A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



0.1 This report on the heating of working class dwellings has been prepared at the request of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research for the purposes of an inquiry into the heating and ventilation of post-war buildings undertaken by the Department for the Ministry of Works and Planning.

The work in connection with Domestic Buildings called for information of a kind which could be obtained only by direct investigation in the field. Some of the factors involved are objective sociological ones, such as household income, family size, and the relations of these factors to expenditure on heating, water heating and cooking, to current methods of cooking, space heating and water heating, and to present habits in such matters as coal buying and laundry.

There are also a number of subjective factors that are of importance: it is necessary to know, not only the method of cooking for example, but also to know the housewife’s beliefs about her cooking methods. It is also important to know her likes and dislikes on the subject of central heating and relate all these beliefs to her experience, because although it may be possible to work out an ideal scheme on the drawing board, it may be necessary to undertake a considerable programme of education before such an ideal scheme is acceptable. In preparing this a knowledge of existing beliefs is important.

These studies are complicated by the fact that there are regional differences: these are of two kinds. First there are the differences enforced by climatic conditions; to take account of these the sample has been arranged into main areas on a degree day basis. Some of the factors concerned, however, particularly cooking habits, are related to regional differences on a geographical basis. To take account of this, certain separate analyses are made on a geographical, as well as a degree day basis, because any theoretically ideal scheme may have to be modified considerably if it is to prove acceptable to housewives in different regions.

The size of the questionnaire was thus very large; for this reason in many cases certain questions were not answered by some or other of the housewives interviewed, In no case did this reduce the sample enough to make the general conclusions at all doubtful.


The reception of the survey in the 5,260 households was, in general very favourable. There were no serious difficulties in any district.

In very many cases the housewife considered herself fortunate to be able to express her views on housing in relation to post-war planning. On these occasions there were usually very many suggestions relating to other subjects besides the heating. For example, the planning and arrangement of the house, and such details as the following: the size of coal accommodation, cupboard accommodation, corners and floor angles, tiling of sculleries and kitchens, lavatory accommodation, and in a very large number of cases lack of bathroom was referred to.


At the suggestion of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research it was decided to make a continuous narrative giving the main facts and to add to it at the end a set of the relevant tables to which reference is made in the text.

The general form of the report and the material included in it has been discussed with the Department and they have agreed, in many cases, to the omission of detailed analyses which were not particularly illuminating or whose results could be easily summarised in a few sentences.

The report proper has the following main sections:-

  1. 1 Sample

  2. 2 Expenditure on Lighting, Heating and Water Heating

  3. 3 Cooking

  4. 4 Space Heating

  5. 5 Central Heating

  6. 6 Hot Water and Laundry


We should like to acknowledge the very considerable co-operation given to us by a very large section of the public and also the help we received from Mr. Stephen Lacey of the British Gas Federation and Mr. A. C. Cramb and Mr. J. I. Bernard of the British Electrical Development Association, Incorporated.

The section on Expenditure could not have been completed had we not had the very valuable assistance of a large number of electric and gas supply undertakings. Very many of these not only supplied us with the detailed information that we asked for, but also gave us supplementary information which was most useful, and offered to answer other questions relevant to our problems.

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