Thursday, 26 November 2015

Brentham Garden Suburb

Set south of the River Brent, the Brentham Garden Suburb is an architectural jewel of Ealing, one of 15 Conservation Areas, where modernity is resisted and the original buildings preserved. Built between 1903 and 1915, it was a pioneering development, following the precepts of garden cities, co-operative ownership and the Arts and Crafts movement. Some 600 homes make up the estate; to the west the Victorian housing around Pitshanger Lane, to the east the 1930s developments around Brunswick Road.

Brentham Garden Suburbs were designed and built before the motor-car degraded quality of life in cities. Hence - no garages. All cars are parked in the street, making it difficult to snap vistas that reflect the beauty of the area's layout. If you like this architecture, best to come on a weekday during working hours when at least some of the cars are driven away.

Because idealism was at the heart of the concept - there's no pub, just a sports club (in which the British tennis champion Fred Perry began his career). Fred Perry's father was the national secretary of the Co-operative Party, moving to Brentham estate after WW1.

But how were inhabitants expected to travel to work? The nearest station, on the Great Western Railway line from Northolt to Paddington via Old Oak Junction, opened in 1903 and closed in 1947. Brentham Halt (or Brentham Platform as it appears on some old maps) was over half a mile away, and not a convenient walk once the six-lane Western Avenue bisected the land north of the River Brent in the 1930s. And Ealing Broadway station is over a mile and half away.

So without a car, a good long walk was needed to get to the trains. Or even buses, such as they were in the 1920s. I'm sure cycling was popular here too - and the air, before the factories of the Western Avenue started springing up a decade later, was fresh.

The architecture is simple and pure; this was not mass-production like the later 1930s estate along Brunswick Road. A reaction to the cluttered styles of the mid-Victorian era, these Arts and Crafts homes, behind their well-kept hedges, alluded to traditional English village architecture.

Those hedges - quite magnificent, even in late November. Lower at the front of the house, higher at the rear, for privacy, a bastion of green surrounding every home. Neatly trimmed, the hedges add vastly to the visual appeal of the area.

Despite the distance to the main transport and retail hub that is Ealing Broadway, despite the absence of garages and off-street parking, even small two-bedroom terraced houses are being offered for sale at around £800,000.

This is one of my favourite parts of Ealing. The design purity and idealism of the architects and developers of a century ago makes this little enclave stand out from the rather more run-of-the-mill houses to either side of this estate. Designated a conservation area in the 1960s, Brentham Garden Suburb embodies values that make it exceptional.

This time last year:
Ahead of the opening of the second line of the Warsaw Metro
(it would be another four months until it actually did so)

This time two years ago:
Keep an eye on Ukraine...
(Portents of troubles to come)

This time three years ago:
Płock by day, Płock by night

This time four years ago:
Warning ahead of railway timetable change

This time eight years ago:
Some thoughts on recycling

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