Monthly Archives: February 2022

20th century Housing History of the Humberside region 18.

(s.p.b.s) The political divide over the issue of house building from the public purse was exampled when the central government’s Local Government Board refused to accept the point made by Skirlaugh Rural District Council that ‘Scarcity will be appreciably relieved by the erection of cottages by private enterprise’. This prompted Skirlaugh R.D.C. to carry-out a housing survey the results of which were that of the 245 houses surveyed (a sample) 65% were found to be very unsatisfactory. The usual criteria used in assessing the satisfactoriness of a house were (a)that there was overcrowding in the rooms, and (b)that the condition of the house was such that it was nearly ‘unfit for human occupation’. The criteria for assessing overcrowding usually related to bedroom accommodation, especially where children and young adults of both sexes had to sleep in the same room and/or with parents. Such situations were considered to deprive young people of moral propriety leading to moral impropriety in the future.
So change was imminent, but then the Great War came along and priorities changed. That said, in 1917 (long before the British Army began to reverse the great German ‘push’ of spring 1918) the Local Government Board issued letters to county councils asking for statements on housing needs. This was followed-up by a letter in the spring of 1918 stating that central government would make good 75% of the local authority’s house building deficit after the building of houses for the working classes. House building was clearly to be at the forefront of a new post-war era of social reform.
However, the East Riding County Council took a rather perverse interpretation of this upsurge by deciding to build new cottages for some of its employees such as teachers, policemen and roadmen, thus, in theory freeing-up cottages that these people had previously lived in for other tenants (this sometimes known as the ‘filtering down’ theory. But was this providing working class housing?
(to be continued – but my laptop now needs a new fan so will not get it back ’till next week).

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 17.

Rural district councils were slower to adopt building by-laws than their urban counterparts. However, most did employ full-time medical officers of health and inspectors of nuisance so that some comments on very poor housing might reach the ears of the elected through their annual or monthly reports. Furthermore, there were 24 sanitary inspectors employed in the East Riding by 1903, this including those in Hull. In other words, housing was provided by the ‘market’, this without government involvement.
Further legislation in the years that were to lead-up to the Great War edged rural local governments towards the possibility of government involvement in the provision of working class housing (this both by the Conservative government up to 1905 and by the Liberal government 1905-1914). Workers such as sanitary inspectors, medical officers and inspectors of nuisance could recommend to the County Medical Officer of Health that particular cottages be labelled as ‘unfit for human occupation’, although the problem here was that to do so would make the existing tenant and family homeless without any provision for their alternative accommodation. Over the winter of 1913-1914 the County Medical Officer of Health for the east Riding wrote that ‘Wherever I go I hear the same story of young married couples having to live with their parents because there are no houses to be had anywhere or else leave the district and migrate to the towns’, and in the Skirlaugh Rural Sanitary district a shortfall of two to three houses per parish was deemed usual.
All statistics compiled by local authorities had to then be sent to the Local Government Board, an important national government department. On the eve of the Great War the L.G,B. required that the Skirlaugh Rural District should erect some three-bedroomed houses in 10 parishes, these including Seaton and Wassand (a ‘closed’ parish, Brandesburton and Skirlaugh (‘open’ parishes). So the moment had come, even in conservative rural areas, for local authorities to get involved in house building.

20th century Housing History of the Holderness Region 16.

The housing history of Holderness in the 20th century follows trends in rural areas that impacted in similar areas across the country. In 1900 rural workers housing was broadly of two types – estate cottages , that is cottages built at the expense of the principal landowner in a parish and in a style that met with his approval, and – speculative cottages built in ‘open villages’ where the pattern of land ownership was much more varied and where cottages might be built by a local builder or built for a private landlord with some capital by a local builder. In either case the cottages were lived-in by tenants and rents could vary considerably depending on local circumstances. The freedom to exercise commercial speculation in ‘open villages’ resulted in them usually having a larger population than ‘closed’ or estate villages and as, despite the agricultural depression of the late 19th century, much farmwork was still labour intensive farm workers from open villages often ‘commuted’, usually on foot. In 1900 there were no council houses in rural East Yorkshire or, to the best of my knowledge, in north Lindsey.
Housing reform was perceived as one aspect of the great ‘public health reform’ debate of Victorian England and by 1900 two aspects of worker’s housing in rural areas were seen as critical – poor quality housing and insufficient housing, both seen as factors which had led to the migration of working class people from rural to urban areas.
The first landmark national legislation to try and tackle these problems was the 1890 Housing of the Working Classes Act. The Act applied to rural sanitary districts and, although adoptive, gave rural district councils the option to provide ‘accommodation for the housing of the working classes’. My M.Phil. thesis dealt with this issue with Skirlaugh Rural District Council as one of two case studies, in particular for this current line of thought Chapter 3 – see this on page three of this website.

