The surveyors' body RICS seems pretty convinced that annual rate of house building in England will fall below 100,000, unless of course something dramatic happens to pick the market up - what who knows?

This had me wondering just how low this puts the house building industry compared to periods in the past.

Are we about to hit an all-time low for house building?

In terms of sheer numbers outside of periods of war it was 1923 when last fewer than 100,000 homes a year were built in England. The period 1909 to 1923 was a poor spot for house building.

Mind you the late Victorians were building significantly more homes in England than 100,000, when the population was about half what it is today.

You can find pretty reliable figures on house building in Great Britain back to 1856, thanks to Brian Mitchell's British Historical Statistics.

In 1856 the population was a bit above the 20 million mark and more than 50,000 homes were being built a year.

So adjusting for population 100,000 new homes in England today is far below that level.

The only peacetime period I can find where the number of homes to the population was lower was in the period leading up to the First World War, as mentioned above.

Even through the Great Depression house building in Great Britain remained above 200,000 a year.

You can dig back a bit further. Obviously the data gets a little ropier. But I get the feeling if we end up producing houses at a rate of 100,000 a year, on a per head basis we will be pretty much comparable with any of the all time lows outside of the effects on housing supply and demand caused by war and pestilence.

I hate to think what the figures would look like if we adjusted for households.

I'd be delighted if there is anyone out there with the patience to check back to say 1066 to see if we have ever seen a relatively more sluggish house building sector.