Protecting London's Post-War Landscapes

Photo of the Water Gardens

The process of registering and listing parks and gardens may seem an administrative exercise only, but in fact is crucial to their safeguarding. Sally Williams, Keeper of the Inventory at the LGT, explains the Trust's recent role in registering and protecting parks and gardens created since the War.

On 21 August 2020, Historic England (HE) announced the results of its project to identify significant post-war parks, gardens and landscapes across the country. Launched in 2017 in collaboration with The Gardens Trust, the project aimed to increase the representation of post-war designed landscapes on the Register of Parks and Gardens, as part of the National Heritage List for England.

In order to reach a shortlist of landscapes for inclusion, landscape professionals and members of the public were invited to suggest the best examples of landscapes designed between the end of World War II and the early 1990s. Members of the county Gardens Trusts, including the London Gardens Trust, were part of this process, proposing possible places for consideration.

The endeavour was a huge success, bringing more protection to 24 exceptional post-war designed landscapes or structures, until then susceptible to the vicissitudes of neglect or disinterest as well as planning and development. It has also raised greater public awareness of more recent landscapes, which often fall under the radar. Of particular interest is the breadth and variety of sites that were considered: alongside the more conventional parks and gardens, potential sites included the grounds of public and private houses, memorial landscapes, commercial and industrial sites, civic and institutional environments, reclaimed landscapes and even a watercourse.

The resulting listings have doubled the number of registered post-war designed landscapes throughout England. London has benefited from the addition of nine new listings on the Register, across a number of inner and outer boroughs, and in addition two structures within these post-war landscapes have been recognised on the National Heritage List.

All but one of the newly registered sites were already listed in the LGT's own Inventory, highlighting the importance of the Trust's efforts over many years to secure recognition for the wealth of green spaces across the capital. The Inventory currently contains over 2,575 entries, some 203 of which are now on the National Register. Prior to the recent listing, the only post-war landscape in London on the Register was the Barbican Estate.

The newly listed London sites are described opposite. Fuller descriptions can be found by consulting the Inventory entry, via the LGT website. Grade I listings are of 'exceptional interest', Grade II* are 'particularly important, of more than special interest', and Grade II spaces are simply 'of special interest'.

The reasons for listing these landscapes fall into a number of categories, including historic interest, design interest and survival of the original design. A number were already recognised by awards, such as that of the Civic Trust for the Churchill Gardens Estate in 1962 and Stockley Park in 1989. Take note of the landscape architects, architects, engineers and other professionals associated with their creation - some became very well-known and their work and writings have contributed to our understanding of 20th Century landscape design.

The Recently Listed Landscapes

Alexandra Road Park, Camden - Grade II*

The park is an integral part of the Alexandra Road Estate, designed by architect Neave Brown and landscape designer Janet Jack for Camden Council. Built in 1968-69, it was the first post-war housing estate to be listed. The integral linear park was designed very much with children in mind, and provides playgrounds for different ages. Its recent listing follows a substantial restoration project in 2015-16.

Further information from the LGT Inventory

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Photo: Sally Williams
Alton East and Alton West, Wandsworth - Grade II

Designed by LCC Architects' Department and built in 1950-61 in two phases, this internationally recognised mass housing scheme had landscaping as an integral component. Both phases looked to architectural models in European modernism. Alton West shows the influence of Le Corbusier and sits on the grounds of a number of eighteenth-century mansions, including the gardens of Mount Clare, landscaped by 'Capability' Brown.

Further information from the LGT Inventory

The Brunel Estate, Westminster Grade II

Designed by City of Westminster Architects' Department, with landscape architect Michael Brown, this high-density public housing scheme was built in 197-74 on derelict railway land. Housing is set within landscaped open space that includes an unusual children's playground, built on an earth mound with curving seating and a substantial brick slide, which has also just been listed as Grade II.

Further information from the LGT Inventory

Churchill Gardens Estate, Westminster - Grade II

Designed by Powell & Moya for Westminster City Council and built in 1947-62, this was one of the first large-scale social housing schemes in the UK to be built on modernist principles after the War. Praised for its architecture and landscaping, it became a model for subsequent public housing schemes. The 36 blocks are set within an informal landscape setting that places emphasis on openness, light and greenery.

Further information from the LGT Inventory

Photo
Photo: Colin Wing
Fieldend, Richmond - Grade II

Designed by Span Developments, with landscape architect Michael Brown, Fieldend was built in 1960-61. Its weather-boarded terrace houses are arranged informally amongst landscaping that includes silver birches, grass areas and shrubs. A governing principle of the Span schemes was to set housing amidst gentle landscaping, often retaining existing planting, with trees, communal lawns, and courtyard gardens.

Further information from the LGT Inventory

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Photo: Sally Williams
Golden Lane Estate, City of London - Grade II

Designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon for the Corporation of London and built in 1952-62, this deliberately traffic-free estate was conceived for people working in the City. Blocks of different sizes are set around landscaped courtyards that are formal and geometric, with the use of colour an important element throughout the estate. The tallest block has an elaborate roof garden with a pool and pergola.

Further information from the LGT Inventory

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Photo: Sally Williams
Roper's Gardens, Kensington and Chelsea - Grade II

Designed by Peter Shepheard for the Chelsea Society in 1964, this small sunken garden was built on land that once formed part of the gift of Sir Thomas More to his daughter Margaret on her marriage to William Roper. Laid out over buildings destroyed by a parachute mine in 1941, the garden has a long terrace of sheltered seating overlooking a lower planted area, in the centre of which is Gilbert Ledward's sculpture 'Awakening', now listed at Grade II.

Further information from the LGT Inventory

Photo
Photo: Colin Wing
Stockley Park, Hillingdon - Grade II

Underpinned by a masterplan by Arup Associates and developed in phases between 1984 and 1993, this early business park is on a former gravel works near Heathrow. The site was once part of a late 17th Century estate called Dawley Park. Stockley Park has been praised for its pioneering reuse of contaminated land and was an important collaboration between designers, engineers and landscape architects. In addition to its business function, the development includes a golf course and public country park with lakes, avenues of lime trees and other landscape features.

The Water Gardens, Westminster - Grade II

Designed by Trehearne, Norman, Preston & Partners for the Church Commissioners and built in 1961-66, this private housing scheme's communal gardens were designed by landscape architec Philip Hicks. His brief was to mask service roads and basement garages, and to provide interest for the residents from both ground level and above. Modernist in style, the water gardens have split levels, rectangular forms and strong horizontals.

Further information from the LGT Inventory

Photo
Photo: Sally Williams