Larkhall Building Societies
Extracted from "The Housing Condition of Miners" Report by the Medical Officer of Health, Dr John T. Wilson, 1910
Houses Built and Owned by Miners and Other Workmen
The statistical information for the whole county and for each of the sanitary districts indicates that comparatively few miners are proprietors of their own homes, but there are certain localities where the majority of the miners have got rooted to the soil, and most of them own their own dwellings. Reference has already been made to Leadhills, where the houses are of old construction, but there is not in the County of Lanark, and probably not elsewhere in this country, a town or village where such a large proportion of modern houses have been built and owned by the person occupying them as to be found in the town of Larkhall, Parish of Dalserf. Up to about 1861, the chief industry of this locality was hand loom weaving, and the total population at the census for that year was 2,685. The increase in population since then is shown in the following figures:
At present the population is estimated at 13,500 and the number of houses is 2,670. this increase in population has been due to the introduction of coal mining, and the only weaving now carried on is at a silk factory. The unique position Larkhall occupies has been attained chiefly by means of Building Societies, but there are some parts of the town, such as Burnhead and Strutherhill, where a large number of houses have been provided and occupied by working men who were not connected with any building society .
Larkhall claims to be the place of origin, at least in Scotland, of this system of building houses. The first Society was known as the Gorbals Building Society and came into existence about 1815. Since that date there have been at least 16 societies formed from time to time, 10 of which are still in existence. Altogether about 600 houses have been erected by Workmen's Societies, so that it is important to have a clear idea of the procedure followed. Keeping in mind that the chief occupation up till 1861 was handloom weaving, one can readily picture the weavers collected together in groups, an imagine the discussions that would take place on current topics, when the project of building houses got themselves on a co-operative system might be propounded. The form of procedure in the foundation of a building Society was as follows:-
A meeting was advertised asking all interested in the formation of the Building Society to meet at a given date. When the formation of the Society was agreed upon, the names of all wishing to become members was recorded, and office bearers appointed. A co-partnery agreement was then drawn up, and signed by all members and a monthly payment was fixed, that might range from 5 to 20 shillings. The instalments were paid continuously until a sum of money had accumulated sufficient to build 4 or 5 houses on a plan previously agreed upon by the members.
On completion of the first lot of houses money could be borrowed from persons in the neighbourhood for the erection of other houses; and this system was followed until each member of the society possessed a house. As to the allocation of houses, the members usually balloted, the member drawing No 1 having the first chance of a house, and so on. On the first house being occupied, the members fixed a fair rent according to that paid in the district for houses of a similar size. This amount ranged from £5 to £9 a year in the old societies with two-apartment houses. This rental was estimated to be sufficient to clear off the entire debt in about 25 years. The occupier kept his house in repair at his own expense, and paid occupier's rates, but the society paid the owners' rates and feu-duty. The cost of each house was about £100 and upon liquidation of the society each member received the feu title for is house, the execution of which was usually done by the estate factor.
The form of house adopted by all except the earliest society is almost uniformly of two large apartments. A passage 4 feet wide leads straight through the centre of the house from front to back, with a door on either side leading to the apartments. Each apartment had usually two windows, one looking on to the front street and one onto the garden behind. The houses were built of stone. Each house had a stone built privy and ash pit placed near the head of the garden. In the original plan wash houses were not provided, but many erected suitable structures over the back doors which served the double purpose of wash house and coal cellar. A slop sink was placed near the back door connected with an underground drain. This joined the common drain running along the back of the houses to a public sewer.
The more important features of such a house are:
- It is self contained and has its own conveniences
- Each apartment has cross ventilation
- The apartments are of large size
- There is a a large garden
- Most important of all, it is owned by the occupier.
The only objection that could be urged against the arrangements might be clearing out the ashpit, say, once a year. There being no access at the rear of the feu, the refuse had to be brought through the passage of the hose, unless used for manuring the garden.
The houses built by the more recent societies are of a more modern type, and more variable in design. The number of apartments ranges from 2 to 3, and in two localities the houses are 4 apartments each. The conveniences are WC, slop sink (indoor) and sometimes a bathroom.
The next two societies built most of the houses in Union Street and London Street, and came into operation about 1836, while two others came into operation about 1860, and built Raploch Street and John Street. Regarding the Raploch Street Building Society, the books kept by the secretary, Robert Downs, 99 Raploch St, are of great interest and show the proceedings from first to last. Some details may here be mentioned.
The society came into existence in 1858, and consisted of 44 members. By 1860 each member had subscribed £10 making a total sum of £440. The society then commenced to build 10 houses, and continued building until by the end of 1862 a total of 44 houses were erected. By this time each member had subscribed £6 more, making a total of £704. As each house cost on average £95, the total cost was £4180 so a considerable sum had to be borrowed. This was lent on what were called three-day bills at 4%. That is, if a bill were produced for payment it had to be paid within 3 days. If any member fell into arrears with his payments, he was charged interest at the rate of 5% or 1d per £ per month.
See also 1910 Housing Pages