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'Home Fit for Heroes' - an exclusive extract

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'Home Fit for Heroes' - an exclusive extract

Homes Fit For Heroes, which describes the rebuilding of Britain in the decades following World War I, was published in 2017.

We were delighted when Frank Field MP, lifelong anti-poverty campaigner and formerly the minister for welfare reform, agreed to write the foreword. 

With the 100-year anniversary of war's end fast approaching, we thought it was time to revisit his introduction to the book.

We're pleased to now share those words with you. The text below is reproduced exactly as it appears in the book. If it inspires you to discover more about this subject, you'll find the book for sale right here


 


"Home Fit For Heroes
is a most wonderful book and I say so on a number of fronts.

It is a fitting follow-up to Trevor Yorke’s previous volume The Trench. That was a fine work and Homes Fit for Heroes builds on it. 

The book is beautifully illustrated. It is doubtful whether anyone has brought together a better collection of photographs illustrating the story of those who attempted to build a new world, and the sheer range of buildings they constructed, to build a land fit for heroes.

The text, of course, is crucial. Here we have a concise story from the outbreak of the First World War to the war clouds breaking over our heads again in 1939. Lloyd George is one, if not the, political hero of the author. It is difficult now to imagine the sheer drive of the man and how short a time he had to build a winning coalition from late 1916 to 1918.

Lloyd George’s huge energy then went on a social reform programme, much of which was not fulfilled. One area that was fulfilled was his wish to transform the housing conditions of the working class – despite the label that hangs round his neck that there was no land fit for heroes.

Quickly Lloyd George established a committee under John Tudor Walters to come up with a plan that could provide beautiful, yes, beautiful, housing for working people which they could afford. The Tudor Walters report, as Trevor notes, published in November 1918, was so influential that it set the standard for much of the housebuilding in Britain right up until the 1960s.

I would draw two main political lessons from this text. The first would be about idealism. For whatever reason Lloyd George managed to act as a lightning rod for a growing demand in the country in the number and quality of houses that should be provided for working people. The standards were way ahead of their time as this book makes plain. Many tried to dismiss these standards as being ‘idealistic’ but they would be proved wrong.

The second lesson I draw is the important role of leadership. Lloyd George, who quickly became part of the establishment, also maintained a presence outside in the country. It was this person, the one that decided to make providing decent housing of beautiful quality for working class people a reality, who should take the main bow. But he was joined by another establishment figure, who never lost his roots in his community and worked as a doctor in the community, Addison, to carry the programme through in the very early stages. These two people used the power of the state to direct its protective power in a different direction and to deliver, initially in catering for a near universal demand for most working class people. We need that idealism and the ability to deliver in today’s politics.

Some of the best illustrations in this book are of the range of estates that were built as a result of this initial drive from Lloyd George.

As prime minister he also harnessed Dr Addison’s enthusiasm as president of the Local Government Board which then carried all the Ministry of Health’s responsibilities, including those for social housing. Addison, in 1919, converted Lloyd George’s drive, and Tudor Walters’ ideas, into legislative action in a great reforming act.

But I must not go on as I do not want to steal too much of the delight that will engage the reader of this glimpse of who planned the great future, who achieved so much, and how this was picked up by one of Addison’s successors, Aneurin Bevan, as health minister once war was over."

Frank Field

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  • Alex Batho
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