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The Rushden Echo, 14th February/25th April/23rd May, 1913, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Housing Problem at Rushden
Local Government Board Inquiry - Is There A Demand For Houses?
Labour Councillors Say That 100 Cottages Are Required
Builders and the Bye-Laws - The Shortage of Money

Mr. Courtenay Clifton, M.Inst.C.E., held a Local Government Board inquiry in the Council Buildings, Rushden, on Monday evening, with regard to a complaint made by four householders, under the Housing and Town Planning Act, to the effect that the Rushden Urban Council had failed to exercise their powers under Part II of the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890 in a case where those powers ought to have been exercised. Nearly all the members of the Urban Council were present, besides a number of townsmen.

Mr. G. S. Mason (Clerk of the Urban Council) read the notice calling the inquiry, and gave the usual statistics. Messrs. W. Bazeley, C. Bates, J. Spencer, and E. Freeman represented the complainants. Dr. Morris (Medical Officer for Rushden) was present, with the Surveyor and Sanitary Inspector.

Complainants’ Case

Mr. W. Bazeley, opening the case for complainants, said : We have taken this action owing to the great demand there is for houses in Rushden. Speaking in the two-fold capacity of a member of the Urban Council and the Secretary of the local branch of the Boot Operatives’ Union, I am continually being asked for houses in Rushden by the workers – married men who work here and have to live miles away because they cannot get houses in Rushden. In Rushden there are a large number of people of marriageable age who are prevented from being married owing to the lack of houses in Rushden. A man with a large family has no chance at all of getting a house here. We have in Rushden cottages rented up to 4/0 a week, 229; 4/3 a week, 134. We can only describe a large number of these houses as brick boxes with slate lids, or stone boxes with thatched lids, but still, this undesirable property is let, and the tenants cannot move into better houses because there are no houses for them. Our Medical Officer, in 1910, referred to the want of houses for the working classes, and he reports that some of the property is

Unfit For Human Habitation.

The Medical Officer, in giving this report, was asked why more of these houses were not condemned, his reply being, “Where are these poor people to go if the houses are condemned?” In 1911 he reported that defects were found to exist in many houses in one street he named. The complainants say that it is very difficult for the Sanitary Inspector and the Medical Officer to carry out their duties satisfactorily at the present time. Last Wednesday cases of overcrowding were reported but there was a difficulty experienced in dealing with them owing to the lack of accommodation. In 1912 there were 57 cases of consumption notified in Rushden, and two or three fresh cases were reported last month, and we consider this overcrowding and unsuitable housing accommodation increases the rate of sickness and breeds disease and other evils. We object to the latter part of the letter which the Clerk of the Council sent to the Local Government Board – the statement that the Council were doing all they possibly could for the health and comfort of the inhabitants of Rushden. We contend that our Council has not moved as it ought to have done with regard to this matter. Nine out of the 12 members of the Council are property owners and builders, and we contend that they do not give an unbiased opinion on this matter. For a long time past the builders have complained of

The High Rates

and the building bye-laws as preventing private enterprise. If that is so, we say that every encouragement should be given to the local authority to provide for the wants of the workers. Good cottages could be provided for the workers, with plenty of air space, at rentals which would meet the means and requirements of the people, and the scheme would be self-supporting and meet the three charges of rent, repairs, and rates and taxes. Municipal authorities in other parts of the country have carried out the Act and it has been self-supporting. There is plenty of building land in all parts of Rushden, and the cost of materials and labour make it so that no town could undertake a municipal housing scheme under more favourable auspices. Mr. Bazeley quoted Coventry and Thetford as places where municipal houses had been erected, and said that cases appeared in the municipal papers every week. At Coventry the houses cost £200 each and let at 5/9 a week, which covered all, the houses being no charge on the rates. These municipal; houses gave

Better Accommodation

for the money than was the case here, each house being provided with a bath, if not with a bath-room.

In answer to the Inspector, Mr. Bazeley said that people working at Rushden lived at Irchester, Irthlingborough, Wellingborough, and many villages around. Some of the workers cycled as much as ten miles night and morning.

Mr. John Spencer : There are 150 people living in Irchester alone who work in Rushden.

