Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Construction of the Progress Estate

Our Estate was originally named The Well Hall Estate. It is situated in Eltham, South East London. Its architect was Mr (later Sir Frank) Baines who at the time was the Chief Architect of H.M. Office of Works.

Construction of the Progress Estate
In 1915, British town planning was in its infancy and there were few controls on building form save for local bye-laws. Ebenezer Howard, who published his book "Garden Cities of Tomorrow" in 1898, was a probable influence on Baines as the latter developed his 'garden village' concept. The Well Hall Estate was his office's first design and was built for the Arsenal Ordnance factory in 1915. Baines went on to design a number of other 'garden villages' around London. Our Estate is now a conservation area with the added protection provided by an Article 4 direction. It feels wonderfully spacious and green, it is said that no two of its 1,298 houses are alike.......We are rightly proud of it.
Construction of the Progress Estate

The Well Hall Estate, as the Progress Estate was originally named, was a green-field development undertaken by H.M. Office of Works. 

It went from the drawing board in January 1915 to a completed estate of 1,298 homes by December of the same year.

Eight hundred of the houses were ready by July and their occupants moved in immediately.
They came from other parts of London and the United Kingdom.

The Estate’s road names were chosen for their historic connections with Woolwich including weapon production (Congreve, Shrapnel, Arsenal) and those who oversaw this work (Ross, Moira, Downman). Sandby Green recalls the famous artist Paul Sandby who was once chief drawing master at the Royal Academy, Woolwich. Lovelace Green is named after the lyric poet Richard Lovelace, born at Woolwich in 1618.

Upon completion of the Estate in December 1915, the Office of Works handed its control and management to the London County Council.

Queen Mary made an unexpected visit to the estate on Friday 24th March 1916, and admired its planning and architecture. She expressed surprise at the brief time in which such vast numbers of Arsenal workers and their families had been so comfortably and conveniently housed.

By 1920, the Estate was so popular that there was a waiting list of 1,700 families seeking to live on it.

The Estate was re-named The Progress Estate in June 1925 when the Government sold it to the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society for £375,000. The Society proceeded to sell vacant houses on 99-year leases at prices between £500 and £700.

William Tait managed the estate for many years from the estate office at 1, Downman Road (subsequently turned into four flats).

The then rising politician Herbert Morrison lived at 272, Well Hall Road, now no. 352, from 1923 until 1929. Other famous residents include the actress Sylvia Syms who lived at Maudsley Road in the 1930’s and the BBC producer Dennis Main Wilson (the Goon Show, Hancock’s Half Hour and Till Death us do Part) in Admiral Seymour Road.

The Progress Hall was built as a community hall on a former allotment site in Admiral Seymour Road. It was opened during King George V’s and Queen Mary’s Silver Jubilee year on 4 November, 1935 by Mr J Shepherd of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society’s General Committee.

The historical and sociological value of the Estate was recognised in 1971 when it was designated as one of the then Greenwich Council’s earliest conservation areas. Fortunately, no houses had been demolished prior to 1971, other than those necessitated by Wartime damage, so the entire estate was transferred virtually intact into conservation area status.

As portions of the estate began to be sold off to individual owner-occupiers, the Council sought and obtained an Article 4 Direction in 1973.

The Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society’s remaining interest in the estate, some 500 houses and flats, was sold in November 1980 to the Hyde Housing Association.

The estate is as popular a place to live today as it was when built.

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