Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company followed the established model that industrial dwellings companies had followed since the 1840s whereby housing was built and rented out to the working classes at a reasonable rent that produced a modest but steady return to investors. The company was founded in 1885 and led by Sir Nathaniel Rothschild in response to concerns surrounding the arrival of large numbers of Jewish refugees into the East End of London following persecution in Tsarist Russia. It was felt new homes would provide ‘the greatest of all available means for improving the condition, physical, moral, and social of the Jewish poor’ though tenancies in the new blocks were not to be restricted to Jews. Capital of £50,000 was raised very quickly by selling 5,000 shares at £10 each, and unlike other industrial dwellings company who aimed to give a return of 5% on money invested, rents were set at a level to give a return of only 4%. This was based on a weekly rental of five shillings for living accommodation which consisted of two rooms and a shared small scullery and wc.
Charlotte de Rothschild Dwellings, named after Rothschild’s mother, was the first block to be built in Whitechapel and further tenements followed in Whitechapel, Bethnal Green and Stepney Green. Evelina Mansions was the first development to be built in Southwark and named after Sir Nathaniel Rothschild’s sister who had died in tragic circumstances in 1866. Her husband, who was also her cousin, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild founded the Evelina Children’s Hospital in Southwark Bridge Road in 1869 in her memory.** Further tenement blocks built by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company were built and by the time of Sir Nathaniel Rothschild’s death in 1915 it is estimated had provided housing for 7,000 people.
Today the company, known as the Industrial Dwellings Society (1885) Ltd since 1952, provides low cost housing in 1,300 units in the Greater London area for tenants who reflect London's current diverse society. Evelina Mansions was modernised in the 1970s and comprises 83 one and two bedroom flats. It was turned down for listed status by English Heritage. in 2012.
**Mint Street Park has been created over the former site of the hospital.
Evelina Mansions were built in 1900 by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd in what Historic England call the Queen Anne Revival style with decorative flourishes in the brickwork and ironwork. Situated on the corner of New Church Road and Edmund Street, they overlook the edge of Burgess Park but when built the surroundings were very different as they faced onto and were surrounded by streets of small, overcrowded terraced houses.