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Buildings that Celebrate Working Women

Listed buildings such as late-Victorian and Edwardian women's lodging houses, tell us the story of working women at the forefront of a fascinating period of social and technological change.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries people were moving in large numbers from rural areas to the cities, and a new generation of working women started to work outside the home and master new inventions such as the sewing machine, telephone and typewriter.

These inventions not only needed new building types to house them, but this burgeoning community of single working women meant thousands needed safe and respectable accommodation - creating a great spatial and moral challenge.

Enquiry Department at the International Correspondence School, London 1909 © Historic England. Images are from the National Monuments Record, the public archive of Historic England, and published in WORK (£9.99) from Historic England The Way We Were series
Enquiry Department at the International Correspondence School, London 1909 © Historic England

Where to house the Edwardian 'New Woman'?

Comfortable ladies' residential chambers such as Sloane Gardens House, built in 1888 and York Street Chambers, built in 1892, were beyond the pocket of many working women. A few stalwart organisations such as the Homes for Working Girls and the Girls' Friendly Society provided less expensive options, but many of these were quite small.

Hostels built specifically for low-waged single working women emerged from1900. Women slept in tiny individual sleeping cubicles or small bedrooms and shared dining rooms and sitting rooms that helped to foster a community spirit. Some hostels also featured sewing rooms, libraries, photographic rooms and bicycle stores, an important provision for the Edwardian 'New Woman'.

In 1910, there were about 60 lodging houses for lower-middle and middle class working women in London. By 1925 there were about 170. Many of these were in converted buildings but a number were in purpose-built and architect-designed buildings. Some of these have been listed for their special historic and architectural interest.

10 examples of listed working women's lodging houses

Ada Lewis House Women's Lodging House (now Driscoll House hotel)
New Kent Road, London Borough of Southwark
1913 by Joseph and Smithem
Listed Grade II in 2006

Ames House, YWCA hostel for women (now flats and shops)
44 Mortimer Street, London Borough of Camden
1904 by Beresford Pite
Listed Grade II in 1970

Former London Diocesan Girls' Friendly Society Hostel (now St. Mungo's)
29 Francis Street, City of Westminster
1914 by R.S. Ayling
Listed Grade II in 2008

Ashton House (still flats)
Corporation Road, Manchester
1910 by H.R. Price, Manchester City Architect
Listed Grade II in 1988

Time and Talents settlement (now studios and flats)
Bermondsy Street, London Borough of Southwark
1908 by Sir Reginald Blomfield
Listed Grade II in 1988

Waterlow Court (still flats)
Heath Close, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London Borough of Barnet
1909 by M.H. Baillie Scott
Grade II* in 1965

Queen's Court (still flats)
Hampstead Way, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London Borough of Barnet
1927 by Hendry and Schooling for the United Women's Homes Association
Listed Grade II in 2004

Furnival House (now student accommodation)
Cholmeley Park, Highgate, London Borough of Haringey
1919 by Joseph Henry Pitt for the Prudential Assurance Company
Listed Grade II in 2008

Queen Alexandra's House (still student housing)
Kensington Gore, City of Westminster
1884 by C.P Clarke and R. Down
Listed Grade II in 1987

Queen Mary Hall and YWCA Central Club (now hotel)
Great Russell Street, London Borough of Camden
1928-32 by Sir Edwin Lutyens for the YWCA
Listed Grade II in 1974

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Images of Working Women

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • Women work large power looms at the Early Blanket Factory, Witney, Oxfordshire. Henry Taunt 1860-1922. © Historic England Images are from the National Monuments Record, and published in WORK (£9.99) from English Heritage's The Way We Were series.
  • Enquiry Department at the International Correspondence School, London 1909 © Historic England. Images are from the National Monuments Record, and published in WORK (£9.99) from English Heritage's The Way We Were series
  • Making supplies for the military in the sewing workshops at Hampton’s factory, Lambeth, London. Bedford Lemere 1916 © Historic England. Images are from the National Monuments Record, and published in WORK (£9.99) from English Heritage’s The Way We Were series.
  • Turning steel at the Cunard Shell Works, Birkenhead, Bedfod Lemere 1917. © Historic England. Images are from the National Monuments Record, and published in WORK (£9.99) from English Heritage’s The Way We Were series.

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