From country to suburb: The why and the how of suburban development. A universal phenomenon with examples from south-east London.


Household structures

The structure of households has also changed significantly over time. They have become greater in number, but smaller in size and now fewer generations live together or near each other. Better health care has been a key factor in the reduction of household size. As infant mortality has fallen, so parents have not been tempted to produce large families; easy access to contraception in the 20th century has also been an obvious factor. Equally, household size has fallen as a result of the state’s intervention to prevent overcrowding. Since 1868 Vestries had powers to close and even demolish overcrowded and insanitary housing, but as they had no powers to provide a better alternative so the problem was displaced, not eradicated. It was not until 1885 that local government was given powers to build better quality replacements of their own, and not until after 1889, when the London County Council was established, that effective action was taken.

In the 20th century, there has been a marked increase in the total number of smaller, one or two generation households. Longer life expectancy, greater economic prosperity and job mobility and higher aspirations have caused this.