Corner Green was one of a number of private housing schemes by Span Developments Ltd on the Cator Estate in Blackheath, whose ethos was to set sensitively planned and designed housing units within well-considered landscaping. Here the scheme comprises an open layout of 23 flats and weather-boarded houses set around a green. Maintenance of communal garden areas was initially undertaken by the residents' association with Span as ground landlord, as nearly all Span schemes were originally leasehold properties.
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There are 19 Span housing schemes in Blackheath, including Hallgate, The Priory, The Plantation (q.q.v.) and Corner Green that were developed on the early C19th Cator Estate at Blackheath Park, itself formerly the estate of Wricklemarsh House. The Wricklemarsh Manor dates back to the Domesday Survey and was owned in the C17th by Sir John Morden, who founded Morden College (q.v.). It was later purchased by Gregory Page who built Wricklemarsh House in 1723, set in 80 acres of parkland, with broad avenues and ornamental water. John Cator, a wealthy timber merchant who lived at Beckenham Place (q.v.) acquired the estate in 1783, demolished the mansion and began speculative development of the land with smart villas aimed at the wealthy and professional classes. Some of the original villas survive set in their large gardens, and the first house was built in 1787, the Presbytery in Cresswell Park. Wide tree lined avenues were characteristic of Cator's road layout of 1806, and the development of the Cator Estate continued gradually until the 1930s. House building in the area had accelerated after the opening of Blackheath station in 1849, making the area an easy commute into London. The Estate remained in the hands of the Cator family until the 1950s, when it was purchased by Blackheath Cator Estate Residents Ltd, that had grown out of the residents association formed in 1950. The entry points to the estate are marked by white wooden gates. Among the villas and the mature landscape are the private housing schemes developed by Span Developments from 1954 onwards.
The Span development consortium grew from the partnership formed in 1938 by architects Eric Lyons (1912-80) and Geoffrey Paulson Townsend who embraced Modernist ideology. In the late 1940s the partnership evolved whereby Townsend would act as developer, acquiring the site for a housing scheme that Lyons would then design. In 1957 Townsend acquired a company, which led to the establishment of Span Developments Ltd, and also included builder and developer Leslie Bilsby, who had worked with such Modernist architects as Erno Goldfinger and Denys Lasdun. The company aim was to 'span the gap between the suburban monotony of the typical 'spec building' and the architecturally designed, individually built residence'. In 1955 Eric Cunningham had joined Lyons' architectural team and became particularly responsible for the design of the landscaping for the schemes, the partnership becoming the Eric Lyons Cunningham Partnership in 1963. The Span schemes were often set within existing landscaping, retaining mature trees, and the emphasis was on pedestrian rather than vehicular access. Part of the ethos was to engender a communal spirit whereby the residents took responsibility for the overall environment and initially nearly all Span schemes were leasehold properties, Span remaining ground landlord, with tenants covenanted to keep their estate in good order. Maintenance of communal areas was undertaken through residents' management committees.
At Corner Green the estate comprises an open layout of 23 flats and weather-boarded houses set around a green and it was considered by Eric Lyons to be one of the best Span schemes.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999 p276; Andrew Saint (introduction), 'London Suburbs', Merrell Holberton Publishers 1999; Ken Allinson, 'The Architects and Architecture of London' (Architectural Press, 2006); Urban Practitioners for LB Greenwich 'Blackheath Park Conservation Area Appraisal (Draft)', November 2009