In 1811 the population of Rushden was 858 and the number of inhabited houses was 141.
By the early 1900s there was a shortage of housing in Rushden. People were coming to work in the shoe factories but there were no houses for them to live in which meant that a lot of men had to travel several miles each day to work. In those days that meant cycling. According to the report of the Medical Officer in 1905 there were 2,744 inhabited houses in Rushden and the population was 13,713. By 1911 there were 2,844 inhabited houses and the Medical Officer reported the population as 16,442, although the census returns for 1911 give the figure as 13,354.
The Government suggested that Local Authorities should build houses to rent, but most of the Rushden Councillors were against this. However, in 1910 Rushden Urban District Council formed a special committee to look into the problem, but after several months they reported that they didn’t think there was sufficient evidence to suppose that the demand could not be met by private enterprise. This was in spite of the fact that the Medical Officer had reported that some of the property in the town was unfit for human habitation, but could not be condemned because there was nowhere else for the people to go.
It is worth noting that 9 of the 12 Rushden Councillors were property owners or builders.
In February 1913 a complaint was made by four householders to the Local Government Board that Rushden Council had failed to exercise their powers under Part II of the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890 in a case where those powers ought to have been exercised.
The Local Government Board held an inquiry which was attended by nearly all the Councillors and lasted for 3 hours. There were a lot of conflicting opinions as to how many people were looking for homes with Mr. Bazeley, (one of the Councillors in favour of the Council building houses) suggesting that 100 cottages were needed, and Mr. Linnitt, a house agent, saying he had only one application on his books.
As a result of this inquiry, in April 1913 the Council were ordered to build 30 houses, with the suggestion that 15 could be let at 5/6 per week, and 15 at 4/- per week, and it was also suggested that the higher priced houses should be provided with a bath.
Arrangements were made with Mr. G. Miller and Mr. G. H. Skinner for the purchase of about 9,489 square yards of land on the Rectory Estate at 3s per square yard. This land would be enough to accommodate 39 houses, and is what we know as King’s Road.
By February 1914 agreement had been reached to erect 28 houses, all semi-detached, at a cost of £206/5/0 each, and let at weekly rent of 5/9, the tenants to pay an extra 1/3 per quarter water charges for the baths, and 12 houses at a cost of £171/5/0 each, let at weekly rent of 4/9.
Tenders were accepted from Mr. Robert Marriott for the 28 Class A houses, and from Mr. W. Thompson for the 12 type C houses, which were to be built in blocks of 4, with parlours, living room and scullery to each house.
The Council secured a loan of £9,436 at 3½ per cent, and 41 houses were built.
It was not until February 1915 that the tenants for the first 8 Class A houses were selected, and following a lot of delays and problems with the builders, it was in December 1915 that the tenants for the last five houses were selected, with the promise that they would be ready for occupation by 18 December.
Semi-detached houses in King’s Road, Rushden
Houses in blocks of 4 in King’s Road, Rushden
Map of King’s Road, Rushden
By August 1917 there was still a housing problem at Rushden, and the Council chose a site on Newton Road, opposite the cemetery, for their next housing scheme. Plans were passed in 1919 but it was not until 1920 that they were completed. In the first stage of this development 98 houses were built at a high cost, but most of this was met by the Government under the Addison Scheme.
By 1933 the Council had built 602 houses, and by 1959 there were 1,649.
Now, in 2018, the Council no longer build or own houses, but, we are told, we still need more houses!
More information about Council Houses in Rushden is available at the Rushden Museum, although this is a ‘work in progress’ and is not yet complete.