The Brunel Estate * (Westminster)
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
The Brunel Estate, begun in the mid-1960s and completed in 1974, was built on derelict railway land of the Great Western Railway. The form of the estate plan is a triangle, with a playground in the north-west corner, and a day nursery at the north-east. Built to provide 418 dwellings, the high-density housing estate includes tower-blocks generally named to reflect associations with Brunel and the Great Western Railway. The estate's open space was admired by Bridget Cherry as 'bold landscaping in an effort to mitigate the lumpish forms of the buildings' and comprises mounds, sunk brick-edged paths and scattered lime and plane trees.
- Previous / Other name:
- Mileage Yard
- Site location:
- Brunel Estate, Great Western Road, Westbourne Park
- What 3 Words:
- Type of site:
- Housing/Estate Landscaping
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- unrestricted to public areas
- Special conditions:
- Public transport:
- Tube: Westbourne Park (Hammersmith & City). Bus: 7, 28, 31, 70, 328
- Research updated:
- Last minor changes:
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cwh.org.uk; www.westminster.gov.uk/services/housing/citywesthomes/
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.
Until Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway cut through Westbourne Green in 1836 the area contained a number of substantial villas and even after the new railway line, with depots and sidings, was constructed, land to the south continued to be largely prosperous housing. To the north, housing was developed from the 1850s but soon became a slum; from 1918 the larger houses to the south began to be subdivided into flats and the area was lacking in public open space.
After WWII derelict railway sidings known as Mileage Yard were designated for new housing in a scheme by City of Westminster Architects Department under F G West. The scheme, providing 418 dwellings, was approved in 1969 and was built between 1970-74. The name of the new estate reflects the connection with Brunel, and all but one of the blocks were named after places associated with the GWR. The estate landscaping was designed by Michael Brown, whose plan of c.1970 was laid out in 1973 - 74 as the housing was going up. Brown's plan included provision for children's play, with an area to the east designated for a nursery, which was built later and is now a family centre. The landscaping as designed is fairly intact, including the form of the playground with its curving seating area and the substantial brick slide for older children in the north . The estate's hard landscaping won a Brick Industry Certificate of Merit in 1974.
Michael Brown (1922-96) worked for the LCC and later Eric Lyons before setting up his own landscape practice in 1962, specialising in public housing with ecology an important consideration in his design. In addition to the Brunel Estate he worked on the Grahame Park Estate in Hendon and Beavers Farm in Hounslow. His work was characterised by earth mounding, brick paths, preservation of natural watercourses and use of native species.
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 landscape associated with Brunel Estate, which has now been registered at Grade II.
The reasons for this NHLE designation include the site's historic interest: 'as a near-complete example of an early-1970s urban housing estate landscape, designed by a professional landscape architect, exemplifying trends towards more informal landscaping, providing space and privacy, with areas for repose and for play.' Its design interest resides in being 'an excellent example of the mature work of Michael Brown, one of the leading landscape architects of the 1960s and 1970s;' Furthermore 'the structured landscape, with undulating grassed areas shored up by canted brick walls, and separated by serpentine brick paths, is characteristic of Brown’s work, whilst his considered placement of trees lends dignity and scale; the inclusion of areas for reflection and for play is particularly well achieved, with the surviving sunken playground, also using earth mounding and brick, demonstrating the integrity of Brown’s approach.' The survival of the designed landscape is also noted, which is 'little altered from Brown’s original designs, with the site retaining one of its play areas intact.'. Finally it has Group value with the unlisted buildings around which the landscape was designed, and with the contemporary slide structure, which has also been listed at LBII.
See NHLE Register. Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West', (Penguin Books, 1999 ed), p.692. Historic England Consultation Report for Case 1466125 for listing slide in children's playground, Brunel Estate, January 2020 (see sources given in this report)
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ251816 (525097,181664)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- Westminster City Council
- Site management:
- CityWest Homes
- 1970 - 74
- City of Westminster Architects Department/Michael Brown (landscape design)
- Listed structures:
- LBII: Slide structure in children's playground
- 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:
The Brunel Estate - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 04/08/21 14:50
Click a photo to enlarge.
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