We started our tour of the council housing on the London Loop last week. The final sections take us to Purfleet on the northern bank of the Thames.
Section 14: Moor Park to Hatch End
The South Oxhey Estate, a London County Council ‘out of county’ estate created on land compulsorily purchased south of Watford from the Blackwell (soup) family in 1944. Built as part of the post-war drive to disperse London’s population. By 2007, 70 percent of its homes had been lost to Right to Buy but the estate’s original planning and design quality still stands out.
Section 15: Hatch End to Elstree
Some council homes in Carpenders Park – built by Watford Rural District Council in the 1950s.Despite the rendering, they’re all of a piece and feature some fine brickwork.
Section 16: Elstree to Cockfosters
Ducks Island and the fringe of the post-war Stanhope Estate built by Barnet Urban District Council, then in Hertfordshire, after the Second World War. The estate is seen at its finest in Southfields.
The Dollis Valley Estate further on was built by the London Borough of Barnet in the late 1960s. Its southern part is an interesting example of Radburn-style planning with housing bordering open green space with service roads to the rear.
The northern, system-built five-storey blocks were less successful and are now subject to a controversial demolition and regeneration scheme.
Section 17: Cockfosters to Enfield Lock
Dendridge Close – a 1970s housing scheme built by the London Borough of Enfield.
Winnington Road: council flats built in the 1960s, now owned and managed by the London Borough of Enfield.
Beaconsfield Estate, Enfield Lock – approved by Enfield Municipal Borough Council in 1962; four 13-storey tower blocks and low-rise built by Wates for the London Borough of Enfield in 1968.
1960s flats on Ordnance Road, built by Enfield Municipal Borough Council if before 1965 or the London Borough of Enfield if after.
Peter Barber’s wonderful Ordnance Road scheme of 11 three-storey townhouses and four one-bed mews houses; social housing built by the London Borough of Enfield in 2017.
Section 19: Chingford to Chigwell
Guys Retreat: an Epping Forest District Council scheme of the 1970s – a workaday design but great location.
Buckhurst Hill, particularly the interwar housing on Thaxted Road built either by Buckhurst Hill Urban District Council before 1933 or Chigwell Urban District Council after that. It’s now part of Epping Forest District Council. On Blackmore Road you can see the London loop sign.
Section 20: Chigwell to Havering-atte-Bower
Buckthorne House on the Greater London Council’s Copse Estate glimpsed from Hainault Forest Country Park – approved in 1966 and built by direct labour. Now in the London Borough of Redbridge.
Section 21: Havering-atte-Bower to Harold Wood
The Harold Hill Estate is a London County Council out-of-county estate developed from 1947. By 1962, the estate housed 30,000 people. On the fringes of the estate are some ‘superior’ homes designed for middle-class occupation, fulfilling the post-war ideal that council estates should serve a cross-section of the community. Further in are some low-rise flatted blocks along Chudleigh Road and post-war, flat-roofed Orlit precast concrete frame permanent prefabs along Colne Drive. Since 1965, part of the London Borough of Havering.
Section 22: Harold Wood to Upminster Bridge
Cockabourne Court – sheltered housing built by Havering in 1970.
The Hacton Lane Estate – 548 homes built by Hornchurch Urban District Council on land acquired in 1936. Here’s an Airey house in original condition and its renovated counterparts on Newmarket Way (most of the streets are named after race courses).
Section 23: Upminster Bridge to Rainham
The Dovers Farm Estate in South Hornchurch built by Hornchurch Urban District Council after the Second World War. The council regularly built 4-500 new homes a year after the war, the most of any UDC; 3600 in total by its abolition in 1965.
Section 24: Rainham to Purfleet
The Garrison Estate was developed in the early 1970s by Thurrock Council after the closure of the Purfleet Powder Magazine, founded 1681, in 1962. Beyond Marine Court, by the river, many of the streets are named after British army tanks.
For various reasons, I’ve been unable to post any new articles on the blog in recent times. I’m very grateful for the guest posters who have allowed me to add to the record in the meantime and will always welcome new contributions. This and the succeeding post are also a slight cheat – a photographic, rather than documentary record – but I think they offer a fine testimony to the variety and ubiquity of council housing and its inestimable contribution to our housing needs.
The London Outer Orbital Path – better known as the London Loop – is a 150 mile trail that circles the fringes of Greater London. It’s split into 24 sections beginning in the east, in clockwise direction, at Erith station on the south bank of the Thames and ending at Purfleet in the north. It’s a wonderful mix of genuine countryside, public open space and suburbia with a few more urban patches thrown in. We completed the walk between 2020 and 2021. While most people don’t do the walk to see council housing, I couldn’t resist recording it along the way.
