The Housing, Town Planning, &c Act of 1919 (often referred to as the ‘Addison Act’) promised government subsidies to help finance the build of 500,000 houses in Britain within three years. The Act also made housing a national responsibility, with local authorities being charged with developing new housing and rental accommodation to satisfy the need of the working class.
Even though the funding was cut due to the weakened economy of the early 1920s, some 213,000 homes were completed.
The first known ‘houses for the working class’ in Great Ellingham were built in Mill Lane.
What were these houses like and what facilities did they have?
Who were the families who moved into the new council built houses and what was life like for them?
Council Houses in Mill Lane
Wayland Rural District Council commissioned a terrace of four houses in Mill Lane c.1928. The Council also commissioned a pair of semi-detached houses near to the terrace, which were either built at the same time, or within a year or so of the construction of the terrace.
Extract from 1906 Ordnance Survey Map. Second Edition. Surveyed in 1881. Author’s Collection
A later comment on a 1906 map of Great Ellingham indicates the triangular parcel of land on which the council houses were erected in Mill Lane. From at least 1800 to the 1830s, this triangular piece of land was known as ‘Little Gaskins’, and it was owned by John Barnard and, subsequently, John Robert Barnard.
The Mace Family at No.3
|No.5||No.6||Chequers Lane End|
George Mace was the first tenant to occupy No.3 Mill Lane.
As you will see from the recollections of Geraldine Smith (née Mace) which I refer to later, there was no electricity, running water, foul drainage, or indeed, any of the ‘modern conveniences’ we have in our homes today. However, this was a new house, and the accommodation was likely much superior to the Mace’s previous home.
George & Mabel Mace
George Mace was not a local man. Born in Wateringbury, Maidstone, Kent in 1893, George served in the Royal Navy. It may have been whilst his sister Emily was ‘in service’ in London that George Mace met his future wife, Hingham born Mabel Filby.
The 1911 census captures 19 year old Mabel Filby as a parlourmaid in the household of 36 year old Valentine Taubman-Goldie in South Kensington, London. Taubman-Goldie was the Secretary to the Admiralty Volunteer Committee. Amongst the four servants listed in the Taubman-Goldie household (which included Mabel Filby) is George Mace’s 21 year sister Emily Mary Mace, who is described as a cook.
The marriage between George Mace married Mabel Filby was registered in the Wayland District between January and March 1920.
Following the marriage, George continued in the Royal Navy. The couple’s son, George David, was born in 1921. The infant was baptised in the Church of St James in the May of that year. The baptism entry confirms that George and Mabel were then living in Great Ellingham.
However, by 1923 George was no longer in the Royal Navy and is working as a labourer. The Mace family moved to Little Ellingham where Mabel gave birth to Diana in 1923 and Hubert in 1925. However, despite living in Little Ellingham, both children were baptised in the Church of St James in Great Ellingham. It was while the couple were living in Little Ellingham that George Mace began working at Gaymer’s Cider Factory in Station Road, Attleborough.
By July 1928, George and Mabel with their growing family moved to No.3 Council Houses, Mill Lane, Great Ellingham. Their daughter Barbara was baptised in St James’s Church on July 1st, 1928. George and Mabel’s youngest child, Geraldine, was born in No.3 in February 1932.
The Mace’s Home at No.3
I am indebted to Geraldine (Gilly) and her niece, Sue Fay, for a wonderful description of the Mace’s home at No.3.
They begin with the basic layout and facilities:
The row of terrace houses were built about 1928. The Maces were the first tenants of No.3. A passage between Nos.1 & 2 and 3 & 4 was used to access the rear. There was a small front garden laid mainly to lawn surrounded by flower borders which Mabel Mace [Geraldine's mother] planted up with various bulbs and bedding plants depending on the season. The wooden front door led directly into a small hallway with the stairway straight in front. A door to the left led to the lounge which had an open fireplace. Access to the large kitchen was through the lounge. All meals were taken in the kitchen, which had a solid fuel 'cygnet' range cooker. The floors were all wooden, although there was some linoleum (lino) and some homemade rugs/mats, particularly rag rugs which were popular in the children's bedrooms, as, of course, there was no central heating. Above the three double bedrooms was a loft which remained largely unused. The main bedroom had a wooden bed with a horsehair mattress. The other bedrooms had iron bedsteads and similar horsehair mattresses. All the furniture was wooden and dated from the 1920s, or earlier. The walls were papered. The windows were wooden sash and single glazed. The back door from the kitchen led to a large garden. This was totally devoted to the growing of vegetables, except for one plum tree and a small area for keeping fowls. The outside toilet (a bench and bucket type) was up a path in a brick building. The rest of the building was used as a wash-house, with a built in 'copper' with a hearth beneath. This is also where the tin bath was stored. In the garden was also a large wooden coal shed. When the houses were built, a bore-hole had been sunk in the garden of Mr and Mrs O Beales [Oswald and Alice Beales] at No.4, and the large hand pump there enabled the supply of water to all of the six houses.
