealthy so large a number of the dwellings of our town and country labourers, will have gained a right to the gratitude of the country, and will have prepared for himself a source of imperishable satisfaction.
    "In the meantime, let good men, especially let young men, teach the workmen by whom they are surrounded, to set some value on those habits of cleanliness which are the first steps taken in the path of progress towards well-being.
    It would be so easy to have in each quarter the necessary implements for washing, for sponging, for whitewashing a room or a staircase; to hang paper, to stop up holes, in order to destroy insects! The acquisition of these implements, impossible for every single workman, if made by a benevolent association, would serve to ameliorate the condition of the whole neighbourhood, almost without expense.
    "At first, the persons to whom the implements would be lent, might use them badly or indifferently; but soon, with mutual instruction, every one would be able to melee a good use of them. Now all this is practicable: let us then practise it.
    "When our so well-disposed and ingenious population consecrates itself to such works, they will soon understand their extreme importance, and their benefits will spread with rapidity over the whole country, for the greatest happiness of the working classes."
    The Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes was incorporated by royal charter in 1845, and seems destined to carry out in the highest degree the aims and intentions of the benevolent party who first attempted the bettering of the prospects of working men. This association is established on a principle which, in this business-like age, is sure to be duly appreciated, and will doubtless ensure its permanence and success, namely, that of an investment of capital, with a prospect of a fair return. It is, in fact, a commercial speculation of a very safe and honourable kind. The capital of the association is 100,000l., in 4,000 shares of 25l. each. The rate of interest to be paid to shareholders is not to exceed 5l. per cent. per annum; and the liability of the shareholders is limited to the amount of their respective shares. The first buildings erected by this association were those in the Old St. Pancras Road, whose lofty and imposing appearance must have arrested the attention of everyone passing that way. These were arranged to accommodate 110 families, and were opened to the tenants in 1848. They have been constantly occupied since their completion, to the great advantage and improved health of the inmates. And it is a pleasing fact, that out of the rent accruing to the association from these dwellings during two years, and which amounts to the large sums of 2418l., there was only the sum of 1l. 19s. 7d. which could be pronounced a bad debt. This building was speedily followed by another in Albert Street, Spicer Street, Spitalfields, which was first opened for 234 single men, but also includes sixty dwellings for families, each with three rooms and a small kitchen, with water, water-closets, store-places, and every possible convenience. The building is five stories in height from the basement. The latter is surrounded by an open area, and contains baths and washhouses, with all the requisite appurtenances, extensive cellarage, and ample space for workshops. Upon the ground floor, the entrance hall is commanded by the superintendent's apartments, which are placed on the left, while the store-room and cook's apartments occupy about the same space en the right. Immediately in front of the entrance are the stairs, of fire-proof construction, which lead to the three stories of sleeping apartments; and opposite the stairs, on the ground floor, is a good-sized lavatory for day use. The coffee room is directly in front of the staircase hall, and extends to the back of the building, communicating on one side with a reading room, and on the other with a kitchen for the use of the inmates. It is a lofty room, divided into aisles by iron columns supporting an open roof of stained timbers, lighted by a large window at the further end, two smaller side windows, and sheets of rough lisle in the roof. Boxes are fitted with tables and seats round three sides, and the room is warmed by hot-water pipes. A cook's bar opens into the coffee room, for the supply of coffee, etc. The reading room, size 60 ft. by 21 ft. 9 in., is warm by open fires, and furnished With some of the daily papers and popular periodicals. The kitchen, 45 ft. by 21 ft. 9 in., for the use of the inmates, contains two ranges, provided with hot water, a sink with cold Water, and common apparatus for cooking purposes. From this kitchen a stone staircase leads to a portion of the basement, containing 234 small meat safes, all under lock and key, raised on brick piers, placed