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Were the Victorians better city builders?

A team of researchers at UCL recently surveyed 2,500 households across the UK to see how the design of their homes and neighborhoods has impacted their experience during lockdown (May to June 2020).

Perhaps most notably, the report, called Home Comforts, found that people living in housing built in the last 10 years were more likely to feel uncomfortable during lockdown (1 in 5), compared to those living in homes built before 1919 (1 in 7).

On top of this, people living in Victorian era housing were more likely to say that their neighborhoods were meeting their everyday needs, which seems to translate into convenient access to basic amenities (5 to 10 minute walk).

So what does this tell us?

That people want more ornament and clearly defined Zoom-friendly rooms? That the Victorians were better at city and community building? Or maybe that Londoners living in low-rise pre-1919 housing are generally well-established and have the ability to afford more conveniences? It’s likely a bunch of different things.

There’s no denying that the way we build our homes and our neighborhoods has, for better or for worse, changed over the last 100 years. But let’s not forget that it’s easy to romanticize the past and the things we used to do. I’m sure it wasn’t puppy dogs and ice cream for all of the Victorians.

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