Sunday, 25 July 2021

Henley Ladies Probus Club news

AT the September meeting, chairman Anne Duffy welcomed our speaker Martin Stilwell, whose subject was “Housing the Workers in London,

AT the September meeting, chairman Anne Duffy welcomed our speaker Martin Stilwell, whose subject was “Housing the Workers in London, the Birth of Social Housing in 1880-1914 to the Present Day”. It was a very well-informed talk.

Mr Stilwell has a master’s degree from Kingston University which has given him expertise in early local authority housing, what we now call council housing.

He explained in detail how many of our ancestors would have had some experience of the conditions that led to its formation.

He began by saying that Krakatoa caused weather conditions that led to immigration thoughout the world.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Huguenots and Germans needed to get away from their countries on religious grounds.

Mr Stilwell told us what it was like to be working class living in tenements in suburbs such as Lambeth in London.

The Government of the time took the attitude that people perhaps did not work hard enough to earn money. There was no social security, pensions or sick pay until the 1900s and no government interest.

Eventually some of London’s philanthropists decided to do something about the housing situation.

They included George Peabody, an American banker, Sydney Waterlow, who gave his estate to London County Council, and James Hartnell, a property developer. An Act of Parliament was passed to allow the developers a profit of five per cent per annum on the housing they were to knock down and rebuild.

Mr Stilwell showed photographs of the early housing and the replacement housing, some of which is still standing today.

A lack of builders meant delays for new housing and many people had to move into slum areas while waiting for new homes.

Charles Booth walked around with policemen to write about conditions and people in areas such as Bethnal Green, nicknamed “the Old Nichol”.

In 1889, boroughs were formed and cities such as Liverpool and Glasgow copied London in forming garden estates.

After the Second World War regulations were passed that meant apartment blocks could only be five storeys high and rooms a certain size and only a certain number of people were allowed in each apartment. London County Council standards were brought in in 1933.

We were shown examples of homes including Cromwell Buildings in Southwark and the Prince Albert model houses in Kennington, which are still standing.

Once trams started traveling to the suburbs it meant garden estates could be built in areas outside London such as Tooting.

We were shown a photo of Queen Mary of Teck and King George VI travelling on a tram to visit the Old Oak estate in Hammersmith.

Then came the Sixties when high-rise blocks of flats started to be built.

Henley Ladies Probus Club meets in the morning on the second Thursday of each month.

The next meeting will be on October 10 when the speaker will be Tony King, talking about “Shadows on the Wall”. For more information, call Marion Whitaker on (01491) 628629.

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