Watling Estate

Last updated
Watling Estate
Location Burnt Oak, London
Coordinates 51°36′30″N0°15′54″W / 51.60827°N 0.26500°W / 51.60827; -0.26500
Area387 acres (157 ha)
Units4021(1931), 4055(1938)
Architect G. Topham Forrest
Contractors Direct service organisation
Authority London County Council
Style Council garden estate
Influenced by Garden city movement

The Watling Estate is in Burnt Oak, in the Edgware district of the London Borough of Barnet. It was one of twelve London County Council cottage estates built between the wars to provide "homes fit for heroes". There are 4032 homes set in 386 acres (156 ha). [1]

Burnt Oak suburb in the Edgware district of North London, in the London Borough of Barnet, London, England

Burnt Oak is a suburb in the Edgware district in northwest London, England. It is within the London Borough of Barnet and the London Borough of Brent and was a part of Middlesex until it got transferred to Greater London in 1965.

Edgware district of north London, in the London Borough of Barnet

Edgware is a district of northern Greater London, in the London Borough of Barnet. Edgware is centred 9.5 miles (15.3 km) north-northwest of Charing Cross and has its own commercial centre. Edgware has a generally suburban character, typical of the rural-urban fringe. It was an ancient parish in the county of Middlesex. The community benefits from some elevated woodland on a high ridge marking the Hertfordshire border of gravel and sand. Edgware is identified in the London Plan as one of the capital's 35 major centres. Edgware is principally a shopping and residential area and one of the northern termini of the Northern line. It has a bus garage, a shopping centre called the Broadwalk, a library, a hospital—Edgware Community Hospital, and two streams—Edgware Brook and Deans Brook, both tributaries of a small brook known as Silk Stream, which in turn merges with the River Brent at Brent Reservoir.

London Borough of Barnet Borough in United Kingdom

Barnet is a suburban London borough in North London, England. It forms part of Outer London and is the largest London borough by population with 384,774 inhabitants and covers an area of 86.74 square kilometres (33 sq mi), the fourth highest. It borders Hertfordshire to the north and five other London boroughs: Harrow and Brent to the west, Camden and Haringey to the southeast and Enfield to the east.



In the 1850s, Burnt Oak referred to no more than a field on the eastern side of the Edgware Road (Watling Street), by the 1860s plans were in place to build three residential streets: North Street, East Street, and South Street. The area was generally known as Red Hill until the opening of Burnt Oak tube station on the Northern line of London Underground on 27 October 1924. It was the on farmland to the south-east of the community in Edgware Road, that London Transport constructed a new road, Watling Avenue, and London County Council built the Watling Estate housing estate. In September 1931 Jack Cohen opened his first Tesco store at 54 Watling Avenue, Burnt Oak. [2] [3] [4]

Watling Street ancient trackway

Watling Street is a route in England that began as an ancient trackway first used by the Britons, mainly between the areas of modern Canterbury and St Albans using a natural ford near Westminster. The Romans later paved the route, which then connected the Kentish ports of Dubris (Dover), Rutupiae (Richborough), Lemanis (Lympne), and Regulbium (Reculver) to their bridge over the Thames at Londinium (London). The route continued northwest past Verulamium (St Albans) on its way to Viroconium (Wroxeter). The Romans considered the continuation on to Blatobulgium (Birrens) beyond Hadrian's Wall to be part of the same route, leading some scholars to call this Watling Street as well, although others restrict it to the southern leg.

Burnt Oak tube station London Underground station

Burnt Oak is a London Underground station in Burnt Oak, north London, on Watling Avenue, off the A5. The station is on the Edgware branch of the Northern line, between Edgware and Colindale stations, and in Travelcard Zone 4.

Northern line London Underground line

The Northern line is a London Underground line that runs from south-west to north-west London, with two branches through central London and three in north London. It runs northwards from its southern terminus at Morden in the borough of Merton to Kennington in Southwark, where it divides into two central branches, one via Charing Cross in the West End and the other via Bank in the City. The central branches re-join at Camden Town where the line again divides into two branches, one to High Barnet and the other to Edgware in the borough of Barnet. The High Barnet branch has an additional single-station spur at Finchley Central with a shuttle train to Mill Hill East.