Mr. Bazeley, answering the Inspector, said : The wages minimum is 29/0 a week, for clickers, lasters, and finishers; sole cutters, 28/0; rough-stuff men, 26/0. Some earn more than the minimum, and some considerably less. There are many labourers whose wages are from 12/0 to 18/0 a week. A good many women are employed in the factories, about one-fourth the number of men. Many of the cottages in Rushden let at 5/9 a week. They were 5/7, but owing to the scarcity of cottages they have gone up to 5/9, the highest price at which the landlords can compound. The class of cottage which we say is wanted should let at 5/6 or 5/9 a week. There should be some at 4/0 and week for those whose wages would not allow them to pay more. I say that

100 Cottages

would let easily. I should say that 100 are quite necessary at the present time. There should be 40 at 4/0 a week and 60 at about 5/9. There should be three bedrooms provided.

The Inspector : Do you consider a parlour is necessary?

Mr. Baseley : It would be appreciated, but at Coventry they have done away with the parlour, and instead have a large room with a kitchen range, which struck me as very much better than a front room which is not very much used as a rule.

The Inspector : Are there any vacant houses in the town?

Mr. Bazeley : There are one or two, but you cannot call them houses. No decent cottage is to let. All the property-owners here could bear me out in that.

Mr. Bates : At the present time there are three cottages to let – one at 3/0, one at 2/6, and one at 2/10.

Mr. Bazeley : Two or three years ago a sub-committee was appointed to go into the question of whether there was a demand for houses and they reported that there was no more demand than private enterprise could meet. But private enterprise has not done it. About 29 houses have been built in four years. Of late there has scarcely been any building done.

The Inspector : Is building land easily obtained?

Mr. Bazeley : Yes, there is

Building Land

in the market in every direction, at reasonable prices.

Mr. W. Rowthorn : In nearly every street in the town there is land available.

Mr. John Spencer : I have had 30 years’ connection with Rushden and at no time in the history of the town has there been so great a demand for houses as at the present time. I have got a few cases taken at random. Mr. Spencer then gave 16 instances of men requiring houses and unable to get them, and he added that many more cases might be given. Proceeding he said : It seems hard that people who work in the town cannot get houses in the town. One applicant said to me that an agent told him he could let 50 houses if he had them available. In one case a young couple just married had to take and pay rent for a house eight weeks before they were married; in another case seven weeks; and in a third case, in which they are to be married at Easter, they are now paying rent. Other workers, because of their growing families, want to move into larger houses, but there are no larger houses to be obtained. With regard to the situation of houses, many respectable workers will not live in some localities at any price. Others have to live in localities which they do not like at all. Better workers want to live in what they call respectable neighbourhoods. I differ from the letter sent by the Council’s clerk to the Local Government Board; first, because it was never submitted to the Council for discussion before it was sent. Some of us would have been prepared to move an alteration. The first part of the letter says “there is a slight demand for houses.” The work “slight” I should have moved to substitute the work “great.” Secondly, with regard to that part of the letter referring to the

Irrecoverable Arrears,

all classes of property was put under that head. That was unfair, because it included vacant factories and shops. The separate figures for cottages and for other property should have been given. We contend that the lack of houses is an injury to the town, an injustice to the tenants, an injury to the builders, and detrimental to the town at large. Last year only five houses were built and five were condemned. We have waited a long period to see if private enterprise would take the matter up, and private enterprise has failed.

Cross-examined by Mr. G. S. Mason, Mr. Spencer said : My complaint is that the reply to the Local Government Board was never submitted to the full Council for discussion.

Mr. Mason : But was it not put to the two committees comprising the whole of the members of the Council?

Mr. Spencer : I was not able to attend the committee meeting. The business should have been brought before the full Council.

Mr. Mason : Can you give me the name of the agent who said he could let 50 houses?

Mr. Spencer : No, I did not think you would ask for it, but I can get it and send it to the chairman of the Council and the Inspector.

Mr. Mason : During the year ending March 31, 1908, there were 205 cottages empty in some part of the year. They were empty for a period totalling 553 months. That averaged 10 weeks for each of the 205 cottages being empty. Do not you think people, remembering that, would be careful about building when trade became good?

Mr. Spencer : There was

Stagnation of Trade

throughout the country; Rushden did not suffer more than any other place. It is probable that the period referred to was during the re-construction of one of the largest firms in the town, employing 900 people.

Mr. Mason : During the year ended March 31, 1909, there were 155 houses empty for a total of 412 months, an average of 10 weeks each; 1910, 110 houses empty, a total of 218 months, an average of 8 weeks each; 1911, 55 houses empty, 100 months, an average of 7 weeks and 2 days each; 1912, 57 houses empty for 134 months, average 9 weeks each.

