Within the span of 100 years, the fabric of the house would change more dramatically than in the previous 500.
The turn of the century saw concrete being used in footings, water being delivered at pressure, electricity becoming available and mains drainage the norm. All this coupled with better glass gave the architect a chance to design a brighter and more efficient house.
Edward VI became king in 1901 at the age of 59, and he was to preside over a country at the height of it’s power throughout the world, controlling almost a quarter of all land surfaces.
The Edwardians took up the challenge with wealth and prosperity behind them they extended the Victorian house into a less cluttered and more spacious series of rooms, but perhaps as with all forms of domestic architectural history it was time for a change.
The Arts and Craft movement goes back as far as 1885 with architects such as Voysey designing houses with a rural feel, gone were the vertical red brick structures of the Victorians and Edwardians, and in were ground-hugging individual houses with sweeping roofs, roughcast walls and leaded casement windows.
By 1890 Art Nouveau was adding an interior design element with stained glass in door panels and decorative motifs around fireplaces, rather than external design element to housing. Elements of Art Nouveau and Art Deco can be seen in more modest housing through into the 1930’s. The pottery of Clarisse Cliffe epitomizes the style of Art Deco, but few examples of domestic architecture are found, more of the furniture and ornaments have survived, many of which have been taken from the American way of life.
In 1898 Ebenezer Howard inspired by a trip to America published a book called Tomorrow, in which he outlined his ideas for a garden city. In 1903 Howard’s ideas were put into practise at Letchworth, where 3818 acres had been bought for just over £40 per acre.
Howard’s ideas were ably translated in architectural terms by the architects Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker. Their design set out to avoid the monotony of the uniform grid plans of the nineteenth century housing. They restricted density to twelve houses per acre and planned the layout carefully to use the existing landform, trees, hedgerows and other natural features of a site. Their cottage designs reflected the popular English romantic ideals of the time, producing an architectural quality, which ‘materialised the Englishman’s ideal conception of home as a unit of house and garden combined’. This fundamentally remains the view of most British people today. (Extract from the RIBA Book of 20th Century British Housing, published by Butterworth-Heinemann).
In 1904 Voysey was involved in a development of more modest housing in Whitworth, West Yorkshire, designing a terrace with rendered fronts, façade gables interspersed with dormers, a crisp version of traditional Cotswold cottages. It would appear that this concept of rural housing with a through living area, kitchen extending into living area without folding doors, was a feature that was here to stay into the 21st century.
Post First World War saw a lowering of building standards during the recession, and the early images of Parker and Unwin of fifty new towns were diluted to such an extent that Welwyn Garden City, founded in 1919, was to be the only new town built until after the Second World War.
1920’s Council Housing was introduced under the 1919 Housing Act that required local authorities to provide housing for rent. The Tudor Walters Report of 1918 recommended that every house should contain a living room, parlour and scullery and at least three bedrooms; a bathroom and larder were both regarded as essential. The houses were to be built in cul-de-sacs rather than long terraces, and the facades of garden city houses were to be emulated.
Speculative Housing by the private builders followed much along the lines of redbrick houses of the turn of the century with a bay window and a porch under a hipped roof. The windows were always casement, never sash, and often copying the redbrick windows with larger panes below small ones.
Other styles popular with the speculative builders were the ‘Tudorbethan’ and ‘Jacobethan’. These were imitations of Tudor and Jacobean houses featuring haft timbered facades with a mix of red brick and pebbledash, also herringbone brickwork, tile-hung walls and weatherboarding. Roofs were tiled rather than slated, and chimneystacks were often elaborate.
A major improvement in building techniques was the introduction of the cavity wall, which the leading house builder Costains had adopted by 1924.
The Bungalow an import from India, which had been used in the 1800’s as an escape to the country or seaside for a modest investment, was produced in kit form for about £100, and this was offered to ex-servicemen with the added bonus of approximately half an acre of land. Most of these timber-framed bungalows have either been built around or demolished to make way for modern homes. In the 20’s bungalows were also treated to an added extra room in the roof, thus becoming known as a chalet bungalow.
Due to the shortage of money and labour after the first world war, new housing tended to be as ribbon development, thus avoiding the need for new roads. Some large estates were built using the ‘neighbourhood’ approach, an American idea of a community within a community. Wythenshawe, built by Manchester City Corporation, varied the concept slightly and sited the shops on the outskirts of the town, thus being able to link them to other shops later from a larger centre.