LCC Cottage estates 1918–1939
Estate nameAreaNo of dwellingsPopulation 1938Population density
Norbury 1121886719.8 per acre (49/ha)
Old Oak 32736351923 per acre (57/ha)
Totterdown Fields 39126232.4 per acre (80/ha)
Tower Gardens
White Hart Lane
9878359368 per acre (20/ha)
Becontree 277025769 [lower-alpha 1] 1156529.3 per acre (23/ha)
Bellingham 25226731200410.6 per acre (26/ha)
Castelnau 51644285112.6 per acre (31/ha)
Dover House Estate
Roehampton Estate
147121253838.2 per acre (20/ha)
Downham 60070963003211.8 per acre (29/ha)
Mottingham 2022337900911.6 per acre (29/ha)
St Helier 82590683987711 per acre (27/ha)
Watling 38640341911010.5 per acre (26/ha)
Wormholt 68783407811.5 per acre (28/ha)
Chingford [lower-alpha 2] 21715407.1 per acre (18/ha)
Hanwell (Ealing)1401587673211.3 per acre (28/ha)
Headstone Lane 142n.a5000
Kenmore Park 58654207811.3 per acre (28/ha)
(Royal Borough of Greenwich)
21380159818.1 per acre (45/ha)
Whitefoot Lane (Downham)49n.an.a.
Source:*Yelling, J.A. (1995). "Banishing London's slums: The interwar cottage estates" (PDF). Transactions. London and Middlesex Archeological Society. 46: 167–173. Retrieved 19 December 2016. Quotes: Rubinstein, 1991, Just like the country.
  1. Source says 2589- transcription error
  2. Part of a larger PRC estate around Huntsman Road

The Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890, [5] encouraged the London authority to improve the housing in their areas. [6] It also gave them the power acquire land and to build tenements and houses (cottages). [7] The First World War indirectly provided a new impetus, when the poor physical health and condition of many urban recruits to the army was noted with alarm. This led to a campaign known as 'Homes fit for Heroes' . In 1919 the Government, through The Addison Act (Housing Act 1919) the required councils to provide housing built to the Tudor Walters standards. It helped them to do so through the provision of subsidies, [8] These were then removed by the Geddes Axe of 1922, and partially restored by the Wheatley Act of 1924.

The Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Tenement multi-occupancy building

A tenement is a multi-occupancy building of any sort. In Scotland it refers to flats divided horizontally in an established building type, including desirable properties in affluent areas, but in other countries the term often refers to a run-down apartment building or slum building.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as, "the war to end all wars," it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Thus LCC was actively looking for suitable land, when the Northern Line was extended in 1934 opening up a new transport corridor. LCC quickly purchased 387 acres (157 ha) of farmland adjacent to the new Burnt Oak tube station. The plans were drawn up by the LCC's Chief Architect, George Forrest. He set aside 48 acres (19 ha) for allotments and parks and 16 acres (6.5 ha) for schools and public buildings. The rest was for housing. [9]

George Topham Forrest, F.R.I.B.A. FGS FRSE (1872-1945) was a Scottish architect who became chief architect for the London County Council and was responsible for the design of many public housing estates, and also co-designed two bridges over the River Thames.


Planning the estate

In 1912 Raymond Unwin, published a pamphlet Nothing gained by Overcrowding. [10] These ideas influenced the Tudor Walters Report of 1918. The report recommended housing in short terraces, spaced at 70 feet (21 m) at a density of 12 to the acre: and this defined the Watling Estate. The estate shows all the signs of the "garden city movement". Care was taken to exploit the undulating ground, offering vistas and long views. There are cul de sacs. The terraces are indeed short and stepped back at road corners to open up the space. Throughout the estate runs the Silk Stream, and the banks have been used to create parks and internal open-space. [9]

Raymond Unwin British engineer, architect and town planner

Sir Raymond Unwin was a prominent and influential English engineer, architect and town planner, with an emphasis on improvements in working class housing.

The Tudor Walters Report on housing was a produced by the Tudor Walters Committee of the United Kingdom Parliament in November 1918. Its recommendation set the standards for council house design and location for the next 90 years.

Garden city movement city planned in the "garden city urban planning" movement born in the late 19th century

The garden city movement is a method of urban planning in which self-contained communities are surrounded by "greenbelts", containing proportionate areas of residences, industry, and agriculture. The idea was initiated in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom and aims to capture the primary benefits of a countryside environment and a city environment while avoiding the disadvantages presented by both.