Section 1: Erith to Old Bexley
The 13-storey Carrack House and 14-storey Bosworth House, containing 52 and 56 homes respectively, were commissioned by the new London Borough of Bexley in 1967.
The Barnes Cray Estate was built by Vickers with the aid of a War Office grant to house their employees at the nearby munitions works between 1915-16. Designed in garden suburb style by J Gordon Allen, half the 600 homes were of non-traditional, concrete block construction.
Crayford Urban District Council extended the estate northwards after the war.
Bexley Urban District Council acquired part of the Halcot and Hall Place Estates for house building to the north of Bourne Road in 1938. Part of the land was preserved as open space, the Halcot No. 2 Estate was begun after the Second World War.
Section 2: Old Bexley to Petts Wood
Saxon Walk, Foots Cray Estate, built by Bexley Borough Council in the later 1960s or 1970s, I’m guessing.
A modest 1960s terrace in Suffolk Road, Foots Cray
Cuxton, a small block of flats built by Bromley Borough Council in the 1970s next to the new Petts Wood Library.
Section 3: Petts Wood to West Wickham Common
The Coppice Estate near Petts Wood was begun by the Municipal Borough of Bromley in the interwar period and completed after World War II.
A modest scheme of council flats built in the 1960s, I’d guess. If so, by the new London Borough of Bromley formed in 1965.
Section 4: West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green
The land for the Monks Hill Estate was bought by the County Borough of Croydon, then in Surrey, in 1945 and developed as a council estate from the 1940s.
Section 5: Hamsey Green to Coulsdon South
On Tithepit Shaw Lane there is a small, early post-war council estate, built by Caterham and Warlingham Urban District Council, I think.
Section 6: Coulsdon South to Banstead Downs
The Clockhouse Estate, north of Coulsdon, was begun in 1934 but the bulk of its development by Carshalton Urban District Council took place after the Second World War with blocks of flats built in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s presently located in a cut-off corner of the London Borough of Sutton with Croydon more convenient for most residents.
The Little Woodcote scheme was created by Surrey County Council for ex-servicemen under the1919 Land Settlement (Facilities) Act – part of Lloyd George’s promise of ‘homes for heroes’: originally 81 smallholdings of around three acres each and weatherboarded semi-detached housing.
Section 8: Ewell to Kingston Bridge
Attractive cottage flat council homes on Surbiton Hill Park, built by Surbiton Urban District Council (a borough from 1936).
Addison Gardens and Lower Marsh Lane, Surbiton: a small council estate built by Surbiton Borough Council just after the Second World War. Addison Gardens is presumably so named after Christopher Addison, the reforming housing minister responsible for the 1919 Housing Act.
Section 9: Kingston Bridge to Hatton Cross
We’ve crossed the Thames into the London Borough of Richmond. The Mays Estate was built by Teddington Urban District Council under Addison’s 1919 Housing Act and completed in 1921 – a powerful testament to the ‘Homes for Heroes’ ideals of the day.
The Sparrow Farm Estate, now in the London Borough of Hounslow, was built by Feltham Urban District Council in the 1950s. According to local MP Albert Hunter in 1959, ‘visitors from abroad have been shown this housing estate as an outstanding example of our post-war housing construction’.
The Hounslow Heath Estate, in Hounslow, approved in 1965, was one of the first housing schemes of the new London Borough of Richmond. Built by Wimpeys with two 15-storey tower blocks at its heart.
Section 10: Hatton Cross to Hayes & Harlington
The 15-storey Skeffington Court in Hayes, built by the London Borough of Hillingdon, was begun in 1971 and named after local Labour MP Arthur Skeffington who died that year. It was opened by Harold Wilson.
The Corwell Gardens estate in Hillingdon was built by Hayes and Harlington Urban District Council in the 1950s – a Labour-controlled council and prolific builder of council homes for most its history. The estate is a good example of the mixed development of the era.
Section 11: Hayes & Harlington to Uxbridge
Council housing on Church Lane in Uxbridge Moor built by Uxbridge Urban District Council in the 1930s
Later flats built off Cowley Mill Road, Uxbridge, now part of the London Borough of Hillingdon.
