To coincide with the IHR Centre for Metropolitan History conference Mobilising London’s Housing Histories: the Provision of Homes in London from 1850, a small display of books from the Library’s Special Collections can be found on the first floor of Senate House near the Jessel Room. The display focuses on the problem of and proposed solutions for housing the poor and working classes in London in the late nineteenth century. Collections featured include the Family Welfare Association (formerly the Charity Organisation Society) Library, which includes rare pamphlets, leaflets and publications of charitable organisations and philanthropic enterprises; and the Library of Liberal politician and trade union leader John Burns. Burns had a particular interest in the housing of the working classes having been closely involved in the construction of the London County Council Latchmere Estate as a member of the council and MP for Battersea.
Among the items featured are a print of plans for worker’s dwellings at Battersea Park (featured above) constructed by one of the many private philanthropic building companies of the late nineteenth century. Other items explore social campaigns for better housing by exposing the living conditions of the poorest residents of the capital: No Room to Live: the Plaint of Overcrowded London (1899) by journalist George Haw reveals conditions at the end of the century that had to some extent been exacerbated by slum clearances and the construction of model estates which were often financially inaccessible to the those most in need of improved housing. Many of the problems Haw describes also have a contemporary resonance: homelessness, competition for housing, chronic overcrowding in dilapidated properties, urban isolation and the problems of block housing and rising rents versus income.