Thursday 20th June 2019
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Words: Alan Middleton
Featured in the May 2019 issue

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This month Alan Middleton tells the story of the Lincoln Co-op’s transformative house building projects in the city.

In the mid 1860s a few members of the Lincoln Co-operative Society campaigned to start a house building department and even made enquiries about the operations of a building society. The proposal, however, was rejected; the majority of members concluding that they had insufficient funds to embark on such a venture. But the idea of an additional society for house building did not go away and the Lincoln Permanent Co-operative Building and Land Society Ltd was formed in 1872 as a separate organisation.

Shares were £1 each, payable at once or in monthly instalments of one shilling per share per month. On the first subscription evening 42 members enrolled and 345 shares were allocated. The first building venture was a group of six houses in Ripon Street. Later the Land and Building Society extended its activities to mortgages and banking. It continued to play a useful part in the life of the city and surrounding area until 1958 when it was incorporated into the Leicester Building Society. The Leicester later merged with the Alliance to form the Alliance and Leicester, which de-mutualised along with some other building societies in the 1990s and when that all went wrong, it was taken over by the Spanish bank, Santander.

One wonders what those early co-operative pioneers would make of that. By 1883 the financial position of Lincoln Co-op was much stronger, there was surplus cash and labour; and the decision was taken to build and sell to members good quality houses at affordable prices. Their first adventure into house building was a block of 20 dwellings in Chelmsford Street and these were offered to members, on mortgage, at £165 each. The offer was significantly oversubscribed and the houses had to be allocated by ballot. A site for 22 more houses had been bought in Boultham Avenue and six of these were sold before a brick was laid. As word of the house building programme spread, country members wanted their share of the action. So, in 1896 houses were built in Caythorpe for ironstone workers in that area and a year later land was bought in Metheringham, part of which was used for house building. From that point it seems there was no stopping them and homes were built in Monks Road, Belmont Street, Florence Street, and New Boultham in Lincoln and Welbourne and Bardney in the country. The Bardney properties were sold for £200 each.

Further substantial development then took place in the Monks Road area, including Hartley Street and McInnes Street, named after Lincoln Co-op leaders, also Coulson Road and the Boultham estate, St Catherines Grove, Newark Road, Hewson Road and the west end and Scorer Street.

Building work came to a halt in 1916 because of the First World War. After the war the major projects were the Moorland Park estate and the Rookery Lane area, Skellingthorpe Road, North Hykeham and Branston. In the 1950s 74 houses were erected on the Doddington Road estate. Clarke Road, Richards Avenue, Buttery Close and Constance Avenue, all named after Lincoln Co-op directors. There was one final fling in 1976 when four houses were built on Brant Road, numbers 122 to 128.

When house building by the Society’s works department finally came to an end, in all 1,144 had been completed, providing homes for the members and employment for the workers during some very difficult times. Apart from the house building, Lincoln Co-op was also involved in some major public sector projects in the city, including extensions to the County Hospital and what is now Lincoln College, a new infant’s school on Skellingthorpe Road and public swimming baths at Boultham. They also added a new craft block to the Girls’ High School on Lindum Road (now Lincoln UTC) and built the General Post Office on Guildhall Street (now The Mailbox).

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