26 January 2017

Alfred’s story

Born in 1833 in Westminster, Alfred Idle was from a working class background. Living conditions in central London were poor for families like Alfred’s at the time, London was hugely overpopulated and didn’t have good sanitation. 

He grew up in a crowded house with his parents, four brothers, sister, another family and two lodgers.

Hope in the suburbs

But by 1884, Alfred had escaped the big stink and overcrowding of the city for the newly emerging suburbs, which promised more space, better drainage and ventilation.

Alfred's mortgage log

He moved to Morrison Street, Battersea with his wife and nine children.

Alfred was renting the house when he first moved to Battersea but then the Southern Co-operative Permanent Building Society arranged a mortgage of £120, so he could buy his first home.

The social progress movement

Alfred’s street was named after Walter Morrison, a strong supporter of housing reform and the co-operative movement. Alfred was also surrounded by like-minded people who were invested in the idea of self-improvement. His neighbours in the community included carpenters, clerks, factory workers and railwaymen.

  • A temperance society was set up and no pubs were allowed on the estate. 
  • Evening classes such as practical geometry, machine drawing and build construction were held, in connection with the South Kensington Science and Art department.

As a self-improver himself, it’s likely Alfred was involved in the movement within his community too. He had moved out of the city and into the suburbs and was working as a librarian assistant at Mudie’s circulating library.

Mudie’s library was influential in improving access to books in Victorian times - Charles Darwin borrowed many books from the library as part of his own reading and in turn the library bought hundreds of copies of On the Origin of Species to circulate to readers.

Ten years later, at the age of 61, Alfred made the final payment on his mortgage and for the first time he owned his own home.

29 Morrison Street

Ongoing supporter of the Society

Even after paying off his mortgage Alfred continued to put his savings into the Society so that others could benefit as he had. But Alfred’s support didn’t stop there, he even went on to work for the Society as an agent for Clapham, and his son (John Idle) was an agent for Wandsworth. He continued saving right up until his death in 1918, when he had £46 in his savings account.

Alfred’s house in Morrison Street still stands today, having survived bombings in World War 2. And what’s more, it’s still owned by someone who bought it with a Nationwide mortgage. 


One of 14 million members building society, Nationwide.

The content displayed on our recent news and articles page is for information purposes only, and is accurate at the time of publication. The information will not be maintained, and so we cannot guarantee that at any given time the information will be up to date or complete. Please verify any information you take before relying on it.

Nationwide is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites. Nationwide does not make any recommendation or endorse any advertising, products, services or other content on such external websites. Views expressed on third party websites are those of the public and unless specifically stated, are not those of Nationwide.

Most popular

The Budget 2017

09.03.17

Chancellor Philip Hammond presented his first – and last – Spring Budget to Parliament yesterday. Here’s your easy guide to the changes.

You may also be interested in...

Our helpful guides

We've created a range of helpful guides to help you make better financial decisions regardless of your circumstances. Find out more about owning property, growing wealth and planning for life events.

Our products

Whether you are after a current account, a savings account or even looking for a mortgage, Nationwide has a range of great products that could help you, no matter the situation.