Beginnings

Fallings Park estate, a large agricultural area, just over a mile from the centre of Wolverhampton, was owned by Sir Richard Paget, a great advocate of the garden suburb movement. He admired the garden suburbs that had been built at Letchworth, Port Sunlight, and Bournville, and decided to build one on 400 acres of the estate, on either side of Cannock Road.

The garden city movement believed that garden suburbs would improve the physical, social, and industrial conditions in large industrial areas. Many working people lived in the overcrowded, sub-standard housing that had been built in the latter part of the 19th century to cater for the rapidly increasing population in industrial towns. The population was still increasing in the early years of the 20th century and so the industrial towns would have to expand in order to cope. Working class housing estates were often designed to accommodate the maximum number of families within a given area. Housing often consisted of long, overcrowded terraces, with little or no garden, and poor sanitation.

It was clear that much of the sub-standard housing would have to be replaced in the not too distant future, so the garden suburb was seen as a cost effective way of increasing the number of available homes, in a controlled manner. The garden city movement believed in limiting the number of houses per acre, separating them with gardens, allotments, and greenery, to give a feeling of open space, which would be greatly enjoyed by the lucky inhabitants.

At the time, public transport was rapidly improving, and so workers could easily commute to outlying districts, providing that the roads and the transport infrastructure were in place where necessary. It was also assumed that when a large number of workers moved to a different area, industry would follow. It was expected that within a short period, industrialists would build new factories on the doorstep to offer employment to the local inhabitants.


Sir Arthur Paget, Bart.

Sir Richard Horner Paget, Bart. owned Old Fallings Hall, now part of Our Lady & St. Chad Catholic Sports College, in Old Fallings Lane.

He lived at Cranmore Hall, Shepton Mallett, Somerset (now a private school) and was a Conservative Member of Parliament from 1865 until 1895, initially serving as member for East Somerset.

In 1868 he became the member for Mid Somerset, and from 1885 the member for Wells. He became a Baronet in 1886, and a Privy Councillor in 1895.

He married Caroline Isabel Surtees in 1866, and their daughter Dorothy married the Liberal politician Herbert Gladstone.

Their son Sir Arthur Surtees Paget, Bart., a barrister and physicist, and his wife, Muriel Evelyn Vernon Finch-Hatton, oversaw the garden suburb project at Wolverhampton.


The location of Fallings Park Estate.

Objectives

The scheme would ensure that only quality houses of a certain standard could be built, which would cater for the needs of landlords and tenants alike. It should also be mentioned that at that time, farming land was not as financially attractive as it previously had been, because of falling rents.

The site would be planned in advance so that streets could be laid out on a system, with ample width for all future purposes. Buildings for public or social purposes would be provided in the most convenient places, and be close to the houses.

Control would be exercised over the character of the buildings to be erected, so that they could conform to a general plan and harmonise with the surroundings, and each other.


A view of the fields on the western side of the estate before redevelopment.

The Fallings Park Garden Tenants Society

The co-partnership housing society, under the chairmanship of Alderman Berrington, J.P. formed a limited company, the Fallings Park Garden Suburb Tenants Limited to promote the erection and cooperative ownership of houses. Several influential people joined the management committee including Sir Richard Paget’s son, Sir Arthur Paget, Bart., a great supporter of the garden suburb movement. E. H. Griffin became secretary.

The registered office, and the estate office were at Gresham Chambers in Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton. Subscriptions were invited for one pound shares which would yield five percent, or loan stock at four percent. The houses built would be let, and the tenants would receive any surplus profit in proportion to the rent paid. The land agent and surveyor Thomas Adams, based in Gresham Chambers in Lichfield Street, produced a catalogue to advertise the sale of the remaining building plots on the estate. The catalogue, which sold for sixpence, was available in February 1909. The catalogue also included sales details of the Paget family's other estate in Wolverhampton; Chapel Ash.

   
View pages from the 1909 catalogue
   


An advert from 1908.

   
Read an article about the setting up of the garden suburb, and the garden city movement
   


Mr. Alderman Berrington, J.P. Chairman of the Fallings Park Garden Suburb Tenants Society.

 


Mr. James Thompson. Vice-Chairman of the Fallings Park Garden Suburb Tenants Society.

