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The Builder Heritage Journal   | 26 April 1902

Battersea Working-Class Houses Competition

The interesting collection of drawings now on view, as announced in our last week's issue, at the Battersea Municipal Buildings, Lavender Hill, showing fifty-eight attempts at solving the crucial problem of houses for the working-classes, is well worthy of study, and full hints for the economical and yet sufficient provision for working-class dwellings. The question is pre-eminently dependent for satisfactory solution on financial possibilities, and the consideration of such an exhibition of drawings as are now on view should afford proof that, with the present cost of building, the provision of decent houses, soundly built and healthily arranged, is possible only to public bodies, who are able to raise the necessary capital at a small rate of interest, or to philanthropists who do not expect the return for which an ordinary investor or speculator would look.

The designs now shown also prove that, given a site of moderate cost and reasonably inexpensive management, it is possible for municipal bodies to house the working classes in a decent manner and at rents which the occupants are at present accustomed to pay for inferior accommodation, without the necessity of making good deficiencies from the rates.

As we noticed last week, the Battersea Borough Council invited designs for five types of house, and, as might have been expected, the designs by various authors are successful in varying types. The committee of the Council indicated in their decision that the first premiated design, No. 37, by Messrs. G. T. Smith & Weald, excelled in its plans of the cottage and four-room tenements; the second design, No. 12, by Mr. J. Sydney Bucklesby, in the plan of three-room tenements; and the third design, No. 21, by Mr. H. Bertram Tarrant, in the plan of four-room tenements.

In the first premiated design the plan of the cottage, or five-roomed house of two stories, shows on the ground floor a parlour in front, of 112 super. ft., a living-room at the back, of 134 super. ft., and a scullery with copper, gas stove, sink, and shelf. On the first floor are two bedrooms of 110 super. ft. each, and one of 118 super. ft. The three-roomed tenements in two stories have on the ground floor, a living-room of 131 super. ft., and two bedrooms of 110 super. ft. each, and on the first floor a living-room of 131 super.  ft., and two bedrooms, one of 132 and one of 112 super. ft. Each tenement has a scullery with copper, gas stove, and sink, a coal store, water-closet, and dustbin and cupboards, Indeed, one feature of this design is in this type the provision of cupboards, especially over and under the stairs. In these three-roomed tenements one bedroom is in each case entered from the living-room and one from the lobby.

The four-roomed tenements in two stories have on each floor a living-room in front, of 144 super. ft., a bedroom in front, of 110 super. ft., and two bedrooms at the back, one of 112 super. ft. and one of 120 super. ft., together with water-closet and scullery in each case. In this plan all the bedrooms are entered from the living-room. The three-roomed tenements in three stories have on the ground and first floors a living-room of 139 super. ft. and two bedrooms of 110 super. ft., and on the second floor a living-room of 139 super. ft. and two bedrooms, one of 142 super. ft. and one of 123 super, ft.

As in the author's two-story houses, one bedroom is entered from the living-room, and one from a lobby. These tenements have similar offices to those already described. The four-roomed tenements in three stories have on each floor a living-room of 144 super.  ft. and three bedrooms of 110 super.  ft. each, one bedroom being entered from a lobby, and two from the living-room.

In the construction proposed, the floors are laid with boards nailed direct on cokebreeze concrete, the upper floors having rolled steel joists to support the concrete. The stairs are also of concrete and the partitions of 3-in. cokebreeze concrete.

The authors estimate the cost of the cottage at 417l., of the three-roomed tenements two stories at 572l., of the four-roomed tenements two stories at 734l., of the three-roomed tenements in three stories at 781l., and of the four roomed tenements in three stories at 891l., these figures working out at 8d. per ft. cube of the cubical contents. The elevations are simply treated with effect gained by the use of small paned windows.

In the second premiated design, the author groups together his designs for various types, instead of showing them as units as in the first premiated design, thus making a more effective elevation. He also dovetails his houses together, necessitating more length of party-walls than in the first premiated design, in which the units are separated by straight party-walls running from front to back in each case , device which, although lending itself to more economical planning, increases the cost building per foot cube.