Geraldine and Sue describe the ‘Day to Day Life’ of the Mace family living at No.3:
The range in the kitchen was very important as all the cooking was undertaken on this, including boiling the kettle and also heating the iron. [Electricity was not available to Mill Lane until 1948]. Coal had to be collected from the wooden shed in buckets and continually hauled into the house. The coal man called once a week depositing this via hessian sacks into the shed, sack by sack on his back! As there was no running water, each bucket had to be carried into the house for the everyday needs. Saucepans were mainly enamel. On bath days (usually once a week), coal had to be carried to the copper in the wash-house in order to heat the water. The tin bath was put by the warm range in the kitchen. All the water had to be carried from the copper and pump in buckets to fill the bath. Mondays were usually 'Wash Days', and this was generally arduous for the ladies of the house. Again the coal had to be bucketed to the copper, the fire lit and all water bucketed to the copper and various containers. All hand washing and rinsing, with a manual 'wringer' used prior to hanging the washed clothing on the line to dry outside in fine weather, or indoors on inclement days. Mains water (cold only) was not installed until 1948. All lighting was by oil lamps as although Long Street and the Street in the village had electricity from 1930, there was no supply available up Mill Lane until 1948. Mrs Mace [Geraldine's mother Mabel] used to walk or cycle about twice a week to 'Pollards'Ye Olde Thatche Shoppe, then next door to the Crown, for her grocery supplies. Virtually all the vegetables needed were supplied by the garden. Once a week, Mr Smith the ironmonger from Attleborough, brought his van to Mill Lane so the residents could buy any hardware they needed. Butcher, Mr Parsons, also from Attleborough, visited twice a week with the family's meat supply. Occasionally, a farmer would give the family a shot rabbit and this was a rare treat. The family used to raise chickens on a regular basis. The hens provided eggs of course, and the cocks were killed for consumption. Mr Mace [Geraldine's father George] would kill and pluck the birds, and his wife would draw [remove innards], clean and cook them for the table. Jimmy Hipkin from Besthorpe brought fish once a week in his horse and cart. The children were sent down regularly to buy bread at the Mill House from Mr Chilvers. A pet cat was kept, but he was only allowed in the kitchen and he was always put out at night - thus expected to earn his keep on vermin control duty. The cottages had no refuse collection. Everything was used as 'kindling' [to light the range or copper], or burnt in the garden. Sometimes if a local farmer had a pit that needed to be filled in, or a field gateway or track that needed improved drainage, Mr Mace [George] was allowed to deposit some rubbish or waste. Before there was a 'night soil collection', it would fall on Mr Mace [George] to empty and dispose of the contents of the 'soil bucket' from the toilet outside. Every few weeks, he would dig a largish hole at the top of the garden and every week deposit the contents of the bucket. The hole would be temporarily covered ready for next time, and so moving on, on a regular basis! [In time, the Council arranged 'night soil collections]. If one of the family became ill requiring the doctor, someone from the household had to cycle down to the telephone box at the Post Office, and contact the doctor. In those days, it was normal for the doctor to visit the house. Mr Mace [George] worked at Gaymer's Cider Factory. He cycled to work at Station Road, Attleborough. After the war (WW2), this firm used to arrange an annual excursion by train to Great Yarmouth for all the employees and their families. It was held on August Bank Holiday which, at that time, was at the beginning of August. This was the first time Geraldine saw the sea! Geraldine did not travel far during WW2. It was not until 1945 that she ever left the county of Norfolk. She went to visit her paternal grandparents in Kent for a week's holiday. This was the first holiday away in her life! An inside toilet and bathroom was not installed at the property until the 1970s. George Mace was still in residence at that time, and still kept a very productive vegetable garden!
August 1945. Postcard from Barbara & Gilly (Geraldine) Mace on holiday in Kent to their friend Mollie Smith. Courtesy Sue Fay
1929 Occupants of Mill Lane
The Mace family were still occupying No.3 Mill Lane in 1929.
Other families occupying the ‘council houses’ were James Walter Beales and his wife Eva Keziah, Oswald and Alice Beales, Alfred and Caroline Filby, Frederick and Lucy Moyes and Mary Ann Ryder. However, other than Oswald Beales who we know from Geraldine Smith’s recollection that Oswald and Alice Beales were at No.4, I cannot be certain which families occupied Nos. 1, 2 5 and 6.
Alfred and Caroline Filby were the parents of Mabel Mace. In 1911, Alfred and Caroline Filby with eight of their children were living in a four-roomed property in Long Street.
1939 Occupants of Mill Lane
|Chequers Lane End|
Looking at the 1939 Register, I am confident that I have matched the families to the correct house.
At No.1 is Mabel Mace’s parents, Alfred and Caroline Filby. Alfred Filby was born in Southburgh in 1866. His wife Caroline née Yell was born in Hingham in 1868. The Filby family were in Hingham in 1901. By 1911, the family were in Great Ellingham.
Married in 1923, Luke and Selina Woor lived at No.2 with their children. Luke Woor was born in Edmonton, Middlesex in 1900. The 1901 census captures Luke with his parents James and Georgiana Woor (and his siblings) at 13 Windmill Road, Edmonton. Luke’s mother, Georgiana, was a ‘Norfolk’ girl.
