Today, my good friend Mark Amies, who runs the amazing @Time_NW Twitter feed, posted this amazing tweet.
The disused Station Master's House on Bunns Lane, Mill Hill,in 1971.— NW London TimeMachine (@time_nw) December 30, 2021
Any Mill Hill residents know where exactly it was, and what happened to it?
Photo by Geoffrey Webb/Historical Railway Model Society. pic.twitter.com/8Ply4aCrsC
I was fascinated. I pride myself on my local knowledge, but I don't recall this house at all. My Uncles owned a business next to the site, so I should have some recollection, but I don't. Apparently it was demolished around 1971, When I thought about it, I realised that there was a far more interesting question than what happened to a fine old house. The question is 'why did we stop providing such decent accomodation for key workers'. Around station road, prior to the construction of the M1 motorway, we also had the 'railway cottages', housies for workers on the Midland Railway. It seemed that in the Victorian era, companies realised that they had a responsibility to their workforce to make sure they had somewhere decent to live. Caretakers, vicars, the police, park keepers, etc would all have accomodation provided, on site. I think it is only vicars that still have such a perk. It seems to me to be a very false economy. If the stationmaster lives next to the station or the park keeper lives by the park, then they can keep an eye on the place. I believe it is no coincidence that vandalism was almost unheard of at the time. Another thought which occurs to me is that it massively reduced the carbon footprint, as no journey to work was needed.
I was speaking recently to a friend who runs a restaurant. I asked if he had problems retaining staff. He said he didn't as his restaurant had flats where his staff lived. Some are students during the day, so it works well for everyone. He told me that he'd considered letting them out a few years ago, but now was grateful that he hadn't as he was able to keep staff when many of his competetors haven't.
We need to revisit the concept of decent accomodation for key workers. We need to recognise that it is a false economy to flog off such properties and not have people on site to keep an eye on where they work. We need to recognise that society works better and we are happer when there is less inequality. We need to recognise that the best way to cut our carbon footprint is to make less journeys. There are many benefits of providing such accomodation. It is crazy that we don't recognise this and the governmet doesn't incentivise organisations to provide it.