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Rents and incomes on Victorian & Edwardian
housing estates in the early 1900s

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The Victorian and Edwardian houses on the housing estate where I grew up in the early 1900s were rented, almost certainly like all the other housing estates that were springing up all over England at that time. The houses started being sold off in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Rents were probably between 12 and 13 shillings a week - with 20 shillings to the pound. This estimate comes from the book Round about a pound a week which gives a great deal of detail on how London's very poor lived in effective slums at that time. An aside compares their rents with those of the newer properties - i.e. the modern housing estates - on the outskirts of London, which were 13 shillings a week.

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The families living on these new housing estates were not well off, but they would certainly not have been classed as the very poor of the book Round about a pound a week. They were, after all, living in new, state-of-the art housing. They had front and back gardens and lavatories that flushed - quite something for the period!

The menfolk were in jobs of types that have largely disappeared today. The 1911 census for the Huxley estate in Edmonton shows neither unskilled straight labourers nor white collar workers. Rather, it shows men in between the two: blue collar workers working in trades which required levels of experience and responsibility. My mother's father was, at various stages of his life, an ambulance driver and a labour master at the Edmonton workhouse; and the man next door spent his working life painting the thin lines which were, for some reason, regarded as a requirement along the centre-backs of the mudguards of bicycles.

These men must have been bringing in more than the 'pound a week' reference point for the very poor in the above mentioned book. It was probably between 25 and 30 shillings a week.

In clear contrast to the poor described in the book, there was money for children to go to 'Saturday morning pictures' (the children's cinema) although not for school holidays away. Also unlike the poor described in the book, families did not go hungry. Food was wholesome and freshly prepared from basic ingredients although the variety was limited. Shops were nearby, as was the local and relatively new Silver Street School. Children were adequately clothed, although as often as not with mended hand-me-downs or home-made clothes which were so much the norm as to be of no significance. Everyone was 'shod', ie no-one went barefoot.

The womenfolk took a pride in how they kept their houses and - indeed - also the length of pavement outside their houses. They worked hard with no paid help.

So much is generally true of the residents on the estate, but if you are interested in my mother's family particularly, as it is her written recollections that form the basis of this site, there is a dedicated page on them.

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.