Work Gets Underway

Work began when seven acres of land forming a triangle between Victoria Road, Cannock Road, and Bushbury Road were purchased from Sir Richard Paget on 3rd July, 1907. The project got underway when Lady Muriel Paget turned the first sod on 13th July, 1907. She was supported by her husband Sir Arthur Paget, Bart.; Sir John Dickson Poyner, Bart., M.P. and chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Housing; The Mayor and Mayoress of Wolverhampton, Councillor and Mrs. Baldwin Bantock; Frederick William Cook, Mayor of Dudley; Alderman Berrington, J.P.; Mr. Ernest Coley, J.P., Heath Town U.D.C.; Mr. J. W. Sankey; Mr. George H. Sankey; and many other officials. The event began with a display of Morris dancing, performed by children from the Paget estate in Somerset, followed by the turning of the first sod, and many speeches and toasts. Dances were also performed by children from two schools in Heath Town.

Afterwards everyone retired to tea and games in the grounds of Old Fallings Hall where a large marquee had been erected for the purpose.


The ceremony of cutting the first sod on 3rd July, 1907. The three people sat at the front on the left are (from left to right): Mr. Ernest Coley, J.P., Chairman of Heath Town Urban District Council; Alderman Berrington, J.P., Chairman of the Fallings Park Garden Suburb Tenants Society; and Lady Muriel Paget holding the spade used for the cutting ceremony. Standing behind the table is Sir Arthur Paget, Bart., and seated behind the table are (from left to right): Frederick William Cook, the Mayor of Dudley; Councillor Bantock, J.P.; Sir John Dickson-Poyner, Bart.


Old Fallings Hall.


The seven-house terrace in Victoria Road, the first building in the garden suburb to be erected.

Six buildings, all of which still survive, were built along the northern side of Victoria Road on plots numbered one to twenty three. The first building, the one nearest Cannock Road, on plots one to seven was designed by A. Randall Wells. W. J. Oliver designed the next three buildings, on plots eight and nine, ten to fifteen, and sixteen and seventeen, Spier and Beavan built the next building on plots eighteen to twenty one, and Pepler and Allen designed the final building on plots twenty two and twenty three.

The houses were soon completed, and officially opened by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield, the Hon. Augustus Legge, and a host of dignitaries on 26th February, 1908. The events of the day included a conference on co-partnership on housing, at the Town Hall, during which a paper by T. C. Horsfall, M.A. was given. Three years earlier he had written a report for the Manchester and Salford Citizens' Association entitled “The improvement of the dwellings and surroundings of the people. The example of Germany.” The houses were rented at 6s.6d per week for the smaller properties, and 8s.0d per week for the larger ones. Sadly Sir Richard Paget did not live to see the opening ceremony, he died just over three weeks earlier on 3rd February, at home in Cranmore Hall, Somerset.


The first six buildings in the garden suburb.

Work on other properties continued in readiness for the exhibition, due to be held in September. The next important event took place on 9th July when a party from Chubb & Sons, and several local dignitaries inspected the houses. The occasion was the laying of the foundation stone at Chubb’s new factory, nearby in Heath Town. Many Chubb employees from the London factory came to the stone laying ceremony, and later viewed the new houses with some interest. Possibly because Chubbs were about to close the London factory, so as to concentrate production in Wolverhampton. The party included Viscount Wolverhampton, Sir George and Lady Chubb, Lady Muriel Paget, Councillor Nettlefold, Alderman Sir George Wyatt Truscott, J.P., and Alderman Thorne, M.P.
The visit of the Chubb employees from London on 9th July, 1908.
The visitors were warmly greeted by the Fallings Park Garden Tenants Society, and Sir George Chubb was presented with a framed Bennett Clark photograph of the houses. Lady Chubb was presented with a bouquet by Miss Matthews, the daughter of the first tenant, and the party were invited to tea at Old Fallings Hall, where they were entertained by Sir Arthur, and Lady Muriel Paget.


An advert from 1908.

The Model Housing Exhibition

The exhibition allowed members of the public to inspect the houses, which were entered in a competition. Medals and cash prizes were to be awarded for the best houses in different categories. It had originally been hoped to hold the exhibition in 1907, but it had been delayed by a depression in the building trade.

It was hoped that the exhibition would encourage the building of well designed, economical, and durable houses, suitable for erection in the suburbs of towns in the midlands. It would provide builders and architects with an opportunity to show the best methods of construction in a definite and practical way, and demonstrate the advantage of a more systematic development of new building areas in the suburbs of large towns. It would also provide examples of the best and most suitable furniture for workmen’s homes, the use of the best building materials and fittings that were available at the time, and the best method of laying out different sized gardens.

   
View pages from the booklet produced for
the exhibition
   


Sir Oliver Lodge, F.R.S.

