Written by previous Chestertons historian, Melanie Backe-Hansen
Having started my new blog, it has got me thinking about a number of house histories I’ve done in the past. There have been so many, but one of my favourites was a historical overview of The Shaftesbury Park Estate in Battersea, London.
The Shaftesbury Park Estate was a collection of homes built by the ‘Artizans, Labourers and General Dwelling Company’, established in 1867 by architect, William Austin and supported by the philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury.
The estate was unique for a number of reasons, firstly it was one of the first established to provide healthy and affordable housing for the working classes within London, but it was also built by the very people who were going to move in!
Here is a lovely plan of the houses for the Shaftesbury Park Estate (provided by the Wandsworth Museum):
The foundation stone of the Shaftesbury Park Estate was laid by Lord Shaftesbury in 1872 and close to 1,200 houses were built between 1873 and 1877. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli opened part of the estate in 1874 calling it a ‘social phenomenon’.
Foundation Plaque 1872
The area, formerly gardens and farming fields, came to be known as ‘Workman’s Town’. The aim of the estate was not only to create new homes, but also a community spirit by providing a community hall, schools and open space. There were also many local groups, including a dramatic club, a volunteer rifle corps, sports team and a ‘Friends of Labour Loan Society’. Although, one of the key things purposefully omitted was a pub, in an effort to curb the social problems of cheap alcohol.
Today, the area of the Shaftesbury Park Estate is one of the most sought after residential areas in Battersea. A few famous residents have included Lydia Russell, Duchess of Bedford, actor Daniel Massey and actress Una Stubbs. The Shaftesbury Park Estate has seen very few changes over its 130 year history, maintaining its picturesque Victorian terraced rows, gothic architecture and tree-lined streets.