In 1983, Andrew Saint argued that the New Architecture Movement (NAM): (1)
has consistently been the only pressure group within architectural politics in Britain to grasp issues beyond the scope of self-interest, and to combine its suggestions for reform with some deeper understanding of the relation between architects, the construction industry and the general public.
The organisation had been founded in November 1975 at its Harrogate National Congress; its goals: (2)
to channel effectively the collective action of architectural and allied workers in order to bring about radical changes in the practice of architecture. NAM seeks to restore control over their environment to ordinary people, and social responsibility and accountability to the work of architects. In particular, it seeks to fundamentally change the existing system of patronage, the power structure in architecture dominated by architects who are principles, both in private and public practice, and powerful corporate and bureaucratic clients. NAM seeks not only to challenge the existing relationship of architect to client and user, but also the existing relations between employer and worker, to restore a voice both to those who provide the labour for architecture and those who use its products.
A cartoon featured in Issue 1 of Slate, March 1977
This month, a unique collection of documents from this significant activist movement that challenged the established order of architectural practice both in the private and public sectors goes online. In the mid-1970s NAM gave a voice to progressive and inclusive initiatives that encouraged people to promote social change and greater equality through their work in the built environment. The launch of NAM’s archive provides both a new resource for historical research and also a challenge to present and future generations in the field to reinterpret and apply NAM’s radical ideas to current issues.
NAM brought together young idealistic architects, engineers and planners from across the UK seeking ways to reform working practices and the planning and development process. In an intensely productive period from 1975-80 the movement ran workshops, campaigns and seminars on a range of issues – professional education and governance, workplace structures, feminism, public sector design, worker unionisation – to create an alternative vision that put the priorities of people and communities ahead of developers, corporations and officials.
Slate cover, July/August 1978
Generously funded by a Paul Mellon Centre Digital Project Grant, the archive brings together previously unavailable historical documents held by former members that give a comprehensive picture of NAM’s aims, actions and achievements. It also provides an insight into the workings of activist groups in the 1970s, a period when many young people came together to advance the idealism of the 1960s and find practical and effective ways to promote social change. Key items include the NAM Handbook, which captures the essence of the movement’s objectives, structure and activities, and a complete set of the movement’s lively magazine SLATE. With its provocative alternative graphics, SLATE encapsulates the collective energy of 1970s grassroots activism.
A graphic from Slate, issue 13 (not dated)
In 1980 the New Architecture Movement members moved on to develop their ideas, both in groups such as Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative and the Public Design Service, and also in the professional practice of individual former members. Between 1979 – 1985, Haringey Council Architects Department implemented a number of pioneering features from the NAM Public Design Service proposals, many of which went on to become adopted more widely. More recently there has been a renewed interest in the causes and issues that NAM championed in discourse, exhibitions and articles, and it is hoped the archive’s launch will further stimulate debate and fresh ideas to meet the critical challenges in the built environment today. (3)
NAM’s digital archive is available at http://newarchitecturemovement.org. The website is managed by MayDay Rooms, which also houses the physical archive which is freely accessible at the MayDay Rooms’ offices. (4)
The archive will be launched at the Bartlett School of Architecture, London on Saturday 26th November 2022. The NAM archive steering group and former members will gather to mark the occasion. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Andrew Saint, The Image of the Architect, Yale University Press
(4) The MayDay Rooms has a growing collection that includes materials documenting social struggles, resistance campaigns and the expression of marginalised and oppressed groups and houses the physical archive and manages the online version. They are located at 88 Fleet Street, London and are open 11-6pm Wednesday to Friday.
I’m very pleased to feature this new guest post by Martin Shepherd on a significant but neglected scheme. Martin is currently a student on the MA in Architectural History programme at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He was formerly an NHS hospital pharmacist with a career in clinical practice and management.
An extended essay on the development of the Victoria Centre will be published in the Journal of Historic Buildings and Places in Spring 2023.
In 2022 the Victoria Centre in Nottingham celebrated fifty years since it opened. Throughout this time, it has occupied a pre-eminent place in the urban infrastructure of the city, comprising both a large-scale high rise social housing development and the city’s primary retail location. It continues to occupy a dominant position in the urban grain of the city, a feature that is reflected in its assertive place on the municipal skyline.
The Victoria Centre has an intriguing architectural and social history which echoes many comparable but better known, and celebrated examples of urban megastructure that sought to bring together aspects of living, work and recreation into unified structures.
