W&Y Rd /
A map of the Winstanley & York Road estates from February 1962 (London Metropolitan Archives)

A History in Maps

The York Road and Winstanley Estates are within the boundary of the old Battersea Urban District Council.

The estates extend between the railway and the river, long a vital transport route through London. In its current form they are the product of redevelopment during the mid 20th Century from streets of terraced houses to a variety of types of housing from houses around courtyards to blocks of flats of various sizes. Between these is a public realm that in large parts benefitted from design by a Landscape Architect.

Rocque’s 1768 Map

The map describes a village by the river, surrounded by fields supporting its economy. The neighbouring village of Clapham was at this time an increasingly desirable place for a country house, even close enough for early commuters, and Battersea too had its own collection of large houses. Some remain, of which Old Battersea House on Vicarage Crescent dating to circa 1699 is notable for its classical proportions, simplified detailing in brown brick and particularly the fine door frame just visible from outside the boundary wall.

Stanford’s 1864 Map

A hundred years later Stanford’s map shows market gardens on the land that would become the Winstanley and York Road Estates. Future rail routes and stations have been overlaid on the map, showing a comparatively small Clapham Junction station when compared with the large and busy interchange of today.

There is industry beside the river, a silk mill, a starch works and Price’s Candles factory. Some terraces have been built, likely housing a labour force. These terraces would stand for a hundred years or so until the area was redeveloped. Plough Lane is at the West of the estate and Lavender Road running through it today are named by 1864. Falcon Road is known as Falcon Lane in 1864, Falcon Grove is extending eastward. The Falcon Inn is annotated near its current position, rebuilt in 1887 to be as we see it today it includes amongst its decoration depictions of the earlier 1883 building, and the Falcon as it was in 1801.

1869 - 1870 Ordnance Survey with site boundaries overlay

Market Gardens no more by 1870. Streets spread across the fields

Streets started to become more curved - possibly set out to mirror a water route. The development of fields into streets it is a reminder of how suitable this area was for agriculture being well drained and likely rich soil.

There is a rich variety in the types of houses built around this time - with streets likely laid out by a single developer laying out streets on land they have purchased and then selling the building plots individually or in small groups to those who would then build them out.

1896 the completed streets

The area is now characterised by tight, dense streets and the school playground near the centre provides an open space amid the terraces.

Near the centre of the development is a pub on the corner of Darien Road and Meyrick Road. The building stands today converted to residential use. There were another three pubs nearer to York Road. There is a church too on Newcomen Road and near the railway station related workshops. There are various outbuildings and instances of covered routes serving rear yards with other buildings, often workshops for small manufacturers. Large manufacturers can be seen filling the land between York Road and the river. These were employment sites for the many living nearby.

Price's Belmont Works

Industry alongside housing was a common feature of London until the mid-20th Century.

Among the manufacturers in Battersea was Price’s, makers of candles, soaps and motor oils which all share some common ingredients and processes. Price’s remain in business but no longer have a base in London.

The London Bomb Damage maps catalogue the severity of the damage to the local area - depicting wide spread destruction and damage beyond repair. Some of the destroyed buildings were replaced with pre-fabs - one of the most common was the Arcon Mark V - factory produced home providing all the necessities of a comfortable house and could be fabricated and erected quickly.

Darien House is shown on this map of 1950 though the school has gone indicating some rebuilding was taking place as these site were not affected by aerial bombing. The completed estates are of a very different character to the streets of terraced houses that were initially built on the fields of Battersea.

Designed by various Architects from 1956 onward the York Road Estate was completed in several phases of redevelopment work over the course of 15 years. Among these the largest single phase was the Winstanley Estate.

The estates and the murals

Replacing several streets of terraces the design of much of the Winstanley Estate by Architects George, Trew, Dunn was well underway in the summer of 1962.

The redevelopment programme by Battersea Borough Council sought to provide an improved quality of housing to meet mid 20th Century needs across the borough. High rise, high density developments were encouraged through subsidy from central government with the designs rooted in the Modernist ideals of planned and efficient cities. Battersea went further by also embracing industrialised building systems to meet their ambitious goal to build 1000 homes a year.

At what would come to be named the York Road Estate redevelopment was initially on a small scale and low rise. The process began with Darien House in the late 1930s which replaced poor quality terraced housing next to the Winstanley School. From 1955 the school was replaced with Farrant House and Jackson House designed by Architects Pite, Son & Fairweather. From 1959 Architects George, Trew, Dunn became involved designing Ganley Court, which was initially known as the Knox Road Site, then Kiloh Court, Gagarin House and Shepherd House.

After these relatively small blocks redevelopment proceeded on a more ambitious scale during the 1960s to replace many homes at once with higher density housing. Architects Howes, Jackman & Partners produced designs for Inkster House, Chesterton House and Penge House as well as Scholey House, Holcroft House and Pennethorne House.

By using the fabric of the new buildings, the murals on the Winstanley Estate enrich the architecture

From 1960 design work by George, Trew, Dunn began on what was intially referred to as Livingstone Street after one of the streets of terraces it replaced. It was the largest single part of the redevelopment programme in Battersea becoming known as the Winstanley Estate and carried out in a series of sub-phases from the main programme of redevelopment at the York Road Estate.

Sporle Court, Clark-Lawrence Court, Shaw Court and Sendall Court were constructed first to allow residents of the terraces to be moved out enabling demolition for replacement by the low rise blocks. The tallest, Sporle Court named for Sidney Sporle then leader of the Council, included a rooftop dance floor and play areas on the roof and 10th Floor.

Where large plain panels are needed they are finished with mosaic tiles giving a varying texture. Communal stairs are glazed and a panel system is used for windows, and there are numerous murals.

A great deal of design thought was also put into the public realm by Landscape Architect Michael Brown. The well proportioned courtyards use trees of various species to provide year-round interest and include trees even when used for parking.

Inspired by the London County Council Architect’s Department employing Artists to introduce works of art as part of the design of their new estates George, Trew, Dunn commissioned murals from William Mitchell Design Consultants. Adding little cost and using the fabric of the new buildings as they went up murals re-introduced decorative elements intrinsic to built form and quickly became a popular part of large developments.

Present at the end of each block or at an entrance they were located at street level on routes created with the landscape design to be very accessible to passers-by and connect the blocks and the open spaces.

The murals on the Winstanley Estate enrich George, Trew, Dunn’s architecture. The composition varies from mural to mural indicative of several hands being involved in the work. All in relief in concrete some murals suggest abstracted figures and letters through varying textures of concrete as if being a sign or a name, similar to the murals at nearby Badric Court. Another suggests a narrative featuring stylised sun, water, mountains and a wheel as if a classical creation myth.

Construction of the 546 dwellings of the Winstanley Estate was complete in 1966 and was followed immediately by design proposals for the next phase of the York Road Estate; a further 346 dwellings with care home and children’s home.

This last major phase of redevelopment was largely complete by October 1973. At high level its 18 storey towers were sited to the same alignment as the 1960s towers but were this time connected by a 1st Floor pedestrian walkway deck. Accompanying the 18 storey towers is a series of 4 storey blocks, the Children’s Home and Care Home being 2 storeys. The low rise buildings introduced a degree of informality in the routes through the two neighbouring estates.