Monthly Archives: March 2022

20th century Housing History of the Humberside Area 25.

Firstly, just a brief addition to blog 24. The building which Skirlaugh Rural District Council was converting to flats in the late 1920s survives still and has now for many years been local council offices. This unprepossessing building has had a fascinating history with its various internal arrangements being changed to suite changes nationally as well as locally. It remains sited at the very northern end of the village.
The 1930s was a decade when for most rural areas a combination of positive legislation and experience gained from the stop-start schemes of the 1920s resulted in a considerable increase in rural council housing provision. That said, Skirlaugh R.D.C. continued to resist embarking on schemes of public building between 1930 and 1935, and only after amalgamation with Patrington R.D.C. in 1935 was progress made. Between 1930 and 1935 Skirlaugh’s medical officer of health had wanted a council building scheme to enable ‘filtering up’, whereas the sanitary inspector favoured repair of the existing housing stock. Then, as now, it was argued that renovation cost more than replacement, so stagnation followed.
In 1931 Skirlaugh’s housing inspector, as required by the terms of the 1930 Housing Act, carried out a parish-by-parish housing survey to determine the volume of ‘unfit’ housing and overcrowded properties. In 1933 the R.D.C. dragged its heels over the preparation of a five-year-plan of slum clearance and replacement building, despite being put on-the-spot by a visiting Ministry inspector.
By the summer of 1936 schemes were developing across the East Riding to replace unfit housing and abate overcrowding, this latter being the main thrust of the 1935 Housing Act. In the Holderness Rural District Council, the new name for the amalgamated Skirlaugh and Patrington R.D.C.s, area a further housing survey revealed 49 houses as ‘unfit’, 78 as ‘possibly overcrowded’ and 13 as ‘definitely overcrowded’.
The autumn of 1937 was a remarkable time in the old Skirlaugh R.D.C. area for after years of prevarication the area was on the verge of a comprehensive scheme of council house building.
(to be continued).

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 24.

Just as the East Riding County Council’s Reconstruction Committee decided on an unusual response to the Addison Housing Act (s.p.b.s), so too did Skirlaugh Rural District Council. The former’s 1920 housing scheme resulted in the building of 12 houses for rural policemen (six as semis), 12 houses for teachers in village schools, two houses for roadmen, two for school attendance officers and one for a school cleaner. Just an aside – in the 1950s it was common to belittle the job of roadman, ‘if you don’t get on at school you’ll just end-up as a roadman’. In fact earlier in the century being a roadman had been a good job to get, this, I suppose, linking to the development of metalled roads and road classifications.
Skirlaugh’s response to the same act was to concentrate on the conversion of the building that had been the workhouse for South Holderness and to divide it into, initially, seven ‘cottages’ (the primary sources don’t make it clear whether these were two-storey units each with an external front door or what today we would call flats). However, this was a disappointing response for the region as a whole as Skirlaugh R.D.C.’s 1917 returns of housing needs had stated that 180 more working class homes were needed across south Holderness. Indeed, in 1921 the medical officer of health for the Skirlaugh R.D.C. stated that he could not declare houses ‘unfit for human occupation’ as there was a shortage of alternative affordable accommodation.
One area of controversy at local authority level was whether local ‘rates’ (predecessor of council tax) should be increased for all to pay for housing for the few. In fact Chamberlain’s Housing Act (s.p.b.s) stated that no local authority was to do this, thus putting a further break on progress.
Meanwhile another four ‘cottages’ were created in Skirlaugh at the ex-workhouse (more on this next time).

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 23.

Of course I am not an expert on the housing history of every location across the Humberside Region but, over time, I have self-taught enough to be able to talk about housing in areas from an amateur, but informed perspective. As seen from page three of this website I have researched and written in detail about early rural areas council housing and 19th century housing analysis across a complete community. As with everything I write about, I am as keen to set a broad context for the topic under study as to recount ‘101 details’.
With housing the context, certainly in the 20th century, is to do with government legislation and local authority’s responses to the legislation. Also, of course, there are contextual issues such as fashion in building styles, availability and cost of building materials (which itself is often determined by national circumstances), availability of land for building (this related to the modern planning departments, a factor only in evidence in the last 150 years) and the extent of funds available to prospective buyers or tenants. Since the 1980s housing, as a factor in the landscape, has been almost totally market driven, unlike before. The government’s harping-on about ‘affordable housing’ as a compulsory element in planning applications results in only a fraction of the new housing being built to this standard and, as far as I can see, gets no mention in many planning applications for house building.
Also other things are happening in the housing market that don’t bode well for the future. One of these is the volume of applications to convert generally older, larger houses for conversion to ‘houses in multiple occupation’, these much like student houses. Astonishingly, government guidelines advise that no more than 50% of houses in a given street be so converted, a ridiculously high maximum proportion.
(to be continued)

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 22.

