Wedmore Estate, Islington

An Example of Municipal Housing in Islington from 1904

Part 3

The Second World War

Bomb Damage Map and Key


This small portion of the Bomb Damage Maps of London 1939-45 illustrates the degree of the damage and its severity.

The 1939-5 Bomb Damage Map of the Wedmore Estate area in Upper Holloway

The bombing map of the Wedmore Street area 1939-1945

The Key to the Bombing Map
This colour key explains the degree of damage suffered by each building

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

Uses of the Bombing Map on this website

During the Second World War railway lines were always prime bombing targets. They were easy to see from the air and any disruption could have an immediate effect on the war effort. The bombing pattern here reflects this fact. The areas of Purple and Dark Red show the worst damage and these are concentrated near the railway lines. Wedmore Estate, which was only a few streets away from the lines, was far less badly damaged. One end of Wessex Block was destroyed but the others escaped.

++TRY TO FIND INCIDENT CARDS FOR Milton Grove, Wedmore Street, Yerbury Rd, Rupert Road.

Bomb Damage Repair after 1945

Part of one block had been demolished by enemy action and by November 1947 a scheme of reinstatement and repair had been prepared.

The Old Flats

By the end of the Second World War the 1904 flats were of an obsolete type. In lieu of a kitchen, each had a small scullery which contained the W. C. compartment and none of the flats was provided with a bath or cupboards in the bedrooms. By this time tenants expected a better type of flat than this. The earlier standard of 1.5 persins per room was now considered to be overcrowding.

In 1947, 20 war-damaged flats wereconverted into 15 larger modernised ones. These were now to have their kitchens, bathrooms and provision of socket outlets, brought up to date and the existing-solid fuel fireplaces replaced by gas appliances. The Council was having to run hard to house the same number of tenants as it had done in the earlier flats..

The New Flats

The new scheme provided for the replacement: of 15 two-room and 5 three-room flats of an obsolete type, by 5 one-room, 5 two-room, and 5 three-room flats, resulting in a net loss of 5 flats. Each new flat would have its own bathroom and fitted kitchen with a multi-point gas water-heater, and cupboards in the bedrooms. A dust chute was installed on each of the upper floors to discharge into a dust chamber on the ground floor.

The work was carried out by the Ministry of Works Mobile Labour Services at an estimated cost of £17,710 of which £16,280 could be recovered from the War Damage Commission, which had been set up to fund War Damage repair. The 15 dwellings, Nos. 206-220 inclusive, were completed by about 24th June 1949.

A Further Extension to the Site

In March,1950 the Director of Housing and the Valuer pointed out that six houses, Nos. 24-34 Wedmore Street (even), were beyond repair and should be demolished. This would mean rehousing four families. The sites could be purchased by the council as an extension to the Wedmore Estate. However, the 890 persons on the estate were already so tightly packed that no more housing could be permitted on the site. Instead the area should be. laid out as a chidren' s playground.

The tenants of Wessex Buildings had recently asked whether some form of club room could be provided for their acttivites. Classes in handicrafts, dramatics and other subjects, had to be held in tenants' flats and it was not possible to accommodate all who would like to take part. A club room could be provided an part of the site suggested for the children's playground.

The estimated cost of site clearance, laying out of a children' s playground and provision of a club rooom was £2,500. In addition, the playground fittings would cost £450 and the club furnishings, including chairs, tables, curtains ,and linoleum, another £180.

The Club Room

The Club Room, approximately 48 feet by 20 feet, consisted of a meeting hall, kitchen and cloakrooms. The Council provided the fittings and the Women's Voluntary Service made the curtains. The club room was let to the Tenants' Association at a rent of 15 shillings a week exclusive, leaving the tenants responsible for rates, water charges, heating, lighting, maintenance of furniture and other running expenses, but not the maintenance of the building.

The Wessex Community Club was described by the Chairman when opening it, on 26th January 1962, as an active association which originated through the efforts of adults, on the Estate to find occupations for the young people. By the formation of football and netball teams and the holding of handicraft classes in various flats and in an estate air raid shelter, a full weekly programme was eventually organised and the Club was a thriving organisation.

