Barrie House, Bayswater, London, 1937. © Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection Becontree housing estate, Dagenham, London, built 1950s. © Tony Ray-Jones / RIBA Library Photographs Collection Halifax mortgage advert, c.1935. Courtesy of Lloyds Banking Group plc Archives Design for a three bedroom house, Petts Wood, London, c.1935. © RIBA Library Photographs Collection Model of housing estate, Quarry Hill, Leeds, 1934. © RIBA Library Photographs Collection Suburbia, Lewisham, London, built 1920s. © John Maltby / RIBA Library Photographs Collection Housing, Watford by-pass, Mill Hill, London, 1940s. © RIBA Library Photographs Collection  

The horrors of the Great War in Europe stimulated the building and marketing of 'Homes for Heroes' to a public hungry for better conditions. In the 1920s, public subsidies supported a new boom in housing construction and the Garden City idea was realised in ever-spreading suburbs.


Despite economic depression, the 1930s was an era of great change in consumer pursuits. Cinemas, department stores and lidos sprang up to support an appetite for escapism, window shopping and modernity. Increasingly, choice became something people could exercise – in what film they saw, what products they bought and, for some, where they lived. Changes in the 1930s in how banks lent money made it possible for some people to get mortgages, putting home ownership within their reach for the first time. Developers built vast new estates in response.


While many flocked to the suburbs, others embraced apartment blocks in the heart of the city complete with Art Deco lines, underground parking and doormen. Whether imported from Hollywood or Europe, there was an appetite for new ideas. Meanwhile some architects had visions of creating ideal cities and societies through even more radical housing ideas – conceiving of high-rise towers and 'cities in the sky'.



               From this...
Speke Hall
Speke Hall, Liverpool

      ...came this, which...
Houses on Mollison Way, Queensbury, London
Houses on Mollison Way, Queensbury, London
© Edwin Smith / RIBA
             ...led to this
Dust jacket front cover of 'England and the Octopus' by Clough Williams-Ellis
'England and the Octopus' by Clough Williams-Ellis  


Growth in car ownership and public transport - notably expansion of the underground in London – stimulated large suburban estates of typical semi-detached houses with front and back gardens. Designs harked back to different historical styles. Appealing to a cosy view of history, there were strange mixes of Elizabethan, Arts and Crafts, and Neo-Georgian. The unchecked growth of ‘suburbia’ into the countryside and the accompanying road network became a source of great concern for many, but marked a huge shift in the numbers of people actually owning their own home.



Sarah Beeny: Space – building to meet needs

Sarah Beeny


"How we use space has constantly changed over the centuries. Often medieval dwellings were single spaces where everything happened. Then for centuries the trend was to divide space by use – living-room, bedroom and kitchen. Today kitchens, dining and living rooms are again merging, while bedrooms also function as home offices."

"What is key, however, is that we have the space we need as we go through life. In 1919 the first serious regulations about sizes of homes were introduced to ensure local authorities built to adequate standards. Then in 1961, the Parker Morris Committee introduced a new benchmark for houses. Previous standards had led to builders designing to the minimum, rather than the needs of the people who would live there. Parker Morris investigated how many people had televisions and other new everyday appliances. They thought about day-to-day issues – where food would be prepared and eaten, where children could play and families relax together."

"In the 1980s these standards were removed as the government hoped the market would provide the right type of homes. Some standards do exist, but how they are applied differs across the country, and recent studies again show average room and house sizes getting smaller."