in ranges back to back, with ample space for ventilation. The cook's shop is connected with the men's kitchen by a bar, from which cooked provisions may be obtained at almost any hour of the day. The three upper stories are fitted with sleeping apartments on each side of the corridors. Each compartment measures 8 ft. by 4 ft. 6 in., and is lighted by half a window, the upper portion only opening, and this is hung on centres. These rooms are all furnished with iron bedsteads and suitable bed furniture. There is also in each a locker for linen and clothes, with a false bottom for the admission of fresh air, so that the sleeping berths can be ventilated at the pleasure of the lodgers. All the doors are secured by spring hatches of which each inmate has his own key, and no key will open the lock of any other in the same wing. On each floor are lavatories, fitted with cast-iron enamel basins, set in slate fittings. The partitions forming the sleeping compartments are kept below the ceiling for the purpose of ventilation, and the corridors have windows at each end to ensure a thorough draught when necessary. With respect to ventilation, the principal agent is a shaft, which rises nearly 100 feet, into which several of the smoke flues are conveyed, and by which means a powerful upward current is maintained. The sleeping apartments and other principal rooms are connected by vitiated air flues with the ventilating shafts, and the current is regulated at pleasure by means of dampers, placed under the control of the superintendent. Water - Large cisterns in the roofs, and smaller ones in other parts of the building, afford an ample supply of water to every part of the premises. Dust- Every floor has an opening, secured by an iron door, into a dust shaft, communicating with a dust cellar in the basement. Gas.-The whole building is well lighted with gas. This building has been erected from the designs and under the superintendence of Mr. W. Beck, 33, Broad Street Buildings, and the builder is Mr. S. Grimsdell. The terms 3s. per week, payable in advance. Each inmate has, besides his sleeping apartment, the use of the coffee room, reading room, and the public kitchen, where he may cook his own food, or he can obtain ready cooked provisions from the cook's shop. Every lodger is furnished with a small larder under his own lock and key, has free access to the washhouse at certain times of the day, and can, by the payment of a small sum, have a hot or cold bath. 
    The opening of these new buildings was thus noticed in a leading article in the "Times," of Dec. 13th, 1849.-   The Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes, some time since opened a handsome building, containing more than a hundred sets of rooms for as many families, near Old St. Pancras Church, and after a year or two's trial is able to show the most happy and profitable results. It has now brought to completion a building of a similar character for single men in the eastern outskirts ol Spitalfields. Yesterday, the Earl of Carlisle and the shareholders inaugurated their work for its useful purpose; and in this moment any man working its Spitalfields, or Whitechapel, or even in the city, may have, within a mile of his work, for 3s. per week, a good bed and a convenient partition in a well-ventilated dormitory, the use of a spacious, handsome, and comfortable coffee room and reading room, a commodious cooking room, of a washing, rinsing, and drying apparatus, of baths, and twenty other conveniences. The place is so clean, so airy, so wholesome, and altogether so inviting, that one almost longs to live in it one's self, and make use of its endless accommodations in continual succession. The warming and ventilation are complete; the latter being accomplished by a lofty shaft, which discharges smoke and foul air fifty feet above the roof of the building. Ecce signum. Several hundred persons yesterday met in the coffee room, which was not cold when the meeting began, nor too warm when it ended.
    "By the side of this pile another is rising as rapidly as hodmen and bricklayers can carry it, for the use of families, with much the same arrangements as those in the Metropolitan Buildings of St. Pancras. The association is extending its labours, and has already spent 40,000l. in substantial buildings, calculated to last a thousand years, to continue in order at a very trifling cost, to pay ultimately five per cent., or even more if the constitution of the society allowed. Nay, already, with a staff too large for what it has to do, it pays as much as 2 per cent. on the outlay. For the further designs of the company, for its sober and business-like character, for its incidental benefits in provoking imitation and rivalry, for its effect on the house and lodging market, and many other points of interest, we must