20th century Housing History of the Humberside Region 15.

Today’s photo. shows Rowley church as viewed from the south-east. Rowley church stands alongside the early Georgian rectory, this now a hotel and tearoom. The five bay original house faces south, the east wing was a late 18th century addition and on a clear day standing at the french windows of this east wing there is a fine view across Hull in the middle distance and of the lower Humber beyond.
Pevsner describes the church as ‘stone built’, a rather open-ended phrase. Certainly, apart from the west tower, the church is built of limestone, coursed ashlar blocks, although Rowley stands on the chalk Wolds this building stone may well have come from quarries in the North Cave/Newbald area (apparently this walling was cement rendered in the 19th century, this not removed until the 1980s).
Humberside is usually portrayed as a region poor in local building stone but this is not really the case. In Holderness, or at least east Holderness, the local vernacular building ‘material’ was cobble, stones from the beach worn smooth by marine abrasion, usually roughly coursed and set in a thick sturdy mortar (cobble walling can be found as far west as Paull church), this an example of how the strength of a wall is as much to do with the mortar as the stone.
So Holderness had no ‘natural’ building stone, but what was available was used to create ‘vernacular’ walling. A heavy dependence on the mortar to create secure walling relied on a considerable supply of lime, again, not available locally but a likely source would have been the whiting works/quarry at Hessle.
Timber-framed buildings in Holderness would have been few and far between as most of the area’s natural woodland had been felled by the late Middle Ages, if not before.
Of course in the 20th century brick had already become the main building medium in Holderness, this increasingly from national, rather than local, sources of supply.
(to be continued)

20th century Housing History of the Humberside Region 14.

Today’s picture is an early 20th century (exact date uncertain) black and white photo. of the rooftops of Barton as taken from the top of the tower of St. Peter’s church. As such it shows the terrace of five cottages previously discussed and demolished in 1957. The ‘row’ is upper centre of the photo. with four chimney stacks and with a steeply pitched roof. Beyond the communal back yard can be seen one corner of the chantry house (s.p.b.) and a back door opening onto the churchyard of St. Mary’s church. Except for a shared chimney stack, sight of the semis that survive (see previous photo) is blocked by the terrace of four cottages facing east, which must also have been subsequently demolished. On that bend of Soutergate are now three pairs of semis with back gardens up to the churchyard wall of St. Mary’s.
Terraces came to be the most common housing type built to accomodate working-class families in expanding industrial towns. Although, of course, it was possible to build a terrace with stone walls certainly in eastern England the ability to build terraces relied on a ready supply of bricks as the principal building material. A glance across the photo. above will show that Barton was a case-in-point. Documentary evidence across the region shows that such an increase in a town’s population was largely a result of regional migration, usually from villages where agriculture was the principal occupation category. So what drew these people to the industrial towns?, higher wages?, housing provision?, regular employment?, these issues have been studied nationally by many, suffice to record that by the national census of 1851 the returns showed the unprecedented fact that half of England’s population now lived in towns. Ironically, labourers leaving the villages for the towns found themselves in cramped terrace accomodation, having left timber-frame wattle and daub cottages that were at least detached – neighbours the other side of a single-brick wall!!

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 13.

Following on from yesterday’s blog the photo. above shows the gable end wall of the two cottages on yesterday’s plan on the right and which still stand, the wall showing the outline of the end of the five adjoining cottages demolished in 1957. This shows that the five cottages opened onto the street/pavement (as do the surviving two) and that given their width they were probably two-up-two-down albeit with very small rooms. On the right is the pair of semis built in the late 1950s on the site of the five demolished, these with small front gardens (this not a common feature of earlier cottages built in Barton). The plans prepared ahead of demolition do not give details of internal arrangements or fixtures and fittings but they do give information on some external features, see yesterday’s plan. Each of the five cottages shared a communal back yard and each had an earth closet at the back of the yard while one only had a shed. At the back of the yard was a passage which enabled ‘night-soil’ collection to take place, there presumably being at least one rear gate.
The rectangular plot behind the passage is interesting, although not entirely relevant here. Here was the site of a partly stone-built building which had centuries before either been the site of a chantry, with altar, piscina etc, or had been the home of a chantry priest who served a chantry within St. Mary’s church, the churchyard of which abutted the ‘chantry house’. As seen in yesterday’s plan the access lane has retained the name Chantry Lane. Chantries were abolished in the reign of Edward VI and this ex-chantry house had served various functions over the years. Probably then in a derelict state, it was demolished along with the five cottages – brave new world.
(to be continued)