‘The History of Houses’ – 8 pm Wed 15th Sept 2021

Join us for an interesting talk by Trevor Ottlewski,  concerning the history of houses.


In the 19th century many town and city workers were housed in squalid and insanitary tenement buildings. These were often back to back blocks with no running water, no lighting, no main drainage, where maybe as many as 100 people might share use of a single toilet. Some people of influence, however, began to realise that good living conditions were not just for the privileged classes, and that by creating healthy conditions for employees, the workforce would be more productive.

Although most purpose built housing was for industrial workers, there were others, such as Holly Village, built for estate workers.  The estate workers only occupied the houses for a fairly short while, however, as from 1871 the houses were rented to private families. There were (and are) strict rules for the tenants, who were not allowed put in walls, fence posts etc to mark boundaries, or to make external alterations (so there are no satellite dishes!), or do ‘anything that might annoy neighbours’.

The Town Planning Act of 1909 set out to limit the density of housing, and banned back to back blocks – the old tenement blocks being places where both fire and disease could spread rapidly. Despite the Act, many unsatisfactory buildings were erected, and it took industrialists with vision to provide good housing for their workers.




Trevor Ottlewski; researcher, author and Chairman of the Wokingham History Group. Trevor has a wide knowledge of local history and specialises in the area’s historic buildings. 

Share this page