refer to our report of the proceedings. We can add but little to what was said yesterday, but we cannot help expressing our very warm sympathy with an undertaking which, at comparatively so little expense, and so little effort, shows results so magnificent, so substantial, so complete, and so satisfactory to all the parties concerned. It quite grieves one's heart to think of the millions wasted in useless and unprofitable railways, besides a thousand other national follies, when forty thousand pounds has produced so much happiness, health, and goodness to the inhabitants of these buildings, besides the never-to-be-forgotten profit to the shareholders. We do not hesitate to add 'goodness' to the benefit already achieved. It is a good and improving thing to be quiet, domestic, methodical, and clean; to live by rule; and, above all, to pay one's rent punctually at the stipulated time. On this last point the results of the speculation are so marvellous, that one is ready to ask where the tenantry come from, as they can not be of common mortal mould. Excepting a few shillings, there are no arrears still due on a rental of more than 2000l. paid by more than a hundred tenants. Weekly tenants, however, are now known to be the most punctual as well as the most profitable. This association only proceeds upon a principle known to many hundreds of low speculators in the metropolis and all our principal towns. Nothing is more usual than for men and women to double or treble the rent they pay their own landlord by subletting their houses to the poor. This they do with an utter disregard of comfort, health, morality, or any other proper consideration. The Metropolitan Association merely steps into their place, and by supplying a better article at a less cost, drives them either to improve their accommodation or to give up their trade.
    Besides the extensive and important operations of the Metropolitan Association, independent efforts have been commenced in Soho, in St. James's, in Marylebone, in Chelsea, and in the Borough; and it is gratifying to learn that the example is spreading to such an extent, that we may look forward to see the old system well nigh destroyed, for who but the most depraved is so completely lost to all sense of domestic comfort, as not to prefer a light, dry, clean, and wholesome abode, to a dark, damp cellar, when he can have the one on the same terms as the other?
    In connection with this subject it should be known that as long ago as 1835, an effort was made in behalf of the seamen of the port of London, which, to a certain extent, led the way for the model lodging-house system, as now practised. In this effort one energetic naval officer was conspicuous for his unwearied and self-denying zeal, so that the buildings erected in Well Street, London Docks, may be considered a monument to the memory of one whose whole life was devoted to the good of sailors. This was the late Captain R. J. Elliot, R.N., whose open-hearted kindness and Christian charity are strong in the remembrance of the writer of this notice. How earnestly did he labour to procure a home for sailors, where they might be safe from the snares laid to entrap them as soon as they came ashore, and how zealously did he promote the building of an asylum for the sick and destitute! Nobly was he seconded by other officers and friends of sailors, while the design of an asylum was generously bestowed by the same architect, H. Roberts, Esq., who has since given his honorary services to the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes.
    The Sailor's Home was opened in 1835, the cost of fitting up the last dormitory having been defrayed at the sole expense of her lamented Majesty, the Queen Dowager, a munificent patroness of the society just named, as well as of numerous other charities, and who is well known to have taken an especial interest in the well-being of sailors! The Sailor's Home will lodge three hundred inmates, and is altogether admirably conducted. The Destitute Sailors' Asylum in the same street, is likewise a useful institution, and its arrangements are well worth imitation in lodgings for the lowest class, such as ragged school boys, and common beggars - a description of lodging-house much needed, and which has not yet, as far as we know, entered into the plans of either of the great societies now in operation. To make the whole system for the good of sailors complete, a church for seamen frequenting the ports of London has been erected in Dock Street, London Docks, where the sittings are all free, and where commanders of vessels' mates, seamen, apprentices, and friends of sailors are invited to attend. The incumbent of this church is the Rev. C. B. Gribble, MA. The services are on Sunday morning at half-past ten, evening at six, and on Thursday evening at seven o'clock.

