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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Homes for workers

THE new Vickerstown housing estate on Walney had its roots in an accommodation crisis faced by the Vickers shipyard by 1898.

As the yard’s order books grew for warships and engineering products it needed accommodation for skilled workers which the town authorities had been slow to provide.

A syndicate of businesses, led by Benjamin Fish, proposed a major property development on Walney, to be called the Isle of Walney Estates Company.

There was much talk but no action, so Vickers bought the company and set about the construction of a new estate with the help of contractors.

Around 1,000 houses were planned in two groups as a “marine garden city”.

Work on the first houses started in March 1900.

Bricks for the houses were produced on the island but many of the roof slates were imported from America.

As a temporary measure, an iron chapel was bought in Brighton Street and was moved to Walney as a workmen’s shelter.

Use was also made of the Atlantic liner Alaska which provided a floating hostel in Devonshire Dock for up to 250 men.

By the summer of 1900 people from Barrow were making ferry trips to watch the estate taking shape.

Houses in Latona Street were ready to be moved into by November 1900.

People were in Melampus Street by February 1901.

By February 1903 it was reported in the Vickerstown Chronicle that 737 houses were occupied.

Another 114 homes were still under construction.

The cost of the estate was put at around £500,000 with building work completed by the spring of 1904.

Management of the estate was placed in the hands of the Isle of Walney Estates Company from its office next to the ferry Hotel.

Lord Dunluce was made estates manager in 1901.

By the time David Kay took over in 1909 there was a staff of 47 clerks, builders, painters, gardeners and even a blacksmith.

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