Housing 02

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Housing 02

Post by Stanley »


From the very beginning, housing had been a DIY operation. If you wanted shelter you built it yourself wherever you could find a space. There was no element of planning, that's why an ancient site like Townhead at the bottom of Esp Lane is so higgledy piggledy! The only exception was that where a farm or larger house was built accommodation was provided in tied cottages for servants. The tenancy expired if the job was lost.
As economic activity increased, particularly the growth of the Domestic Textile Industry in this area, there was a demand for housing and for the first time we begin to see speculative building; capital holders investing their surplus money to build tightly packed small cottages for rent. In turn we see the rise of a new industry, the specialised house builder. This was followed by a further development when industry started to grow and the builders of the mills also built houses for their workers, again, these were tied cottages. Examples in Barlick are Wellhouse Square (Wellhouse Mill) and the terraces near Clough Mill. If you're wondering what happened to dispossessed tied cottage tenants, they either found a job, moved or in some cases squatted on the Waste, the town common land. I think that the old Tubber Hall is an example of this which survived. The Squatter's Hovel in Walmsgate is another example.
With the rise of the steam powered cotton industry, particularly after the Bracewell interests failed after 1885 and the formation of the Shed Companies letting out space with Room and Power, there was more money in circulation in the town and much of this went into building houses for occupation or rent. One development that we have good evidence for is the case where a well-off textile worker built a house for the family and a few others adjoining to rent and provide an income in old age. Very often these small improvements included a small shop as well, the birth of 'The Corner Shop'. The end three houses on Hill Street are a good example. By 1914 this investment of private capital had produced the shape of the town we see today and as the textile industry declined there was no more demand for housing and apart from a few private builds the period of rapid expansion in Barlick was over.
Notice that all the building I have described so far was a product of private capital The only 'social' element was the gradual rise of control by the town council to ensure rational development in the town. This was a result of the Public Health Act of 1875 which recognised the problems and gave power at local level to address them. This was also the driver for the rapid improvements in services such as mains water, sewage systems and gas lighting.
However, there was a problem. Due to speculative building, especially in the larger towns, the standard of worker's housing was dire and we first begin to see references to slums.


The corner shop on Hill Street.

503 words
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

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