Mr. T. Swindall (to Mr. Spencer) : Is it not true that for the past 25 years people have been coming backwards and forwards from Irchester, Raunds, Wellingborough, and other places, and could they not have procured houses in Rushden in that time if they wished?

Mr. Spencer : There is a greater number now from Irchester than ever before.

Mr. L. Baxter, the next witness, said : I am a house agent in a small way, looking after about 20 cottages. There was a rumour that I should have a house to let after Easter at 6/6 a week. I had one application for it last Christmas, and since then I have had over three dozen applications for it. One night three applicants came within ten minutes. Other people have been to the tenant and asked him if he could use his influence to get them the house.

The Inspector : Could you give an estimate as to how many houses would be taken up?

Mr. Baxter : I think

50 Houses

would let in a week’s time, putting it at the lowest.

The Inspector : At what rents?

Mr. Baxter : About 5/7 or 5/9, but I don’t think 50 would meet the demand.

Mr. J. W. Crouch also gave evidence. He said : I have been living in property in High-street which was condemned by the Council. It was condemned last September and I was not able to get a fresh place until January 30 this year, although in the meantime we applied for at least 50 houses. There are half-a-dozen agents here to-night to whom I made application. I am now in rooms.

Mr. C. Bates : I have here some names of people who want houses. Many people working in the factories ask me if I know of a house to let.

In answer to the Inspector, Mr. Bates said : I don’t think I should modify the estimate of 100 houses being required, even though two failures have taken place since then, because a large number of young married people now have to take rooms because they cannot get houses. Since October there have been 30 marriages, and many of the young couples cannot get homes. Since October two more firms have been started. We believe trade will be as good this year as last, if not better.

The Inspector : Is trade here fluctuating?

Mr. Bates : Trade has certainly fluctuated, but during the last 2 ½ years we have had very good trade and there is every prospect that it will still continue.

The Inspector : Do you think the cottages should be built at a charge on the rates?

Mr. Bates : It might be some little charge

On The Rates

but I do not think it would.

The Inspector : During the 60 years of the repayment of the loan would not the fluctuations in trade cause some of the Council’s houses to be empty?

Mr. Bates : I don’t think so, because some of the houses in which people are now living should be condemned.

Mr. E. Freeman : An agent told me a week ago that he could easily let 100 houses.

The Inspector : I am rather doubtful yet about these 100 houses being required.

Mr. Spencer : Our witnesses are all working men; we have not the benefit of a solicitor the same as the Council have.

Mr. Swindall : Our clerk is speaking for the majority of the Council. There was a majority of 9 to 3.

The Inspector : You must have known it was necessary to call some direct evidence in support of your statements.

Mr. Bates : I asked some men to come and give evidence and they said “We have got houses now, but we might be turned out if we speak.” One of the men is here to-night, but I advised him not to say anything lest he should be turned out of his house.

This was the case for the complainants.

The Council’s Case

Mr. G. S. Mason : Our friends have not produced one single witness desiring a house. They have only called one house agent and he is agent for 20 houses only. He estimates the total number of houses required as being 50 and he says that if they were built it would empty some others. I should like to publicly state that the reason why the Council, though not opposed to house building, are not at the present moment inclined to build, is because only a short time since there were so many empty houses in the town. Because of good trade there is a demand now slightly in excess of the supply, but there is no knowing how long it will last. The fluctuations in the boot trade are very great indeed. We have had good trade for the past 2 ½ years, but that is no reason why it should continue. Past experience proves that we get fluctuations. In 1861 there were 381 houses in Rushden; in 1871, 449; 1881, 723; now there are 2,863. So that 2,100 houses have been built within the last 30 years. Practically the town is

A New Town

of new and good houses, built under the model bye-laws of the Local Government Board. I am not saying there are no old houses in the town, but the Council are doing all they can to make the houses decent and comfortable. The great majority of houses are of modern construction, and there can be no slum property in the town to any large extent. In 1911 the population was 13,354, and there were 2,863 houses, so there could not be any overcrowding, except in individual cases, as there are in every town. Then there is the financial question. For 20 years the Council have been at work and they have not studied finance where the health and welfare of the town has been concerned. They have had practically to make a new place. They have made new roads, spent £16,000 in drainage works, £2,500 in Council offices, built a fire station and provided engines, erected with the help of Mr. Carnegie a free library, are now extending the sewage disposal works at a cost of £13,000, and have just bought a recreation ground. A few years ago they formed a Water Board with Higham Ferrers and spent £103,000 in providing a water supply. We have done and are doing practically everything which is necessary for a well-governed town, and we congratulate ourselves on having done it.