Inter-war speculative housing, that is built as a commercial project either to sell and realise a profit on costs or to rent to realise a long-term profit from rentals was the most numerous type of housing built between the wars. Such housing swelled the suburbs, added to the housing stock of villages and studded the ribbon development extending alongside arterial roads leading to/from settlements. This category encompassed a wide variety of house styles from mansions in their grounds to relatively modest terraced properties with some garden space and usually with at least a ground floor bay window. Such speculative built housing might be architect designed or of a copy-book design familiar to the builder employed, with the mock-Tudor style being much in vogue. The dimensions of these houses and that of their rooms and facilities did not allow them to qualify for a subsidy. Clearly in such a wide category of housing the quality of the finished product could vary greatly, this depending on a range of factors but particularly the standards of the building contractor employed and the quality of the building materials employed. Typically, these sort of houses are the ones for which it is said ‘I bought this house in the 1930s for £2,000 and now it is worth £200,000’.
Inter-War subsidy houses were often, but not exclusively, built as terraced houses of modest dimensions (this varying with the varying requirements of successive governments, s.p.b.s) and if incorporating a bay window at all these were usually shallow and right-angled. Deeds were not required to state whether, or not, a property was a subsidy house so defining such today is usually an educated guess.
Having this afternoon had a ride out to Hornsea, partly to see the spring-tide crash against the sea defences as well as walk the dog on the beach (before the flow tide reached the sea defences) a nice little example of inter-War speculative ribbon development is going into/out of Seaton, here being a succession of detached bungalows, the 1930s being the coming of age for bungalow living.

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 21.

Following Chamberlain’s Housing Act of 1923 (s.p.b.), Wheatley’s Act of the following year increased housing subsidies to local authorities to build working class housing which would rent at between £6 and £9 per week, the period for which the subsidy would be paid being increased to 40 years. Even though this was passed by the minority Labour government of Ramsey MacDonald it resulted in the building of half a million inter-war council homes. In 1925 Baldwin’s second Conservative government reduced the subsidy, reduced the maximum size of house eligible and reduced the requirement for a fixed bath to be installed. Greenwood’s Housing Act of 1930, during the tenure of Ramsey MacDonald’s second Labour administration, again increased house-building subsidies but this time the focus was to build houses specifically for families having to leave houses earmarked for slum clearance and, crucially, the new houses had to be built before the other houses were demolished. This was also the Housing Act that first allocated government subsidies to build small homes for the elderly (pensioner’s bungalows or flats). Incidentally, Greenwood Avenue in Hull is named after this government minister, although the plan for him to personally officially ‘open’ North Hull Estate had to be shelved at the last minute.
In a similar vein to the 1930 Act, the 1935 Housing Act allocated new council housing for families defined as currently living in overcrowded accommodation (s.p.b.s).
Inter-war council housing generally is not too difficult to distinguish from post-war council housing, the roofs usually built to a hip-roof style (rather than to the gable ends) and the proportions of the rooms, and house generally, were smaller than 1950s houses. Nevertheless, the norm was for inter-war council and subsidy houses to have both a small front garden and rear garden. It has been noted that some modern housing estates have almost the same dimensions and much less garden space than these inter-war houses, the 21st century homes often selling for around £200,000!

20th century Housing History for the Humberside Region 20.

The aim of the post-war National Government was to build 1 million new homes in three years, ‘homes fit for heroes’. In fact this particular ambition was not achieved but across the generation between the Wars over one million new houses were built in Britain. This was a huge increase in the country’s housing stock and each of these new houses fell into one of three categories; private speculative housing, private subsidy housing and council housing. By the Addison Act (s.p.b.) the government donated large amounts of the national wealth to encourage building of homes for the working classes, this done by a generous subsidy system. New houses in the category of private speculative housing did not qualify for these although many such were built (see the current posts by the Cottingham Local History Society on Facebook). These houses were built to rent at rental levels beyond the pocket of working families or to sell to buyers taking advantage of the burgeoning building societies.
To regulate which properties were eligible for the government subsidy the relevant legislation stated the maximum room sizes which could qualify, anything beyond these dimensions didn’t qualify. Local authorities were required to conduct regular housing surveys, usually devolved to parish or district councils, and then compile a building programme to be sent to the regional housing commissioner (s.p.b.) to scrutinise. Subsidies were paid to the builder or local authority on completion of the properties.
However, as previously stated, political change brought change to this system. Firstly, by Chamberlain’s Housing Act (Conservative), 1923, and following the inflationary pressures of the early 1920s, eligible property sizes were reduced with builders or local authorities getting £75 from the government for each house built, or £120 but spread over six annual payments. The issue of local rates going up to help pay for such housing was also controversial and the 1923 Act stated that local rates were not to be increased to subsidise house building for the working classes.
(to be continued)