Angela Burdett-Coutts was a leading Victorian philanthropist and a pioneer of social housing.
Appalled by the terrible levels of social deprivation and squalor found in parts of the East End, she took matters into her own hands. She bought a site in the East End which was being used as a large rubbish tip and built 180 new homes to ‘house the very poorest of the industrious classes.’
Columbia Square Gardens cost Angela Burdett-Coutts £43,000, which is over £3.5million in today’s money. It was seen at the time as model housing for the working poor. Her architect, Henry Darbishire, went on to design the first block of homes for the Peabody Trust.
Rent was charged at 5 shillings a week (just over £20 in today’s money) for three rooms and half a crown for one room. Every resident was expected to pay their way. Anyone with more than a week of arrears was evicted promptly. The income from rent generated an investment return of 2.5%. This was lower than comparable housing schemes which aimed for a return of 4-5% to attract investment.
Sources and Further Reading
C. Daniell, Where shall we House our Poor?, The St. James’s Magazine 1, 1861
H. A. Darbishire, On the Construction of Dwellings for the Poor, The Builder, 1863
J. Tarn, Five Percent Philanthropy, 1973
R. Porter, London: A Social History, 2000