Swept Under the Carpet? Servants in London Households 1600-2000

PP. - CopyOpening this month at the Geffrye Museum of the Home is an exhibition which features visually stimulating items from the Pritchard Papers (UEA Archives). Our contribution focuses on the serviced Lawn Road Flats (Hampstead Heath), designed by Wells Coates and opened in 1934.

These minimum flats offered comfort, convenience and freedom from mundane burdens. Included in the rent, which ranged from £120-£200 per year, was “very full domestic service”: cleaning, bed-making, shoe-cleaning, window-cleaning, the services of a housekeeper, maid and porters, constant hot water and central heating. Meals could be taken in the Isobar restaurant, “a club for the epicure”, or in the flats at no extra charge.

PP. flats contained integrated furniture which meant that the tenant just had to add a few personal touches whilst remaining largely free from permanent tangible possessions. The new possessions, as seen by Coates were the “possessions of freedom, travel, new experience – in short, what we call life”.

Following in the success of the Lawn Road Flats, other schemes were proposed. One such scheme was for the development of a site at St Leonard’s Hill, Windsor. Under the alluring brochure entitled Where Life is Living, inclusive rentals offered “such services as would relieve you of household management.” The grime and grind of chores ‘swept under the carpet’ indeed.

PP. Archives is able to help with further information relating to serviced flats, Lawn Road Flats, Wells Coates, the Isobar Club (menus, rules, membership), and the development at Windsor.

Our thanks to the Geffrye Museum for including the Lawn Road (Isokon) Flats in their exhibition. The exhibition is on from 15 March – 4 September 2016.


Photo credit: Pritchard Papers, University of East Anglia.


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