Back-to-back house

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Back-to-backs in Bankfield Road, Leeds, 2005

Back-to-back houses are a form of terraced house in which two houses share a rear wall (or in which the rear wall of a house directly abuts a factory or other building). Usually of low quality (sometimes with only two rooms, one on each floor) and high density, they were built for working class people and because three of the four walls of the house were shared with other buildings and therefore contained no doors or windows, back-to-back houses were notoriously ill-lit and poorly ventilated and sanitation was of a low standard.


Birmingham back-to-backs, now preserved, showing the shop fronts and the entrance to the courtyard
A typical yard of 14 back-to-back houses elsewhere in the city

Houses of this type had become common in inner city areas of Victorian England, especially in Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Salford, and Nottingham. In Leeds, this style of terrace continued to be built right up until 1937 when it was decided that houses should be of a higher quality.[1]

The advent of council housing after the First World War resulted in councils organising programmes of slum clearances which were all part of post-war redevelopment programmes. These procedures saw the beginning of mass demolition of back-to-back houses in the 1920s. The process started again in the 1950s and continued through the 1960s,[1] and the 1970s, leaving most towns and cities with few or no back-to-back houses by the 1980s. However, in cities such as Leeds and Bradford[2] significant numbers remain and are still being used as housing.


With no rear yard, across-street washing lines were employed with a pulley operated from street level.
Blind back terrace in Bramley, Leeds

It has become common for the term "back-to-back" to be applied erroneously to "through" terraced houses, the backs of which face each other but are separated by an alleyway, and are thus not contiguous like a true back-to-back. Back-to-back houses can also be known as blind-backs particularly when built up against factory walls, or occasionally as a terrace of houses standing on its own. Other forms of back-to-back housing include tenements, courts, tunnel-backs and cluster houses.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hey, David, ed. (1996) The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History. Oxford University Press; p. 32
  2. ^ "Back-to-back houses in Bradford". Retrieved 2017-03-11. 

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