By 1990 there had been a series of problems with the Packington Estate and it needed restoration. A report was commissioned on the physical and social problems of the estate together wit some suggestions on improvements. This is a brief summary of the findings




Many of the 1960s dwellings had built-in design faults. Tenants groups had protested up and down the country about slab built blocks and the fears caused by the gas explosion at Ronan Point. There had been complaints about leaking flat roofs; faulty wiring; problems due to lack of thought about security and building in privacy for the tenants and repeated demands for improvements. The 1990 generation of architects were to spend much time and treasure correcting the faults of the hurried work of the 1960s. At that time factory-built buildings, hastily erected, had seemed to be the future, but there were to be troubles ahead. By 1990 the problems of this post-war building had become notorious.

In 1990 a Feasibility Report on the Packington Estate was commissioned to look into all aspects of the design. It concentrated on:-

A. Entry Security to prevent outsiders from entering the blocks. Entry phones and security doors were important here.
B. Putting on Pitched Roofs because the asphalt on the flat roofs had failed.
C Removing the walkways between the flats. These had become easy escape routes for petty thieves.
D. Fencing off small private gardens where possible to provide more security and control, in place of anonymous spaces open to all.
E. New lifts, etc.


The Packington Estate consists of approximately 500 dwellings, built using pre-cast concrete panels in six storey form spanning Packington Street with high level walkways to link the two sides of the development. The housing units start at lower ground floor level and have access decks at ground and third floor level. Each deck gives access to three floors of dwellings with one storey, two storey, and three storey dwellings all starting at the same level.. Generally the Estate is in reasonable repair and is structurally sound. The landscaping is fairly mature, if sparse in some areas.


The six-storey Packington Blocks are an interesting development of the Scissors flats which were designed by Colin and Jennifer Jones. I have written about them in the Growth of Muswell Hill, p 170-5.

Scissors flats, which were first built privately by Colin and Jenniter in Fortis Green, Muswell Hill, and later by the L.C.C. all over London , are economical to build. Most flats are built as floors, but here two layers of flats have only one access corridor, which saves a lot of money. Front doors are side by side, but one door leads up a half-floor to one flat and the next door leads down a half-floor to the second flat The flats are wrapped round each other, rather like the arrangement of a Victorian Bye-law house. There are examples of L.C.C. scissors flats in Malden Road , Camden , Penfold Street in Marylebone, and in many other districts.

In a street of three-storey houses, all three floors can be reached from street level by internal staircases. The six-storey Packington Estate blocks are like two rows of three-storey houses, one on top of the other. There are one bedroom flats, two bedroom flats, and three-bedroom ones, all with front doors side by side at ground level; and at fourth-floor level. Only two access levels are needed for six floors of dwellings, which is even more economical to build than the original scissors flats.

To return to the 1990 Feasbility Report. It said:-

‘ Packington Street is wide, dividing the two estates and requires much in the way of improvement to the hard landscaped areas. The Estate is served by a small shopping centre, built at the same time and is in a very run down condition. The Estate wraps around garden courts at the lower level with small private gardens to some dwellings and bedrooms face directly on to these public areas. Garaging and parking are also at this level, served by ramped access.

There are a minimum number of lifts which serve lower ground, ground and third floor level, which in turn link the whole Estate together at two levels, thus allowing easy access to anyone throughout these deck levels. The lift entrance foyers are very mean and dark with drainage problems around the open access ways, creating further problems with the lift gear. Car parking is uncontrolled except for individual 'autopak' type arrangements

The Brief

To improve security and break down the Estate into more manageable units, limiting the number of dwellings served by one entry point; this to be combined with general upgrading to the lift system and finishes generally. The landscaped areas and shopping centre to be brought into the study to suggest areas of improvement and upgrading.


The initial study to introduce entry phone installation at the lift/stair junction throughout, gave up to 84 dwellings/entrance, which was considered excessive and did not give the degree of breakdown required.

The second study, which resulted in the formation of 7 new lift/stair towers, gave 42 per entrance which was acceptable but the cost of these proposals were considered prohibitive.

The third solution considered was to introduce two new shafts and one staircase, together with splitting the access to the upper and lower decks. This gives numbers of between 12 and 34 per entry phones which was considered acceptable. The additional entry phone lobby arrangements contain additional refuse points to help eliminate the overused chute system.

This principle has been expanded in more detail on the Northern section of the Estate adjacent to Packington Square which we have designated as Phase 1 of the project.

The proposals include the following security measures:

  1. Entryphone entrance with new enclosed lobbies.
  2. Extended and fenced rear gardens.
  3. New lift installation.
  4. Upgrading of floor/walls finishes in lift enclosures.
  5. Barrier control and increased security fencing to garage /carports.
  6. Improved landscape and external works.
  7. Removal of high level street crossing decks.
  8. Additional refuse container points.

Proposals put forward also include the formation of pitched roofs and the complete enclosure of access walkways. These measures would greatly enhance the appearance of the Estate as well as giving a long lasting roof finish. The glazed balconies would make all space beyond the lift door enclosed and hopefully ensure less abuse and misuse, as well as giving protection from the weather, especially at the upper deck level. All decks face approximately north and are not very pleasant or generous in floor area. The 'dead' ends of these balconies could be made use of and given over to individual tenants. Metal planters to the balconies are suggested, to break down the long horizontal white mosaic covered bands.


The principles have been outlined to representatives of the Tenants Association, who are broadly in agreement with the proposals. It is intended to have further meetings with the residents of the first phase. The local police have commented favourably on the proposals, which have also been forwarded to the Fire Officer for his comments.


It is intended to invite tenders in August with a view to commencing works in January 1990.

This Feasibility Study was produced in a large format and made
available to the Council and tenants for consideration


These and other drawings explain the alterations proposed.

The Complete Layout

New Entrance and staircase to lift tower

There had been a series of high-level walkways linking the different blocks at
fourth floor level. This drawing shows what they would be like when the
walkways were removed, with balcony enclosures and the new pitched roofs.


What was actually done!

The following sequence of pictures showing the Packington Estate may appear rather unusual until one realises that the original Islington houses were built with basements. When the land was cleared the basement levels was below the roads and therefore the flats start at basement level.


A reminder of how the original houses of
Packington Square were built in gravel.

Packington Square was built on the Boyne Hill Grave ridge and, because gravel drains well, the houses could be built with basements which would stay dry. Gravel was dug out to make the basements and thrown up in front to make the roads. When the old houses were demolished the ground level was lower than the roads, so this concrete wall had to be built to hold them up. The blocks of flats start at the basement level and the entrance level is on the first floor.

The raised roads had to supported by concrete walls.

Access to the flats from
the raised road

The block is six floors high and built as two sets of three-storey houses one on top of the other. Because the original Islington houses had basements, the flats start below street level. So the street entrances lead to the first floor flats. There are access balconies at this level and lifts to all floors, including the basement level.

Showing the new entrances and the covered
balconies and the steps down from the entrance
level to the basements.

The six storey block showing the basement-level gardens.

Another View of the Basement Level Gardens


A new 1990 Security entrance

Slab Wall Construction


This photograph shows the separate concrete slabs which were fastened together to form these blocks. Some similar blocks, such as the Harvist Estate (++) off Holloway Road (described in the Islington Section). The complete buildings have been covered with a thick layer of insulation to reduce condensation and the formation of black mould on the cold walls, but this solution was not proposed here


Link to Harvist Estate