1919 Housing Act ensured well built town homes throughout Doncaster borough

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Housing and Town Planning Act which was signed on July 31 1919.

By Nigel Booth
Wednesday, 07 August, 2019, 13:11
A 1930s postcard of Sandringham Road in Intake, showing the houses built by Doncaster Corporation

Also known as the Addison Act, after Christopher Addison MP, the Minister for Health in the Liberal Government, the 1919 Housing and Town Planning Act was one of the most important pieces of legislation passed in the 20th Century.

It established the means by which local authorities could access government loans and subsidies to build public housing to a high standard. Subsequently, most councils throughout the country were able to build new estates featuring low density blocks of good quality large houses, most with two or three bedrooms, a bathroom and inside toilet. The houses were laid out in new garden suburbs featuring geometric street plans with wide streets and cul-de-sacs, in direct contrast to the earlier rows of terraced housing arranged in parallel streets.

The Act was born out of the 1918 Tudor Walters Report, which was commissioned by the Government, and which featured house designs drawn up Sir Tudor Walters and Raymond Unwin. These architectural designs were then published in the 1919 Manual on the Preparation of State-aided Housing Schemes which was used as a ‘design guide’ and a copy of the manual was issued to all local authorities. Therefore, typical 1920s council housing, wherever it is in the country, all have notable similarities on account of this design guide. A typical 1920s council house cost around £400-£500 to build, and, as well as providing government loans towards the construction, the 1919 Housing Act also offered a subsidy of £6 per house per year, payable for a period of 20 years was made – a total subsidy of £120 per house.

Sir Tudor Walters, the ‘inventor of the council house’. He gave his name to Tudor Road in Intake, Tudor Street in Thurnscoe, Tudor Street in New Rossington and Tudor Road in Woodlands

Consequently, Doncaster Corporation, the Doncaster Rural District Council and the various newly formed Urban District Councils, for example Adwick-le-Street UDC and Bentley with Arksey UDC, built thousands of houses in the 1920s for the people of the town. Doncaster Corporation laid out new estates at Intake, Wheatley, Hyde Park and Balby whilst the Rural District Council built smaller numbers of houses in some of the surrounding mining villages. Of note is the progressive nature of the new smaller Urban District Councils. In 1914, Bentley with Arksey Urban District Council had already built an early scheme featuring 99 council houses laid out along Askern Road, Fisher Street and French Street and in 1922, they embarked on a scheme to provide 674 houses in Bentley and Arksey and the semi-detached property at the junction of Askern Road and Victoria Road still bears its 1922 date stone. It can be argued that the local authorities were rightly pleased with their achievements in the provision of new housing during the 1920s.

Back in 1912, an important conference had been held at Doncaster Mansion House to address what was believed to be a national shortage in affordable housing, words that are still topical today. At the conference, the delegates had criticised the ‘long monotonous rows of ugliness’ of Victorian terraced housing and sought to implement higher quality housing for the people of the town. Doncaster was perhaps uniquely situated in that as well as having a growing industrial centre where new housing was required, it was surrounded with a booming coalfield and in 1922 Sir Patrick Abercrombie and Thomas Johnson published the Doncaster Regional Planning Scheme in order to co-ordinate the development of the area. Therefore, Doncaster is an interesting case for students of town planning. Sir Tudor Walters, the author of the 1918 Report, was a colleague of Lord Aberconway and the Markham family, prominent colliery industrialists who were also looking to provide their own housing, but unlike the contemporary council housing which was available to anyone, the housing provided by the colliery companies was only available to miners and their families.

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As well as empowering local authorities to build new housing, the 1919 Act also permitted public utility societies to access state loans and subsides. Consequently, in 1920 Sir Tudor Walters formed the Bullcroft Housing Association, providing 200 houses for miners at Carcroft; Thurnscoe Housing Association which built 256 houses at Thurnscoe for miners at Hickleton Main Colliery, and Markham Garden Village Association, which built 52 houses out of a proposed 1,000 at Armthorpe for Markham Main Colliery. The Industrial Housing Association completed colliery housing at Armthorpe, Thurnscoe, Highfields, Woodlands, Carcroft and Skellow, as well as building 955 houses at New Rossington.

In 1922, Lord Aberconway invited Sir Tudor Walters to expand on these schemes by forming The Industrial Housing Association, who went on to construct 35 new mining villages throughout England and Wales. Locally, the Industrial Housing Association completed the colliery housing schemes at Armthorpe, Thurnscoe, Highfields, Woodlands, Carcroft and Skellow as well as building 955 houses at New Rossington. Other colliery companies formed arms-length public utility societies to access the same benefits – the Conisbrough Housing Association built 400 houses at Conanby, the Thorne Housing Association constructed the new mining village of Moorends, and the Hatfield Main Housing Association were active in Stainforth and Dunscroft.

A 1930s postcard of Victoria Road Bentley, featuring some of the 674 council houses built by Bentley-with-Arksey Urban District Council in the 1920s

Following the 1919 Housing Act, local authorities were able to continue to provide council housing until the 1979 General Election, which saw the introduction of a different set of priorities, including the controversial ‘right to buy’ policy, where tenants were able to buy their own council property at a reduced price. The National Coal Board disposed of all its colliery owned housing to local authorities and some of the council houses were sold off to absentee landlords whilst the remainder passed into the ownership of St Leger Homes – an organisation which now manages Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council’s 21,000 remaining council houses.

Due to a national shortage of bricks following the first world war, Doncaster Corporation built these council houses on St Peters Road in Balby from concrete blocks manufactured by a ‘Winget Moulded Concrete Block Machine’