|Churchill Gardens Estate||Westminster|
Churchill Gardens Estate is an award winning post-war mixed development housing estate designed by Powell & Moya for Westminster City Council on the site of Smiths' Brewery and surrounding streets, one of the first housing scheme built on modernist principles in the UK. The blocks of flats are surrounded by an informal landscape setting, with an emphasis on openness, light and greenery; the layout is deliberately simple as there are 36 blocks on the site. In a few low blocks containing maisonettes the ground has been fenced off into private gardens. The estate grounds are mostly lawn, traversed by paths protected by low fences, railings and raised planting beds. There are large numbers of young and mature trees, and hedges and shrubberies conceal tennis courts and other facilities.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2010
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Award winning post-war housing estate designed by Powell & Moya for Westminster City Council on the site of Smiths' Brewery and surrounding streets. The area was once marshland and the River Westbourne ran through it, its eastern tributary reaching the Thames at Grosvenor Canal. In 1722 the Chelsea Waterworks was established nearby, fed by the Westbourne. Riverside development accelerated from the early C19th, and included the Thames Bank Distillery and White Lead Works to the west on land previously known as 'Baileywick of Neate'; otherwise land-use included the new Ranelagh Tea Gardens and market gardens. It was part of the parish of St George Hanover Square. In c.1817 land was leased for development by stone merchant John Johnson but this only amounted to the building of Thomas Parade (Nos. 105-109 Grosvenor Road) and a row of houses south of Lupus Street. Johnson sold his lease c.1825 to Thomas Cubitt although the area remained largely in industrial use until into the C20th, with Belgrave Dock constructed between the distillery and engine works on Grosvenor Road. In the 1930s part of the industrial and wharf sites were earmarked for clearance and housing development but WWII bombing destroyed much of the building and a larger area was available for a new housing estate.
High-density housing was seen to be one solution to London's post-war housing shortages and modernist architects such as Le Corbusier were influential as Westminster Council considered development here. A competition was held in 1946 for a new estate on an area of 31 acres, which was won by young architects Powell and Moya. They designed a mixed development of 1,661 dwellings in 36 blocks: a small number of tall slab blocks of 9 - 11 stories, with 7-storey blocks along Lupus Street and smaller blocks of maisonettes and terraces of 3, 4 or 5 stories. Although there is a coherence throughout, the estate was built in phases, commencing towards the east (1946-9), proceeding to the west of the site (1949-52), then the central area in 1952-7, and finally the far east (1957-62). A number of existing buildings remained on the estate including the terrace at 105-109 Grosvenor Road, two Victorian public houses, parish house, and two schools. In addition to residences, the estate included social amenities such as shops and health care.
Churchill Gardens Estate became a model for subsequent house building by the LCC and others, and was one of the first post-war estates in the UK to adopt modernist planning principles. Powell and Moya won a Civic Trust Award for the landscaping and buildings of Churchill Gardens. An innovation on the estate was heating via a system that was supplied by waste heat pumped through a tunnel from Battersea Power Station, and this was operational until 1983 although the Accumulator Tower remains.
The blocks are surrounded by an informal landscape setting, and are mostly set back from the roads and fronted by grass, raised planters and trees. The layout was kept deliberately simple given the number of blocks on the site, with Churchill Square as a focal point. The architects worked with a former head gardener at Kew on the simple landscaping scheme here. Large green spaces were laid out north-south between the tall blocks, with smaller spaces near the maisonette blocks, and a number of play areas were provided, some of which have since been demolished. Hedges and shrubberies concealed tennis courts and other facilities. In a number of the low blocks of maisonettes, the ground was fenced off into private gardens. Interest was increased by the undulating ground level throughout, with raised and sunken areas of garden. Along Grosvenor Road the street is lined with plane trees. The estate grounds are mostly lawn, traversed by paths, with a homogeneity of the boundaries between spaces in the form of low railings, hedges, raised planting beds. There are a large number of mature and young trees, and species include pseudo acacia, hornbeam, lime, Norway Maple, Whitebeam. The openwork brick refuse areas have stylish canopies.
Harold Clunn, the Face of London (c1950) p.253; Edward Jones & Christopher Woodward, A Guide to the Architecture of London, London 1983, p.322; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993), p.160; WCC, Churchill Gardens Conservation Area Audit, 2005; 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.