Hidden away in the suburban sprawl on the east side of Leicester is a somewhat unique housing scheme. Unique - not for being an early example of a garden suburb development- predating both Letchworth & Hampstead , nor for reaching its centenary largely with its orginal structure intact, But for being the only garden suburb ever to be be built by the members of a workers co-operative.
The workers at the Anchor Boot and Shoe Co-operative Society whose co-operatively run boot and shoe works were in Asfordby Street, Leicester were inspired by the works of Ebenezer Howard and the embryonic Garden cities movement. Contributing a percentage of their wages to a building fund they set up the Anchor Tenants Co-partnership.
Tenant Co-partnerships were an early version of housing co-operatives. The first,Tenant Co-operators Ltd, was set up in 1887 with the idea of applying the principles of the co-operative retail movement to housing. It aimed to build or buy houses all over London to let to tenants at local rents, financed by a combination of Public Works loans, small investors and shares taken out by the tenants themselves. The rents would be set to cover maintenance, loan repayments with any surplus 'profit' being credited to tenants as a dividend. It was hoped that in this way the tenant could build up a share account that would eventually be equivalent to the value of their house; in this way working people could own their own homes and instead of having to sell when they wanted to move they could simply transfer their shares to another co-operative housing scheme. A number of schemes throughout the country were set up using this model and nearly all laid out on Garden City principles. (see Derwentwater Tenants Co-partnership , Burnage Garden Village , Wrexham Garden Village and Brentham Garden Suburb ) Parts of both Letchworth Garden City and Hampstead Garden Suburb were also developed by tenant Co-partnerships.
The Anchor Tenants Co-partnership purchased a block of land on the edge of the village of Humberstone, just outside Leicester.The first houses were built and occupied in 1908, and by 1914 a total of 94 gabled cottages had been built on streets such as Lilac and Chestnut Avenues, Laburnum Road, Fern Rise and Keyham Lane. Anchor employees were let the houses at a nominal rent. The area became a self-contained community; with bowling green, tennis courts skittles, cricket pitch and play area for children, church, shop and community hall. The motto of the Association was " "Not Greater Wealth, But Simpler Pleasures."
In 2002 the association, now the Humberstone Anchor Tenants' Association, celebrated its centenary.