Aspects of the built environment of rural south west Lancashire, c.1880 - 1914

Pomfret, Susan Miriam (2010) Aspects of the built environment of rural south west Lancashire, c.1880 - 1914. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The traditional orthodoxy concerning the homes of rural workers in the nineteenth century is that they were of poor construction, badly maintained and with few amenities which could be described as domestic comforts. A sense of social and
economic neglect of the rural labourer pervades the historiography and this is especially apparent in the description of his home. Therefore, the focus and main aim of this research is to challenge the opinion that earlier rural standards had prevailed into the later nineteenth century and the Edwardian period.
Utilising the largely unused data from the District Valuation Survey, compiled in 1910, together with the censuses of 1881 to 1901, the research establishes resoundingly that in south west Lancashire, rural housing was no longer makeshift and impermanent. No longer crudely built by the tenants themselves as had generally been the case prior to 1850, workers' houses were now solidly and professionally constructed, if somewhat utilitarian, multi-room dwellings. By 1910, over half of the houses surveyed, the majority of them occupied by the rural working class, were described as being either good or excellent in terms of condition.
The study identifies a shift away from the estate ownership of rural housing and the burgeoning of a body of small-scale property entrepreneurs which is likely to be reflected in the national situation. Changes in the estate's responsibility for workers' housing indicate the decline of a long-held paternalism and are likely to be pragmatic reactions to changes in the economy of agricultural England. The nature and status of these investors is seen to be generally working and lower-middle class and this study has identified the need for further research into this diffusion of the ownership of workers' housing in the region and beyond.

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