The Milton Gardens School Walk

Walk 4

(version 2) revised: October 22, 2011 10:52 AM

Turn left at the School gates and walk towards Newington Green. Pause at the entrance to Town Path and look at the two buildings on either side. On the left is a Classical square house which was built probably about 1840, when Albion Road was first being built. On the right is a new block of flats and beyond them a terrace of Victorian houses.

The Entrance to Town Hall Approach

A house built in perhaps 1850

The new Block of Flats on the right

It has the low slate roofs and the Classical proportions popular up to that time.

This block is obviously in the new, simple and direct.

It seems fairly certain that the whole of this row of houses was once like the houses at the Newington Green end. The white houses extended right up to Town Path but then the Second World War destroyed one end. The 1939-45 Bombing Map, shows what happened.

A new block of flats at the end of terrace of houses which were probably built about 1890  

During the Second World War the area around Grasmere School was very seriously damaged. This map, which was made by the London County Council in 1945, immediately after the War, became the basis of the Abercrombie Plan for Rebuilding London. Houses were coloured to show the degree of damage and whether the houses were repairable or not. The colours varied from Black for Total Destruction, through to Yellow for Slight Structural Damage. Hardly any houses in this part of the map escaped all damage. Many in Milton Grove and parallel roads were destroyed beyond repair. The only solution was a completely new estate and this must be where many of the children now at Grasmere School live.

The 1939-45 Bombing Map of the Grasmere School area.

Colour Key References
Black -Total destruction
Purple - Damaged beyond repair
Dark Red - Doubtful if repairable
Light Red - Seriously damaged, but repairable at cost
Orange - General blast damage, not structural
Yellow - Blast damage, minor in nature
O V1 flying bomb large circle
o V2 long range rocket. small circle

There will be slight variations in the colours because the original maps
are old and the colour balance on computer monitors will vary

This is the Bomb Damage map of the Grasmere School area, with Albion Parade Triangle in the top left corner. Albion Road lies along the left hand edge of the map and goes off the page just beyond the school site at Town Hall Path. On the right of Town Hall Path two houses have been coloured Dark Red (Seriously damaged; doubtful if repairable). The houses next door are coloured Yellow (Blast damage, minor in nature).

The picture above shows that the white houses, which had suffered blast damage, were repaired and look as good as new. The seriously damaged houses were demolished and this new block of flats built on the site. Very often the Bomb Damage maps explain why new houses appear in rows of older houses without any apparent reason. The bombing maps are invaluable when trying to tease out the story of a street.

 1936 map of the Grasmere School area.  

Turn right into Milton Grove, keeping Leet Court and ‘Zoom Around' on your right. Cross the road and enter the Milton Gardens Estate between Binyon House and Blake House. Look along the road between Binyon House and Shelley House.

Picture of Binyon and Shelley Houses


Then go through the passage between the flats to Byron House.

You are now in the centre of Milton Gardens Estate.

The layout of Milton Gardens estate



Browning House Shakespeare Walk, East Side


Shelley House in Shakespeare Walk, West Side.


Shakespeare Walk East Side looking south


Kingsley House


Chaucer House in Howard Road in 1969

Look along the road between Shelley and Browning Houses

Chaucer House in 2007

Go to the base of Chaucer House a ?


Look along the road between Shelley and Browning Houses. Then look up and then across

at Kingsley House. Why are the buildings such different heights?


Chaucer House with the four-storey Chaucer House in front

Look along the road between Shelley and Browning Houses. Then look up and then across at Kingsley House. Why are the buildings such different heights?

In some new estates. all the blocks are tall. This can give an inhuman feeling. People are overpowered by their surroundings and scurry about like mice. Many people hate living in them, but Chaucer House, as a single tower block does not take the human feeling out of the estate. There is room for trees and colour and the whole appearance is friendly.

The two and four-storey flats allow the light into the central area of the estate. If all the blocks were tall, like Chaucer House, the appearance and the feeling of openness would be lost. In the 1960s architects talked of villages in the sky, where people would be able to talk to neighbours from one block to the next. This was nonsense. Who would want to chat by shouting from one block to the next? Yet architectural magazines persisted in talking about this dream world for years.

Estates with tall blocks side by side became unpopular. Often families with children were isolated in top floor flats, because there was nowhere else for them to live. Children not allowed to go out without an adult. Mothers became frustrated. Over the years, many blocks had to be blown up because nobody wanted to live in them. The Milton Gardens arrangement, with one tall block and others much lower, are friendlier. They provide plenty of flats near the ground, for families with children and old people. Others, without children, can enjoy the wide views from the tops of towers and would hate to leave.



