Atholl Steel Framed & Steel Clad 1926 Houses

Atholl House Watling Estate Edgware London
  • Manufacturer: Atholl Steel Houses Ltd
  • Type: Steel Framed
  • Period Built: 1926-1928
  • AKA: Boiler Plate
  • Number Built: 1,000

There are a number of different Atholl builds that are in generally identified relative to the year in which each form was constructed. This article briefly identifies the various named forms of Atholl steel-framed and steel-clad dwelling, and includes reference to the Atholl 1920’s and Atholl 1940’s variants, however the main focus is directed towards the Atholl 1926 variant of this house.
Wherever possible, we shall identify situations where deterioration or corrosion has occurred and highlight certain areas in which surveyors or prospective purchasers should pay particular attention.

It should be noted that there are also a number of Brick-clad variants of the Atholl 1940’s house which have been commonly named as per their individual geographic location, which include the Birnam, Blair, Dunkeld and Tullibardine. These variants are not covered here.

There are 3 main variants of the Atholl House which are named as follows:

  • The Atholl 1926 House
  • The Atholl 1945 House
  • The Atholl 1951 House

Atholl History
The Atholl Steel House company, was formed by Sir William Beardmore and the Duke of Atholl in 1924. The company built prefabricated houses from standard steel parts produced at the William Beardmore Co Ltd, Steelworks at Mossend. Construction took place at the Dalmuir Locomotive Works, where there was surplus capacity of both steel and manpower due to the reduction of orders for locomotives that occurred between 1924 and 1927.

Scotland – 1926-1928
Local Authorities and the Second Scottish National Housing Company erected 550 Atholl steel framed houses across Scotland. The houses were constructed with an inner steel frame which was over clad externally with steel sheeting. Records state that only four-in-a-block flats were erected in Scotland, whilst two-storey semi detached cottages and house versions were erected in England.

England – 1926-1928
252 Atholl steel houses were erected on behalf of the London County Council at the Watling Estate, Burnt Oak and a further 50 or so dwellings was distributed between several Local Authorities. In England both two-storey semi-detached and terraced blocks of housing were constructed during this period.
The two-storey terraced blocks of Atholl cottages and two-storey semi-detached house variants were only built in England.

In October 1944 Atholl Houses Limited successfully put forward proposals to increase their output to the Interdepartmental Committee on Housing Construction, otherwise known as the Burt Committee who subsequently approved an order for a further 1500 houses which were built in 1947.
Research indicates that it is likely that all of the 1945 built Atholl houses were erected as four in one blocks. A pair of semi detached houses would be split into 4 flat type, individual apartments with front and side access to ground and first floor levels respectively.

By early 1948 the supply of steel declined drastically. The Cabinets Central Economic Planning Staff were forced to restrict the use of steel to just one ton per house. The production of steel and steel-framed houses would also cease, and manufacturers of steel rich non-traditional houses were ordered to drastically reduced the steel content of their properties. All new proposals would require Cabinet Planning Committee consent. Atholl responded to these restrictions by designing a modified version of their design, which retained the inner steel frame, but instead used 100mm brick and an inner leaf of timber studding finished with plasterboard, in place of the original steel sheeting. 

The 1945 Atholl steel house was very similar to the Atholl 1926 steel house. The Architectural design had been updated somewhat, along with improved sound and thermal insulation. The 1945 design was approved by the Burt Committee.

The Atholl House 1926 Variant.

  • Manufacturer: Atholl Steel Homes Ltd
  • Construction Type: Steel Framed
  • Period Built: 1926-1928
  • AKA: Boiler Plate

Atholl Identification characteristics

  • Built as 2-storey semi-detached and terraced houses, also as flats.
  • Two-storey terraced blocks of cottages built in England only
  • Having a medium pitch hipped roof covered with interlocking clay tiles or asbestos cement slates.
  • Painted or harled pebble dash. The outer flat steel sheets were directly painted or covered with painted pebble dash. (Harled)
  • Exposed stanchion flanges or narrow cover plates were used to mask/ cover the vertical joints of the steel sheets.
  • A Flat or sloping canopy was often fitted above front door.