Section 12: Uxbridge to Harefield West
South Harefield where Uxbridge Urban District Council began a large interwar estate around Truesdale Drive in the 1930s and later some fine homes along the new Moorhall Road. The houses on Dellside, at the bottom, have a particularly idyllic setting on the fringes of the Colne Valley.
With twelve sections to go and 74 miles left, we’ll take a break till next week.
I’m very pleased to feature the second of two new guest posts from Peter Claxton recounting Bridlington Borough Council’s significant council housing programme and its vigorous efforts to promote the town as a seaside resort. (Peter has contributed earlier posts on the history of council housing in Cottingham.) He now focuses most of his research time on Kingston upon Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire during the 19th and the first half of the 20th century with particular emphasis on public health and housing.
…they were the best houses the Corporation had ever built, surpassing those in other parts of the town. (1)
In my previous blog I examined the varying fortunes of the two diverse parts of Bridlington, The Quay and Old Town during the nineteenth and first quarter of the twentieth century; a period that witnessed the start of municipal provision of housing for the working classes and support for the burgeoning leisure market. In this follow-up blog, I pick up the story as the demands placed upon the borough council by both the ‘local populace’ and ‘leisure interests’ intensify.
The actions of Bridlington Borough council during the 1920s mimicked those of many other seaside authorities. Bournemouth, Folkestone, and Southend had spent £171,000, £96,000, and £135,000 respectively on seafront attractions. (2) North of the harbour, new colonnade shelters and a wide deck promenade provided seating for 3000 people, as well as cover in the unlikely event of an inclement day by the North Sea. Nearby the new Beaconsfield tennis courts catered for the sportier type. However, further development of the north shore – as detailed in the Bridlington Corporation Act, 1920 – was scaled-back and attention switched to the south shore.
South of the harbour, 1926 witnessed the opening of the art deco New Royal Spa Hall, built at a cost of £50,000. Sadly, the pleasures derived from visiting this attraction were short-lived. Also, the golf course was now in municipal hands and work had already started on a new sea wall south of the Spa. Completed in 1928, it was named after the Princess Mary.
Yet not everyone benefited from the new attractions and rising visitor numbers. One disillusioned council tenant questioned how: (3)
The town expects to get any rates when all the people who are staying here are in camps. There are many like myself who depend solely on visitors.
Although the change in the ‘holidaying habits’ of visitors affected many of the town’s residents financially, they also presented a new opportunity for the council. It quickly sought to accommodate campers on a purpose-built site south of the town. (4)
Committed to build on foundations recently laid, a lecture at the Spa Theatre by J.W. Mawson titled ‘Town Planning and the Future of British and Continental Health Resorts’ offered the council a way forward. (5) His father T. H. Mawson – once referred to as the Capability Brown of Empire – was a leading landscape architect and town planner. One-time president of the Town Planning Institute, he was offered the position of visiting lecturer following the founding of a chair in civic design at Liverpool University by Lord Leverhulme.
Engaged to formulate both a statutory town planning scheme and a comprehensive development plan for the town and sea front, neither came to fruition. Inter-authority wrangling over apportioning costs relating to the town planning scheme and the radical nature of the proposed town and seafront redevelopment scuppered the council’s ambitions. Fortuitously, the council engaged the services of a bright young architect, Percy Maurice Newton.
Previously employed by the Corporation of Hull, Newton’s work at Bridlington – initially in the surveyor’s department – did much to secure the town’s position as a leading east coast resort. In the Old Town during the 1930s, his work included housing off South Back Lane, Marton Road and Baptist Place. Of the latter, a council member noted, ‘truly practical houses always were beautiful, and he thought those houses came as near to that category as any in Bridlington.’ (6)
Of the 3000 houses built in Bridlington between the wars, 635 were by the council. Yet Newton’s influence on ‘civic improvement’ was to be seen in more than just housing. And in 1930 the opportunity to display his talent presented itself. A new town hall – to replace the harbourside one lost to fire – was proposed and would be strategically positioned between the two parts of the town. Built in the late Wren style, (7) by local firm Smallwood & Sons, the £34,000 build did not place a significant financial burden on local ratepayers. Support from the Unemployment Grants Committee at Westminster reduced the debt to £12,950. (8) Complete with council chamber, offices and ballroom, the building boasted a fan-assisted ducted heating system and rubber surfaced walkways to aid noise reduction.
