|White City Estate||Hammersmith & Fulham|
The White City Estate was in design from 1934 and was built in 1938/9 and post WWII on part of the former White City Exhibition Grounds that had been established for the London Olympics in 1908. Between the wars the Exhibition Grounds and pavilions had some usage but the land became derelict and in 1935 part was purchased by the LCC for housing development. Covering over 21 ha. The White City Estate was the largest LCC estate to that date. The housing blocks are laid out in a grid, surrounded by grass with numerous mature London plane trees, which predate the buildings.
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The White City Exhibition Grounds with its pavilions, exhibition halls, stadium and other amenities such as railway and artificial waterways had been created for the Olympics in 1908. The buildings were used for the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 and thereafter for a series of international exhibitions until WWI when they were requisitioned to accommodate troops. For the massive Japan-Britiain Exhibition of 1910, which brought awareness of Japan to the general public, a Garden of Peace was created in 1909 by a group of Japanese and British gardeners, one of two gardens on the site for the exhibition and visited by the royal family in 1910. The other, a larger Japanese floating garden, no longer exists but the Garden of Peace survived and remains as a feature within Hammersmith Park (q.v.) although in intervening years it became overgrown, reduced in size and lost a number of the original features. Between the wars the White City Exhibition Grounds and pavilions had some usage but the land became derelict and in 1935 part was purchased by the LCC for housing development of the White City Estate, and the remainder was then requisitioned for military purposes in WWII after which it was acquired for housing, open space and part by the BBC for its Television Centre. During the war some of the land was used for food production.
The White City Estate is bounded by South Africa Road to the south and east, Westway to the north and Bloemfontain Road to the west. The huge estate of 2,037 properties consists of a range of five-storey balcony blocks, which were designed in 1934/6, and more recent tower blocks, all in red brick. The blocks, laid out in a regular grid, caused Pevsner to refer to 'the deadening utilitarian ranks' of the estate, remarking that it was built with 'a singular lack of amenities for residents'. The housing blocks are surrounded by grass and many mature London plane trees, which predate the buildings and can be seen in photographs showing bomb damage. New railings and evergreen planting was carried out along the perimeter in 1996 by the contractors Blakedown and there is some planting by residents. The Anglican church has a pretty flower garden by its hall but the community garden later reverted to wild.
There are plans to improve the estate following receipt of a Big Lottery Community Grant in 2010 for works in five local estates, including White City Estate, the Cleverly Estate (q.v.) and Wormholt Estate. An active tenants and residents association was instrumental in establishing the White City Community Centre formerly a dilapidated drinking club. Government and European funding has been pumped into the area over the last 15 years and the latest initiative is community budgets, pooling statutory funding to support vulnerable families. A report commissioned by Hammersmith United Charities on low income housing estates highlighted priorities for action on White City, which included more police, facilities for young people, play space for children and community cafés. The White City Neighbourhood Forum was launched in September 2011.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed) p 224; LB Hammersmith & Fulham Archives Dept, 'A note on the open spaces of Fulham and Hammersmith', 1974; William Hollingworth, 'London's 1910 Japan garden spruced up'; The Japan Times online, 2 September 2008.