Silk Stream, from Watling Avenue Silk Stream in Burnt Oak - geograph.org.uk - 961311.jpg
Silk Stream, from Watling Avenue

Houses and flats

Tudor Walters Committee Recommendations

with out a parlour

Area sq ft (m2)Volume cu ft (m3)House

with a parlour

Area sq ft (m2)Volume cu ft (m2)
Parlour120 (11)960 (27)
Living Room180 (17)1,440 (41)Living Room180 (17)1,440 (41)
Scullery80 (7.4)640 (18)Scullery80 (7.4)640 (18)
Larder24 (2.2)-Larder24 (2.2)-
Bedroom No. 1150 (14)1,200 (34)Bedroom No. 1160 (15)1,280 (36)
Bedroom No. 2100 (9.3)800 (23)Bedroom No. 2120 (11)960 (27)
Bedroom No. 365 (6.0)520 (15)Bedroom No. 3110 (10)880 (25)
Total855 sq ft (79.4 m2)1,055 sq ft (98.0 m2)
Desirable Minimum sizes- Tudor Walters Committee [11]

There were 4012 dwellings on the estate, Most were traditional brick; there were 252 'Atholl' steel and 464 timber-frame homes built as experiments. It was hoped that they would be cheaper and quicker to build. Most were larger family homes: there was a mix of parlour and non-parlour types. There were also around 320 flats, built in low-rise blocks. [9]

The facilities

The main shopping parade on Watling Avenue was built in 1930. The first school opened in 1928, the large Watling Central School in 1931. [9]


The initial tenants were selected by LCC. Like other estates, they were a relatively well-off though overwhelmingly working-class population with small families. 20% were skilled manual, 20% transport workers and 10% clerical with wages between £3 and £4 a week. Almost half of the incomers were under 18. [9]

The estate was seen as a threat by the older citizen of Edgware who dubbed it "Little Moscow". [12] and likened initiative as one of the "raw, red tentacles of that housing octopus, the London County Council". [9]

Conservation area

The Watling Estate was made a conservation area in 2007. [13]

See also

Downham Estate

Related Research Articles

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London County Council (LCC) was the principal local government body for the County of London throughout its existence from 1889 to 1965, and the first London-wide general municipal authority to be directly elected. It covered the area today known as Inner London and was replaced by the Greater London Council. The LCC was the largest, most significant and most ambitious English municipal authority of its day.

Municipal Borough of Hendon

Hendon was an ancient civil parish of around 8,250 acres (33 km2) which included Mill Hill on the border of Hertfordshire, as well as Golders Green and Childs Hill on the border of what became the County of London. In 1894 it was created an urban district of Middlesex and in 1932 it became a municipal borough. The municipal borough was abolished in 1965 and the area became part of the London Borough of Barnet.

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Grahame Park Housing estate in United Kingdom

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The Hale area and ward within the London Borough of Barnet

The Hale is an area and ward within the London Borough of Barnet. It comprises the eastern part of Edgware and centres on the small retail centre at the junction of Deans Lane, Hale Lane and Selvage Lane. This centre constitutes Upper Hale, but is much better known locally as the 'Green Man' after the erstwhile pub of the same name that stood at the site from at least the early 18th century. A smaller area that was traditionally known as Lower Hale centres on the junction of Hale Lane, Farm Road and the nearby bridge over Deans Brook; this area is generally regarded as being within Edgware. The traditional area known as The Hale extends northwards from the 'Green Man' to the A41 and Apex Corner and the southern end is traditionally marked by the disused Edgware and Highgate railway line just south of West Way and Hale Drive; beyond lies Burnt Oak. Today's borough ward has slightly larger boundaries.

Silk Stream

The Silk Stream is a brook just over 4 kilometres long in the London Borough of Barnet. It is one of the major components of the Blue Ribbon Network.

North West London Credit Union Limited was a savings and loans co-operative, operating in the north west London boroughs of Barnet and Brent. Based in Grahame Park, it had over 1,000 members and branches in Burnt Oak, Edgware, and Finchley. In 2013, it merged with London Capital Credit Union and the branches were closed.

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Council house form of public or social housing in the UK and Ireland

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Totterdown Fields

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Old Oak and Wormholt

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Dover House Estate

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  1. Yelling 1995.
  2. Maurice Corina: Pile It High Sell It Cheap: The Authorised Biography of Sir Jack Cohen, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1971
  3. Andrew Hosken: Nothing Like a Dame: The Scandals of Shirley Porter , Granta, 2007
  4. Sarah Ryle: The Making of Tesco: A story of British Shopping , Random House, 2013
  5. "Housing of The Working Classes Act, 1890". Irish Statutes. Government of Ireland. 1890. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  6. UWE 2008.
  7. Yelling 1995, p. 167.
  8. UK Parliament- Acts 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Municipal Dreams 2014.
  10. Parkinson-Bailey 2000, p. 153.
  11. Manoochehri 2009, p. 70.
  12. Municipal Dreams (b) 2014.
  13. Appraisal 2007.