Note for Jack: Is this what you meant

3196 with the text


This is a repeat

Walk round Chaucer House and into Howard Road. From there, look at Chaucer Court with Chaucer House behind. How many different building heights can you see from here?

Chaucer House with the four-storey Chaucer Court in front

319 7 saved

Chaucer House with Chaucer Court in front

The new buildings consist of two, three and four storey blocks of flats and one tower, in a large square site. The estate has been well landscaped, with lots of trees and shrubs, so that it is a bright and cheerful place to see. This ten storey block dominates the estate but because it is surrounded by lower buildings, well spaced out, it is not oppressive.


Benson and Fletcher Houses with their covered access stairs.

The arrangement of the stairs suggests that the two upper floors are built as maisonettes (two-storey units) and not flats. Why? The two lower floors could also be maisonettes.

The Milton Gardens Flats from Howard Road

A view showing the low blocks of flats behind their red brick wall and the tower block behind. The blocks and their linking glass connection form a continuous wall.

The Tall Chimneys

The four-storey blocks have flat roofs with an iron railing round them and tall chimneys. This seems to mean that the flats were built to burn coal. These tall chimneys would have been necessary to make the fires safe. A coal fire has to draw in air at the bottom and draw it up the chimney. This makes the fire burn brightly and carries away the fumes and the dangerous carbon monoxide gas safely into the air. If the chimney is too short it cannot create enough upward draught to do this. Without a tall chimney above the roof, the fires in the top flats could have been dangerous and the tenants could have suffered from carbon-monoxide poisoning. They are vital safety precautions. Houses with sloping roofs conceal the tall lengths of chimney above the top room fires. The tall chimney stacks are hidden behind the slates, but here they are exposed.

Flats built later than these, would have been built with individual gas boilers and radiators, instead of coal fires. The boilers have small balanced flues which stick out of the walls and carry away the fume, so tall chimneys are not needed. Flat roofs and tall chimneys are a sign that the building dates from about 1960.

Another Safety Precaution

Some early blocks of flats were built without any gardens or landscaping. Each block stood isolated, with passageways all round it. Any thief, or other ne'er-do-well, could escape in a dozen different directions. The solution was to give the ground floor householders small private spaces and to limit the number of public entrances to the estate. Here, the lower flats have small rear gardens surrounded by a high brick wall in attractive red brick. The walls and fewer entrances together, make it difficult for anyone to enter the estate except through one of the proper entrances where they will be overseen by eyes from many flats. This is built-in protection and has a calming effect on the area.

Note For Jack: 5359

For more about this movement to give householders private spaces and deter outsiders from entering estates, see The Growth of St Marylebone and Paddington, by Jack Whitehead, pp108-11.

These houses are completely different from the Chaucer Court ones opposite. Can you list the differences?

??? -40 Howard Road.

These houses are completely different from the Chaucer Court ones opposite. Can you list the differences?

Why are these houses up on their legs? The front doors are seven steps above the pavement. You would expect this if there were basements, but here are none here. Why are there seven steps?

Question 2. Walk to one end of the block and look at the brickwork. The architect has decorated the end with a simple, attractive pattern in different coloured bricks. It is very pleasant, but why are all the bricks laid as stretchers? Where in Church Walk (Walk 2) did we see stretchers being used and why? What does it tell you about the walls of these houses? If they have this sort of wall, when were the houses built?



1. The houses need seven steps to reach the front doors because the architect was faced with a sloping site. The backs of the houses are only just above ground level but the fronts stand high above the pavement.

  2. The bricks are laid as stretchers because the wall is only one brick thick. These are cavity walls with a thermal concrete wall, an air cavity, and a single thickness of brick outside. These walls became compulsory in new buildings after the Oil Crisis in the 1970s, when the price of oil shot up and with it the cost of heating a house. Now houses are being built with this sort of thermal (heat retaining) walls, but the outside wall may be in brick, stone, slate, etc., according to the area.

Drawings of a cavity wall


Because they have these cavity walls, built with thermal concrete blocks, the houses must have been built after about 1970.

This is the end of the Walk

Return to School via Milton Grove or Church Walk as you prefer.











Figure 1







This is the end of Grasmere Walk4

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revised: October 22, 2011 10:52 AM