Mr. T. W. C. Linnit : I am a house agent and collect rents for 50 houses each week. Three or four years ago there were a great number of empty houses in Rushden; since then it has been improving. I cannot understand that there is such a demand for houses in Rushden. I have

Only One Application

on my books at the present time, and they would leave one house for another.

The Inspector : Do you know of any vacant houses?

Mr. Linnitt : No. When Mr. Bates spoke about people being dragged up in cottages I thought of some people who have dragged cottages down.

The Inspector : Do you think there is any need for the Council to take action?

Mr. Linnitt : No.

The Inspector : Has private enterprise met the demand?

Mr. Linnitt : Probably not now. Perhaps 20 houses might be let, but I think ten of them would come out of other houses, which would therefore be to let. If trade came down we should have empty houses again.

Mr. T. Wilmott, builder, asked by Mr. Mason if he would give evidence, said that if the Council on Wednesday night passed plans for 14 houses, now before them, he would proceed straightaway with them.

Mr. Mason : I ask that to show that now there is a demand for houses, private enterprise will meet it.

Mr. Wilmott : If we could get a little relief from

The Bye-Laws

I think building would go on again. I built houses fast enough when I could sell them, but I remember when there were so many houses empty three years ago. I do not see any great demand myself, or else I should build some. Only five miles away they build houses much cheaper than we can do, because of the bye-laws. I think the bye-laws should be modified. Building materials have gone up 20 per cent. in the last few years. I think the by-law demanding nine inch party walls right up to the roof and for the out buildings might be altered to 4 ½ inch walls. I am not suggesting 4 ½ inch walls between the main buildings. The high rates stop us building now; there is no margin left.

In answer to Mr. Bazeley, Mr. Wilmott said : It is about five years since I built any cottage property. There were about 200 empty cottages at that time.

Mr. T. Swindall, a member of the Urban Council and a builder, said : The real cause of people not speculating is because rents are not sufficient. Wages have gone up and the price of commodities has risen, but rents have not gone up in proportion. If rents went up we should get more buyers, and builders would build as a speculation. I agree entirely with the bye-laws. I cannot see where we can modify them to any extent to enable builders to build with advantage.

Mr. Bates argued that rents had been going up all the time.

Mr. J. T. Colson : It would not be fair to the people who built according to the bye-laws in the past to modify them now. It would bring

Jerry-Built Property

into competition with the better-built houses.

Mr. Wilmott : If you have built during the past 20 years you got an advantage by having building materials cheaper.

The Inspector (to Mr. Colson) : Do you consider more houses are needed in Rushden?

Mr. Colson : Possibly some houses would be taken if built. If the Council built 20 cottages they would be occupied straight away, but the people would come from houses they now occupy. People working at Rushden lived at Raunds even when there were plenty of houses to let in Rushden. The rents at Raunds are lower. The real reason why houses are not being built now in Rushden is because the speculators cannot get money on mortgage as they used to do. With money plentiful at a low rate of interest some of us would have had more houses. That is the real reason for the shortage of houses in Rushden.

Mr. Bates : If the builders cannot do it, Mr. Colson, is it not time the Council should do it?

Mr. Bazeley then replied for the claimants. He said : With the constitution of our Council they could hardly speak with

An Unbiassed Mind,

and we know the wires are pulled in opposition to this matter. A dog-in-the-manger policy has been adopted in Rushden for some time. They are neither prepared to build nor to let the local authority build. It is a crying scandal that the workers of Rushden should be in the position they are in to-day, and, as a local governing body, we are not doing our duty to the people or looking after the development of the town in inducing workers to come and live here. If a good number of municipal houses were built here no doubt some of the small property would be to let, and we know it ought to be to let. We are not asking the town to take up any burden. The property-owner who takes rent for unhealthy dwellings ought to be prosecuted the same as a man who sells bad meat, for it is equally injurious to the inhabitants. We hope that as a result of this inquiry we shall have orders from the Local Government Board to get out a scheme to show that we are prepared to build municipal houses.

The inquiry then ended, having lasted from 6 to 9 p.m. The Inspector will report to the Local Government Board.

