This record is held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London

Details of MBO
Reference: MBO

District surveyers returns, plans and papers

Date: 1844 - 1855
Related material:

The following maps have been transferred to the Maps and Prints Section of this office and must be ordered in that section.


Reference Date Description


HA 3155 1845 District of St Paul, Covent Garden, St Clement Dane and St Mary-le-Strand, Westminster


JHam 3156 1830 Plan of the Hamlet of Hammersmith


JPad 3157 1842 Plan of the Parish of Paddington


JLa 3158 1845 Plan of parts of Lambeth and Streatham


JSh 3159 1829 Parish of St Leonard in Shoreditch


JHo 3160 1805 Liberty of Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden and Ely Rents


JSh 3161 1745 Parish of St Leonard in Shoreditch


JWa 3162 1849 Parish of Clapham


JSte 3163 1840 Boundaries of the district of St Mary, Whitechapel


JBer 3165 1827 Proposed ... read from the foot of new London Bridge to the Bricklayers Arms


JHac 3169 1831 Parish of St John at Hackney


JHo 3171 1845 Liberty of Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden and Ely Rents


also on same map


1845 Liberty of the Duchy of Lancaster and the precinct of Savoy


JHo 3172 c. 1840 Parishes of St Giles in the Fields and St George, Bloomsbury


TI 3173 1844 Plan of the district in West Kent included in the Metropolitan Buildings Act


FM 3176 1832 Plan of the River Thames from Chelsea to Blackwall shewing ... proposed ... embankments


JWa 3179 c. 1855 Map of Tooting Bec Common, Tooting Common and vicinity


JStM 3252 1844 Plan of the Parish of St Marylebone


JBer 3253 1845 Thames Tunnel from Rothernithe to Wapping

Held by: London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Metropolitan Buildings Office, 1844-1855

Physical description: 845 Files
Custodial history:

The records of the MBO, with the exception of some district surveyors returns, were taken over by the Master of the Rolls in 1856. Some papers were apparently destroyed at this time, others, including most of the accounts and miscellaneous correspondence were destroyed in 1924, when the main bulk of the records was transferred from the public Record Office to the London County Council. These destructions account for the gaps in the numbered series which have been kept in their original order as far as number 491. Numbers 492-536 have been assigned to subsequent bundles and volumes which were either unnumbered or had come from a separate series.


It was not possible to check that all the documents that were meant to have been transferred in 1924 were with the remaining records. It is known that 'cases of ruinous buildings' were scheduled for destruction but had survived. On the other hand there seemed to be no trace of the portfolios of miscellaneous office papers arranged topographically and chronologically which were numbered as '1025-1084' in the PRO's transfer list.

Administrative / biographical background:

The Metropolitan Buildings Office was established in 1844 under the Metropolitan Buildings Act and was the first statutory body with responsibility for building regulation for the whole of the Metropolitan area. Revision of building regulation was long overdue. Between 1801 and 1841 the population of London had increased from under a million to over two million. The built up area had spread well beyond the boundaries set by the London Building Act of 1774. Building methods and uses had also changed in the period, and there was a pressing need to prevent building developments which were undesirable for social or sanitary reasons - even the most conservative were beginning to realise that accumulations of untreated sewage under and around dwellings in crowded streets and alleys were a menace to health.


The 1844 Metropolitan Buildings Act was concerned with the security and thickness of party walls and the use of fire-resistant materials. Buildings were classified into three types - dwelling houses, warehouses and public buildings, which included churches, schools and theatres, and detailed provisions were set out for each.


In addition it established that:


No new streets should be formed less than 40 feet wide and buildings adjacent to them should be no higher than the width of the street.


New dwelling houses were to have an area of at least 10 square feet at the rear unless the windows on the other three sides gave light and air to all the rooms.


No cellar or underground room was to be used for human habitation unless it had a window, a fireplace and drainage.


Privies and closets were to be properly enclosed and screened from public view and drains were to be provided in all new houses.


Noxious and dangerous businesses were not to be set up within 50 feet of other buildings.


As an organisation the MBO was administratively very complicated - The Lord Mayor, the Justices, the Secretary of State and the Commissioners of Works all had a say in the appointment of officers. There was apparently much friction between the Registrar and the Official Referees, and officers were expected to accomplish far more than their powers permitted. Almost from the beginning private builders, surveyors and others were clamouring for revision of the Act. In 1855 the MBO was abolished and a new body the Metropolitan Board of Works was set up in its place.


For further details concerning the work of the MBO there is an informative article by Ida Darlington in THE BUILDER 12 October 1956

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