Land societies worked very like building societies. Members paid in a minimum every week until a minimum and became shareholders who could choose a plot of freehold land from the society. The society inturn acquired land from various landowners and divided it into the plots which could be purchased. Land society members were encouraged to buy books such as ’The Builder’s Practical Director’ or ’The Freeholder’s Circular’. These publications offered advice on such subjects as different types of bricks, digging trenches and mixing concrete. By the 1850s, there were sixty active socities in London.
The largest society was the National Freehold Land Society, founded in 1849. The society acquired freehold land and its first local estate was eight acres just off Hoe Street, purchased from Joseph Truman in 1851.
In 1854, the Tower Hamlets Freehold Land Society bought a large estate at Parsonage Hill, off Green Leaf Lane. It defined 425 parcels of land as these were mainly acquired by tradesmen and working people from Bethnal Green. They built their own cottages and laid out Byron Road, Brown’s Road, Tower Hamlets Road, Aubrey Road and Milton Road.