For many of Nottingham’s residents and visitors, the architectural character of the city is most visibly and forcefully characterised by its two large planned indoor shopping facilities – the Victoria Centre (Fig.1) and the Broad Marsh.
Figure 1: Victoria Centre from Milton Street looking East. Source: Author
For the Victoria Centre, the fiftieth anniversary of its completion in 2022, comes at a time when the reputations of social housing and shopping developments of the same age (whose design was possibly driven by similar modernist architectural and social ambitions) are being positively re-appraised (for example Trellick Tower, Dawson’s Heights and of greatest relevance the Brunswick Centre, all in London). I suggest that now is an appropriate time to re-consider this little researched and overlooked example of a modernist integrated urban retail and social housing development. Reassuringly in his recent comprehensive survey of modern British architecture, Owen Hatherley echoes this view, describing the centre’s housing as an ‘an image of ruthless modernity’ which he claims is rivalled only by Park Hill in Sheffield. (1) Fifty years after it opened perhaps the Victoria Centre’s time has come.
Figure 2: Victoria Station in 1930. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Figure 3: Indicative Victoria Centre development site. Source: Inspire Nottinghamshire Archive CA/PL//2/185/300/8/64
Nottingham Victoria station (Fig.2), located just to the north of the city centre, opened in 1900 and closed in 1967. The 20-acre site (Fig.3) was purchased from the owners British Rail by Capital and Counties Property Company Limited. (2) Working with architects Arthur Swift and Partners (3), a scheme was presented to Nottingham city planners in August 1964 for the re-development of the station site with a ‘comprehensive development comprising shops, offices, warehouses, entertainments including sports facilities, theatre and cinemas, public houses, hotel, market and ancillary accommodation etc., in association with residential, bus station and car parking’.(4)
The lead architect for the scheme was Peter Winchester.(5) His modernist ambitions for the site were largely predicated both on its overall size and the depth of the railway cutting and the possibilities which this combination offered: (6)
By servicing shops and all facilities from underground and by producing a 20-acre traffic free area in the heart of a busy city. A city scheme will serve as a shopping, working, living and leisure and recreational centre… a city within a city.
Arthur Swift emphasised the explicit connection between the scheme and the recently published Buchanan report which had advocated the separation of car traffic and pedestrians,(7) and highlighted the integrated nature of the scheme, combining retail, commercial and residential/social elements:
We are fortunate in that the station has been closed, leaving us with a hole in the ground – which means that we can really practice Buchanan – put cars down there … This must be a new city centre – this is a complete entity; we have provided every amenity … Most city centres fail because they have ignored residential accommodation, sporting facilities. We have provided every amenity that the public require.
Elsewhere Swift reported his enthusiasm for the integrated nature of the scheme in particular the housing element: (8)
I am extremely happy that eventually my recommendations to include a number of flats on the roof of the scheme were accepted.
Compromise and Completion
Work on the centre commenced in September 1968, and the opening ceremony was performed in April 1972 by Conservative Environment Minister Geoffrey Rippon.
In stark contrast to the original plans, the final building showed significant changes with much of the ‘civic’ content being lost including the concert hall, public plazas, sports facility, and swimming and Turkish baths, leaving a two-storey shopping mall and an imposing five-slab-block residential complex of varying heights (seven to twenty-three storeys) –along with the intended 3,000 space underground car parking and bus station.
Records from the city planning committee show that the submission may have prompted thoughts of the need to abandon its previous laissez faire approach, in favour of the adoption of integrated urban planning for the city. Approval for the scheme was granted based on a significant reduction in the allocation of retail space from 644,000 sq ft to 385,000 sq ft. This was ‘to ensure that the amount of floor space devoted to each of the various uses proposed is not excessive, having regard to the size of the site, and the needs of the city, and having regard to the existing and likely provision for shops elsewhere in the city’. In this latter point the Council was clearly minded of its commitments to the planned Broad Marsh development to which it gave approval in December 1965.
Local architects argued however that the developers had held too great a sway in determining the final content of the centre in light of the city corporation having ‘no detailed development plan for the city’. They noted the profound downgrading of the scheme, ‘from the earliest proposals to the present ones we have seen a steady process of elimination of the recreational and entertainment facilities.(9)
Figure 4: Victoria Centre main entrance 1973. Source: picturenottingham.co.uk
Images of the newly completed centre show a unified structure encompassing all three elements – housing, retail and offices (Fig. 4). Despite the original aspiration for the centre to be woven into the urban fabric, there is a strong sense that this has not been fulfilled and that it sits somewhat awkwardly in the context of the surrounding areas.
