Danson: A private development of the 1930s
The 1923 Housing Act provided government subsidies for private houses so long as they were of a certain size and quality. Many of the houses on the Danson Estate qualified for subsidy.
TH Jones was one of the principal beneficiaries of this scheme. In March 1925 he received a subsidy of £75 for each of the 20 houses he was building at Little Danson. In December similar grants were approved for another ten houses. A month later the council approved grants for a further eight houses. The next month plans for first four and then 38 of his houses were approved. Each house qualified for the £75 public subsidy.
In July 1926 it came to the attention of the council that Jones had overcharged the buyers of 36 of his properties. He was obliged to refund the money before the councillors would release £750 he was owed in grants. Even so he remained the main recipient of housing subsidies that year, receiving money for 16 houses approved in July, 26 semi-detached houses approved in September and six houses approved in November. Jones continued to receive subsidies all through 1927, building houses in Dansington Road and Lancelot Road. Housing subsidies were finally abolished in 1930.
The council was not completely enamoured of subsidised houses. Larger houses such as those built by JW Ellingham had a higher rateable value, an important consideration for cost-conscious councillors. Ellingham tried to obtain subsidies for 22 houses he proposed to build in Bean Road in 1924. But he found it impossible to build the houses for less than the £675 maximum price laid down by the Ministry of Health under the 1923 Housing Act and the plans were withdrawn.
He tried again the next year, applying for subsidies for 28 houses in Park View Road. They were to be built using the Dennis Wilde system of construction. A skeleton steel frame would be erected on which the roof would be placed, allowing work to proceed in all weathers. The outer wall, consisting of 3in (7.5cm) breezeblocks, a 3in cavity and a 4.5in (11.5cm) layer of brick would then be built. Above the first floor the walls would become much thinner, consisting of 2in (5cm) breezeblocks and an outer layer of timber covered in ruberoid and hung tiles. The cost would be £650 per house and would qualify for a £51 subsidy. The council rejected the plan and told him bluntly that they wanted a better class of housing in such a prime site.
Ellingham took the hint and none of his subsequent planning applications included a request for public subsidy. This included 32 houses in the Grove, Danson Road and Bean Road in 1926, 20 houses in Park View Road in 1928 and seven houses in Danson Road in 1929. That year Welling was constituted a ward in its own right. It might be significant to note that while the East Wickham ward habitually elected Labour councillors, Welling and Christchurch were usually represented by the local Ratepayers’ Association. Developers’ advertisements highlighted the low level of rates and electricity charges to attract homebuyers to the Bexley area.
The council kept aesthetic considerations in mind. For example, in 1932 councillors asked John Stevens and Sons to vary the elevations of 14 semi-detached houses in Little Danson by installing gable roofs on alternate pairs in order to avoid monotony. However, the councillors did not like being told what to do. When in 1926 residents of Danson Crescent opposed the proposed change of name to St John’s Road, the Planning Committee only backed down in the face of near unanimous opposition from the householders.
Developers did not always observe the standards enjoined on them by the council. In 1933 FR Absalom was fined for breech of the byelaws. The surveyor reported finding a party wall made of timber with gaps in between in 17 houses on the Little Danson Farm Estate. In addition the chimney jambs of these houses were not wide enough to satisfy regulations. The guttering on 58 houses was deemed inadequate, while 134 houses had been occupied prior to notice of completion being given. The surveyor did not hesitate to complain about Mr Absalom’s insolence when confronted with these complaints.
In the same year RC Hammett was rebuked for proceeding with a bungalow in Lancelot Road before receiving planning approval. The council reluctantly accepted the fait accompli, but when later that year Hammett sought permission to construct 21 houses in Lancelot Road he was firmly warned not to commence work until he had received the council’s consent.