As Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and valuers we have carried out Building Surveys (formerly known as a Structural Survey) and RICS Homebuyer Reports (commonly referred to as a Homebuyer Surveys) in the Northamptonshire towns of Northampton, Brackley, Kettering, Corby, Rushden, Thrapston, Wellingborough, Towcester and Oundle together with the surrounding villages since 1995.
Housing in Northampton
Northampton has an interesting mix of housing as there were two distinct periods of growth. In 1800 Northampton had a population of 7,000 but it was rapidly becoming a major centre for footwear and leather manufacture. The prosperity of the Town was greatly aided by demand for footwear caused by the Napoleonic Wars.
Further acceleration in growth was brought about firstly by the Grand Union Canal and secondly by the development in the railways. As a result, 100 years later the population had grown to 87,000. This caused a massive surge in house building particularly in the mid to late 19th century, to house those associated with the expansion in the shoe industry. Consequently Northampton has large areas of Victorian and Edwardian housing in areas such as Abington, The Mounts, St James, Far Cotton and Semilong. This housing tends to be centred around large Victorian shoe factories.
One such area is the popular area of Abington which consists of good quality terraced housing built around the late 1890s and early 1900s close to old shoe factories.
After the First World War (1918) there was a shortage of suburban homes and a further surge in house building commenced with a programme of Local Authority house building and private house building. Streets of private and Local Authority 1930s terraced and semi-detached houses were built in areas such as the Headlands, St Davids and Far Cotton.
Similarly, the Second World War caused a shortage of housing in towns and cities across the country and so again a period of expansion in house building saw large estates of Local Authority housing being built in the 1950s. One such example is Kingsheath.
In 1968 Northampton was designated as a New Town with a view to expanding the Town to a target population of 230,000 by 1981 (a target that was never achieved) to cater for London overspill.
This resulted in a huge house building programme taking place in the eastern districts of Northampton with large estates of Local Authority housing all looking very similar but of differing construction. Areas such as Lumbertubbs, Lings, Standens Barn, Thorpelands, Blackthorn etc.
For speed of construction, system built and prefabricated houses were used. Although different methods of construction were used, all the houses had a similar appearance. Some are timber framed houses and others are poured concrete systems but look similar because the external claddings of brick, tiles and timber gave a similar appearance.
Although all these houses are similar in appearance they are of differing forms of construction. None are conventional masonry. The Lumbertubbs properties are of “cross-wall” construction being part timber framed and part masonry. The Lings properties are a “poured” concrete system with brick and timber cladding. The Thorpeland properties are of loadbearing timber framework clad with brick and timber.
As Local Authorities cut back on house building, public housing declined over the next decade. But the boom in home ownership led to private house builders stepping in to provide the bulk of the new housing in the 1980s and 1990s with large developments to the south west of Northampton close to Junction 15 of the M1 Motorway. These housing developments are very popular and known as West and East Hunsbury and GrangePark. Other developments have taken place in areas such as Duston and Upton.
These are typical Hunsbury houses circa 1988 and 1990. It is worth noting that one is constructed of loadbearing timber framework with brick cladding and the other is of conventional masonry construction. Can you tell which is which? The left handside house is timber framed.
The housing in the Upton area of NN5 are certainly different in design and also layout of the area as can be seen in the adjacent photograph.
There is also an area where eco-friendly housing has been built as can be seen.
The decline of the shoe industry left many large Victorian shoe factories vacant and falling in to dereliction. However, because they were located in existing housing areas developers began to convert them in to good quality apartments. One market leader in this field was the local property developer Colin Clayson whose quality of conversion and ability to retain original factory characteristics made his developments the most sought after. Unfortunately, an over supply of apartments in the area coupled with the 2007 recession caused the bottom to fall out of this sector.
The Webbs shoe factory (Circa 1880) in Kingsthorpe Hollow was converted to residential apartments around 2000. It is a good example of a conversion that has retained much of the original character.
NorthamPton Housing Construction
Local property Issues in Northampton and Northamptonshire
Northampton and Northamptonshire are not within the coal fields and therefore there are no problems with ground stability caused by Coal mining past or present. It is not a high risk subsidence location either. However, there are pockets of boulder clays which can lead to clay shrinkage and subsidence and which can be exacerbated by nearby trees. Pre 1980 houses on shallower foundations can be particularly vulnerable to clay shrinkage. After this date the depth of foundations were increased.
A common cause of movement in property is defective drains particularly experienced again in older property. This is not confined to Northampton and Northamptonshire but can be a problem in any location.
In summary, most houses can be susceptible to some form of movement whether it be initial shrinkage and settlement for more serious forms such as subsidence. It is the purpose of the Building Survey or Homebuyer Report to identify any form of movement and to determine whether it is ongoing serious problem.
Flooding in NorthamPton
During Easter 1998 parts of Northampton were flooded which I believe was mainly due to human error. Those areas include Far Cotton and St James.
Radon in Northamptonshire
The main local issue is Radon gas. Radon gas is a naturally occurring gas which seeps in to houses and long term exposure to high levels can cause health problems. Other parts of the country with similar rock formations are also affected. To find out more visit the Health Protection Agency website www.hpa.org.uk or speak to one of our surveyors.
Northampton and Northamptonshire Post codes covered:
NN1 – Central area of Northapton
NN2 – Kingsthorpe area
NN3 – Eastern Districts
NN4 – Hunsbury and GrangePark
NN5 – Duston and Upton
NN6 – North East of the Town including villages such as Brixworth and Earls Barton
NN7 – South of the Town including villages such as Roade and Weedon
NN8 – Welllingborough
NN9 – Irthlingborough and Raunds
NN10 – Rushden and Higham Ferrers
NN11 – Daventry
NN12 – Towcester
NN13 – Brackley
NN14 – Thrapston
NN15 – Kettering South
NN16 – Kettering North
NN17 – Corby North
NN18 – Corby South
NN29 – Wollaston and Bozeat
PE8 – Oundle and Surrounding Villages