The Pictorial Handbook of London, 1854


artisanshome.gif (82994 bytes)

The directors of the Metropolitan Association (incorporated by Royal charter) for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes (by whom the extensive range of dwellings for families was erected, some years since, in Old St. Pancras-road) have, during the past year, extended their operations to one of the most crowded districts of Spitalfields where they have undertaken the erection of a large building for single men, and dwellings for sixty families, upon a plot of land in Albert-street, Spicer-street, not far from the brewery of Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, and Co. The building for the men has been recently completed, and was formally opened by a public meeting held on the premises, on the 12th of December, when the Earl of Carlisle presided. (A report of the proceedings was given in our Journal of December 15, 1849.)
    The plan is arranged for the accommodation of 234 inmates, whose comfort is provided for by all the details and appliances of a modern club-house. It may be described in general terms as a large structure of five stories in height, inclusive of a basement; the three upper stories being fitted with sleeping compartments; the ground-floor devoted for day use; and the basement contains baths, wash-house, larders, and extensive cellarage for coals, stores, &c. But a better idea will be formed of the advantages it affords, by a more detailed mention of the accommodation to which its inmates are entitled.
    Any respectable single man of the working classes, on payment of three shillings to the Superintendent, and a small sum as a deposit for articles of crockery, &c., becomes a tenant for one week, and receives two keys, a larger and smaller. The larger of these opens the sleeping compartment on the upper stories, the number of which corresponds with that stamped on the bow of the key (it will unlock no other). On closing the door, he finds himself in a space eight feet in length, by four feet six inches in width, lighted by half a window (which he can open or shut), and furnished with a substantial iron bedstead, clean bedding, a clothes-box (unlocked by the smaller of his keys), clothes-pegs, and looking-glass. There is also the means of admitting fresh air under his clothes-box, which be can regulate at pleasure. The framing of his compartment is not carried up to the ceiling, so that the long ward in which it is situated can be readily ventilated. Ample provision for washing is afforded him, in lavatories, two on each story, fitted with enamelled basins, towels, and every requisite. On leaving his sleeping apartment, he descends a stone staircase to the ground-floor, where he enjoys the free use of three large apartments, the principal of which is a spacious and well-lighted coffee-room, with an open roof of stained timbers, supported by cast-iron columns, the general appearance of which is shown in the accompanying engraving. The tables are arranged in boxes, and here is supplied coffee, or a more substantial meal, according to a fixed scale of charge. On one side of the coffee-room is the reading-room, 60 feet in length, provided with newspapers and a library of books. On the other side of the coffee-room is a large kitchen, in which the lodger can cook for himself at either of its two powerful ranges; or he may be supplied here, as in the coffee-room, with provisions ready cooked. A staircase leads to a portion of the basement fitted up as a larder, where the lodger's smaller key opens one of the 234 safes, arranged on piers.
    The whole establishment is under the control of a superintendent, whose office, situated close to the entrance-door, commands a view of the hall, staircase, and door to coffee-room. He has also under his care the stairs to the baths and washhouses on the basement; for the washing department is intended to be used (though at different hours in the day) both by the inmates of this building and those of the dwellings for families now in course of erection. These families are to enter the washhouse by a distinct entrance.
    The whole of the building is thoroughly ventilated, the foul air being drawn from all the rooms by an upward current in the ventilating shaft that rises nearly 100 feet, and into which several of the smoke flues of the building are conveyed. There are large cisterns in the roof, and smaller ones in other parts of the building. Every floor has an opening, secured by an iron door, into a dustshaft, communicating with a dust-cellar in the basement. The premises are well lighted with gas. The waterclosets are detached from the main building.
    The structure has been erected from the designs and under the superintendance of Mr. William Beck, architect, by Mr. S. Grimsdell, builder.