The Area in 1955

23 September, 1953 The chimney stacks of Wessex Buildings Nos 1-225 were rebuilt and re-pointed at a cost not exceeding £3992.
2 December, 1959 Water services were renewed at a cost not exceeding £985.
February, 1960 The Electricity Board rented 323 square feet of site for £3, 10 shillings a year and erected on it an electricity substation, at their own expense.
November, 1961 The L.C.C. carried out a car parking survey and found that, there were no carks provided, but three parking spaces could be utilised in the courtyard to the west of the West Buildings.

Increases in L.C.C. Rents
10 April, 1963

The L.C.C. Director of Housing wrote to all tenants in April 1963 to explain why rent increases were necessary. This applied to tenants of Wedmore Estate and to all other L.C.C. tenants. The Council had decided that net increases were necessary, varying from 3 shillings to 13 shillings per-week depending of the age, size and general amenities of the particular property and on the rent already being charged.

The Council owned 210,000 dwellings and London ratepayers were already paying £5 million each year to subsidise them. In 1964 this would rise to 8 million so the rent rise was necessary to make up this difference of £3 million.

The cost had risen because prices and wages had risen and the interest on morey, which the Council had to borrow to finance its work, also remained high. Thus the repair bills for existing properties for materials and labour had increased. New building had become very expensive. In the four years, 1959-63, land costs had risen by two-thirds and construction costs by one-third. These factors, combined with the high interest rates, meant that if the Council charged economic rents on dwellings it had built during the previous few years, the tenants for whom they were intended could not have afforded to rent them. Keeping rents down had added greatly to the losses sustained in housing work.

Why tenants in older houses should pay rents
which assist the provision of new houses.

The Council's aim had been to ensure that rents of all its properties were properly related. It did not seek to fix the rents of each estate, or try to make it self-supporting. All income had been brought into a common pool. Exchequer subsidies had not been increased to match rising costs so that, while rents had remained steady, rates had had to rise sharply to make up the losses. To even the balance it was necessary to raise rents. The only alternative would be to stop building any more houses and to reduce the standard of maintenance on existing houses. Therefore rent rises were inevitable. The Council had managed to keep rents steady from January 1959 but by 1963 it could not do so any longer.

The Modernisation of Wessex Buildings

14 July, 1966

By 1966, Wedmore Estate was over sixty years old. A sketch scheme for the modernisation of Wessex Buildings was sent to the Housing Chairman. This scheme proposed the modernisation of Blocks B and C, including improvements for the 15 dwellings modernised after war damage in 1947.

31 July, 1966

Joint report. by the Architect, Hubert Bennett and Director of Housing J. P. Macey, on Wessex Buildings, Blocks B and C (middle and rear blocks).

It was proposed to convert the existing accommodation into a smaller number of larger flats with improved facilities.

125 existing units would become 70 larger ones. 400 rooms would become 117 habitable rooms to be occupied by 3 97 persons, at 1 person per room, the rest being converted into bathrooms, kitchens, etc. to bring the flats up to acceptable modern standards. This compares with 1½ persons per room which had been the aim under the 1930 Slum Clearance Act.

In 1947, 20 war-damaged flats had been converted into 15 modernised ones. These were now to have their kitchens, bathrooms and provision of socket outlets, brought up to date and the existing-solid fuel fireplaces replaced by Gas appliances. The Council was having to run to house the same number of tenants as it had done in the earlier flats.

By 1966 the Tenants' Club Room was closed and secured as the Tenants Association no longer existed.

14 Feb 1967

The factory adjoining Wedmore Estate had been damaged by a civil fire during wartime (not caused by enemy action) and in 1967 a firm called Powell, (Jane Paper Fancies Ltd.) applied to erect a five-storey factory as a replacement, under the Town and Country Planning Act 1962.

The area was allocated for Housing in the Development Plan laid down after 1945. The firm was pressing for a decision and there had been some discussion with the Valuer of the Greater London Council concerning the acquisition of the site for housing and the possible moving of the firm out of London. (At this time many firms were given development grants under the Clean Air Act, to encourage them to move out of London to New Towns and other places beyond the London borders).

