The Victorian suburbs, now such a familiar element of the British townscape, were once building sites where armies of workmen converged to cover open land with streets of modest, comfortable houses. Despite their large scale and uniform appearance, most developments were built a few houses at a time by small firms operating on the narrowest of profit margins. Everyone on the building site had his place in the hierarchy of trades and the sequence of work, and each craftsman guarded his own tools and trade secrets, the fruits of his years in work that was dirty, strenuous and sometimes downright dangerous. In this lively investigation of the nineteenth-century building industry, Kit Wedd celebrates the work of the men who, plot by plot, translated surveyors’ drawings and piles of materials into streets of dwellings that are as desirable today as when they first appeared.
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