Holy Trinity Church Hardel Walk
The Big Dig

The spire of Holy Trinity Church seen from Cressingham Gardens.  Split level houses on Hardel Walk. Wild flowers growing adjacent to Brockwell Park on the site of The Big Dig, a London wide project for enthusiastic urban gardeners.

Cressingham Gardens



I first came across Cressingham Gardens in a tweet from:-

Click the image for their Twitter page

I was not aware of the estate up until that point, London has so many, some tucked away like Cressingham, others being demolished and gentrified, but Cressingham Gardens is on an altogether smaller and gentler scale and deserves to be noticed being under threat of demolition by Lambeth Council.

There is a lovely film of the estate, its residents, and the existential threat.



English Heritage report has recommended that Cressingham Gardens be given conservation area status.

“We have commissioned additional research to ensure an understanding of where Cressingham Gardens sits in the body of Lambeth’s housing output of the 1960s and 70s and have also carefully considered the merits of this particular scheme. As our advice sets out we believe that there are some very good qualities about Cressingham Gardens but also some shortcomings such that overall it cannot be recommended for listing given the necessarily high bar for post-war buildings. We do recognise its local significance, however, and conservation area status is suggested as a means of reflecting its overall character. “

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Getting there

“Everyone walks through here, to get to the park, and a lot of them don’t even realise they’re walking through an estate!”

The church, seen below from Tulse Hill station, acts as a useful landmark and was built on land donated by the Cressingham family after whom the estate was named.

Click photo above for Google map of area

Cressingham Gardens stands at the south west corner of Brockwell Park in South London, half a mile as the crow flies from Tulse Hill BR station, and no more than twenty minutes walk (below)

Click photo above for larger image (North)

The Rotunda and “Telly Tubby Land”

Click photo above for larger image (South)

The approach from the park, possible during daylight hours, takes you to an entrance that leads into the green space which typifies the estate (below)

One of the two Eastern entrances overlooking the park

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First impressions

“You know how they’re all arguing to get the streets closed off so it’s safe for kids?  This is what we’ve got. It’s all here.”

The first impression on arriving from the park is how green the estate is.  It blends seamlessly into the landscape.  The building heights, even towards Tulse Hill, remain below the tree line, and the weathered bricks form a subtle contrast and compliment their surrounding grass trees and shrubs.


The spire of Holy Trinity makes a graceful backdrop

I like the occasional appearance of Holy Trinity spire, the trees, and the adjacent park.  It really is an idyllic location.

The Rotunda nursery and community centre nestles into the landscape


The estate borders and compliments the park without intruding

A delightful array of trees, shrubs and housing at Hambridge Way

“A green village in the City”

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Brief history and estate layout

“It’s wonderful to see how people make the homes their own” – Roger Bicknell

Cressingham Gardens was built between 1967 and 1978 by Lambeth council. It is a low rise, medium density estate, originally designed by Edward Hollamby, Lambeth’s borough architect. The estate was built to ‘Parker Morris standards’ which means homes are spacious and light inside.

It was built around the many trees on the site, its design blends well into Brockwell Park and separates it from Tulse Hill. The estate is designed in blocks, with houses and flats opening into shared areas. There are many large green areas, gardens and balconies.

The names of the estate and blocks reflect the history of Tulse Hill. “Mercy Cressingham, spinster” owned the land when it was used for farming, from 1806 onwards. “Bodley”, “Upgroves” and “Scarlettes” were all names of former Manors in Tulse Hill.

The architect was strongly influenced by William Morris and the social ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, which is reflected in the careful design of the estate.

The site of Cressingham Gardens, known originally as the ‘Tulse Hill Redevelopment Area’, occupies the former sites of a series of large Victorian villas, Nos. 107-147 Tulse Hill. The site area is approximately 10 acres, and is bounded by Tulse Hill on the west and Brockwell Park on the east.

Original site layout – click image for plan

The only major change was the extension of the estate at its Northern end and the consequent addition of additional 2-storey buildings (now Crosby Walk) due to the purchase of the land behind No.107 Tulse Hill during the construction period in 1973.  These buildings are identical to the rest of the estate, as stated in the Housing Committee approval.

“In all cases the dwellings are the same as those now under construction on Phase I using the same plane, elevational, and sectional form”

The addition of Crosby Walk between 107 Tulse Hill and the park

The layout of the estate is influenced by the topography and the location of existing trees and has been set out to include as many natural green spaces as possible.

Unallocated meadowland further softens the housing

The variety of dwelling types allows careful control of the height of the development such that is does not project above the tree line when viewed from Brockwell Park.

