Housing and Economic Status – The Family Home

The family tale is that Ada’s husband worked for her father, delivering coal to households.  This was dirty, back-breaking work that paid little, so Ada’s family, especially her children, received extra support from her parents in the form of dinner on Sundays.  The marriage certificate provides the following information:

Bride: Ada Emily Coulson, aged 21
Groom: Levi Frankcom Gascoigne, aged 29
Date: 29 July 1922
Location: Register Office, Aston district, Birmingham
Bride’s residence: 32 Gt Francis Street
Groom’s residence: 260 Soho Road, Handsworth
Bride’s father: Edward Charles Coulson, Coal Merchant
Groom’s father: Levi Gascoigne, Joiner

The bride’s Great Francis Street address was her parent’s home and the premises from which the coal delivery business operated.  The premises included stables for the horses that pulled the coal carts.  This photograph has been consistently identified as being the yard at 32 Great Francis Street, with horse and stable in the background.  The toddler is a nephew of Ada and Levi.

Yard at 32 Great Francis Street, ca 1941

Yard at 32 Great Francis Street, ca 1941

The groom’s address at 260 Soho Road was also his parent’s home.  The 1911 census confirms Levi Gascoigne senior’s occupation as a joiner.  The fathers of both bride and groom were recorded on the electoral register for 1912.  At that time, eligibility for inclusion in the register was governed by The Representation of the People Act 1884.  The franchise was restricted to men over the age of 21 who were not legally incapacitated (e.g. aliens, lunatics, idiots, certain public officials, felons) and also owned property, or occupied property with a ‘clear yearly value’ of £10 or more for the preceding year.  Responsibility for recording eligible men fell to the Overseers of the Poor, who collected the rates for the relief of the poor.  The rate book entries formed the basis of the electoral register with additional information from the registrar of births and deaths.  Occupiers could be owners, tenants or lodgers, so the electoral register does not indicate ownership status, but it does indicate the householder could afford the minimum rateable value of £10.  The most likely reason for Levi Gascoigne senior’s and Edward Charles Coulson’s voting qualification is that the tenement in Soho Road and dwelling house in Great Francis Street exceeded the annual rateable value of £10.

As discussed in 20th Century sources – Electoral rolls, Google Maps and Land Registry, the property qualification was abolished in 1918 and the franchise extended to some women for the first time.  In 1925, Levi Frankcom Gascoigne is listed on the electoral register at 60 Camden Street in the St Pauls ward, having qualified as a resident.  His wife, Ada Emily, then aged 25, did not meet the age requirement of over 30 for women.  Five years later, in 1930, Ada entered the electoral register, and the couple were recorded at the Camden Street address until 1939.  The 1945 register shows they had moved to 61 Firsby Road, Quinton in the Harbourne ward.  Although more people are included in the post 1918 registers, they lack the inferred economic status data contained in earlier registers.  However, other records provide an alternative source for such insights.

The part of Camden Street where number 60 should be now has modern buildings, and there is no Land Registry record for this address.  Two possible reasons the house no longer exists are World War II bombing and slum re-development.

The Firsby Road house was part of extensive residential development of Quinton that occurred during the inter-war years and later.  Consultation of maps of the area using old-maps.co.uk confirms that the relevant part of Firsby Road had been developed by 1938.  The current Land Registry record for 61 Firsby Road tells me that the property was first registered on 19 January 1973 shortly after transfer of title on 11 December 1972 from The Birmingham Corporation to Levi Frankcom Gascoigne. The Birmingham Corporation was the pre-cursor of the current City Council.  So, either during or shortly after World War II, Levi and Ada moved into recently built municipal housing, which was very likely an improvement on their previous residence.  By this time the couple had 6 children, the youngest born in 1938, so the family would have been high on the housing list.

The purchase of 61 Firsby Road in 1972 predates the 1979 ‘right to buy’ legislation.  The 1955 electoral register includes two adult children of the couple, one of whom was still living in the house in 1997.  The pooled resources of several working adults may have enabled the family’s purchase of their home.

© Sue Adams 2013

Ancestry. “Midlands, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1955”, database (ancestry.co.uk, accessed 28 July 2013)

Land Registry, Coventry Office. 25 Jul 2013. Register Extract. Title Number WK204317.

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