Two variations of the cottage with five room on two stories are shown. In one there are on the ground floor a living-room of 166 super. ft. and a bedroom of 10 super ft, and on the first floor three bedrooms of 138, 115, and 111 super. ft. respectively. In the other plans there are on the ground floor a living-room of 168 super. ft. and a bedroom of 110 super. ft.; and on the first floor, three bedrooms of 135, 114, and 110 super ft. respectively. There is also in this design a third variation of the cottage as a semi-detached house at end of the block.

The three-roomed tenements in two stories have on the ground floor a living room of 165 super. ft. and two bedrooms of 110 super ft. each, and on the first floor two similar bedrooms and a living-room of 170 super. ft.

The four-roomed tenements in two stories have three bedrooms each of 110 super ft. with the living-room of 175 super. ft. on the ground floor and 180 super. ft. on the first floor.

The dwellings in these three stories are by this author grouped into a separate block; the three-roomed tenements on the ground floor have the living-room of 170 super. ft, one bedroom 110 super. ft., and the other 115 super ft.; those on the first floor have the living room of 188 super. ft. one bedroom of 110 super. ft., and one of 115 super ft.; whilst on the second floor the living-room is 188 super. ft., one bedroom 115 super. ft, and 110 super. ft.

The four-roomed tenements in three stories have on the ground floor a living-room of 170 super. ft. and three bedrooms of 110 super ft. each; on the first floor a living-room 180 super. ft. one bedroom of 110 super. ft. and two of 113 super. ft. each; and on the second floor a living-room of 180 super. ft., two bedrooms of 110 super. ft. each, and one of 111 super. ft. The author of these designs makes it a rule for the bedrooms to be entered from the living-rooms in both the two-story and three-story tenements.

For economy, the author suggests that the foundations, which the nature of the site requires to be deep, should be constructed with piers and arches, so called, of concrete. The elevations are treated in the newest rough-cast mode, with tile roofs for two story buildings and slate roofs for three story blocks, the latter method being adopted so that the top story may be included in a mansard roof. Play of light and shade is given to the elevations by the introduction of oriel windows, of timber framing, and hoods over the doors. The author's estimate of cost is for five roomed cottages, 343l.; for three-roomed, two story tenements, 435l.; for four-roomed two story tenements, 536l.; for three-roomed tenements in three stories, 611l.; and for four-roomed tenements in three stories, 820l. figures which work out at rather less than 7½d. per foot cube.

The author of the third premiated design adopts the dovetailing principle followed in the second premiated design but makes a point of giving entrance to all bedrooms from a lobby or passage, and not from the living rooms. His estimate of cost is for the five roomed cottages, 320l.; for three-roomed tenements in two stories, 477l.; for three-roomed tenements in three stories, 656l.; for four-roomed tenements in two stories, 594l.; and for four-roomed tenements in three stories, 806l.; which works out at a little over 7d. per foot cube.

The four designs to which additional prizes have been given follow more or less closely the lines of the first three, but are not quite so successful in compactness, the strong point in particular of the first premiated design. Nos. 4 and 8 do not adopt the dovetailed arrangement of plan, which is however followed by Nos. 19 and 23. No. 4 avoids entering bedrooms from sitting rooms, and in the three-storied buildings suggests a half basement or lower ground floor. This design has a pleasing elevation but a somewhat expensive roof. In No. 8, the bedrooms are in some cases entered from the living rooms, but not invariably.

The author suggests economy by the use of flat roofs, but cubes the flat-roofed building at the same price as those with pitched roof, so that the comparison is not quite accurate.

No. 19 shows the bedrooms entered for the most part from lobbies, whilst No, 23 has some entered from bedrooms, some from sculleries, and others from passages or lobbies. The elevations in this design are simple but of good character.

Many other designs have good points, but the best have undoubtedly been selected for premiating, and the Battersea Borough Council may be congratulated on the response to their invitation and the amount of thought that has been expended.

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