The estate is built in a U shape around a central green open space, the highest buildings being nearest Tulse Hill and on the outer edges, and the lower ones at the centre.

“Thus, as many people as possible will get fine views from their new homes” quoted the Lambeth News Release.

Click image above for estate map

The thoughtfulness of the design and how it fitted with the local topography and landscape is best described in the original design brochure:

It is proposed to provide all the accommodation needed in low rise dwellings.  This wil avoid any visual obtrusion on the views from Brockwell Park and will ensure that all dwellings will have a close contact with the site.

Part of the plateau has been kept clear of buildings to extend the landscape of the Park into the site.  The buildings are arranged around this in such a way that the lower buildings are adjacent to it with the height increasing to a maximum of four storeys around the perimeter of the site away from the park.

Among these buildings as many of the existing trees as possible will be retained and where necessary will be reinforced by new planting.  Along the Tulse Hill frontage virtually all the trees adjacent to the boundary will be retained.

Vehicles generally are kept to the perimeter of the site, one short service road being provided to serve the Northern part of the site including the nursery school.  A longer one having access onto both Tulse Hill and Trinity Rise serves the remainder of the scheme.

Garaging is provided under the higher blocks around the site perimeter adjacent to the service roads.  Within the site access to the dwellings is entirely pedestrian although provision will be made for fire brigade vehicles, ambulances etc to get close to all dwellings in emergencies.

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Typology – key sections

The dwellings are of four types being Block A for the “Walks”, Block B for the “Ways”, Block C the disabled persons flats with garages on Papworth Way, and the two person single-storey bungalows found around the edges of the “Telly Tubby” central green space that is part of the Brockwell Park Conservation area.

“Between the flats are always concrete [floors] so you can’t hear your neighbours”

Block A – the “Walks”

Block A – the “Walks”

Block B – the “Ways”

Block B – the “Ways”

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Typology – The “Walks”

“One of the smallest [blocks] and it’s got a really close knit community.  Each block has its own little community”

The “Walks” are characterised by raised pedestrian decks situated over communal garages. To the right four person houses and on the left two person flats with five person maisonettes above. Hardel Walk forms the Western boundary of the estate running parallel to Tulse Hill and is one of the higher blocks.


Split level houses in Hardel Walk

The kitchens face onto Hardel Walk and form the middle of a three level house with the gardens shown in the photograph below.

Rear of Hardel Walk showing gardens and bedroom windows

On Longford Walk the residents have made good use of the balconies

“Another interesting thing about this typology of having maisonettes over flats is that there isn’t any shared circulation space so the residents don’t have to pay a service charge. Particularly for social housing this can make a big difference to how affordable it actually is to live there.”

Cassie O’Keyboard | 12 June 2013 1:54 pm

63 Effra Road by Inglis Badrashi Loddo architects

The drawing below is taken from the Design Brochure from the Lambeth Archive and shows clearly the layout of Hardel Walk with the garage below, flats above and then maisonettes above those with houses and gardens on the right.

These are the three level dwellings referred to in the film at 09:36.  I like the clerestory windows because they bring light into the centre of the dwelling that would otherwise be less well lit, and the glazed panels over the kitchen working areas are a clever design feature.

Clerestory windows and kitchen skylights

Skylights over kitchen worktops

Kitchen skylights

Clerestory windows provide internal illumination

Two person flats with five person maisonettes above (left)

On the maisonette access level is what used to be a public laundry but has since become a studio flat since most people have their own washing machine these days.

“A lot of consideration went into geometry and also the practical side of how people lived.  For example, how many steps can people walk up with shopping without a lift . . . hence the design of Cressingham’s taller buildings, with the maisonette on the higher levels instead of the lower level.” – Roger Bicknell

Had the arrangement been otherwise the maisonette dwellers would have had level access from the “walk” but the flat dwellers would have had to climb two flights of stairs to reach their front door.

Sky dishes and antennas as far as the eye can see


On Hardel Walk all I can see is grill after grill and satellite dish after satellite dish.  Had I the money and influence I would have the dishes taken down and a communal Sky feed put in cabled to the dwellings.  

I would fit strengthened front doors and frames and remove the ugly grills which convey entirely the wrong impression. This may once have been a drug dealing area but it isn’t now and the grills blight what is otherwise a delightful and peaceful estate.

The view looking South isn’t quite so bad because you can’t see the grills but the compression caused by taking a longitudinal view reinforces the visual blight of the Sky dishes.  If the estate is to become a “conservation area” in order to protect its future then something is going to have to be done about these.