Illustrated London News, January 19, 1850

"The Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes embraces objects of vast importance to their moral and social position. It erects model buildings, renovates old and ill-arranged houses in the worst localities, and cleanses and ventilates whole courts and alleys; arranges and executes plans as models for the improvement of the dwellings of the labouring classes in the Metropolis, and in agricultural and manufacturing districts, by the formation of county, parochial, and district associations; and it corresponds with clergymen, magistrates, landed proprietors, and others disposed to engage in the good work of providing for the poor comfortable dwellings. The Bishop of London recommended that certain collections made on Thanksgiving Day, 1849, should be applied to some well-considered plan for improving the dwellings of the labouring classes; and the liberal response made to his appeal enabled the society to purchase a freehold site in Portpool Lane, Gray's Inn Lane, and to build thereon model dwellings capable of containing 20 families and 128 single women, with a spacious washhouse for the use of the inmates and the surrounding neighbourhood. The 128 single women - many of whom are poor needle-women - occupy 64 apartments, fitted up with two iron beds, a table, chairs, and a washstand. The charge is 1s. per week for each person. This building meets the peculiar and difficult circumstances of a class of persons on whose behalf much public sympathy has been justly excited. The washhouse accommodates 34 persons, the ironing-tables 12; 3 wringing-machines, and 34 drying-horses, heated by hot air. The applications are so numerous that the society is about to increase the accommodation.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

see Octavia Hill in Homes of the London Poor;
especially Chapter 1-3 - click here

    It is only necessary to point to the large number of such children, for they are no better, who annually swell our criminal lists, to prove that somewhere a screw is sadly loose, and that the sooner it is set right the better it will be for the nation. The Home for Errand Boys is the best scheme that has as yet been put forth towards meeting the difficulty. Its professed object, I believe, is to afford shelter and wholesome food and healthful and harmless recreation for boys who are virtually without a home, and who have “only a lodging.” That is to say, a place to which they may retire to sleep come bed-time, and for which they pay what appears as a paltry sum when regarded as so many pence per night, but which tells up to a considerable sum by the end of a week.
    The most important feature, however, of such a scheme as the Home for Errand Boys embraces, does not appear in the vaunted advantage of reduced cost. Its main attraction is the promise it holds out to provide its lodgers with suitable amusement after work hours and before bed-time. If this were done on an extensive scale, there is no telling how much real substantial good might be accomplished. It is after work hours that boys fall into mischief. There is no reason why these homes should not have existence in various parts of London. One such establishment indeed is of little practical use. If it were possible to establish such places (a careful avoidance of everything savouring of the “asylum” and the “re­forrnatory” would of course be necessary) in half a dozen different spots in the immediate neighbourhood of the city, they would doubtless meet with extensive patronage. They might indeed be made to serve many valuable ends that do not appear at a first glance. If these “homes” were established east, west, north, and south, they might be all under one management, and much good be effected by recommending deserving members for employment. There might even be a provident fund, formed by contributions of a penny or so a week, out of which lads unavoidably out of em­ploy could be supported until a job of work was found for them.

[click here for full text of The Seven Curses of London]

James Greenwood, The Seven Curses of London, 1869

also, click here for section from 'Ragged London in 1861'...