Surveyors Notes:

This section Identifies positions within the structure of the Atholl house, where deterioration has been observed in past surveys and highlights areas where particular attention should be given, during inspection.

  • Minor corrosion has been found at the stanchion bases in some examples.
  • Corrosion has been found on fixing bolts of most properties, particularly at base course level.  
  • Gaps have been detected in steel sheets located in the roof space of the separating wall of some properties.
  • Rot has been detected in the timber studwork and fillets of some properties.
  • Infestation of the timber floor joists and associated boarding has been detected in some instances.
  • In general the timber studding was found to be of sound condition in the majority of properties surveyed with no significant signs of rot or decay. However, one dwelling surveyed had received a non external insulation upgrade. The timber framing of this property contained unusually high levels of moisture exceeding 25%, which could contribute to future decay. The potential for water ingress or moisture retention should always be identified and investigated where possible
  • Moderate to extensive corrosion of the edges and rear faces of the external panel has been found. Corrosion staining can sometimes seep from the inner to the outer surface of the panels, however it is worth noting that in general, the 1920’s version suffers from less panel corrosion that the 1940’s build version.variant. Despite this, the levels of surface corrosion found on various surfaces and stanchions during extensive BRE investigations is considered by and large to be be minor in both versions of the property.  No significant levels of corrosion that would affect the structural integrity of these buildings was observed.
  • In general, the extent of deterioration varies considerably from house to house and site to site. The extent and significance of the deterioration of steel components can and does vary significantly from dwelling to dwelling.

Atholl Steel Framed & Steel Clad 1926 Houses 11

Atholl 1926 Structure

  • Damp Proof Course below a Stepped Concrete substructure.
  • 2 RSA corner stanchions
  • 8 RST stanchions
  • 2 RSA perimeter floor support beams
  • 5 RSA perimeter ties at first floor and roof level

Protection – The steel frame and rear of  steel sheet was coated in a red lead and bituminous paint.

External Walls  – Flat steel sheets were painted and bolted directly onto the back of the stanchion flanges. Horizontal timber fillets were affixed to the flanges of the steel sheets, supporting timber studs lined with timber boarding and asbestos cement sheets.

Atholl Steel Framed & Steel Clad 1926 Houses 13

Separating Wall – Flat steel sheets, timber fillets and studs lined with tongue and groove timber boards & asbestos cement sheets. A 9″ brick separating wall variant has also been observed. 

Partition Walls – In general, timber stud lined with asbestos cement sheets were used but variants of Brick or block partitions have also been found.


  • Ground Floor – Concrete however a variant of a raised Tongue & Groove floor on timber joists has also been noted.
  • Living Room – Tongue and groove boarding on timber battens embedded in concrete.
  • First Floor – Tongue and groove boarding on timber joists.
  • Ceilings – Constructed mainly from asbestos cement sheets but in some variants, lathe and plaster was also used to line the ceilings.

Roof – Timber purlins and rafters, bituminous felt and clay or asbestos cement tiles.

Frame Variations – Two types of frame layout have been observed, whereby in the separating wall of version B, stanchions and perimeter ties were excluded.

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Atholl 1926 in Scotland
Houses built by Atholl Steel Houses were erected at White Street, Clydebank, in 1927. The four-in-a-block flats were part of an order placed by Clydebank Burgh Council for 100 such houses in the Whitecrook area. Each flat consisted of a living room, two bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom. Doors at the front of the house gave access to the ground floor flats, with side doors leading to the upper flats. Heavy steel sections were securely bolted to concrete foundation blocks. Horizontal angle irons were attached to carry the ends of the floor and ceiling joists. Floors, ceilings and roofs were of traditional construction.