While the better off could move out to the suburbs, the desperate state of Victorian cities put pressure on authorities to look at direct intervention on the behalf of the many. By 1851 over half the population lived in towns, while in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and many other cities over half of families lived in just one room. Disease was rife and it became clear action was required. The Public Health Act of 1875 required all new houses to have their own water and sanitation. The growth of strong municipal governments in London, Birmingham and elsewhere allowed the more co-ordinated planning of housing alongside water, sewage and power.
Some reformers, however, rejected the city altogether. Inspired by industrial model villages such as Port Sunlight, the Garden City movement called for cottage-style estates in green spaces outside the city. It sought to offer an affordable housing type that looked after people's physical and moral health. Garden City principles influenced the layout of estates, suburbs and in some cases entire towns for decades after.
Tower House, Kensington, London
...came this, which...
Boundary Estate, Shoreditch, London
© Nicholas Breach / RIBA
...led to this
Dinmont Estate, Bethnal Green, London
© John Maltby / RIBA
The London County Council invested in quality housing linked to new roads and parks. It cleared large areas of slums and built large block dwellings inspired by the latest architectural thinking, interspersed with broad courtyards and tree-lined streets. It gave working people access to things middle-class households had taken for granted for years – flushable toilets, day-lit living rooms and separate bedrooms. Across the country municipal bodies created many more estates of this kind. Their ever increasing numbers, however eventually led to standardisation, though at a higher level than previously known.
Sarah Beeny: Invention – gadgets in the home
"Consumer goods have revolutionised homes and our time inside them. We have an insatiable appetite for new things and must-have gadgets. However, not so long ago things we see as basic requirements were a luxury – as recently as 1970 two-thirds of people did not own a phone."
"In the 19th century, stoves and ranges had to be consistently fed fuel and cleaned to keep them working. They were used to cook, but also kept rooms warm and people would spend their time in such areas, using them to boil water, dry clothes and even give light. The widespread introduction of gas from the 1860s, electricity from the 1920s and central heating systems all transformed our use of space."
"Advances in domestic appliances meant less time on chores, while electricity and artificial light at the flick of a switch gave more time for leisure. Where once people went out to the music hall, cinema or pub, we came to expect fridge-cooled lager, record players, radios and televisions in our homes – and now in every room. Today we want it all in our hands – music, novels, films, games and entire personal social networks. Living rooms were once defined by fireplaces or where the TV was; in future such distinctions of space are likely to seem increasingly strange."