The Stourbridge area expanded rapidly during the first half of the 19th century. The town of Stourbridge was an important coal mining hub and grew from a population of just 570 in 1784 to around 6,000 by 1831. Several new properties were built to accommodate this expansion, including several fine houses for miners and industrialists. By the end of the century, however, it had become apparent that the area was becoming overbuilt.
In response, many old houses were demolished and replaced with modern factory premises as well as new housing estates designed to house workers, who could now commute to their place of work rather than reside in company-owned cottages on site. This article explores how estate agents Stourbridge played a key role in developing the Stourbridge area between 1850 and 1914.
Overview of the Development of Stourbridge
The town of Stourbridge (or Great Bridge as it was originally known) developed at a strategic point on the River Stour. The river was navigable up to the town, and this was an important factor in its subsequent growth and prosperity. The first bridge over the Stour was built in the 12th century, and although the town was fairly small at this time, it was a major center for iron production.
By the 18th century, Stourbridge was an important center for the manufacture and processing of iron, with a thriving export trade. However, the town fell into decline during the mid-19th century as the demand for iron products fell due to the introduction of more advanced machinery. By the 1880s, Stourbridge had become a typical industrial town with many typical urban problems – polluted waterways, inadequate sanitation, and a lack of housing.
Role of Estate Agents in Housing Development
During the 19th century, the rapid expansion of major British cities led to the development of new towns and suburbs. This was a period of growth and change when the role of the estate agent was transformed from that of the traditional agent who had handled the sale of land and property in the past. The new breed of 19th-century estate agent was involved in every aspect of real estate, from the sale of land to the management and development of new housing estates. Some of the agents were also developers, financing house-building projects and controlling several large construction firms.
Stourbridge during the 19th century
In response to the growing problems of the town of Stourbridge, a group of businessmen formed the Stourbridge Improvement Company in 1856 to improve the town’s drainage, water supply, and sewage disposal. The company was also involved in the development of new housing estates, providing the town with much-needed modern housing.
The first housing estate built by the Stourbridge Improvement Company was Waterfield, constructed in 1863 and located between Holywell and My Hands Bridges. The company employed the well-known architect Henry Shaw to produce designs for the houses. The majority of Waterfield consisted of two-story, semi-detached houses that were built in a variety of architectural styles.
The different house styles were intended to blend in with the existing properties in the surrounding area. The Stourbridge Improvement Company created a subsidiary company to manage the building of the new housing estates. This company was named the Stourbridge Building Company and was involved in the development of several other estates in Stourbridge.
Agents, Developers and Slum Clearance
Although the Stourbridge Improvement Company was well-intentioned, the company’s directors were accused of being ruthless in their treatment of local inhabitants whose property was demolished to make way for the new estates. The company purchased a large number of properties in the area and demolished them, replacing them with new buildings.
Some of the demolished properties were slums, and the company’s actions were welcome. Other properties that were demolished were occupied single-story cottages, many of which were owned by the elderly and were of little value. The Stourbridge Improvement Company paid old-age pensions to the owners of these cottages, but this was not sufficient to secure a decent standard of living. Many of the cottagers were forced to move out of the town as a result of the Stourbridge Company’s activities.
The town of Stourbridge expanded rapidly during the first half of the 19th century. The Stourbridge area became overbuilt during the latter half of the 19th century, and many old houses were demolished and replaced with modern factory premises as well as new housing estates designed to house workers who could now commute to their place of work rather than reside in company-owned cottages on site.
The Stourbridge Improvement Company, formed in 1856, played a key role in the development of the Stourbridge area, building new housing estates and improving existing infrastructure. The company was instrumental in transforming the town of Stourbridge from a small industrial town into a thriving and modern community.