The Rushden Echo, 25th April, 1913, transcribed by Jim Hollis
The Housing Question at Rushden
The Urban District Council Ordered To Build Thirty Houses

The following is a copy of the letter received by the Rushden Urban Council, from the Local Government Board on the housing question:

Local Government Board,
21st April, 1913

Sir, I am directed by the Local Government Board to state that they have had under consideration the report made by their inspector, Mr. Clifton, after the inquiry held by him with reference to a complaint under Section 10 of the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1909, that the Urban Council of Rushden have failed to exercise their powers under Part III of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, in regard to the provision of working-class dwellings in their district, in a case where those powers ought to have been exercised.

The Board have come to the conclusion that there is need for further houses for the accommodation of the working classes in the district and they gather that

Private Enterprise

is not likely to provide the necessary accommodation. In these circumstances the Board are disposed to think that there is no alternative to action by the Urban Council. If the Council are prepared to take immediate action the Board would be willing for the present to accept proposals which made provision for the erection of 30 houses, so designed as to provide three bedrooms each.

Although it may ultimately be found that the number will be insufficient, the Board think that 15 of these houses might be built to let at a rental of 5/6, and the remaining 15 at a weekly rental of 4/-, and that the provision of a bath would be desirable in the higher-priced houses.

The Board gathered from your letter of Nov. 8th last that the Council would be prepared to give their careful consideration to this matter, and I am to request that the Board may be informed within one month whether the Council will submit proposals on the lines indicated above, with a view to such proposals being carried into full effect as soon as practicable.

The Council will hold a special meeting to consider the question.

The Rushden Echo, 23rd May, 1913, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Housing Problem at Rushden
Action by the Urban Council
Site Selected for Municipal Houses

At a meeting of the Rushden Urban Council on Wednesday the following report was received of a meeting of the whole Council in committee on May 7th:-

Housing, etc., Acts

The Committee had under consideration the letter of the 21st April last from the Local Government Board read to the Council at their meeting on the 23rd ultimo and the further correspondence which had taken place since that date between the Clerk and the Local Government Board from which it appeared that the rentals suggested in the first letter were intended to include the town rates, and with regard to the financial aspect of the situation the Board suggested that they regarded it as generally desirable that the scheme for the erection of working class dwellings under Part III. of the Act of 1890 should, if practicable, be self-supporting, and the fact that any scheme proposed showed a small deficiency would not preclude the Board from sanctioning a loan for the purpose of a scheme.

The Clerk submitted figures based on the assumption that a loan could be obtained at 3½ per cent., repayable in 60 years, from which it appeared that the sum of £157 would be the maximum amount available for the provision of the 4/- houses, including ……and the sum of £225 for the 5/6 houses, and he explained in making these calculations an allowance had been made for empties and losses.

The Surveyor stated that he had made the calculation of the cost of erecting the cottages in accordance with model plans annexed in the revised memorandum recently issued by the Local Government Board; for type 1, two storey cottage, four rooms and scullery, having cubic contents of 8448 cubic feet exclusive of coals and w.c. £158; for type 2, a semi-detached cottage, two storey, having contents of 9860 cubic feet, £195/3/0.

After full discussion it was unanimously resolved that the Clerk be instructed to inform the Local Government Board that the Council would take immediate action with a view to making provision for the erection of 30 houses in accordance with their letter of the 21st April.

The following gentlemen were appointed to enquire as to suitable sites and report to the Council thereon with full information as to price at the earliest possible date:- The Chairman, with Messrs. Bazeley, Claridge, Perkins and Wilmott.

The report was adopted.

The Site

On Wednesday the Council again went into committee on this question. On the resumption of the Council meeting the Clerk said that the special committee appointed to consider the question of site, etc., recommended the arrangements be made with Messrs. G. Miller and G. H. Skinner for the purchase of about 9,489 square yards of land on the Rectory Building Estate at 3s. per square yard. The land proposed to be provided would accommodate about 39 houses. The Council in committee had had the matter under consideration and recommended the Council to enter into an agreement with Messrs. Miller and Skinner for the purchase of the plot.

The Chairman moved this, and Mr. Bazeley seconded.

Mr. Spencer said he was not going to move an amendment, but he was not so favourably disposed towards placing the houses in that position. He would rather have seen the idea of Garden City style carried out, and he would have liked to see some of the houses erected on the Wellingborough-road end of the town where houses were needed. He hoped that at some future time they would go in for a more elaborate scheme in that district.

The proposition was carried.

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