see also Thomas Archer, writing against model housing - click here


From time to time we have recorded the progress of what has been called "A Workman's City" at Lavender-hill in Southern London, and on Saturday an interesting ceremony showed that its progress has been considerable. The experiment which is being tried here in providing homes for the working classes differs from many others of the kind, for it owes nothing to charity, and on that account is all the more interesting and instructive. Seven years ago the wholesale destruction of houses for railway purposes in London and other large towns led to the establishment of a company called "The Artisans', Labourers', and General Dwellings Company (Limited)," for the purposes of supplying the want thus created. It was felt that if railways destroyed, they might also be used to create, and that if they thinned the population in the heart of our large towns, good would come of it if at the same time working men were enabled by their means to migrate to the suburbs and travel easily and cheaply to and from their work. Such was the theory of those who projected the company, but for a time its progress was discouragingly slow. At the end of 1867 the share capital in hand was only £500;  at the end of 1868 it was £1,800; then in the following year it rose to £3,000; in 1870 it was £6,000, in 1871, £18,500, in 1872 £32,000, and at the end of 1873 it was £112,196. The list of shareholders includes four Dukes - Devonshire, Manchester, Norfolk, and Rutland - with many other members of the Peerage, six Bishops, Archbishop Manning, and a considerable number of members of the House of Commons. It is hardly necessary to say that the company is entirely unsectarian and non-political and among the shareholders are a good many working men. They figure, however, in larger proportions among the depositors. A deposit branch gives such of them as may not wish to become shareholders an opportunity of investing their money, in sums of not less than 5s. at a time, at the rate of £5 per cent., upon security of the land and houses belonging to the company, and with power to withdraw the deposits at from three to 21 days' notice, according to the amount. Thus the advantages of a savings-bank are afforded to thrifty persons, and that these advantages are appreciated is clear from the fact that the deposits have gradually grown from £800 at the end of 1867 to £23,000 at which amount they stood in December 1873. The assets of the company from these two sources at the beginning of the current year were thus £135,800, their share capital being nominally a quarter of a million.
    Working upon these resources and by means of mortgage-loans, the company have acquired estates near Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, and houses are being built there. An estate of 74 acres has also been lately bought near the Harrow-road, some seven or eight minutes' walk from the Westbourne-park station. For the present, however, it will be convenient not to go beyond the Shaftesbury Park Estate of 40 acres, which stands about midway between Clapham Junction and the Wandsworth-road station of the Chatham and Dover line. In August, 1872, the Earl of Shaftesbury laid the foundation-stone. In November 1873, Lord Shaftesbury "opened" the new town which, even by that time, had arisen; and on Saturday he presided at another formal opening of another part of the estate. Last November about 350 houses had been finished. There are now 479 completed houses, and before winter sets in it is expected that 270 more will be fit for habitation - altogether 749 houses. When the whole plan of building has been carried out the park will contain 1,200 houses, of four distinct classes. Class 1 contains eight rooms - a front parlour, with bay windows, a back room for meals, a kitchen with dresser and kitchener, a small larder, a scullery, fitted with copper and sink; a closet, ash-pit, and coal cellar, while on the first floor there are three bed-rooms and a little bath-room. Class 2 are seven-roomed houses, without the bath-room. Class 3 have six and Class 4 five rooms, of which two are bed-rooms. Gas and water are laid to every house. Ventilators are supplied to each room; and the drainage (except surface water) is carried back from the closet and sink in the rear, so that no drain passes under any house. The foundations are of concrete; the roofs are of slate. By means of porches and bay windows in houses of the better class, by occasional bits of stonework, and facings of coloured brick, the architect (Mr. R. Austin) has done his best to avoid a dull uniformity, and here and there a projecting turret and little spire breaks the line. The paths are laid with asphalte, space being reserved for rows of young trees, which have already taken kindly to the soil