Back-to-back housing is a form of terraced housing in which two houses share a rear wall. With the rapid expansion of the population in Victorian Britain’s factory towns during the Industrial Revolution, many thousands of back-to-back houses were built.
They were typically occupied by working class people and were generally of low quality and high density. The houses were usually either ‘two-up-two-down’ (i.e. two rooms on both floors), or one room on each of three floors.
Because three of the four walls were shared with other buildings, this type of housing suffered from poor illumination and ventilation. However, they did have some benefits, such as being cheap to build and inexpensive to rent, as well as delivering high-density while giving people their own home as opposed to a flat.
Back-to-back housing was eventually judged to be unsatisfactory and the Housing Act of 1909 outlawed further construction. However, some local authorities continued to sanction their construction until the late-1930s.
Back-to-back housing was particularly common in the inner city areas of Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Liverpool, Salford and Nottingham. Only small areas of the housing still exists, most notably in Birmingham where they have been preserved as a museum by the National Trust.
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