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Alton Estate (Alton East and Alton West) Wandsworth
   
Summary: 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.
Previous / Other name: Grounds of Downshire House, Manresa House and Mount Clare
Site location: Alton East: Alton Road/Portsmouth Road/Bessborough Road. Alton West: Danebury Avenue/Highcliffe Drive
Postcode: SW15 > Google Map
Type of site: Housing/Estate Landscaping
Date(s): 1951 - 58
Designer(s): LCC Architects Department (Alton East under Rosemary Stjernstedt; Alton West under Colin Lucas)
Listed structures: LBII*: 'The Bull' sculpture; Alton West - Binley House, Charcot House, Denmead House, Dunbridge House, Winchfield House and abutting chimney
Borough: Wandsworth
Site ownership: LB Wandsworth
Site management: Housing
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: unrestricted
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Events:
Public transport: Rail: Barnes then bus. Bus: 72, 74, 85, 170, 265
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2005
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.wandsworth.gov.uk

Fuller information:

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.

Sources consulted:

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.
Grid ref: TQ226734 (east) / TQ224731 (west)
Size in hectares:
   
On EH National Register : No
EH grade:
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
No
 
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: Yes
Conservation Area name: Alton
Tree Preservation Order: Yes
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: Yes - Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:
   

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