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Homes for Workers (1939)


Main image of Homes for Workers (1939)
35mm, black and white, 11 mins
Production CompanyNational Film Company
SponsorLiverpool Gas Company
CommentatorL.H. Keay

A survey of Liverpool Corporation's housing programme, introduced by L.H. Keay, architect and director of housing in Liverpool.

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Beginning with a prologue that sets the heroic tone that permeates the rest of the film, Homes for Workers "aims to illustrate the vast amount of work done by the Liverpool Corporation to re-house tenants of insanitary [sic] houses". The film has particular architectural significance since its commentator was Liverpool's foremost authority on housing at the time, L.H. Keay.

Keay illustrates how various Housing Acts, such as the Slum Clearance and Rehousing Act of 1930, enabled local authorities, including in Liverpool, to implement concrete plans to improve the poor state of working-class housing. To prove his point, Keay provides impressive figures indicating that the number of those re-housed by the Corporation, grew from 11,000 in 1914 to 122,000 in 1938. At the same time, over 29,000 houses were erected on the outskirts of the city, many in so-called self-contained communities such as Speke, which provided, in close proximity to local industry, social facilities such as schools and libraries.

Homes for Workers includes impressive aerial shots of Liverpool that show the extent to which the city had engaged in a housing programme. Two of the inner-city tenement courts mentioned are Gerard Gardens (also shown in Basil Dearden's Violent Playground, 1958), and Myrtle Gardens, both of which are excellent examples of modern architecture in Liverpool. Gerard Gardens, whose foundation stone was laid in 1934, is also interesting because it refers, in architectural terms as well as in the way it addressed a particular social agenda, to similar housing programmes in continental Europe, such as that of the Karl-Marx-Hof (1927-30) in Vienna, built by Karl Ehn. A particular highlight of the film is the testimony of an 'ordinary' Liverpool housewife who, with a noticeably non-Liverpool accent, dutifully recites the benefits of Keay's housing programme, such as the use of gas appliances, hot water and other amenities of modern living which provide her with a 'happier and healthier' way of living.

Richard Koeck

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete Film (10:20)
Liverpool: Shaping the City