Victoria Centre Municipal Housing
Paradoxically none of the published reviews of the Victoria Centre at the time of its opening made any mention of the municipal housing elements included in the scheme (Fig.5).
Figure 5: Victoria Centre Residential blocks looking South. Source: Author
Despite the somewhat hands-off approach that was adopted by city planners to the original development, there was subsequently a clear commitment to retain a social housing element in the final scheme, and it is the inclusion of this feature that sets the Victoria Centre apart from other British city centre development projects of the same era. It is in part a demonstration of the level of commitment evident in the city to support the expansion of municipal housing. Between the wars, 17,095 council houses were built, more dwellings per head of population than most cities outside Nottingham.(10)
By the 1960s the city had embarked upon the development of high-rise solutions to its social housing challenges, driven in part by government subsidy. The construction of the Victoria Centre flats clearly forms part of this approach. And yet the aspirations of Winchester in his vision of a wholly integrated structure were clearly not realised. The operation and development of the retail facility were undertaken entirely in isolation to the housing. In this respect there are strong parallels to be drawn with the history of Patrick Hodgkinson’s Brunswick Centre which was completed in the same year as the Victoria Centre. While the original intention had been for the Brunswick Centre housing to be offered for private sale, the changes in the economic make-up of the scheme during the late 1960s led to the housing being taken over by Camden Council. The disconnection between the housing elements and the recently gentrified retail aspects at the Brunswick Centre echo strongly the conditions found at the Victoria Centre.
Figure 6: Victoria Centre residential internal corridor. Source: Author
Figure 7: Victoria Centre two-bedroom flat internal view. Source: Author, courtesy Andrew Ellis
Externally, the high-density, austere housing development of 463 flats at the Victoria Centre is either largely invisible from the surrounding streets, or dominantly present. The flats are all single height and aspect, accessed from narrow internal corridors and limited to one- or two-bedrooms, therefore catering for a limited range of occupants.(11) The internal ‘street’ has no natural light and neighbours are largely oblivious to one another. Moreover, the corridors are angled at times, obscuring the view behind corners (Fig.6). The conditions are minimal and lacking in architectural as well as social interest. There is no provision of private outdoor space or direct access to shared outdoor space at the Victoria Centre (Figs 7 and 8), although in Winchester’s original proposals there was the intention to include such external spaces for the residents, but these were not fully realised. The only external space that can be accessed by residents is a fourth-floor roof deck with a small community garden and a number of large, raised planters that could be used to create green space but they are undeveloped (Fig. 9).
Figure 8: Plan of Victoria Centre Flat two-bedroom. Source: Inspire Nottinghamshire Archive CA/PL/2/185/300/8/64
Figure 9: Victoria Centre fourth storey roof terrace. Source: Author
The flats can be accessed only through the shopping centre itself, with six lifts designated ‘residents only’ that are situated adjacent to those used by shoppers entering the centre from the car parks below. The selection of potential tenants is determined by an ‘allocation’ policy ‘because of the location of the flats and sensitivities around its city centre location’. The policy limits access to the flats based on a number of criteria including age restrictions on children under sixteen years. The original occupants of the flats would have been allocated from council housing lists. Right to buy arrangements were suspended by the council in 2017 since the remaining life of the lease was less than fifty years, having originally been ninety-nine years at the time of construction.
Figure 10: Victoria Centre Main Entrance. Source: Author
Since its opening the centre has undergone several refurbishments, the most recent of which was completed in 2015. This included substantial, unsympathetic changes to the main and Milton Street entrances which have regrettably damaged the cohesion of the centre frontages (Fig.10). The application of coloured pebbledash render to the housing blocks in 1994 has similarly had a detrimental effect on the visual unity of the building (Fig.11), while the application of mirrored solar film to the windows of the flats means that there is no external perception of life going on within the tower blocks. The original sections of the proposed residential blocks (Fig.12) suggest an internal corridor positioned every two storeys with a subsequent ‘scissor’ design for the flats which could have provided maisonettes with dual aspects.
