The Association thought some houses could be built on these principles, but money had to be raised from shareholders. This was before the Limited Liability Act. A special Act of Parliament had to be passed so that shareholders were liable only for the value of their share and not for everything they owned (as Lloyd's shareholders still are).

The Association took the name 'The Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes' and its first venture was 'The Metropolitan Buildings' in Old Pancras Road, King's Cross. They consisted of 110 sets of rooms, 20 two-room and 90 three-room flats, in five-storey blocks.

The New Metropolitan Buildings at St Pancras (Heal Collection, CLSAC)

Southwood Smith published a book on the results of the experiment. In the three years 1850-52, child deaths in the Buildings were only one third those of the Metropolis as a whole. The contrast to The Potteries, in Ladbroke Grove, was even greater.1

In 1861, Hollingshead had described The Potteries as:-

‘a marshy district lying between the villas of Bayswater and Notting Hill. -- highways not yet adopted by the public and consequently dedicated to nothing but rivers of mud. The inhabitants are pig-trainers and brick makers, 'fanciers' of spurred gamecocks’, and red jawed bullterriers. The huts have grown a little the worse for wear. Refuse matter is still collected by the pig-trainers and boiled down in coppers, that the fat may be separated for sale.'

Southwood Smith wrote:-

'In The Potteries, Kensington, an undrained area in Notting Hill, with no supply of clean water or method of removing filth, the child mortality was 51 in about 384. So the Potteries, with 80 fewer children, had 41 more deaths than the Metropolitan Buildings.'

This is the sort of information that Octavia Hill had heard discussed all her life. No wonder that she brought such a fund of knowledge and common sense to her housing work.

References to Southwood Smith in this website.

Building the New London Fever Hospital

Under the Great Northern Railway Act, 1846, a private Act of Parliament, The Great Northern Railway Co., compulsorily purchased the land which was required for King’s Cross Station as the terminus for the new London to York Railway. Some 60 acres were acquired for £66,407, partly from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and partly from the Royal Hospital of St. Bartholomew.2


The Fever Hospital was rebuilt on a much better site in Nottingham Road, Islington. The following account in The Builder, August 12, 1848 gives a very clear description.


  1. The average age of death was twelve years. Sanitary Report for 1856.
  2. Court of Appeal, Freedman and others.British Railways Board, 9 April, 1992.


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