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Typology – The “Ways”

The “Ways” are typically characterised by a central ground level pedestrian way with six person houses on one side (right) and two tiers of two person flats on the other (left)  Example below.

Scarlette Manor Way – flats (left) and houses to the right

Upgrove Manor Way – houses to the left – flats over flats to the right

Bodley Manor Way – flats over flats to left – houses at right

The drawing below is taken from the Design Brochure from the Lambeth Archive and shows clearly the layout of the “ways” with flats over flats on one side and houses and gardens on the other.

However, there are also Ways with two person single-storey bungalows, particularly around the edges of the “Telly Tubby” central green space that is part of the Brockwell Park Conservation area.  Marked as “2P Bungalows” in the Key Sections drawings.

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The Voids

There are six flats that are boarded up that have been like that for approximately sixteen years.

In a recent survey conducted by Lambeth’s senior structural engineer, they estimated that it would only cost £260,000 to fix the subsidence and completely refurbish all six flats.

Obviously the question is why the council has left these homes like this for 16 years when they claim that there is a housing shortage.

The void flats stand at the Northern end of the estate, which as I learned later is the area most likely to be redeveloped in keeping with the new block of flats recently completed on Tulse Hill adjacent to, but not part of, the NW corner of the estate.

Every cloud has a silver lining or so the saying goes, and above are visible the original window frames.

During my discussions with the residents it was suggested that when the poorly fitted and faulty modern windows are replaced, that modern windows in the style of the originals at Crosby Walk, are put back.

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The original roofs are zinc and on some of the dwellings these have blown off in strong winds. “Just rolled up in the wind” said Pamela and indeed the evidence is there now in the form of tarpaulins stretched out as a temporary measure, and screwed through into the roof causing yet more problems, apparently.


Temporary roof repairs in evidence – zinc roofs blown off

Vegetation growing out of a window frame

On querying the existence (above) of original window frames I was told that the freeholders chose not to participate in the Anglian window renewal with double glazing.

It is fortuitous that these few examples remain and here may be clearly seen the centre hinged kitchen window that deflects the rain outwards rather than its contempary equivalent at far left which being bottom hinged allows rain to enter the dwelling.

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Holy Trinity Church

“It is proposed that the development as a whole be known as ‘Cressingham Gardens’, Cressingham being the name of a family of land owners in the area who donated the land on which the Holy Trinity Church was built.”

Holy Trinity Church while not strictly speaking part of the estate, is so close to, and so noticeable from the estate, that to my mind they belong together.

On learning of the association by land ownership of the church to the estate I felt the link had been made and have deliberately sought to include views of the church where possible.

Holy Trinity Church viewed from the top of Trinity Rise

The church has an active congregation, a beautiful and well maintained interior and plans are in place at the time of writing to further extend to increase the facilities available to members of the local community.

Holy Trinity Church interior and organ

They have their own website here:- http://www.htth.org.uk/

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Lambeth Council have put forward to both council tenants and leaseholders the by now familiar arguments about structural deterioration and the need to provide more affordable housing.  They have failed to make the case that the estate suffers from criminal and anti-social behaviour since it does not, and indeed is a model community.

This model of “regeneration by propaganda” has been studied and delineated by Loretta Lees, Professor of Human Geography at Leicester University who has written about it.  See Page 6 onwards.

The process for all four ‘regeneration’ schemes we have looked at has been very similar: First, local authorities made out that the estates were failing in some way, socially or economically; they were sink estates, they were structurally unsound, etc. These were often misrepresentations and falsehoods.


They have themselves contributed to what deterioration has taken place on the estate by their own lack of maintenance and poor response to issues surrounding the zinc roofs some of which have become detached in strong winds; and the Anglian windows issue, these having been poorly fitted in many cases, leaking and failing to properly close, all of which adds to the poor condition of some dwellings.

However, exaggerated costings for repairs have been fiercely rebuffed by residents who have gone out of their way to show that the costs of estate maintenance “do not even fall into the top quartile” of costs taken across the borough, and vow to continue to challenge false and misleading statistics designed to make the case for demolition.

It appears that the Council may be progressing with NO Cressingham Gardens resident involvement at all … “Currently, capacity and financial evaluation studies are progressing within estates selected for Estate Regeneration, which will inform the Estate Regeneration programme report to Cabinet in September 2014. Early indications show that substantial additional numbers of homes could be provided, subject to decisions made regarding Estate development potential.” (page 89)

Click link for document http://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/

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There is no doubt that the team of architects led by Ted Hollamby in the late 1960s and 1970s succeeded magnificently in creating an oasis on the edge of a park here at Tulse Hill and forty years on the continued success of the estate vindicates both their design skills and foresight in catering for the varying needs of residents of all ages with thoughtfulness and consideration for the lives of the people who chose to make Cressingham Gardens their home.