The Clean Air Act

7 April, 1967 The map above shows the site of the Fancy Paper Works at the end of Eaton Grove.
12 April 1967

A note on the 'adjoining land - 1.235 acres'. (++check)

It could be used to garage

  1. provide  a garage or other amenity deficiency,
  2. provide a type of dwelling in special demand
    e.g.  Old People's Dwellings or large family units.

How Overcrowding Standards Improved over the Years.

By 1967 the Council now had very much higher expectations than they had had in 1906. Then tenants were housed at 1.6 persons per room. By 1933 The Architects Journal was talking of 1.5 persons per room as just acceptable, but had found many people far more overcrowded than this.

The campaign by the Architects' Journal led to action. In 1936 new legislation changed the overcrowding regulations from 1.5 persons per room in 1925, to 1 person per room. This threw a huge problem on Local Authorities. For every 2 rooms, they now needed 3 just to stand still. At the same time, more and more families were demanding accommodation. They were desperate for sites.

By the 1960s the Council had to aim at a ratio of one person per room. Estates which were formerly thought satisfactory were now considered overcrowded.

The existing Wedmore Estate comprised 248 dwelling, 535 rooms, on an area of 2.3 acres. The actual density at 1 person per habitable room was 153 person per acre. Therefore the Housing Department could not permit development of the site with housing.

There were no garages in Wedmore Estate, so garages could by built with access from Eaton Grove and possibly pedestrian access from the estate. The Coucil was not permitted to build a garage only scheme. Whether the Committee would agree to purchase the site for provision of garages at a later date would possibly depend on the purchase consideration. (The meaning of the last sentence is not very clear, as if the writer was refusing to commit himself).

16 April, 1967

The possibility of acquiring further adjoining land, especially if it fronted on to Rupert and Wedmore Street. could be explored. Any decision on the Fancy Paper Works Site should be delayed until this had been done.

16 August, 1967

The Inner London Education Authority said that if the site were developed, one or two nursery school classes might perhaps be required and they would like to be consulted at a later stage of planning. No nursery provision was proposed at present.

23 August 1967

The Assistant Director of 'M' replied to The Assistant, Director 'D' (whoever they were) saying that he saw no structural difficulty in demolishing the buildings contained in the black verge on the the plan, so consideration of the purchase of the new site must have been well advanced.

21 November, 1967

Joint report by the Director of Housing and the
Valuer and Estates Surveyor

This has been retyped as the original is not suitable for photocopying.

The report recommended the acquisition of about. I½ acres under Part V of the Housing Act 1957. It was zoned for residential use and adjoined the Wedmore Estate.

The plan shown by the broken verge had an area of 1.434 acres gross (1, 211 acres nett). Presumably the difference. was the road area. The properties included 3 factories, a public house, a store, 11 three-storey houses and five two-storey houses (one derelict), some in multiple occupation, and a disused electricity sub-station. The properties were 70-100 years old arid mainly in fair condition.

The two largest factories were vacant and the third was for sale. Thus they could all be bought without compensation for trade disturbance. This opened the way for the acquisition of the whole site between Wedmore Estale, the proposed open space and the surrounding road.

The site was within an area zoned for residential use at; a density of 100 persons per acre, The area of 1.472 acres would give room for 49 new dwelling (147 persons) against the displacement, of 30 families (89 persons) - a gain of 19 dwellings and 58 persons.

It was decided that a compulsory purchase order should be made. The Borough of Islington agreed that the Greater London Council should undertake the development, The estimated cost was £173, 000 including clearance and incidental expenses.

The Parks arid Smallholdings Committee was recommended to agree in principle to the appropriation of piece ' A' from open space to housing use.

December 1967

The Council agreed to the recommendations on 19 December 1967 and the Architect sent Drawings, Bills of Quantities, etc. on 1 April 1968.

15 June 1968 There was a Public Inquiry into objections to the compulsory purchase of the site. The purchase was confirmed and preliminary work began on the new site on 8 April,1969.

17 June 1968

The disused Wedmore Estate Club Room was passed to the Director of Construction for use as a mess room during the modernisation of Wedmore Estate. (]'his refers to the modernisation of the old estate, not the new work on the new site).

