Inventory Site Record

Golden Lane Estate * (City of London)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Golden Lane Estate was built for the Corporation of London from 1953-62 after the area had been badly bombed in WWII. Architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon won the competition and their design of both architecture and landscaping is formal and geometric. Designed to be traffic-free, the estate was for people working in the City, with 10 blocks of different sizes around 4 landscaped courtyards. Hard landscaping predominates in the communal spaces although there is some green space and tree planting. Social facilities included a swimming pool, a bowling green (now tennis courts), a nursery school and community centre. The first part was completed by 1957 and represented the first phase of the replanning / rebuilding of the Barbican/London Wall area; a later phase was completed by 1962 along Goswell Road.

Practical Information
Site location:
Golden Lane/Fann Street/Goswell Road
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Housing/Estate Landscaping
City of London
Open to public?
Opening times:
private but accessible. Some buildings have opened for London Open House
Special conditions:
Golden Lane Leisure Centre (020 7250 1464 or info-gllc@cityoflondon.gov.uk)
Public transport:
Tube: Barbican (Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City); Liverpool Street (Central, Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City). Bus: 4, 55, 56, 153.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

The area was badly bombed in World War II and the Golden Lane Estate was built in 1953-62 for the Corporation of London, designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon following a public competition won by Geoffry Powell in 1952; they subsequently designed the Barbican Estate (q.v.) from 1956. Powell's original scheme was for a more symmetrical layout of formal courtyards with a central axis that remains between the estate office under Great Arthur House and the community centre, terminating in a raised circular bastion with trees. The final scheme for Golden Lane had blocks of different sizes massed around a number of landscaped courtyards, and with social facilities; the use of colour throughout the estate was seen as important. The first part was completed by 1957 and represented the first phase of the replanning / rebuilding of the Barbican/London Wall area. The estate was designed to be traffic-free and the aim was to provide accommodation for people working in the City, with 10 blocks around 4 courts, which were largely hard landscaped, the architects regarding 'the whole scheme as urban. We have no desire to make the project look like a garden suburb' (Powell, quoted in the Architectural Association Journal, 1957). Consequently the landscaping is formal and geometric, like the buildings, with strong patterns created throughout. This included the roofs, the tallest block having an elaborate roof garden designed by Peter Chamberlin with a pool, pergola and stepping stones, and trees in circular beds. This was later closed following a suicide and vandalism. The centrepiece was Great Arthur House, which when it was built was the highest block of flats in London.

Social facilities included a swimming pool, bowling green that is now tennis courts, a nursery school and community centre. A later phase was completed by 1962 along Goswell Road. Until borough boundaries changed in 1994 the estate was part of LB Islington. There are numerous courtyards and some areas of communal gardens, largely grass with some trees including a fine catalpa; a fountain in one courtyard.

In 2018, as part of a ‘Compiling the Record’ campaign, HE in partnership with the Gardens Trust (TGT) invited nominations from members of TGT and the general public for post-war landscapes that might be added to the NHLE in order to widen the knowledge base and seek protection for a category of landscape hitherto deemed to be under-represented on the Register. A shortlist of 25 cases was selected by an expert panel comprised of external and internal partners to go forward to full assessment for registration. This shortlist included the designed landscape of the Golden Lane Estate, which has now been registered at Grade II.

The reasons for this NHLE designation include the site's design interest, which 'makes clever use of complex levels left by buildings previously on the site, to create a series of intimate courtyards linked by pedestrian thoroughfares and features such as pools, the rotunda, and roof gardens. The planning is meticulous but varied, creating an intense urban setting, providing amenity and facilities for the residents; the complex landscaping anticipates the use of levels, green space and hard features at Chamberlin Powell and Bon’s later landscape design at The Barbican.' The designed landscape has historic interest: 'as an integral part of the estate’s design with the listed buildings and structures, also by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, arguably one of the country’s most important early 1950s housing estates.' The survival of the lanscaping is also cited: despite some minor alterations the overall form and character of the landscape survives well.'

Sources consulted:

NHLE Register. Andrew Saint (introduction), 'London Suburbs', Merrell Holberton Publishers 1999; Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.); 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. Margaret King, 'Sunlight, Space and Greenery at Golden Lane Estate', The London Gardener, vol. 22, 2018, pp.87-100.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ321820 (532170,182100)
Size in hectares:
check overall size
Site ownership:
City of London Corporation
Site management:
Community Services/Open Spaces Dept.
Chamberlin, Powell and Bon
Listed structures:
LBII: Bowater House, Cuthbert Harrowing House, Community Centre, Basterfield House, Bayer House, Great Arthur House, Stanley Cohen House, garden feature near Golden Lane, Cullum Welch House, Recreation Centre
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

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:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

Golden Lane Estate *

Golden Lane Estate landscaping, July 2000. Photo: S Williams

Golden Lane Estate, May 2013 Photo: S Williams
Golden Lane Estate, May 2013 Photo: S Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.