Building of houses for ICI staff.

As early on as July 1920 the Synthetic bought houses for its staff. Houses built by the Synthetic had electricity, gas and even gardens. By June 1922, 24 semi-detached homes were built for staff and foreman in Mill Lane. By the 1950’s the company owned 1,700 houses in the Billingham area, these were let to employees at low rentals. Rent would be taken out the men’s wages. It wasn’t until the late 1950’s that ICI started selling off some of its homes to its tenants. Management colonies were also built and were nice detached homes. They were built to attract the high quality of management that the Synthetic wanted. The housing situation was difficult and there were, even in the 1950’s, several hundred on the waiting list. Only a few vacancies came up a year. Applications were accepted only from married men! The application form would be considered and awarded a certain number of points. You were placed on the list depending on how many points you were given.

15 thoughts on “Building of houses for ICI staff.

  1. There is a book on the History of the Bradford Property Trust Ltd -1928-26. When it started up in 1928, in a very small way, the Trust bought up rent controlled properties, and then sold them off to tenants on long term mortgages that were not much more than the rents and rates. In general this worked out very well for both parties, as although the houses might have looked a bit of a mess they were structural sound. With bit of effort the houses could be made quite decent over a few years.

    Modern readers might be surprised to know that because of inflation in the First World War, the Government brought in strict rent controls that prevented rents being raised. Hence Landlords were stuck with properties that were giving them no real income and they were desperate to sell. Rent control only disappeared in the 1950s.

    Later on the Trust took over estates that had been built by industrial companies for their workforce. The Trust was able to buy such estates as a quick sale, as the companies didn’t need such a big workforce or they didn’t want the expense of bringing properties up to scratch.
    The ICI houses seem to have been like these. The Trust offered ICI tenants the option of buying a house at well below what something else would have cost, either brand new or from decades back, as we see from the prices being quoted. If the householders didn’t want to buy, they would now pay rent at something like the going rates.

    My impression from what I have read on Wikipedia, is that after the originator of the Bradford Property Trust died, the company became more commercial, but was still amongst the best of the rentier/landlord companies. It no longer exists having been bought up.

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  2. Hi, I live at 2 Imperial Road. Anyone any idea where I can get the original plans of the house as it was built in 1929? When we registered our purchase all the fascinating information in the old documents was destroyed by the Land Registry (without asking us, whether we wanted to keep them, of course). I’m both interested per se and also making minor alterations which include working around the foul water drains. I *rather* want to avoid making *any* mistake while working on them…

    Help would be greatly appreciated,

    David Walland

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  3. Is there any more information on ex-ICI (Synthetic Ammonia and Nitrates Co, aka Brunner, Mond and Co) properties? I ask because I have recently moved into a semi-detached house on North Albert Road. The deeds suggest that the first owners were ‘the Synthetic’ in approximately 1931, so I wondered if it was built as some kind of middle-managers property. It looks like it passed into private hands in 1960; to a Mr Bailey, a draughtsman, perhaps an ICI employee? I’m interested in finding out about the history of the property and the concept of such ’employee houses’.

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  4. My parents told me they could have bought their house for £900,(end terrace) but probably didn’t think it was worthwhile on their income back then, late 50`s early 60`s?Dad left ICI in early 1970`s and mam remained in the now Bradford Property Trust owned house until she died in 2000.
    I still miss the place, living there my first 30 years. Our family should have bought the house for £20,000 we had first refusual, but the Bradford Trust sold it to a builder before we could sort things out.

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  5. The ICI houses were offered to the staff long before 1970 (see my last posting). My late father was given the chance to buy our house in Pentland Ave in the early fifties as I say for £800 and our house was a end of terrace. Also cannot understand the statement that only employees of ICI could live in those houses. My father left ICI in about 1955/6 but stayed in the house for many years after, he just payed rent to ICI and, as you say, Bradford Trust and I can remember many other families in the same situation.

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    • Hello Bill, throughout my life I have lived at different numbers on Pentland and I am still there now. It would be nice to hear from you.

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      • Pentland Ave was the new Billingham. I was born in Weardale Crescent in 1944 and went to the sec. modern school, Billingham before the Comp was built in the new Town Centre. I also swam for the Billingham Synthonia Club at the old pool which I believe was razed to the ground. Does any one have any information about this please?

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  6. Back to the early 1970’s, Bradford Trust never actually bought the houses from the ICI, they only managed them just like Tristar do. My father and mother worked for ICI but after my father left my mother still had to work for them or she would have had to move out because the rent was taken out of her wages. That is why nobody who lived in ICI houses were ever allowed to exchange with someone living in a council house and when the residents were offerd them for sale back in 1969 it was £800 for mid terrace and £1,000 for the end houses and, I think, the reason why most didn’t accept the offer of sale was they had no central heating. All windows doors needed replacing, needed rewired and, if you can remember, the kitchens had no plaster on the walls it was painted brick. But for £3,450 as advertised in the Billingham Post you could have a brand new bungalow in Whitehouse Road.

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    • I was born and brought up in an ICI house in Stokesley Crescent and our kitchen was definitely plastered. In 1966 we bought my husbands Grandmothers house with her as a sitting tenant and we paid £1060 for an end house and that kitchen was also plastered, perhaps some other ICI houses had unplastered kitchens but the ones around Central Avenue were certainly plastered.

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  7. Yes an estate where everyone knew each other and people lived in the houses for years and years. I used to play football in the street of Grampian (1970’s), one goal was outside my house on the junction with Malvern, the other goal at the other end of the street on the junction with Pentland! Must have only been about 3 cars ever parked outside houses then. My kids dont believe me!

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  8. My late father, Bill Charlton, a bricklayer at the time for ICI had the chance to buy our house in Pentland Ave in the fifties for £800 but said he could not afford the mortgage as did many others on the estate and how he and others regretted it in later years. I have lived away from Billingham now for 30yr, it use to be a lovely estate Pentland, Malvern, Cotswold, Grampian etc.

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  9. My dad worked at ICI for many years (George Smith-ccf plant) we lived in Grampian Road. My mam and dad didn’t want to buy the house from ICI, stating they would probably be slum houses in a few years, so instead the Bradford Property Trust bought a load of them. Worst decision my parents made was not buying the house. My uncle also had 50yrs service in ICI, Walter Hind, do these names ring a bell? Would be interesting to know.

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  10. My mother”s family, the Doughty”s (she was Pauline Doughty) moved from Middlesborough to Billingham when her father went to work for ICI in the 1930″s. She always spoke of Billingham with great fondness, recalling a small community with houses that backed onto fields where children could roam and play, a far cry from Middlsborough. Mum was an ARP warden during the war, I would love to find out more

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  11. It is very difficult to know if these are indeed ICI houses and Ernie Edwards could be correct in locating them at Haverton Hill. Nevertheless ICI did build many houses for its workers looking very similar to the ones in the photo. I knew several work colleagues who lived in ICI houses at Billingham and before the council estates were built the vast majority of houses in Billingham were built for ICI workers. The houses in the photo look very similar to those on Central Avenue that I remember from the 1950`s. By this time more than half the total population of Billingham worked at ICI.

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