Well-made roads run for the most part at right angles, and vary in width from 30 to 40 feet. Thus Shaftesbury Park already contains bright and cheerful dwellings, arranged with the utmost attention to health and comfort, and no little regard to the picturesque. Window-gardening is general, and will certainly become more so, for the directors give prizes for the best show of plants and flowers in the windows and forecourts. The back garden is just large enough to swear by, and already has in some instances been prettily cultivated. Then there is a temporary lecture-hall, which will hold 700 or 800 people, and at present is used for a temporary school. Board schools will soon be built. A site is left for a co-operative store. Two acres and a half are reserved fro a park and recreation ground; and Clapham-common and Battersea Park are not far off. Baths and washhouses are also projected. Not one public-house or beer-shop will be allowed on the estate, though the people are not teetotallers, and the brewer's cart regularly delivers a modest cask at many of the houses. By and by this community will number 8,000 - a larger population than many Parliamentary boroughs possess; and having regard to their position in life and their respective callings, they could hardly have gone to live out of town under more favourable conditions.
    It is easy, of course, to build such houses, but the two practical questions are - "Do they let?" and "Do they pay to build?" Both these questions may be answered affirmatively. The houses are caught up long before they are finished. In some cases they are taken on the strength of the plan before they are begun, and there are now on the books over 1,200 applicants for houses which are still to be erected. The other question is answered by the fact that the last annual divided of the company was 6 per cent., and that previously they had divided 7½ per cent., but, as Lord Shaftesbury explained on Saturday, the shareholders themselves thought this amount too high, and took the novel course of requesting that it might be reduced. We will now explain shortly the terms of tenancy, and the sources of profit. The company buy the freehold, and, we believe, gave about £740 an acre both for the Lavender-hill and Harrow-road estates. They also build the houses, having their own workshops and steam sawmills, and buying building materials, with the necessary house fixtures, in the best and cheapest markets. Then the houses have been built to a great extent upon the co-operative system. There has been no contractor or master builder, whose profits have therefore been saved. The work has been let out, under foreman in each branch, to the bricklayers, carpenters, painters, plasterers, slaters, and plumbers employed, and it is satisfactory to learn that under the piecework system, which has throughout been adopted, Union and non-Union workmen have worked harmoniously together, and there has been no cause for the intervention of the "arbitrators," Lord Shaftesbury, Lord Lichfield, and Lord Elcho. Another still more suggestion fact may be stated. Many of the workmen are shareholders in the company; many of them, again, live in the houses they have helped to build. The result has been a special pride in the work of their own hands, and special pains to finish it in workmanlike fashion. They were upon their mettle to do their best when they knew it would be scrutinized by fellow-workmen hereafter and identified as their handiwork.  "The houses built by the company," the directors say, "are better than those usually erected, and yet can be sold at equally low prices in consequence of the materials saved by the workmen, who are shareholders, and have earned 40 per cent. more than their ordinary wages." And again, in their last Report, the Directors say:- "The principal of co-operation, or, as it is sometimes called, industrial partnership, has been well tested in this company, as both modes of building have been tried - viz., that of letting out the work to contractors, and that of using associated labour only. The latter has been found to be better than the former as regards quality of work, saving of materials, and cost." So much for the building. The occupiers are of three classes - tenants paying a weekly rental; occupiers who have bought their houses and are paying off the capital sum, with interest, by monthly or other periodical payments; and leaseholders who have paid down the whole purchase money in a lump sum. For a five-roomed house the weekly rental is 5s. 9d.; for a six-roomed house, 6s. 9d.; for a seven-roomed house, 8s.; for an eight-roomed house, £26 yearly, these rentals including rates and taxes, except in houses of the best class. If the tenant is buying the house, he pays rates, taxes, and ground rent in addition to the purchase money.

