Apparently there were those who looked askance at the London County Council’s new Dover House Estate in 1919. Well-heeled local people in the big houses nearby expressed concern that transport links were poor for the area’s new residents. And then there was another ‘element for consideration’ – ‘that its conversion into a working-class district must enormously depreciate the value of property in the vicinity’.
In fact, worries that the Estate would blight the neighborhood and would be filled by very, very poor people from the bad areas of the East End were illusory. The Dover House Estate, initially known as the Roehampton Estate, would become a ‘show place in its day visited by many from all over the world.
And it would house an overwhelmingly respectable working class. Many of these worked in the public services – in public transport, as police officers or postal workers. There were high standards of the earliest council housing built after World War One when ‘homes for heroes’ was briefly something more than a slogan. The Dover House Estate is a London equivalent.
In 1919, the LCC bought – its first post-war purchase – 147 acres of parkland belonging to the adjacent private estates of Dover House and Putney Park House. Building began in early 1920’s
A further 168 homes were built in 1924, by 1927, when the Estate was complete, 1212 homes had been erected – ranging from five-room houses to two-room flats, accommodating a population of around 4400.
Internally, the homes were of their time – gas-lit in the first place with water heated in a downstairs coal-fired copper and pumped upstairs where necessary.
But the real glory of the Dover House Estate lay in its overall design and layout. The original plan shows how carefully its design conforms to Garden City ideals in its studied informality, open space and greenery, and curving streetscapes. This was a prime objective of the LCC’s planners was that each group of houses should overlook or have access to a small open space close by.. Some of the cottages are arranged around greens, trees were retained and new ones planted. Footways included wide grass verges.
The Pleasance formed the Estate’s major open space but two large were areas set aside for allotments which in their way were an even stronger statement of Garden City ideals a dream of healthy and self-sufficient living that has been renewed over recent years.
The sheer quality of the Dover House Estate’s design values and layout survives – protected since 1978 by its designation as a conservation area. It has become an incredibly popular place to live and as a company we have championed its many advantages ever since we opened.