London's East End Synagogues, cemeteries and more......

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London

Evelina House, Four per cent industrial dwellings Company, Camberwell
Evelina Mansions, Four per cent Industrial Dwellings Company, Camberwell, named after Evelina de Rothschild, wife of Ferdinand de Rothschild owner of Waddeson Manor.  Evelina died in childbirth at the age of 27 in 1866

Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company commemorative arch dated 1886, Wentworth StreetThe Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd - founded in 1885 by Anglo-Jewish philanthropists.  This is the story behind the mysterious arch in Wentworth Street (photo left) whose inscription states: "Erected by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd, 1886".  It is a story of slum dwellings, poverty and overcrowding in the Jewish East End of London, and the efforts of 19th century Anglo-Jewish philanthropists to do something about it.  The Wentworth Street Arch was originally located in Thrawl Street and was one of two that marked the entrances to Rothschild Buildings.  Rothschild Buildings were demolished in the 1970s.

Lloyd P Gartner’s excellent book ‘The Jewish Immigrant 1870-1914’ has this to say about living conditions and slum clearance in the Jewish East End of London at the end of the C19th:

Dunstan Houses, Stepney Green... erected by the East End Dwellings Co Ltd in 1899Stepney Green Court in Stepney Green, erected by Rothschild's 4% Industrial Dwellings Company"Demolition was the surest cure for the ills found in most of the Jewish Immigrants houses.  In fact, the removal of these dwellings and their replacement by suitable living quarters had begun slowly to nibble away at London’s immense mass of desolate slum acreage in the 1870’s.  One reason for the slowness, besides the weakness of parochial Governmental bodies, was that model housing could not be built by public bodies but had to be undertaken by combining public condemnation with private wrecking and new construction, according to fixed specifications.  Two ventures were prominent inPlaque on Dunstan Houses, Stepney Green:  'Dunstan Houses, erected by the East End Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd 1899' the earlier years of slum clearance, the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd (see photo left of Stepney Green Court erected by the 4% company), and the East End Dwellings Company Ltd (see photos right of their Dunstan Houses in Stepney Green, opposite Stepney Green Court, erected in 1899) Both of these enterprises were the outcome of the United Synagogue’s enquiry into ‘spiritual destitution’ in the East End in 1884, which found that physical hardships were far more pressing.  The former company assumed its title to emphasise that it was no charity and proposed a four per cent rate of return to investors.  Objections to the project were heard, but with Rothschild as chairman and prime mover, the capital was speedily raised and the houses were opened for occupancy in 1886.  The flats in the ‘Rothschild houses’ were fair specimens of the quasi-public housing of their day.  Each had two rooms, shared a toilet and kitchen with the adjacent flat, and opened to outdoor halls and stairways.  In order to reimburse investors at the promised rate, the six storey buildings occupies no less than 50% of the ground space and tenants paid about 5s to 6s a week (25p to 30p).  These grey stone houses were drab and draughty, but they were also solid and sanitary, and were probably better flats than those in other projects of the time.  Although they were not restricted to Jews, all or nearly all of the inhabitants were coreligionists of theMocatta House in Brady Street, erected in 1905 by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd chairman.Mocatta House in Brady Street, erected in 1905 by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd  By 1894 2990 persons resided in the ‘four percent’ houses, and perhaps 1000 more in the East End Dwellings.  But many more crowded in as ‘lodgers’, for unlike Miss Octavia Hill’s housing projects, the ‘Rothschild houses’ did not supervise the domestic life of their inhabitants."  On the left and right are photos of Mocatta House in Brady Street, erected in 1905 by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd

Contemporary reports from Jewish Chronicles of the time of the 1885 founding of the company had this to say about them:

From the Jewish Chronicle 13th March 1885: 
"Improved dwellings for the poor:  a meeting was held on Monday at the offices of Messrs Rothschild, New Court to consider the establishment of a company to erect improved dwellings for the Jewish poor, as recommended in the report of the East End Commission appointed by the Council of the United synagogue.  There were present: Sir Nathaniel Rothschild, Bart MP, who presided; Dr A Asher,  Messrs, E Berg, Lionel L Cohen, Louise Davidson, D. Davis, J De Castro, Ellis A. Franklin, Maurice Hart, H. Hyams, N.S. Joseph, A. Mocatta, F.D. Mocatta, Claude Montefiore, Samuel Montagu, Asher I. Myers, H. Pentree, Edward Raphael, A.E. Sydney.

After some discussion, a formal resolution was passed expressing the desirability of establishing the proposed company.  A draft prospectus was circulated in the room.  The title of the company will be “The Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company.”  The capital will be £50,000 in 5000 shares of £10 each.  Nearly all the capital has already been privately subscribed.  It is not proposed to limit the occupation of the tenements to Jews.

It is estimated that if the rentals were based on a net return of 4 per cent excellent accommodation consisting of two rooms, a small scullery, and w.c. could be supplied at a weekly rental of five shillings per tenement; and it is considered that many investors will be found willing and even anxious to contribute their capital towards a scheme, which while yielding a moderate and safe return, will largely tend, not only to improve the dwellings of the poor, but also reduce the high rates now paid for the minimum of accommodation.

It is proposed to commence operations by erecting on a freehold site of about three quarters of an acre, in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel, a block of Model Dwellings affording accommodation for 186 families, each tenement having two or three rooms, with separate w.c. and scullery: the expenditure for land and building estimated at £40,000.

We are requested to mention that Sir Nathaniel de Rothschild, Bart, M.P; Dr A. Asher, Mr N.S. Joseph and Mr A.E. Sydney will be glad to afford further particulars to any person desiring to co-operate.  Immediate response is invited in order to secure the building site which is now available."

From the Jewish Chronicle of 10th December 1886
"….that the dwellings in course of erection in Thrawl Street, Flower and Dean Street, and George Street, Spitalfields are now all roofed in, and it is expected they will be completed at the end of next month.  They will afford accommodation for upwards of 150 families."
From the Jewish Chronicle of 17th December 1886
Reporting the Annual General Meeting of the company in December 1886 the J.C. said "....the following directors of the company were re-elected:  The Right Hon. Lord Rothschild, Chairman; Messrs. L. Lewisohn, F.D. Mocatta, Samuel Montagu, M.P., Edward Raphael, Charles Samuel, H.S. Samuel and Henry Solomon  (names well known in the World of Jewish philanthropy)Mr Samuel Montagu stated that he had been over the buildings which were thoroughly well built."

In 1952 the four per cent Industrial Dwellings Company Ltd became the Industrial Dwellings Society (1885) Ltd, and in 2007 manages over 1,300 properties in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Redbridge and Barnet.  It still has strong Jewish connections and its current President (2007) is a member of the Rothschild family: Sir Evelyn de Rothschild.  Quoting from their website in 2007 they say of themselves:

"IDS was established as the Four Per Cent Dwellings Company in 1885 by a group of Jewish philanthropists who hoped to relieve the overcrowding in homes in the East End of London......Our tenants are reflective of the general ethnic mix but we maintain strong links with Jewish communities and, in this respect, are regarded as a specialist housing provider."

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