The Improved Industrial Dwellings Company

( “The Ebury Estate, Pimlico Road, Westminster SW1, close to Sloane Square, is made up of two separate blocks, Lumley (pictured) and Coleshill flats, which were constructed in the 1870s.”


“The Improved Industrial Dwellings Company (IIDC)…was founded in 1863 by Sydney Waterlow, a stationer and printer. Like George Peabody he moved into banking and became interested in philanthropy. Waterlow was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1872, and also became a Member of Parliament.

The IIDC built dwellings which were self-contained, unlike the earliest Peabody flats, and their rents were slightly higher than Peabody’s…former IIDC properties now owned by Peabody include Bricklayers Arms, Ebury estate and Chelsea Gardens.”

From: Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings). Originally published by London County Council, London (1980):

“…this proved insufficient for the Association, and so for the later Pimlico model dwellings of this campaign, Coleshill Buildings (1871), Ebury Buildings I and II (1871, 1873) and (see image) Lumley Buildings (1875), the Estate turned to Sir Sydney Waterlow‘s Improved Industrial Dwellings Company.

This company relied for its solvency on offering a higher rate of return on capital than some of the earlier organizations. Its characteristic tenement blocks, idiosyncratic in both plan and elevation, reflected Waterlow’s personal involvement in their development. Lord Ebury, the second Marquess’s brother, had presided at the opening of the I.I.D.C.’s first building (in Finsbury) in 1863, so the Grosvenor family had some knowledge of its operations. This first building, evolved with Waterlow by the company’s regular builder, Matthew Allen, became the model for most of their subsequent blocks. As with the Metropolitan Association, the I.I.D.C. flats were provided with balcony access, which allowed ventilation for the stairs and at the same time exempted the blocks from house duty, but they differed from those of other companies by being entirely self-contained, having their own lavatories and sculleries behind the living-rooms no matter how small the flat. Only the washrooms on the roof were communal. Floors were commonly of concrete, as Allen was an early exponent of concrete construction for cheapness.

The I.I.D.C. had no regular architect, and normally relied for its designs upon a modification of their original plan, worked out between a consulting surveyor and their secretary, who for many years was the industrious James Moore. ‘We have what we call standard plans’, said Waterlow in 1884, ‘and if plan No. 1 does not fit, plan No. 2 or No. 3 or No. 4 probably fits the peculiar ground we have to deal with’. Yet at Coleshill, Ebury and Lumley Buildings, an architect was clearly employed, William Ward Lee of Messrs. Lee and Beck. At Coleshill and Lumley Buildings he may merely have fitted the I.I.D.C. plan to the sites and elaborated the exteriors in accordance with the wishes of the third Marquess, who succeeded his father in October 1869 just as the first of these blocks was being started. But for Ebury Buildings Lee provided an entirely new plan, on a more extensively galleried system. Though not adopted again, it was one of several signs that the company was using the goodwill of the Grosvenors to experiment in its Pimlico developments. Certainly the Estate was not out to make a profit here. At Lumley Buildings, for instance, the ground rent was reduced at their suggestion so as to allow the housing of poorer people than in the earlier blocks…”

Darren Silk commented at

“These are actually Improved Industrial Dwellings Company buildings (now they’re owned by The Peabody Trust). You can tell as; the open cast iron balconies, L-plan shaped flats, the combined casement and sash windows, the buff brick colour, and the lintels above the window openings are the biggest dead give away; you only see that unusual sculpted shape on buildings made by Sydney Waterlow (philanthropist) and Matthew J. Allen (Quaker builder/designer) for the IIDC. Kind of a trademark.”

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