Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Progress Estate: The Rents

Original post: ww1greenwichwomenatwar.org/2016/09/27/the-well-hall-estate-the-rents

It was clear at the outset that the Council was concerned about the provision of housing for the working classes suggesting that housing let at quarterly rents of £30 per annum (just under £2 10s – £2 50p – per month) was unsuitable for working class occupation.  It seems odd then that the final rents on the estate were in the range 7/- to over 15/- (over £78 per annum at the most expensive):

Class 1 – 14/6 – 16/6 (77p – 82p)
Class 2 – 12/-  – 13/6 (60p – 67p)
Class 3 – 10/-  – 11/6 (50p – 57p)
Class 4 – 7/-  – 7/6 (35p – 37p)

It was estimated that each house would cost £450 to build but once the work went out to tender it was clear that the costs might be at least double this.  Since there was pressure to complete the work quickly it was not possible to make savings and this situation continued throughout the building with the necessity for overtime working, Sunday and night work.  The architects were criticised for their extravagant designs and there was pressure to adapt the scheme which was resisted by them at least partly on the grounds that modifications would add to costs through ‘disorganisation and delay’.  The architects themselves were working long hours  – seven days a week and 12 to 14 hours a day.  One estimate of the final cost per house was £622 but others put it even higher.

In late May 1915 a letter to the Treasury indicated that the houses were ‘a better class’ than those found elsewhere in London and they should therefore have a higher rent.  This would attract a better class of tenant from the Woolwich area leaving provision for others currently unable to find accommodation in Woolwich.  (In fact many of the residents of the new estate did not seem to come 
from Woolwich).

In contrast, in September a member of the Army Council, Mr B.B. Cubbitt wrote to the War Office indicating that he felt the rents were too high and asking to see less highly paid workmen able to rent the properties.  This cut no ice with the War Office who were able to report, based on figures from the London County Council (L.C.C.) who were by then collecting the rent, that there was a high demand for the housing and in fact those with the highest rent were letting most readily.

We do know that at least some of the tenants of the Well Hall Estate classed themselves as labourers. It also seems as if there was some sub-letting, with or without the required permission from the L.C.C. What is still unresolved is whether many of the women on the estate had to work in order to balance the household finances and if so whether many of them were also working at the Arsenal.

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