England Building Societies, House Histories (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Land and Property Records including Manorial Documents and Maps  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Building Societies

In the late 18th and 19th centuries freehold land societies were formed by thrifty and respectable lower-middle and working class folk in order to acquire plots of land on which to build good-quality houses. The societies were usually locally based and many of the early ones failed. Others were wound up when the typically 20-50 members had been housed, and yet others have survived as today’s building societies, investing shareholder’s money in mortgages for house purchasers.

Individuals paid installments for many years, each member benefitting in turn by ballot, and being responsible for his own house design. Thus these suburbs have a much more varied set of dwellings than the ubiquitous (and monotonous) Victorian row housing. Records such as annual reports and rule books can be found in county archives and local record offices.

House History

A related topic is that of the history of houses. Much of this can be found by examination of the title deeds and other lists mentioned in this text. Specific short guides on this subject are David Iredale’s articles in Genealogist’s Magazineand his book co-authored by Barrett (Discovering Your Old House. How to Trace the History of Your Home.), and the article by Loughran (Be Your Own House Detective … or How to Discover the History of Your House… East Surrey Family History Society Journal Vol 27 #1, page 42-46). They deal with the construction methods, interior features, plans, pictures, deeds, names, estates, how to do a survey and how to find the records. J. H. Harvey (Sources for the History of Houses, 1974) is a classic reference book on sources for house history. There are other Shire books on cottage architecture (Powell’s Discovering Cottage Architecture) and the 1930’s home (Stevenson’s The 1930s Home). Great mansions of the nobility as well as smaller homes of the squirearchy are featured in Montgomery-Massingberd’s Guides to Country Houses. Pearson relates the story of her ordinary Victorian terraced house for over a century, discovered through title deeds and a delightful story of a cottage in Worcestershire is told by Addison’s Echoes in Time: The Story of Orchard Cottage. Practical Family History #33, page 19-21.


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Land and Property Records including Manorial Documents and Maps offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.