|Alton Estate (Alton East and Alton West)||Wandsworth|
Alton Estate was built by the LCC in the 1950s over a high lying site that contained a number of C18th houses and their gardens, elements of which remain, partly within the housing estate and partly within educational establishments that now occupy the houses. The estate aimed to accommodate 9,500 people and provide schools, community buildings and shops; public open space was included within the overall design, with mature trees from the earlier landscaping retained. It was developed in two phases by different teams of architects. The earlier was Alton East built c.1951-55 under Rosemary Stjernstedt adopting Swedish and picturesque principles of town planning as a setting for the 11-storey point blocks and terraces of maisonettes. Alton West, built c.1954-58 under Colin Lucas on the grounds of Downshire House, Manresa House and Mount Clare, was influenced by Le Corbusier's ideas.
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The land where Alton Estate was built was adjacent to Richmond Park (q.v.) where a number of major C18th houses had been built. These include Downshire House, built c.1775, which had extensive formal gardens, a small part of which remains to the north, with brick walls, stone balustrades with pineapples and a hipped roof summer house by O P Milne. Manresa House was built by Sir William Chambers (1723-96) in 1776 and stands hidden behind high walls in the Alton West Estate, the main front facing west across Richmond Park. In the garden is the remains of an C18th garden temple; the garden suffered from landfill to create playing fields, thus altering the relationship between it and Richmond Park. Another temple from Manresa House stands in the grounds of the principal's house at Mount Clare, which was built by Robert Taylor in 1770-3 and which had gardens that were landscaped by Capability Brown c.1774, but much of this now covered by buildings.
The LCC initially acquired c.130 acres of land here, later adding more, which at that time was undeveloped. The Alton Estate aimed to accommodate 9,500 people and to provide schools, community buildings and shops; public open space as well as private gardens was included within the overall design with mature trees from the earlier landscaping retained. The estate was developed in two phases, and by two teams of architects.
The earlier phase was Alton East, bounded by Portsmouth Road, Bessborough Road and Alton Road and built c.1951-55 under Rosemary Stjernstedt, with Cleeve Barr and Oliver Cox, who adopted Swedish and picturesque principles of town planning as a setting for ten 11-storey point blocks and winding terraces of maisonettes set on a wooded hillside. The landscaping had remnants of the earlier, mature Victorian gardens, and, enhanced by imported rocks, provided a Scandinavian effect.
By contrast Alton West, built c.1954-58 on the grounds of Downshire House, Manresa House and Mount Clare under architect Colin Lucas, was influenced by Le Corbusier's ideas for the Radiant City and the Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles. Lucas's team included Bill Howell, John Killick, John Partridge and Stanley Amis. The five 11-storey slab blocks raised on pilotis allowed the open space of Downshire Field to be seen, which was landscaped to enhance the setting of the buildings; a sculpture, 'The Bull' by Robert Clatworthy is sited in the landscape. Alton West preserved as many of the original trees as possible and from here there are excellent views of Richmond Park. This area is a unique example of historic layering of the 1950s Corbusian landscape over the pre-existing C18th landscape.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Dorian Gerhold 'Putney and Roehampton Past', Wandsworth Historical Society, 1994; Le Corbusier 'The City of Tomorrow', London, 1971; Patrick Loobey, 'Putney and Roehampton', 1988; Elain Harwood, Public Housing and Landscaping in Post-War London, paper presented at the Autumn Conference of London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust, 'London's Garden Suburbs, Community Landscape and the Urban Ideal', 4 and 5 October 2000.