After the First World War, following the policy of Homes for Heroes under the Housing Act 1919 and assisted by Government grants, councils began major house building initiatives. The tenants who occupied the first such houses in Leamington, at Leicester St, Bury Road estate and the Rushmore estate, were able to pay the economic rent charged by the Council. However there were people living in Leamington in appalling conditions, in slum dwellings behind the Parade, and along Althorpe St by the railway, who could not afford Council rents.
Leamington Slum Clearance Ltd was registered in 1926, with Mr Henry Pratt was chairman and Mrs R J Salt and Col H N Byass as joint honorary secretaries. It was formed as a public utility society, by a group of interested and philanthropic people, made up of clergy, doctors and heads of schools, with the twofold aim of:
1. Building houses to be let at a rent that slum dwellers could afford and
2. Ensuring that the slum houses vacated would never be inhabited again.
The society acquired land in Lillington and started building. In the face of both public apathy and many objectors to the scheme, the company organised a “Slum Clearance Week” in order to raise funds. In 1927 a ‘rag’ procession was organised with floats of decorated cars and bicycles. The procession assembled in Princes Drive and then passed through the town via Rugby Road, Binswood Avenue, Parade, Bath Street, Brunswick Street and on to St John’s Football ground at the top of Claremont Road. The day was a great success and raised an astonishing £1008 (the equivalent of well over £30,000 today).
On May 6th the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Lisle Carr, laid the foundation stone of the first houses built in Lillington, in the presence of the Mayor, Alderman A Holt after whom the estate was named The Holt. Eventually 18 houses were built at a rent of 10 shillings per week (50p, – about £18 now) which was less than the council rents of 11 shillings and sixpence a week (57.5p, – about £20 now). The houses were occupied as soon as a closing order deeming a house unfit for human habitation was issued by the Council following classification by the Medical Officer of Health.
The 1930 Housing Act gave subsidies to Local Authorities for building, on the basis of the number of people rehoused following slum clearance. The Leamington Slum Clearance company’s next major scheme came about when it acquired land at Windmill Farm, with the Council lending the society 90% of the cost of the land. The society built 52 houses on the 5.5 acre (2.2 hectares) site, 2-bed and some 3-bed homes for larger families who had the greatest difficulty in acquiring accommodation. The Windmill Estate was officially opened in 1932 by Lord Hanworth, Master of the Rolls and formerly MP for Leamington and Warwick. Also in attendance were the Bishop of Coventry, Dr M C Haigh and Lord Leigh (Lord Lieutenant of the County), who all planted commemorative poplar trees on the estate. All the Society’s properties were managed on Octavia Hill lines by a trained woman housing manager. (Octavia Hill was a pioneer of affordable housing, a prominent social reformer and co-founder of the National Trust). When the estate was finished, weekly cooking classes were arranged there, and special gardening competitions.
An unusual feature of the Windmill Estate is that set into their front elevations, 6 houses have memorial plaques, unveiled by the Bishop of Coventry on the day the estate opened. In an effort to raise funds and encourage sponsorship, the Society introduced a scheme for the estate whereby anyone who donated £50, the cost of building one “sound dwelling”, to the funds could have a memorial plaque fixed on a house. The plaques and their inscriptions are listed below.
193 TACHBROOK ROAD
This house is dedicated by Mary L Jenkinson to the memory of her mother Lady Jenkinson born at Enniskerry Ireland 1830 died 1915
197 TACHBROOK ROAD
This house is dedicated by Daisy Rooper to the memory of Percy Lens Rooper born at Uppingham in the year 1861 died 1930.
38 WINDMILL ROAD
This house is dedicated by Mrs Graham Rees-Mogg to the memory of Edward H. Douty.
40 WINDMILL ROAD
This house was built in memory of Two Sons killed in the Great War. .
42 WINDMILL ROAD
This house is built in the memory of a beloved brother Arthur Llewellyn Lloyd born 1855 died 1926.
195 TACHBROOK ROAD
This house is dedicated by Veronica Batchelor , to the memory of her husband Allan Edward Batchelor born at Maindee, Mon, in 1853, died 1916.
Allan Edward Batchelor, born in Maindee, a suburb of Newport, Monmouthshire, studied first at Exeter College Oxford, then at Middle Temple. He was called to the bar on 25 June 1879 and became a barrister on the Oxford circuit. He served in the Yeoman Cavalry and was promoted to Lieutenant in the Duke of Lancaster’s Own on 25 March 1885. He married Veronica Luce Makins, a daughter of Baron Makins on 14 April 1896.
In 1904, on land acquired from Warwick Castle estate, Mr Batchelor built an Arts and Crafts house designed by Percy Morley Holder with a garden by Gertrude Jekyll. The house, first called Greystoke then renamed Greys Mallory, recently had a very bad fire and is undergoing rebuilding. The Batchelors were considerable local philanthropists, helping to set up the 1st Scout Troop at Bishops Tachbrook village school and providing an alcohol-free working men’s club with a mini rifle range and table games. (It is now the site of a Doctor’s Surgery.) The Batchelors had the first motor car in the village and employed Mr Ralph Smith, a local man, as chauffeur and his sister as their cook. At Christmas Mrs Batchelor and her daughters donated presents to villagers such as shawls, scarves and toys which were transported round the village in a large bath chair. Mr Batchelor was also a Vice –President of Leamington Cricket Club from 1907-1909.
When he died in 1916, Mrs Batchelor erected an oak door (which has Allan’s name carved into it) in the south porch of St Chads Church Bishops Tachbrook in his memory. In 1920 she sold Greys Mallory and moved back to Hill Wootton, where the family lived before moving to Grays Mallory. She died aged 80 in Leamington in 1951.
Barry Franklin 2013