Renaming the Estate

3 June 1969

Blocks A, B and C (front, middle and rear respectively) previously 1-80, 81-155 and 156-220 Wessex House/Buildings were renamed as Wedtherbury, Norcombe, and Melchester Houses. Block D (226-253) retained the name Wessex House.

1 August 1969

The Housing Committee (Chairman) approved a scheme for the modernisation of Block D Wessex Buildings. (There is no document about, this, but see letter dated 12 October 1970).

12 August 1969

Letter from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on the
Inspector's Report on the compulsory purchase of the new site

The Minister accepted that the housing gain (at a density of one room per person) and general improvement, justified the purchase, despite an appeal by the owner of No 60 Yerbury Road. The Council needed to provide 14, 950 dwellings in 1969 to provide for their statutory duties and for slum clearance, so the objections were overridden.

There follow documents slowing how the site development progressed.

The Housing Division required
25% 2 person Old People's Dwellings
25% other 2 person       "
25% 3 person       "
25% 4 person       "

This was because there were major site clearance operations in the immediate locality. (In other words, the Wedmore Estate extension was only part of much wider developments nearby).

Map dated
12 May 1969

This shows the site with no mention of site A. The Parks Committee has agreed to forego the use of the site as an open space, for reasons which we will see next.

17 November 1969

Housing Brief

Whittington Park Open Space

Map dated
12 May 1969

This shows the site, The land to the NW and SW was to become the proposed Whittington Park open space. Site clearance was proceeding. The open space would be laid cut in 1970/71 and later.

Road Improvements

The corner of Yerbury Road and Wedmore Street was to be widened to give a 'visibility splay' to make the corner safer.

Adequate play facilities and more than normal garaging/parking facilities should be provided.

12 October 1970

Modernisation of Block D Wessex Buildings

The scheme had been approved by the Housing Committee (Chairman) on 1 August 1969.


Existing Proposed Persons
2 room 6 5 (2 person) 10
3 room 17 10 (6x3 person) 18
    (4x4 person) 16
4 room Nil 2 (6 person) 12
3 room Nil 3 (4 person) 12
4 room 3 Nil  
5 room 2 2 (1x6 person) 6
    (1x5 person) 5

Totals 28 22 79

A drying room with one tumbler and one spin dryer would be provided.

Laundry Facilities in L.C.C. buildings

From the start, the L.C.C. had built laundry and drying facilities in the roof spaces of its blocks of flats. These were conveient and popular with the tenants in the age before our modern washing machines, but suddenly the G.L.C. removed all their mechanical dryers from the laundries in their blocks. This was because of a tragic accident in another part of London . A young girl's arm had been badly injured in a spin dryer. She had not been supervised and the G.L.C., as the landlord, had to admit liability in court. The Authority realised that it could not provide adequate supervision in the dozens of laundries in its various properties. The cost of' supervision divided equally among all tenants would have been £1,50 each per week or, if charged only to those tenants using the facilities, would have been £3.50 each.

Reluctantly the laundries were closed. This caused distress at the time as tenants had either to wash and dry clothes in their small flats, go to the expense of using laundrettes, or buy their own washing machines, which at this time were very expensive.

Adapted from 'The Growth of "St Marylebone and Paddington', by Jack Whitehead, p 41.

To Return to the Wessex Estate

The Director of Housing’s estimate for the work of modernisation was £82,129. The Architect. head estimated £79,670, but the excess was considered acceptable in the climate of competitive tendering. The total cost, including repairs and renewals, and tenants' removal expenses, was £96,300. There is more detail in the Director's letter.

10 February 1971

North Thames Gas confirmed that each flat would have a Heataire Warm Air unit.

23 June 1971

The Wedmore Estate Tenants Association had been reformed and there was correspondence about the contractors, who had taken over the club room as a mess during the modernisation of Block D returning it to the Association.

16 December 1971 Details of Improvements to the Courtyard of Wedmore Street Estate were received on 20 September 1972 and work was expected to start, in March 1972.

The file ends at, this point so we have no more details.

These three part make up the history of the Wedmore Estate uptil 1990. The next part came as a complete surprise.

Part 1
Part 2

Part 4

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