Working-class housing in Plymouth 1870-1914
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This thesis sets out to explore the development of working-class housing in Plymouth, East Stonehouse and Devonport in the period between 1870 and 1914. Housing reform has been well documented with particular reference to London and other large urban areas, but has been little explored in the context of the greater Plymouth area – the Three Towns. These three towns with their similarities and variances have demonstrated that a London-centric study of housing will fail to capture the full range of complex challenges faced by provincial towns and cities in effecting improvements to the living conditions of the labouring and artizan classes. The Victorian housing problem is outlined in order to set the context within which housing reformers and political activists campaigned. Associated notions of moral improvement, which informed much of the discursive narrative of housing reform, are also considered. Also discussed are Victorian philosophies of self-help and woman’s separate sphere in relation to their influence on housing reform. Three types of housing providers are given particular attention – philanthropic individuals and organizations, which constructed mostly tenement blocks; working-class organizations which constructed terraced housing for sale to artizans, mostly their own members; and borough councils which provided a mix of accommodation for their working-class citizens. The activities of the working classes themselves have been considered notably through the activities of the Social Democratic Federation, and the role of women as homemakers and as political activists is given due prominence. The research carried out has demonstrated the difficulties experienced in bringing about reform, due to the inadequacy of the legislative framework within which improvements were required to be made, and that substantial improvements would not be achieved until after the First World War.
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