A step back in time…

6 March 2020

Meet the man who helped to alleviate the slum housing suffered by Exeter’s poor in the early 20th century – our founder – Dr Charles Newton Lovely!

One magazine has just published this fantastic article which looks into a great bit of our history, of which without we wouldn’t be Cornerstone today!

Charles Lovely was a man ahead of his time. Born in 1864 in India, he qualified as a doctor in 1889 and practised in St Leonards after the Great Way. He was also a Devon County Prison doctor and was involved with the St John ambulance. He soon become aware of, and determined o do something about the appalling living conditions of many of Exeter’s poor.

These hard working people lived in insanitary, overcrowded slums in narrow and filthy alleys and courts where TB, other infectious diseases and rickets were rife.  Without clean water or sewers, poor hygiene was inevitable – sewage often passing straight into watercourses. On upper floors every drop of water was carried in buckets up rickety stairs and never wasted on washing hands! Their only and often overflowing toilet was in the street. Children used potties; on starting school they used the floor because they didn’t know what a lavatory was for!

The council built some housing but this failed to meet the demand and was often too expensive. Dr Lovely, with like minded souls, realised the situation desperately needed improvement. In 1921 he founded the Workmen’s Dwellings Company Ltd, persuading many monied people, such as the Aclands, to become directors.

Their mission was to provide decent, affordable housing with good living conditions and secure tenancies. 1928 saw 79  new houses built in Looe Road, St Davids, and, using loans from Great Western Railway, 1929 saw 50 more homes – but only for railway employees. Mildmay close is a delightful example of that housing.  in 1932 thirty three-bed homes in kings dwellings, Stepcote hill, were completed. Rent was 6/ – a week (30p today!).

By September 1939, 550 homes in total had been built but the government froze rents until 1957 when 500 pre war properties were improved. By 1992 32 more properties had been upgraded. Norwood house, a fee-paying school, was replaced by housing in 1985. 2013 is when we became Cornerstone and we moved into our new head office building on Western Way – where the filling station used to be. To this day we still provide affordable housing, now totalling 1300 general purpose homes. In February 2019 we unveiled a blue plaque at Kings Dwellings alongside Dr Lovely’s grandson, Richard Holladay, to mark the contribution his grandfather had made in the previous century to alleviating the slum housing suffered by Exeter’s Poor.

You can see more on our history, including images by clicking here!



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