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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): COL/CSD/HO
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1761-1995
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 0.01 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

The acceleration of population growth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coupled with the Industrial Revolution massively increased the number of people living in urban areas - in 1891 a quarter of the country's population lived in London. Accommodation for the urban poor was usually crowded tenements with poor sanitation and no amenities. This state of affairs gradually attracted press attention, with observers expressing moral indignation at the conditions in which people were forced to live as well as fear that such slums would spread disease and social uprisings might occur. Various Acts of Parliament were introduced in an attempt to control the problem, such as the Lodging Houses Act of 1851 which permitted local authorities to erect and repair lodging houses, the Labouring Classes Dwelling Houses Act of 1866 which extended local authority powers to provide housing for the labouring classes, and the Artisans and Labourers Dwellings Acts of 1868 and 1875 which permitted local authorities to close, demolish and improve unfit dwellings. Unfortunately none of these Acts provided any subsidy for the local authorities and few acted on them. It was still not widely accepted that the local authority had any part to play in housing provision. Additionally, the new housing built to replace slums was often for the artisan class meaning that the poorest inhabitants of the demolished slum were displaced with nowhere to live. Nevertheless, the Corporation of London embarked on several housing projects: the Corporation Buildings on Farringdon Street, built in 1865, were the earliest council housing scheme.

In 1884 the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Poor examined sanitary conditions, public health, the availability of accommodation, rents, the cost of living and building costs. The Commission produced evidence showing that slums were not inhabited only by the criminal or destitute but by hard working, otherwise respectable families forced to live in such conditions by high rents and lack of housing. The Commission recommended legislation and the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1885 was passed, enabling municipal bodies to provide and improve housing for the working population and providing low interest loans to encourage construction. An addition to the Act in 1890 gave local authorities the power of compulsory purchase of land, allowing them to provide housing other than on a replacement basis following slum clearance.

After the First World War it was acknowledged that there was a housing shortage, and that the housing provided had to be suitable for returning soldiers - 'Homes for Heroes' became a popular slogan. Local authorities were the obvious vehicle for that provision and subsidies were provided to encourage the building of half a million homes in three years. The Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919 encouraged revolutionary new standards of building including indoor toilets, a bathroom, separate cooking areas, hot water, gas and open spaces around the homes. Unfortunately this proved too expensive and the subsidies were withdrawn: in the 1923 Housing Act standards of building were lowered. The 1930 Housing Act encouraged local authorities to focus on more slum clearance but made it a requirement to re-house everyone displaced by the clearance.

A similar crisis in housing occurred after the Second World War, when nearly four million homes were destroyed or damaged by enemy action. Local authorities were again used as instruments for housing provision. The Government set local targets and used administrative controls to ensure that their plans were followed. Housing provision by local authorities only increased in the 1950s and by the 1970s local authorities accounted for the building of over 100,000 dwellings a year, as well as continuing slum clearance projects.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Housing Department, Corporation of London, including leaflets produced by the Department; reports on housing in the City of London, 1933 and 1965; Housing Department quarterly performance review, 1992-1995; notes on the history of the Corporation's housing activities, 1980; papers regarding artisan's dwellings built by the Corporation under the Artisan's and Labourers' Dwellings Improvement Act 1875, including developments at Petticoat Square, 1884; papers regarding war damage repairs at Avondale Square, 1940-1945; papers regarding the Cosser Street redevelopment, 1970s; competition to design new housing at Golden Lane, EC, 1951-1952; illustrated brochure describing the Golden Lane development; papers regarding the William Blake estate, 1985 and 1994; notes taken during a case in arbitration between the Corporation of London and contractors, Ilford Housing Scheme, 1923-1924; report on housing for the aged poor at Isledon House, 1951-1953; papers regarding visit of Russian Housing Mission to the City of London, 1955; papers on the public enquiry regarding Shepherdess Walk, 1924-1925; lists of the numbers of houses in each ward, 1772, 1784 and 1858; demolition orders made under the Housing Acts, 1936-1949 and notices and orders regarding curious houses, 1761-1828.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In sections according to catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Corporation of London Records Office.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For records of the Corporation of London relating to public health, including the provision of welfare and housing services, see: CLA/006: City of London Commissioners of Sewers, COL/CC/FCC: Food Control Committee, COL/CC/GWC: Gas/Gas and Water Committee, COL/CC/HEB: City of London Board of Health, COL/CC/HEC: Health Committee, COL/CC/HGC: Housing Committee, COL/CC/ITP: Joint (Public Health Department) Committee, COL/CC/LAC: Litter Act Committee, COL/CC/LFC: Local Food Control Committee, COL/CC/MIN: Committees, COL/CC/PBC: Public Health Committee, COL/CC/PHC: Port and City of London Health Committee, COL/CC/PHE: Port Health and Environmental Services Committee, COL/CC/PHS: Port and City of London Health and Social Services Committee, COL/CC/PLH: Port of London Health Committee, COL/CC/SHC: Special Housing Committee, COL/CC/SIC: Select and Special Committees, COL/CC/SSC: Social Services Committee, COL/CC/STS: Streets Committee, COL/CC/WCD: Whole Court (Public Health Department) Committee, COL/ESD: Environmental Services Department, COL/PL: Plans, the papers of the Community Services Department (COL/CSD), the papers of the Public Health Department (COL/PHD), the papers of the Planning Department (COL/PLD), the papers of the Surveyor's Department (COL/SVD) and the papers of the Technical Services Department (COL/TSD).

Publication note:

See 'Cheaper than Peabody': Local Authority Housing from 1890 to 1919 by Jane Morton (1991) and 100 Years of Council Housing, 1885-1985 by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities (1985) for further information.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2009

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