100 years of social housing in Sidmouth

Local architect R W Sampson’s designs make an impressive tour.

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It’s a century ago since the first Act brought about a boom in building social housing:

100 years of social housing 

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The first social housing for Sidmouth was built pretty soon thereafter.

It was on 24th May 1927 when the Minister for Housing, one Neville Chamberlain, who formally opened a new estate of 70 houses at Arcot, “a beautiful park on the north side of the town”, as announced by the Devon and Exeter Gazette. (copyright Gazette, and British Library)

Here’s a look at the history of the Arcot estate, from Prof Brian Golding of the SVA’s History Group, as told by the Herald:

Nostalgia – what’s in a street name? | sidmouthherald.co.uk

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Although as this panel detail below shows, the houses were actually built a year earlier – under the Sidmouth Urban District Council:

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copyright: google maps

And here’s a Map showing Council Houses being erected, probably from 1926.

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The architect behind this housing was none other than the renowned Sidmouth architect R W Sampson, more famous for his imposing villas. But it was Chamberlain himself who said on his visit in 1927 that  “…this (Arcot Park) was the best Council development he had ever seen”. Go to pages 22-25 of the SVA’s summer 2017 magazine:

R.W. Sampson Memorial | sidvaleassociation.org.uk

Indeed, it was even before the First World War that Sampson had been involved in the design of council housing – well before the initiative from central government.

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Here’s the story as set out by the Sampson Society:

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Many of the buildings we see in Sidmouth today were designed by the architect Robert William Sampson. His designs spanned a period of more than four decades following his arrival in the town in 1891. He is perhaps most well known for his Edwardian villas and individual buildings such as the Victoria Hotel. However, he also worked on the full range of housing schemes, including Sidmouth’s early council houses.

Sampson designed a total of 130 council houses in Sidmouth. 

From the beginning of the 20th century there was increasing concern in Sidmouth about the lack of appropriate housing for the working men of the town. There were few houses available and rents were high compared to local wage levels. The poor condition of many existing houses was of particular concern to the local Medical Officer of Health. So it was that Sidmouth UDC began to consider the idea of building houses for rent, and set about a search for suitable sites.

Sidmouth’s First Council Houses – Sid Park Road | rwsampson.com

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In fact, his reputation goes well beyond Sidmouth:

Sampson grandsons visit Sidmouth exhibition | sidmouthherald.co.uk

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And his work is clearly impressive – but not only with royalty. Indeed, ten years ago, “the Kingswood Hotel – a Sampson design – [said it] would be running a Discover Sampson weekend next year, with speakers and a tour of Sampson properties.”

Prince Charles praises Sidmouth’s Sampson book | sidmouthherald.co.uk

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There is a lot of interesting history as well as impressive design – as the Sampson Society proves:

The Sampson Society | rwsampson.com 

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And the new booklet from the Sid Vale Association provides a perfect guide for a tour of the houses:

Sidmouth history on display with new release of blue plaque book | sidmouthherald.co.uk

Blue Plaques | sidvaleassociation.org.uk

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Something for visitors to enjoy once lockdown is over…

   
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