The exhibition opened on the garden suburb site on Saturday 19th September, 1908. A small wooden exhibition hall had been built for the purpose near the corner of Bushbury Road and Thorneycroft Road. It was officially opened by the eminent scientist, Sir Oliver Lodge, F.R.S., Principal of Birmingham University, who was ably supported by a host of public figures including Sir Arthur and Lady Muriel Paget, The Mayor and Mayoress of Wolverhampton (Councillor and Mrs. Fred Evans), Councillor Bantock, J.P., Alderman Berrington, J.P., Alderman Thorne, M.P., Mr. George Sankey, and others.

The houses and other exhibits were to remain open for inspection by the public between 9th September, and 24th October. Houses that were occupied could only be visited by permission of the tenants. Awards would be announced in the middle of October at a conference of municipal authorities, held at Fallings Park.

 

Some of the houses on the northern side of Victoria Road.

Fifty Seven houses were entered for the competition in the following classes:

Class 1. The best and most economical house erected either singly, in pairs, or in groups up to eight in number, containing not less than three bedrooms, the cost not to exceed £200. First Prize, Gold Medal; Second Prize, Silver Medal.
Class 1a. The best house under Class 1 in which the cost exceeds £200, but does not exceed £250. First Prize, Gold Medal; Second Prize, Silver Medal.
Class 2. The best and most economical house suitable for erection in pairs, or in groups up to eight in number, as follows:
Containing living room, scullery, and two bedrooms, the cost not to exceed £150 per house. First Prize, Gold Medal; Second Prize, Silver Medal.
Class 3. The best detached or semi-detached house or houses, including bathroom, and not less than three bedrooms, the cost not to exceed £400. First Prize, Gold Medal; Second Prize, Silver Medal.
Class 4. The best house, detached, semi-detached, or in a group of up to eight in number, having not less than three bedrooms. No cost is fixed, but this will be taken into consideration in awarding the prizes. First Prize, £20 and a Gold Medal; Second Prize, Silver Medal.

Bronze medals were awarded in each class as recommended by the judges. The cost in every case being the actual amount for which the cottage could be built, including architect’s fees, builder’s profits, and connections to sewers, water and gas mains, but not including the cost of the land.

Medals and diplomas were also awarded for the following classes:

Class 4a. The best design for laying out a suburban building estate of not less than 20 acres, showing the most economical method of development consistent with a restriction of 20 houses to the net building acre, and adequate provision for main thoroughfares.
Class 5. The best material used in house construction.
Class 5a. The best method of utilising steel in house construction.
Class 6. The best design of house under building Class 1.
Class 6a. The best model of house under building Class 1.
Class 7. The best design of house under building Class 2.
Class 7a. The best model of house under building Class 2.
Class 8. The best design of house under building Class 3.
Class 8a. The best model of house under building Class 3.
Class 9. The best laid out garden. Special Prize, £5.
Class 10. The best model garden in sand.
Class 11. The best fencing round any house included in the exhibition.

Prizes and diplomas were also awarded for best building materials of various kinds, patent ranges, baths, windows, etc.

The prize giving ceremony and the conference were held in a marquee in the grounds of Old Fallings Hall on 10th November, 1908. As far as is known, no record of the prize winners, or the judges’ deliberations still exists. The event was headed by Councillor Bantock, and prizes were awarded by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Hon. Augustus Legge.

After the prize giving, the project seems to have run out of steam, possibly because of the untimely death of Sir Richard Paget. But for whatever reason, the estate was never completed. By 1916 the Paget family seems to have lost interest in the Fallings Park Estate. It was auctioned on Wednesday 29th March, 1916, at the Star & Garter Hotel.

The sale included Old Fallings Hall, Old Fallings House, Old Fallings Farm, and all of the remaining land.

   
View details of the sale
   

In the early 1920s much cheaper council houses were built in the area as part of Heath Town Urban District Council’s municipal housing scheme. The council did however attempt to retain the character of the estate.

By the 1920s some of the garden suburb houses were being sold as well as rented, so the aims of the Fallings Park Garden Tenants Society were never fully achieved. The society itself seems to have disappeared sometime during the First World War, possibly around 1915. It is listed in the 1915 Wolverhampton Red Book, under the chairmanship of Frederick Litchfield. The agent was G. T. Challoner, 35 Cannock Road, Fallings Park.

Although the project never fully came to fruition, it left Wolverhampton with an important industrial legacy in the form of the proposed site for factories alongside Park Lane. In 1911 the Efandem Company rented part of the land on which to build a new factory. Other factories soon appeared in the area including Guy Motors in 1914, ABC Coupler in 1915, and Henry Meadows Limited in 1919.


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