Archive of the month

Housing plans now repaired and available for research

Jul 1 2016

If you are interested in tracing the history of your house, Hampshire Record Office, home of Hampshire County Council’s Archives and Local Studies, has many sources which can help.

Among these are building control plans, which survive for many parts of Hampshire, and date from the late 19th century onwards. They are often very attractive and colourful – ideal as pieces of art for display in your home or as a gift; digital copies can be ordered.

A particularly fine series exists for Winchester City, dating from 1878. It is thanks to the skill of our conservators that many of the most fragile plans can now be used by researchers.  

Archivist Sarah Farley tells us more:

Building control plans were first produced as a result of a Public Health Act of 1875, which empowered local authorities to make by-laws governing the building of new houses and streets. Applications for new buildings had to be submitted with detailed plans, which usually included sections, elevations and floor plans.

Plans exist not only for individual houses, but also for business and commercial premises such as hotels, schools and shops, as well as for extensions and additions to properties including sheds and porches. 

The plans are listed in our online catalogue, and details given include names of premises, owner and/or occupiers and architects, and dates. 

The earliest Winchester building control plan is for the erection of two cottages in Colebrook Street for a Mr GH Pointer in 1878, and there are early plans for some unusual buildings too: a mineral water manufactory on Wharf Hill in 1878 and a new fives court at Winchester College in 1882.

Most of the Winchester building control plans are in good condition, but some, which were drawn on ‘oil paper’, similar to tracing paper, and were stored folded, had become too fragile to be consulted, splitting and cracking along the creases of the delicate paper. 

At Hampshire Record Office these fragile plans have been conserved so they can be used by researchers. They have been cleaned and flattened, painstakingly repaired using a special Japanese paper, and repackaged in acid-free materials, ready for future use. Plans conserved in this way include one for seven houses in Greenhill Road, 1879, and another for 15 houses (Nos. 27-40) in Hyde Close, 1880.

By using other sources available at Hampshire Record Office, a picture can be built up of the first occupiers of these new homes. 

A Winchester street directory of 1881 lists the ‘new houses’ in Hyde Close, giving the names of the occupiers. The 1881 census provides details of whole households. The first new house, No. 27, managed to fit in Frederick Early aged 37, a tailor, his wife, seven children aged between fifteen and one, plus a boarder, another tailor called George French from Scotland. 

Two military men and their families lived at Nos. 35 and 36: Robert Evans, aged 35, a sergeant in the Hampshire Militia, and at 36, Robert Reynolds, a staff sergeant.  

The final house, No. 40, housed the only live-in servant: the house was occupied by Frederick Masters aged 40, an organist and choirmaster, with his wife, four children, mother-in-law, and Mary Page, a 16-year-old general servant.

It can be fascinating to compare the layout of a house today with its original plan. The Hyde Close houses had downstairs rooms labelled ‘parlour’ and ‘kitchen’, plus a small scullery, WC and larder at the rear which today may have been incorporated into modern kitchens. These early building control plans can be useful when applying for permission for alterations. The Winchester building control plans form part of the Winchester City Archives, one of the most important archive collections, spanning nearly 1,000 years of Winchester history.  

You can come and look at the building control plans and other documents by visiting the Hampshire Archives and Local Studies search room. Access is free with no appointment needed: See our website for more information including our opening times.