The Times, July 20, 1874

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Model Lodging-Houses. —So many of the poorer among the working classes of London are absolutely compelled to live within easy distance of their work, that a serious problem is added to the many difficulties which arise when great metropolitan improvements are in contemplation. The destruction of whole quarters of the town, which house, however inadequately, many families, is not an enterprise to be undertaken without due regard being had to the requirements of those whose little homes are taken from them, and who, if matters are left to take their own course, have no choice but to seek refuge in the already over-crowded streets and alleys which remain untouched. Fortunately this is a question that early attracted the attention of practical philanthropists, and several associations now exist which have its solution for their object. Of these it will be sufficient to mention three of the best known, and some extracts from their respective reports will be read with interest. THE METROPOLITAN ASSOCIATION FOR IMPROVING THE DWELLINGS OF THE INDUSTRIOUS CLASSES had, at the date of it last report, 13 buildings, accommodating 1,120 families, in such diverse regions of the town as Mile End, Penge, Mayfair, Pimlico Bermondsey, Old Pancras-road &c, and it is stated that in every instance the operations of the association have produced general improvement in the neighbourhood. Wisely recognising the undesirability of any stigma of charitable relief applying to their houses, the association goes on the principle of dividing among its shareholders a fair interest on the capital invested. This may be roughly stated at about 5 per cent. The balance of profit over 5 per cent, is carried to a guarantee fund. The tenants of the association are of a most miscellaneous kind, and there is no doubt that, to a very large extent, its benefits are really available for the classes whom it is intended to serve. The average rate of mortality in the buildings of the association has been 3 per 1,000 less than that of the whole of the metropolis — a sufficient testimony of itself to the character of the buildings. THE TRUSTEES OF THE PEABODY DONATION FUND started with sums given and bequeathed by Mr. Peabody, amounting in all to half a million of money. The added money received for rent and interest has brought this capital to the magnificent sum of (in round numbers) £700,000. The principle of this fund is to devote the profits gradually to the purchase of land and the erection of buildings. At the end of 1875 nearly £150,000 was in hand and available for these purposes. Up to the present time the trustees have provided for the artisan and labouring poor of London 5,170 rooms, exclusive of bath-rooms, laundries, and washhouses. These rooms comprise 2,348 separate dwellings, occupied by nearly 10,000 persons. It was for some time feared that the class of accommodation provided was somewhat too good, and consequently too expensive for the actual artisan and labouring classes. But the table showing the employ of the tenants, which is appended to the report for 1878 is reassuring on this head. Bricklayers, cabmen, charwomen, letter-carriers, messengers, needlewomen, police-constables, porters, &c., comprise large numbers of persons who can afford to pay but very moderate rentals. The average weekly earnings of the head of each family were £1 3s. 8d. The average rent of each dwelling was 4s. 4d. per week, and if it be considered that these rents are somewhat too high, it must be remembered that many of the dwellings comprise as many as three rooms, and that the free use of water, laundries, sculleries, and bath-rooms, is included. The cheapest lodgings are naturally in Shadwell, where the rents are, for one room, 2s. to 2s. 3d. ; two rooms, 3s. to 3s. 6d.; and three rooms, 4s. to 4s. 6d. In Southwark-street the charges for the same accommodation are respectively 3s., 4s. 3d. to 4s. 9d., and 5s. 3d. to 5s. 9d. The same average prevails in Pimlico, where there are also sets of four rooms at 7s. 6d. The death-rate of the Peabody Buildings is about 180 per 1,000 below the average of all London. THE ARTIZANS, LABOURERS, AND GENERAL DWELLINGS COMPANY—In the words of its prospectus, “this company was established for the erection of improved dwellings near to the great centres of industry, but free from the annoyances arising from the proximity of manufactures.” Large estates have been secured near Clapham Junction and the Harrow-road the former, called Shaftesbury-park, is now covered with about 1,150 houses whilst the partially developed Queen’s-park Estate, Harrow-road, contains nearly 800 houses. The estates have been laid out with every regard to the latest sanitary improvements. The Shaftesbury-park Estate is readily accessible from Kensington, Victoria, Waterloo, Ludgate-hill, and London-bridge, at low fares; while the Westbourne-park Station on the Metropolitan District and Great Western Railways, and the Kensal-green Station on the Hampstead Junction and North London Railway, and the new station on the London and North-Western main line, with a good service of omnibuses, make the Queen’s-park Estate at Harrow-road almost equally accessible. The sale of intoxicating liquor is altogether excluded. The company reserves the right to prohibit sub-letting, or to limit the number of lodgers. There is a co-operative store on the Shaftesbury-park Estate as well as a handsome hall for public gatherings and society meetings; and on both estates the School Board for London has provided ample school accommodation. The houses are divided into four classes, according to accommodation and position. The smallest – the fourth-class — contains five rooms on two floors. A third-class house has an additional bed-room. In the second-class house there is an extra parlour, making in all seven rooms; while a house of the first-class has eight rooms — a bath-room being the additional accommodation. The present weekly rental, which includes rates and taxes, except in the case of the first-class houses, is as follows: an ordinary fourth-class house, 7s. 6d.; third-class, 8s. 6d.; second-class, 10s. ; first-class, 10s. and 11s. The shops, corner houses, those with larger gardens than ordinary, and some other exceptional houses, are subject to special arrangements both as to rental and purchase. The company is also prepared to sell the houses on lease for 99 years, and on easy terms, subject to a moderate ground-rent; the object being to encourage the personal acquisition of the house by payment of a slightly increased rental. All applications to rent or purchase houses must be made in the first instance to the sub-managers on the estates, and all letters must contain a stamped envelope for reply.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

Peabody Dwellings, Spitalfields, 1863