Figure 11: Victoria Centre flats showing coloured pebbledash render added in 1994. Source: Author
Figure 12: Section through original Victoria Centre proposal 1964. Source: Inspire Nottinghamshire Archive CA/PL/2/300/64
The architectural roots of the Victoria Centre are firmly embedded in the modern movement of the mid-1950s and its ambitions for the urban renewal of British cities. The development was however ultimately a product of opportunism and a misplaced belief in the capacity of a private developer to successfully achieve such renewal without a high degree of publicly-led planning and oversight. Although the utopian ambitions of the Centre’s designers were seriously compromised, there can be no doubt that the Centre has been and remains highly successful not only as the principal focus for Nottingham’s major retailers for the last fifty years, but more significantly as a rare example of a popular, high density, high rise municipal housing development in a city centre. Furthermore, in the context of architectural history, it is an overlooked example of hybrid modern architecture that transcended mere urban regeneration by its fostering of city living for council tenants. It deserves to be placed alongside better known and celebrated examples of such structures.
At the time of its fiftieth anniversary however there is a need for particular reflection on the future of the housing element of the Victoria Centre. While the shopping mall is in a process of re-invention in response to post-pandemic consumer behaviour, the restrictive spatial ordering of the housing seems unlikely to meet the needs of the council tenants of the future: the lack of easily accessible exterior space is particularly problematic. There is also clearly a case to be made for research into the experiences of those living in the Centre. While there have been modest, largely cosmetic improvements made to the flats, the limitations are clear and without further intervention to upgrade them, the Centre, notwithstanding the warm appreciation of Owen Hatherley, risks becoming just another example of the nation’s deteriorating stock of social housing.
(1) Owen Hatherley, Modern Buildings in Britain: A Gazetteer, (London, 2021), 352-354.
(2) Capital and Counties were at the time also involved in the development of the modernist Eldon Square shopping centre in Newcastle. It is the current owner of the Covent Garden Estate, London.
(3) Formed in 1953 the practice had offices in London, Dublin and Edinburgh. In addition to the Nottingham centre the practice, undertook large scale work on Hastings Civic Centre (1967-69) and Ballymum New Town, Dublin (1965-68) in largely Brutalist styles. Swift spent three years at the Nottingham University School of Art and Architecture, followed by a short time with the city engineer’s department. Victoria Centre Takes Shape Bulletin No 4 (October 1969), Capital and Counties Properties Ltd.
(4) Planning Application Capital and Counties Properties Ltd – Nottinghamshire Archives CA/PL/2/264/7/72.
(5) Following the award of his Diploma in 1958, Winchester had worked for the following two years as one of the ‘young Turks’ in Basil Spence’s practice at a time when Spence was working on the ‘science city’ development for the University of Nottingham, and so may have had some familiarity with the city from that time: Peter Winchester, presentation recorded at the symposium Sir Basil Spence re-viewed: the architect and his office, held at the Old Blue Coat School, Coventry (29 August 2008). Peter Winchester (warwick.ac.uk) Accessed April 5 2022
(6) P. Winchester, ‘Nottingham Centre’ in ‘World Architecture Volume 2’, ed. J Donat, (London,1965), 65.
(7) Ministry of Transport, Traffic in Towns: a study of the long-term problem of traffic in urban areas (Buchanan Report), (London,1963).
(8) ‘Victoria Centre Takes Shape Bulletin 4’, October 1969, Capital and Counties Property Ltd.
(9) ‘Nottingham Victoria Centre’, Architecture East Midlands.
(10) Chris Matthews, Homes and Places: A History of Nottingham’s Council Houses (Nottingham, 2019), 25.
In 1947, the Yorkshire Post declared Sedbergh ‘the luckiest town in the country with regard to housing’. (1) In the midst of a national housing crisis, no new council homes had been built in the district since the end of the war and apparently none were needed. Nevertheless, Sedbergh had built before the war and would build substantially in the 1950s and 1960s. The story of council housing in the district is therefore both representative of wider rural dynamics and unique to the town.
Sedbergh might be best known today for its independent school or as a ‘book town’ conveniently placed for visitors at the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, close to the Lake District. Until 1974, it lay in the West Riding of Yorkshire, administered by Sedbergh Rural District Council (RDC). Now it lies in Cumbria within South Lakeland District Council. It’s all change again in April 2023 when a new unitary authority Westmorland and Furness takes over. It’s a small town (the population of the Rural District stood between 3- to 4000 for most of the last century), significant historically for farming and woollen production but prospering today, as those past staples have receded, as a local centre of commerce and tourism.
