Conservationist, Artist, Social Reformer, Writer and Teacher


Accolade for social housing hero

The plaque at the Birthplace House

The plaque at the Birthplace House

A government white paper setting out a new deal for social housing tenants in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy pays tribute to the work of Wisbech-born Octavia Hill.

The document, announcing proposed new laws before they are formulated in a government bill, recognizes that Wisbech’s most famous daughter occupies a distinguished place in this country’s long tradition of providing homes for those most in need.

The earliest recorded almshouse was founded by Athelstan, the first king of all England, more than 1000 years ago and Octavia Hill is acknowledged in the paper as one of the great philanthropists and social reformers who went on to change the face of housing in the nineteenth and early twentieth century

Pioneering figures such as George Cadbury, Joseph Rowntree and George Peabody saw that good quality homes with open space and amenities were essential to overcoming the chronic public health challenges of the time – and in inner city London Octavia Hill famously made it her aim to ‘make lives noble, homes happy and family life good’.

Under the proposals in the white paper, a charter sets out what tenants can expect from a landlord and the government pledges that complaints to landlords should be handled promptly and fairly, and tenants should expect to be treated with respect, with the backing of a consumer regulator.

In England four million households, where there are people on low incomes or with particular needs, benefit from social housing provided by government agencies or non-profit organizations.

The long-awaited proposals are part of a fundamental rethink on social housing following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017, when a fire exacerbated by flammable exterior cladding claimed the lives of 72 people at a 24-storey tower block in North Kensington in West London.

Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House at 7 South Brink, Wisbech, remains closed during the pandemic, but the reopening is planned to coincide with International Women’s Day on Monday, March 8.   In the meantime, all the latest news and information can be found on the museum’s website at www.octaviahill.org .