But in January 1932 as the build was nearing completion, disaster struck the town. The 1926 New Spa Hall was also lost to fire. Newton was tasked with designing a replacement and the ambitious target of ‘opening for the season’ was set. Taking direct responsibility for the ‘build phase’, Newton ensured that the Spa Hall, built in 52 days, was ready for visitors by the end of July. His health suffered, and in response, an indebted council financed an ocean cruise holiday to aid his recuperation.
Away from the seafront, Newton also designed a new Senior Elementary School. (9) Eventually catering for 800 children, the first phase of the St George’s School accommodated 400 boys and opened in 1935. The girl’s department followed in 1938. (10)
By the mid-1930s, the dated Grand Pavilion on the north shore was finally demolished. Newton’s 1937 replacement – regarded by some as his most aesthetically pleasing work – was built on the Victoria Terrace Gardens. It was later described as ‘visually … the most successful International Modern style building in East Yorkshire, [and] very much a symbol of a modern forward-looking resort.’ (11)
Across the road from the new town hall, the Newton designed Corporation Electricity showrooms opened in 1939. It was destroyed by enemy action in 1941 and later rebuilt. The municipal power station had closed in 1935 following the town’s connection to the National Grid.
Seasonal visitor numbers increased significantly between the wars. With a resident population of around 20,000 during the 1930s, it was estimated that 60,000 visitors were in the town on August Bank Holiday 1935. (12) This was scant solace for the residents. Even the local fishing industry was in decline during this period.
Post 1945, the Corporation moved decisively in an attempt to alleviate the town’s two perennial problems, ‘winter unemployment’ and ‘lack of good housing’. To the south-west of the town a small industrial estate – for light industry – was built, and by the end of the decade, further industrial development would take place at Carnaby, on a former RAF airfield just to the south of the town. Yet in 1951, the town still had 13 per cent of males and 45 per cent of females employed in personal services compared to 4.5 and 20 per cent nationally. (13)
Attracting new industry to a seaside town often proved difficult. The possibility of a tannery – classified as a special industry – being established on the industrial estate was one such example. Deemed that it would have an adverse effect on the town’s major industry, leisure, the County Planning Officer remarked: (14)
A large proportion of the holidaymakers that come to Bridlington are desirous of leaving behind them such things as ‘special industries’ and would cease to come. If such were the case we might be left with a prosperous industrial estate but a decadent health resort.
There was after all, the title of ‘King of watering places’ to take into consideration.
With almost 1300 families requiring rehousing, the council compulsory purchased 86 acres of the Bessingby Estate. The award-winning West Hill estate designed by Clifford E. Culpin, welcomed its first tenants in 1949. (15) Close to 800 homes would eventually be built on the West Hill site; almost two thirds of the council’s post-war provision.
As the council worked its way through its rehousing programme dark clouds were gathering. The well-established holidaying habits of the town’s loyal seasonal clientele were changing. Coach and rail travel still dominated through the 1950s, but when the axe fell on branch lines in the mid-1960s, Bridlington lost its direct link to both South and West Yorkshire. The motor car gave families the flexibility and freedom to choose alternative destinations. For some, sun, sand, and sangria beckoned.
By 1972 the council had completed its housing provision. Just over 1800 homes had been built by the local authority since 1913. But as with the demise of the Old Town 100 years earlier, Bridlington, yet again, had to re-evaluate its future. Local government re-organisations would come and go, borough status would be lost, and absorption into the area of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council would take place.
Today, many visitors are day trippers, others are owners of mobile homes or static caravans. The ubiquitous guest house still prevails, and the town continually seeks to find new ways to promote itself. Just as the words of a certain James Coates had 200 years earlier. (16)
Peers, knights, and squires, and dames repair
To bathe, and drink, and take the air.
Such situation on the coast,
Such air, such water, none can boast.
(1) Bridlington Local Studies Library, Annals 55
(2) Seafront regeneration briefing document, East Riding Archives, BOBR/2/15/4/518
(3) D. Neave, Port, Resort and Market Town: A history of Bridlington (Hull Academic Press, 2000
(4) Hull Daily Mail, 26 April 1933
(5) Hull Daily Mail, 16 February 1927
(7) D. and S. Neave, Bridlington: An introduction to its History and Buildings (Smith Settle Ltd., 2000)
(8) Hull Daily Mail, 10 May 1932
(9.) Hull Daily Mail, 18 March 1931
(10) Hull Daily Mail, 16 May 1938
(11) Neave, Port Resort
(12) Neave, Bridlington
(13) K. L. Mayoh, Comparative study of the Resorts on the Coast of Holderness. unpublished M.A., University of Hull, 1961.