In 1914, when traditional industries still held sway, the Local Government Board – as part of a significant national drive to increase the rate of council housebuilding – had urged the Council ‘to build cottages for the working classes owing to there being a scarcity in the neighbourhood’. By June, the RDC had responded positively, purchasing land in the town (with plans to buy more in the neighbouring hamlet of Millthrop) and commissioning Kendal architect John Stalker to design a scheme of twelve well-equipped houses, each with: (2)
a good living room, scullery, pantry, store closet, w.c., and coal house on the ground floor, and each cottage will have a separate wash house with washing copper. On the chamber floor there will be three bedrooms and clothes closets.
Scarcely six weeks later, the outbreak of the First World War forced other priorities. The plans were abandoned and, perhaps more surprisingly, were not initially revived at war’s end when Christopher Addison’s 1919 Housing Act was passed to fulfil prime minister Lloyd George’s promise of 500,000 new ‘homes for heroes’.
Sedbergh bided its time but its housing needs remained pressing, albeit small-scale. According to the Council’s Medical Officer of Health, Francis Atkinson: (3)
The houses, which are stone-built, are many of them old in type and congested on site, making it impossible to carry out adequate improvements. In Sedbergh town there are many yards branching off the narrow main street, in which the houses are small and congested, and deficient in ventilation and sunlight.
Given the number of houses that might be declared unfit, it was ‘decided that the [Government] subsidy might be required for 30 houses’. In 1925, the Council purchased five acres of land to the immediate north of the town on what became Fairholme and engaged Mr A Knewstubb of Penrith to prepare a layout and plans for six houses; 18 more were planned for the following year.
The Council’s second scheme of around 40 semi-detached and terraced homes at Havera was completed in 1935 – the date is recorded on a plaque in the gable end of a semi-detached pair of houses at the top of the street. The name is derived from the Saxon word ‘haver’, a hillside where oats were grown.
Elsewhere attention turned to reconditioning of existing homes in poor condition. Today, Millthrop is a picture postcard settlement of quaint stone cottages. In the 1930s, most of these were rural slums. Sedbergh’s application for a grant to finance improvements to 17 homes under the 1926 Housing (Rural Workers) Act was refused by the West Riding County Council (which administered the scheme locally) but, in this instance, the owner was prevailed upon to make improvements. Their scale – new floors, roofs and windows, internal redecoration, a new water supply, pail closets replacing privy middens (still no sewerage note) – is a reminder of the appalling conditions prevailing in many rural homes at the time.
An article published in the ‘patriotic’ John Bull magazine in May 1936 had publicised the case of an ex-serviceman, his wife and nine children living on the moors three miles out of town ‘in a wooden hutment the exact size of which is 30 feet long and 10 feet wide! No proper sanitation and no water supply’. Applications for council housing had failed as Sedbergh had no home big enough to house the family.(4) Perhaps this prompted the council to build two houses for large families living in unfit conditions on land purchased at Bridge End Field in Millthrop. The extensive back gardens signify a time when it was expected that rural tenants would grow a large part of their own food. (5)
By the outbreak of war in 1939, a total of 77 council homes had been built in the district. The war itself – as a result of Sedbergh’s relatively isolated position – increased housing pressures in the town. In August 1939, 126 children and 41 adults – mothers, teachers and helpers – were evacuated to the town from Bradford. (By the end of the year, just 41 remained in total; ‘generally the evacuees did not seem to take kindly to country life after town’, it was said.) In 1940, 70 children and 29 adults arrived, mostly from London. (6)
These incomers were billeted in local homes but a more comprehensive response was required when, after the bombing of Coventry, Armstrong Siddeley opened shadow factories manufacturing aircraft components in local mills at Farfield and Millthrop. Workers and their families were accommodated in two estates of prefabricated huts to the south-east of the town in Maryfell and, a little further out, Pinfold. Army personnel undergoing training at the 11th Battle Training School, housed in the former Baliol Girls School, were also accommodated in Pinfold.
As the end of the war approached and the closure of the temporary factories loomed, the Ministry of Aircraft Production asked the Rural District Council to take over the management of the two estates. (7) In the event, the council took over the Maryfell estate, buying its 50 bungalows for £80 each, but not Pinfold where Whitehall had deemed the site unsuitable for permanent housing. (The Pinfold site is now a caravan park.) As war workers returned home, Sedbergh had a readymade supply of empty housing to provide to local residents. In 1947, it was reported that there were just six households on the council’s housing waiting list and that vacancies for council homes were advertised in a main street shop window.
