Inventory Site Record

Alton Estate (Alton East and Alton West) * (Wandsworth)

Brief Description

* on National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Alton Estate was built by the LCC in the 1950s over a high lying site that contained a number of C18th houses and their gardens, elements of which remain, partly within the housing estate and partly within educational establishments that now occupy the houses. The estate aimed to accommodate 9,500 people and provide schools, community buildings and shops; public open space was included within the overall design, with mature trees from the earlier landscaping retained. It was developed in two phases by different teams of architects. The earlier was Alton East built c.1951-55 under Rosemary Stjernstedt adopting Swedish and picturesque principles of town planning as a setting for the 11-storey point blocks and terraces of maisonettes. Alton West, built c.1954-58 under Colin Lucas on the grounds of Downshire House, Manresa House and Mount Clare, was influenced by Le Corbusier's ideas.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Grounds of Downshire House, Manresa House and Mount Clare
Site location:
Alton East: Alton Road/Portsmouth Road/Bessborough Road. Alton West: Danebury Avenue/Highcliffe Drive
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Housing/Estate Landscaping
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: Barnes then bus. Bus: 72, 74, 85, 170, 265
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.wandsworth.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 land where Alton Estate was built was adjacent to Richmond Park (q.v.) where a number of major C18th houses had been built. These include Downshire House, built c.1775, which had extensive formal gardens, a small part of which remains to the north, with brick walls, stone balustrades with pineapples and a hipped roof summer house by O P Milne. Manresa House was built by Sir William Chambers (1723-96) in 1776 and stands hidden behind high walls in the Alton West Estate, the main front facing west across Richmond Park. In the garden is the remains of an C18th garden temple; the garden suffered from landfill to create playing fields, thus altering the relationship between it and Richmond Park. Another temple from Manresa House stands in the grounds of the principal's house at Mount Clare, which was built by Robert Taylor in 1770-3 and which had gardens that were landscaped by Capability Brown c.1774, but much of this now covered by buildings.

The LCC initially acquired c.130 acres of land here, later adding more, which at that time was undeveloped. The Alton Estate aimed to accommodate 9,500 people and to provide schools, community buildings and shops; public open space as well as private gardens was included within the overall design with mature trees from the earlier landscaping retained. The estate was developed in two phases, and by two teams of architects.

The earlier phase was Alton East, bounded by Portsmouth Road, Bessborough Road and Alton Road and built c.1951-55 under Rosemary Stjernstedt, with Cleeve Barr and Oliver Cox, who adopted Swedish and picturesque principles of town planning as a setting for ten 11-storey point blocks and winding terraces of maisonettes set on a wooded hillside. The landscaping had remnants of the earlier, mature Victorian gardens, and, enhanced by imported rocks, provided a Scandinavian effect.

By contrast Alton West, built c.1954-58 on the grounds of Downshire House, Manresa House and Mount Clare under architect Colin Lucas, was influenced by Le Corbusier's ideas for the Radiant City and the Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles. Lucas's team included Bill Howell, John Killick, John Partridge and Stanley Amis. The five 11-storey slab blocks raised on pilotis allowed the open space of Downshire Field to be seen, which was landscaped to enhance the setting of the buildings; a sculpture, 'The Bull' by Robert Clatworthy is sited in the landscape. Alton West preserved as many of the original trees as possible and from here there are excellent views of Richmond Park. This area is a unique example of historic layering of the 1950s Corbusian landscape over the pre-existing C18th landscape.

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 landscaping to the Alton East Estate and the landscaping to the Alton West Estate, both of which have now been registered at Grade II.

Sources consulted:

NHLE Register. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Dorian Gerhold 'Putney and Roehampton Past', Wandsworth Historical Society, 1994; Le Corbusier 'The City of Tomorrow', London, 1971; Patrick Loobey, 'Putney and Roehampton', 1988; 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.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ226734 (522650,173450)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Wandsworth
Site management:
1951 - 58
LCC Architects Department (Alton East under Rosemary Stjernstedt; Alton West under Colin Lucas)
Listed structures:
LBII*: 'The Bull' sculpture; Alton West - Binley House, Charcot House, Denmead House, Dunbridge House, Winchfield House and abutting chimney
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:
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:

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.