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Note:Francis Bennion sadly died on 28 January 2015.

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FB's writings on Professionalism

 

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) etc.

1990.007 World of Property Housing Trust (WPHT)

 

 

Founding of World of Property Housing Trust (now Sanctuary Housing Association)

 

On a day in August 1968 Francis Bennion (FB), late Secretary of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, sat in his office at 16 Lincoln's Inn Fields with a blank sheet of paper and a puzzled frown. He had decided it would be a good idea to set up a charitable housing trust supported by the property world, whose members he had come to know during his term of office at the RICS. There was no money in hand for this, so it was necessary to raise some. Whose help could he enlist? He began to write down names on the sheet of paper.

 

That was the beginning of the Sanctuary Housing Association. It sprang from a request made to FB a few weeks earlier by the late C. Jackson-Cole, a charitably-minded business man who was one of the founders of Oxfam and Help the Aged. Hearing that FB had resigned as Secretary-General of the RICS, Jackson-Cole (through the medium of Raymond Andrews of the estate agents Andrews and Partners) recruited FB as a part-time paid consultant to his charitable organisation Voluntary and Christian Service and gave him the use of the Lincoln's Inn Office. Jackson-Cole, who was very keen on fund raising, suggested to FB that in view of his RICS connections he might raise for charitable purposes the sum of £25,000 from estate agents. FB riposted by suggesting to Jackson-Cole that this be converted into the much more ambitious project of founding a new housing charity representing the property world's return for the wealth it had amassed from the public. Jackson-Cole agreed, but insisted that the new body would have to find all its own finance. FB accepted this limitation.

 

The first name FB thought of was that of Sir Milner Holland, identified with housing problems in London through the publication of the famous Milner Holland report. The next was Sir Henry Wells, former President of the RICS, who had become a close friend when FB and he worked together at that Institution. The full list of founder members of the new housing trust in alphabetical order was-

Francis FB (Chairman)
S G H Davis
Sir Milner Holland KCVO CBE QC
J P Macey FRICS FIHM
T S Stallabrass
Lewis E Waddilove OBE
G D Walford FRICS FIArb
Sir Henry Wells CBE FRICS.

John Hincks of Manchester, President of the Chartered Auctioneers and Estate Agents Institute, was among the early founders but died before the Trust was constituted.

 

A suitable name had to be found for the trust. FB's first thought was the Estate Profession Housing Trust. When his ideas became more ambitious, with a wish to embrace the entire property world, he changed this to the Property World Housing Trust. On trying this name out it was found to cause confusion. Some people thought that what was being set up was a 'world housing trust', which was not the case. So FB finally settled on the name by which the Trust was known in its formative years, the World of Property Housing Trust, (or WPHT for short). Even this did not avoid all error. On one occasion an invoice was received addressed to 'the Underworld Housing Property Trust'!

 

An architect associated with the new Trust, David Dry, designed a logo in which the letters wpht were set out in lower case. The high upright of the h had a sloped top, the line of which continued downwards through the top and cross-piece of the t to create the effect of a house roof.

 

The Trust was inaugurated as a housing association within the meaning of the Housing Act 1957 on 5 May 1969, FB being issued with Certificate No 1. It was registered with the Charity Commission as a charity with the Registration Number 259013. Such registration was indispensable before fund raising could start. This was needed immediately because the nascent Trust had literally no money at all to begin with. Without initial donations it could employ no staff. Neither could it take office space of its own. Yet without a staff and offices it was difficult to raise money. It was a classic chicken and egg situation. Moreover fund raising would be difficult unless the Trust were seen to be active. It could scarcely become active without employing staff and taking office premises.

 

FB saw the key as being the speedy recruitment of a highly-motivated and competent General Manager, who would be prepared to take the risk of staking his career on the success of efforts he himself would largely need to make, at least initially. Enough funds were raised to employ Management Selection Limited to find candidates for this position. Expensive advertising was engaged in, and a short list of applicants drawn up.

 

The Trust began with a Council consisting of the eight founder members listed above. George Walford soon resigned, being replaced by Sir Hugh Wilson, President of the RIBA, and two chartered surveyors: G Roy Symmons and Michael Fenton-Jones. The Council made its selection from among the applicants for General Manager. The choice was John Lancaster-Gaye, who was at the time on the staff of the Spastics Association (now known as SCOPE). FB spent much time and trouble briefing Lancaster-Gaye and making sure he was fully aware of the needs and risks of the job. Possibly FB was too successful in familiarising Lancaster-Gaye with the formidable nature of his task for at the very last minute, when publicity had been given to his appointment, Lancaster-Gaye suddenly withdrew his acceptance of the post. The Council then turned to another of the applicants, Alan Bailey. On 1 August 1969 Bailey, well known to FB as a former Under Secretary at the RICS, was appointed General Manager and Secretary of the Trust.

 

The other early staff members were Caroline Fitzwilliams, Sara Turnbull and J D Hall. On 1 February 1970 two development surveyors, H L Evans and J Dillon-Guy, were added. The early success of the Trust owed a very great deal to the enthusiasm and energy of this small staff. The late Alan Bailey in particular was a tower of strength. He showed great ingenuity and flair, and was able to draw on many contacts with the property world made during his staff time at the RICS. He also had a marked ability in public relations and publicity.

 

As its first Vice-Presidents the Trust appointed Lord Holford, Lord Llewellyn Davies, the Duke of St Albans, Sir Robert Matthew, Sir Keith Joseph and Sir Cyril Black. The post of President was reserved for one who did much to help the Trust on its way, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. When FB later asked the Duke to accept the post he declined on the ground that he could not be seen to show favouritism to one particular housing charity.

 

Outside professional assistance was secured by the appointment as solicitors to the Trust of Messrs Trower Still & Keeling (later Trowers & Hamlins), and as auditors Cooper Brothers (later Coopers & Lybrand Deloittes). The former appointment arose because J E Robins, a friend of FB's from their days together as Oxford undergraduates, was a partner in the firm. Cooper Brothers were appointed because one of their partners, David Hobson, had assisted FB in the founding of the Statute Law Society.

 

At first the Trust was housed on a temporary basis at 16 Lincoln's Inn Fields. Then on 1 December 1969 the Trust moved into its own offices at 34-35 High Holborn. It thus remained in central London.

 

Local Boards

 

FB saw from the start that since the Trust lacked funds its initial success depended on countrywide recruitment and organisation of volunteers from the property world. For this purpose the Trust aimed to set up 32 local boards throughout Great Britain by the end of 1970, as follows-

London (Central)
London (City and Northern)
London (South East)
London (North East)
London (Barnet and Enfield)
London (West)
London (Middlesex)
London (South West)
London (Croydon and Sutton)
Beds and Herts
Berks Bucks and Oxon
Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire
Cheshire and Lancashire
Cornwall and Devon
Cumberland and Westmorland
Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
Dorset and Somerset
Durham and Northumberland
Essex
Gloucestershire (including Bristol)
Hants and Wilts
Herefordshire, Salop and Worcs
Kent
Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland
Norfolk and Suffolk
Staffs and Warwickshire
Surrey
Sussex
Yorkshire
North Wales
South Wales
Scotland

The local boards were intended to consist of volunteers drawn from the property world: architects, surveyors, developers, and so on. FB's idea was that these would provide expertise in land acquisition, housing development, conversion, and management. They would give their services willingly because, apart from the philanthropic motive on which it was necessary to depend, there would inevitably be professional and commercial advantages accruing to those who assisted in that way. FB saw this as a powerful motivating factor, and so it proved.