The Daily Mirror report concluded: (8)
the Housing Committee, with no worries, can sit back and plan carefully. ‘When our plans are finally approved,’ said the clerk, ‘we can carry out a first-class building programme and not be troubled by present shortages’
The clerk, Mr W F Lee, spoke of a planned building programme of 114 permanent homes but, while the temporary prefabs of Maryfell would certainly need replacing in the near future, for the moment it was a scheme just to the north along Cautley Road and Long Lane that took priority. The Council invited tenders for the construction of 46 houses in July 1950 – 38 in Sedbergh, eight in Dent where six were set attractively around a green on Dragon Croft. Semi-detached and terraced housing was built in the short culs-de sac of Castlehaw and Thornsbank in Sedbergh.
Dragon Croft, Dent
The redevelopment of Maryfell came two years later with an initial tender for 24 two-storey houses and 36 flats in three-storey blocks. The estate was completed by summer 1956. Early tenants were apparently discomfited by its open-plan layout, unpersuaded perhaps when the estate’s architect, T M Jones, ‘pointed to the practice on many modern housing estates and said the best effect had been gained through the absence of fences’. (9) Nowadays, only traces of the estate’s former unfenced design remain, even fewer as Right to Buy has exerted its own form of privatisation.
In 1961, after slow beginnings, the Council celebrated the completion of its 200th home with due pomp when its keys were formally handed to Mrs BDouglas, the fortunate new tenant, by a group of local councillors.
The following year, reflecting a typical turn within rural council housing in catering increasingly to an older and poorly-housed population, the Council opened Gladstone House on Fell Close in the Maryfell Estate – eight new warden-assisted bungalows and four flats and a community room, adjacent to some existing accommodation for older people on the estate. The West Riding County Council, whose responsibilities covered the welfare of the elderly, contributed to the scheme’s costs.
It was, according to a local press report: (10)
obviously a much cheaper and more humanitarian way of dealing with the problem of caring for the old by giving them every comfort in their local environment, rather than to send them to a home, which is liable to have something of an institutional character and atmosphere, however well camouflaged.
In the mid-1960s, its last major development, the Rural District Council built 17 three-bed and two four-bed houses and 30 two-bed flats on Castlegarth, to the north of Long Lane. Marking a new relative working-class affluence, 18 garages were provided with a further 31 to follow. A new fire station, new police station and three new police houses – county council responsibilities – were built adjacent. (The fire station remains; the police station is now a funeral directors.)
In all this, Sedbergh RDC had become, in the words of that same press report, ‘one of the foremost local authorities in the North-West in its post-war housing development’. The town’s extensive new housing catered to the wider district as well as established residents; conversely some of the latter now found work in Kendal, many at K Shoes.
To conservation specialists, the town’s new eastern suburbs ‘present a bland appearance with “standard” house types that provide a harsh contrast alongside traditional stone buildings’ and it’s true enough that neither the town’s interwar council housing or, more particularly, its post-war made much effort to ‘fit in’ with a local vernacular. (11) Fairholme represents some of the best of interwar council housing; Havera, a decoratively pared down and presumably cheaper version of the same. The cream to grey roughcast, semi-detached pairs of the early post-war era are used fairly indiscriminately. At Maryfell, though the three-storey flats come as an initial surprise in this rural setting, standard housing is made more attractive by lighter colours and patterning, Castlegarth, greyer, appears rather stark by comparison.
On the other hand, it did all, of course, provide genuinely affordable housing meeting local needs. Currently, it’s estimated that around 12 percent of Sedbergh’s 1323 homes are second homes while, in recent times at least, rising house prices and declining social housing stock, have further limited the ability of lower-income residents or would-be residents to buy or rent local homes. It is reported that: (12)
families are moving out of Sedbergh to larger conurbations or to remote rural areas to access more affordable homes. Businesses of all sizes across all sectors have confirmed that both housing cost and availability is negatively impacting on their ability to recruit and retain staff.
Social rent housing isn’t a cost; it remains, as it ever was, an investment – both in the wellbeing of individuals and the vitality of local communities. Sedbergh’s past and present illustrate these lessons very clearly.
I am very grateful to the Sedbergh and District History Society for providing information and resources to support this account and, as credited, some wonderful photographs to illustrate it.
(1) ‘Sedbergh Luckiest Town for Housing’, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 27 January 1947
(2) ‘Sedbergh Housing – Council to Build Working Class Cottages’, Lancashire Evening Post, 19 June 1914