Unlike so many unwelcoming, concrete, Modernist estates to be found across the U.K which have fallen from favour,  Cressingham Gardens benefits from having been designed in a more traditional style and in brick thus fortuitously robbing its would be critics of much of their ammunition.

In modern parlance the estate is permeable. It stands between a main road and a park and is used as a thoroughfare between the two. Far from being isolated and aloof like Ferrier in Kidbrooke or cut off from its surroundings like the otherwise delightful Maiden Lane, it avoids all these potential pitfalls yet despite this moves are afoot to demolish the estate.

One can only hope that the very capable and vocal opposition will succeed in their battle with the London Borough of Lambeth and avoid the fate that has befallen so many other London estates, that of gentrification and displacement of the existing residents in favour of wealthier incomers.

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January 1963 – Ted Hollamby became Lambeth’s first borough architect (title “Borough Architect and Town Planning Officer”). Started work with two qualified and twenty unqualified assistants.

November 1963 – First Compulsory Purchase Orders made by Lambeth for the Tulse Hill site

September 1966 – Minister of Housing and Local Government confirmed CPO for the acquisition of the area of land to form the nucleus of the Tulse Hill Redevelopment Scheme

March 1967 – Design of estate started – based on records at Ove Arup structural engineers

October 1967 – Council approval for the provision of a nursery school as part of the Tulse Hill Redevelopment scheme

January 1969 – Development brochure presented and scheme approved by Housing Committee (20th Jan 1969) and Full Council (12th Feb 1969)

February 1971 – Carlton Contractors chosen for construction of the estate after tender process

September 1971 – CPO made by Council for 107 Tulse Hill (northern end of the estate)

May 1971 – Work started on site with a forecast completion of January 1974

June 1972 – Contract reported to be 25 weeks behind schedule

October 1972 – Further delayed by the National Building strike which stopped work on site

February 1973 – Site of 107 Tulse Hill and land at rear acquired by Council (northern end of estate)

June 1973 – Carlton Contractors withdrew all labour from the site. Lambeth’s Directorate of Construction Services took possession

February 1974 – Council approved Phase 2 (northern end of estate 23 units). “In all cases the dwellings are the same as those now under construction on Phase I using the same plane, elevational, and sectional form.

June 1974 – Lambeth’s own Directorate of Construction Services takes over the construction of the estate

September 1974 – Appointment of Dry, Halasz Dixon Partnership to provide partial services on a time-basis for work stages E, F, G and H

April 1976 – Estate and accesses named

June 1977 – First blocks finished and handed over (Block nos 3 and 4)

November 1977 – Housing Committee approved the scheme for the Pre-School Playgroup (known as the “Rotunda” today).  Dry Halasz Dixon Partnership (later renamed Dry Hastwell Butlin and Partners) appointed to complete the necessary presentation / working drawings for the building in order to enable a tender.  Design work on the scheme had already been completed internally by Lambeth.

June 1978 – 172 units completed and handed over

September 1978 – Handover of final blocks on estate

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Further reading



For the latest news follow urban75

Architects’ Journal Cressingham Gardens – be sure to read the comments



Save Cressingham Gardens.co.uk

Cocollaborative Save-Cressingham-Gardens

Download the typology brochure here:-


Further notes about the estate


Social Life survey 20th October 2013

Living on Cressingham Gardens, Social Life’s conversations with residents 20.10.13

Refurbishment or demolition – Professor Anne Power




Retweeted by @hekale @leohollis @michaellondonsf @SaveCressingham @langrabbie @davidjmadden @HollinsMargaret @SouthwarkNotes @18ClarendonSq @Efrogwraig @Bushbell @TootingCommon @_JungleJohn_


Retweeted by @SaveCressingham @UCLSociology


I would like to thank Gerlinde Gniewosz for her assistance in guiding me around the estate, providing background information and links to documentary material.

2 Responses to “Cressingham Gardens – a village within a city”

  1. Cressingham Gardens | Andrea Gibbons Says:

    […] beauty and open space for every resident of the estate (you can read more here and also at the Single Aspect blog, which has a bit more history of the site itself and design schematics). Community is what he […]

  2. Cressingham Gardens - Andrea Gibbons Says:

    […] beauty and open space for every resident of the estate (you can read more here and also at the Single Aspect blog, which has a bit more history of the site itself and design schematics). Community is what he […]

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