Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow – The Improved Industrial Dwellings Company

The Improved Industrial Dwellings Company (IIDC) was a Victorian Model dwellings company founded in 1863 by the printer, philanthropist and later Lord Mayor of London Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow.

The company operated operating predominantly in Central London as a provider of block dwellings for the working classes, employing a strict selection and discipline regime amongst its tenants to ensure a healthy return on investment.

Starting with a capital of £50,000, the IIDC became one of the largest and most successful of the model dwellings companies, housing at its height around 30,000 individuals by 1900. Its rigorous selection procedure, rules and financial regulations meant that the IIDC was one of the more financially successful of these firms..

Waterlow worked directly with the builder Matthew Allen, choosing not to use an architect.

The company lasted until the 1960s by which point they owned around 6000 tenements in and around London.  However my recollection was that it was used as a temporary dwelling for the Hungarian refugees in the 1950’s

The IIDC operated on a Freemarket basis, although the profits were limited to 5%, the rest of the money being reinvesting into further properties and developments.

Waterlow also encouraged investment from others, unlike Peabody who seemed to fashion a legacy for himself as much as he wanted to help the poor.

Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow, 1st Baronet, KCVO 

(1 November 1822 – 3 August 1906) was an English philanthropist and Liberal Party politician principally remembered for donating Waterlow Park to the public as “a garden for the gardenless”.

He was born in Finsbury  and brought up in Mile End Educated at St Saviour’s Grammar School, was apprenticed to a stationer and printer and worked in the family firm of Waterlow & Sons Ltd, a large printing company employing over two thousand people.

From that he moved into finance and became a director of the Union Bank of London.

He was a Commissioner at the Great Exhibition 1851 and a juror at the Paris International Exhibition in 1867 for which he was knighted.

He started his political career as a Councillor in 1857 (when he introduced telegraph links between police stations).

In 1863 he became an Alderman and began his philanthropic works. He was chairman of the philanthropic housing company

The IMPROVED INDUSTRIAL DWELLINGS COMPANY which built the Leopold Buildings,  amongst others. He also worked for many other charities. He was a Sheriff of the City of London in 1866 and Lord Mayor of London from 1872–1873.

In 1870, he bought large areas of land in Kent, including the village of Fairseat (near Stansted), a major portion of Stansted as well as other pieces of land extending from Wrotham to Meopham. The parts of the estate were linked by a small bridge bearing the family crest over Trottiscliffe Road (which is still in evidence today –

In 1887, he built Trosley Towers on the crest of the escarpment on the North Downs, to the east of Trottiscliffe Road.

In 1872 he gave Lauderdale House   (now in Waterlow Park) to St Bartholomew’s Hospital to be used as a convalescent home for the poor, staffed by nurses supplied by Florence Nightingale and in 1889 he gave the surrounding park to the London County Council.

He was a Member of Parliament (MP) for Dumfriessire from 1868–1869, when he was unseated on the grounds that he was a government contractor his firm having taken a contract without his knowledge. He then sat for Maidstone (1874–1880) and Gravesend (1880–1885).

Sir Sydney was appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1902

His fourth son, David Sydney Waterlow, was Liberal MP for Islington North. The artist Ernest Albert Waterlow was his nephew.

When Sir Sidney died in 1906 at his Trosley Towers estate, Wrotham, it passed to his son Philip (who thereby became entitled Sir).

When Sir Philip died in 1931, the estate was sold off. Some of the houses (of the estate) were bought by tenants, one of these was Pilgrims House, with six acres of land, at the bottom of Trottiscliffe Road which went for £600. Trosley Towers and the woodlands around it, were sold to ‘Mr E. E. Shahmoon’ in 1935. In 1936, Mr Shahmoon had Trosley Towers demolished and had Hamilton Lodge built along with adjoining stables. One story suggests that the Lodge and stables were built to accommodate the Shah of Persia‘s racehorses on his visits to England.




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