Luke Woor enlisted with the Royal Naval Volunteer Service on the 7th January, 1918. He was demobbed in March 1919. His service record describes Luke as 5′ 6″ tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion.
George and Mabel Mace, together with their children, were still in occupation of No.3.
Like their neighbours, George and Mabel Mace, Oswald and Alice Beales were likely the first occupiers of their home, No.4 Mill Lane.
Oswald Powell Beales was born in October 1902 to Joseph James Beales and is wife Lydia (née Drake Chilleystone). According to the 1911 census, Oswald Beales was born in Great Ellingham. However, he was baptised in the Parish Church of Rockland St Peter on the 8th February 1903.
A marriage between Oswald P Beales and Alice Sharman was registered in the Norwich District between April and June 1925. By 1942, the couple had two children.
Ernest and Lily Woods occupied No.5.
The 1911 census captures Ernest Woods with his parents, Charles and Florence Woods, living in a 4-roomed property in Town Green. Four year old Ernest Woods is listed as the youngest of six children in the household. Ernest was born in Great Ellingham in 1906. However, his father was born in Merton and his mother in Tottington.
Ernest Woods married Rockland St Peter born Lily Ellen Bugg in 1928. By 1942, the couple had one child.
By 1901, London born Walter Lister was already in Great Ellingham. The 1901 census finds 9 year old Walter with his grandparents, James and Jane Lister, in Long Street.
The 1911 census finds 19 year old Walter Lister lodging with William and Eleanor Brett in Attleborough. Walter is working as a coal carter.
Walter Lister married Alice J Scase in 1923. By 1939, they had four children.
Further Council Housing
By the time the information was collected for the 1939 Register, further council housing was erected in Great Ellingham.
A row of four terraced houses with three pairs of semi-detached houses were built in Hingham Road. Given that another pair of semi-detached houses within the same close is in a differing style, this pair of semi-detached houses may have been built at a slightly later date.
However, just like the earlier ‘council houses’ in Mill Lane, these 12 council houses had no bathroom and no running water. The 12 households obtained their water from water pump which was in the area on which, much later, a pair of bungalows were built. Again, the outside toilet facilities comprised a ‘plank and bucket’.
In 1946, the Wayland Rural District Council erected a mixture of ‘Swedish’ houses and bungalows in Hingham Road.
Within a couple of years, this was followed by the construction of the larger council housing estate in Hingham Road. The Diss Express of the 31st January, 1947, reported that, amongst other matters discussed at a recent meeting of the Wayland Rural District Council, ‘a tender of £48,917 for the erection of 18 pairs of houses in Great Ellingham, Little Ellingham and Watton was accepted.’ These ‘new’ council houses had a ‘built in’ kitchen, a bathroom with toilet, a wash-house, coal shed and an outside toilet!
‘Right to Buy’
Some 60 years after the passing of legislation for the construction by local councils of ‘homes for the working class’, the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher brought in the ‘Right to Buy’ policy, which allowed council tenants to buy their homes at discounted prices. This was provided by the 1980 Housing Act.
Accordingly, many of the houses in the village which were once ‘council housing’ are now privately owned.
UK Parliament website https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/towncountry/towns/overview/councilhousing/ accessed 29 January 2022
Diss Express 31 January 1947 viewed via The British Newspaper Archive website https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ 23 December 2020
1901 census RG13/743/94, RG13/1850/34, RG13/1262/70
1911 census RG14/3903/33, RG14/124/237, RG14/11473/71, RG14/11471/70, RG14/11473/113, RG14/11473/116
1939 England & Wales Register The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6590H Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2018.
Luke Woor R.N.V.R. Division. National Archives Ref ADM 337/10/513
Great Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD 609
Rockland St Peter Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD 336. Viewed via www.ancestry.co.uk
Free BMD website. Marriage George Mace & Mabel Filby. MQ Wayland District 1920.https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=F0gLItNqbuGEyfleOn%2BGEg&scan=1
Marriage Oswald P Beales & Alice Sharman. JQ Norwich District 1925.https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=in%2BPwDQ7kSHuZPNfV%2FGf6A&scan=1
Marriage Ernest J Bugg & Lily E Bugg. MQ Wayland District 1928. https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=MuAP32sB5QUJy54RjvSSlQ&scan=1
Marriage Luke Woor & Selina A Holman. MQ Wayland District 1923. https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=6gEdNKxaxw%2BksJSeyOGaTw&scan=1
Marriage Walter Lister & Alice J Scase. DQ Wayland District 1923. https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=6VGukwmx2IsufzZsaRhjxg&scan=1
Register of Electors, 1929. Polling District of Ellingham, Great.
Registers of Electors for Norfolk 1845-1973. Norfolk Record office C/ERO 1
1802 Russell James Colman Plans. Great Ellingham. Catalogue Ref. C/Ca 1/84.
1799-1842 F W Horner, Records of the Surveyors to Commissioners for Inclosure in Parishes in Norfolk and Suffolk. Great Ellingham (Act 1799). Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: NRO, BR 90/2
Thanks to Gill (Geraldine) Smith & Sue Fay
Thanks also to Jean Bilverstone