How the Planners set about Planning Milton Gardens

The studies on this disk are very wide ranging and some may not be suitable for young children, as they may arouse fear. Teachers will know which are likely to upset their pupils. I would suggest that the details of the Bombing Map and the photographs of local bomb sites are not suitable for any below the Very Top Juniors. For this reason the local Bomb Site photographs have been put into a separate folder. The whole tone of this Walk should be on how architects, planners and the general public have created a pleasant environment, clean, well built, attractive and safe from road accidents. This is the story of Milton Gardens, a new Town Garden Estate.

The position in 1945

During the Second World War some houses were badly damaged by bombing. Others had deteriorated because there was no time to keep them in good repair during the six years of War. Therefore, at the end of the Second World War everyone decided to build what has now become a pleasant little area of about eight streets. Almost all the traffic by-passes it and does not know that it is there.

Colour Key References

The 1939-45 Bomb Damage
Map of the Poet Roads

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

Pictures of Bomb Sites

 Uses of the Bombing Map on this website

Planning Milton Gardens

This small section will be of interest to older pupils and architectural students, but with help, older Primary School pupils are perfectly capable of understanding it. The problem will be to convey the immense difference between the modern housing scene and the devastation after the Second World War. The key book is the children’s novel, ‘The Otterbury Incident’, by C, Day Lewis. It gives the atmosphere of the times as no other adventure book does. Two gangs of children have battles on a large bombsite. Then they sign a truce and combine to defeat a real gang of ‘spivs’ and coiners, who are eventually defeated in the most humiliating manner. This is not Town Planning but is the atmosphere in which the planning had to be done.


Imagine the first planning meeting about redeveloping the Milton Road/Shakespeare Road site. The planners and architects must have met with nothing but the Bomb Damage map sheet and pads of blank paper. They may have asked some junior architect in the team to produce copies of the bombing map, with the worst damage marked in. He could not have made colour copies in those days but he might have produced dye-line copies in dark blue on white, like the one below. Almost every very building in the Poets Roads area had suffered at least Blast damage (Yellow). The Worst damage (Black, Purple, Dark Red) have been shaded in. The other houses were repairable. Whether they would be repaired or not, would depend on the overall plan for the area.

The possible Milton Gardens First Planning Document
which could have been made for the Meeting,


They had to rebuild a huge area but there were some things they could not do. Let us list them.

  1. Every house that was repairable had been patched up and was full of people. Single houses had been divided into rooms and flats, sometimes compulsorily. The housing officers had powers to force people to accept strangers into their houses. None of these existing houses could be demolished until alternative accommodation was available for all the occupants. This might mean that three, four, or even more separate flats would be needed for all the people in one old house.
  2. The path from Town Hall Approach to Cowper Road was an old Right of Way and could not be removed. It could be turned into a road, which would be another right of way, or left as it was. It could not be extinguished.
  3. The Bomb sites were large, but there would be no room for little houses, or big gardens. Thousands of ‘housing units’ were required, so they had to be flats.
  4. The flats would be heated with coal. Therefore their height was limited to four or five storeys, the height to which people could be expected to carry coal.
  5. There could be a few tower blocks to be heated by gas, or perhaps electricity. The number of towers would be limited at first because of the expense of installing lifts and because tower blocks are always expensive to build per unit, compared with lower bocks.


The Decisions

  1. There was a line of heavy damage along the old Right of Way from Milton Grove to Spenser Road (Purple and Dark Red) and the houses to the East, in Spencer Road and Cowper Road, had suffered blast damage (Yellow). Someone had the brilliant idea of making the Public Right of Way into the northern border of the new estate. People would then be able to walk the whole length without intruding into the estate. Secondly, instead of rebuilding the bombed houses to the north of the path, they would be demolished and the site would become a long, linear park (Butterfield Green). This open space would be accessible to all the people in the estate and the surrounding roads, and yet be separated from the estate by the Right of Way. One can imagine the enthusiasm that would have greeted that imaginative suggestion. It was many years before it could be worked on, but look at it seventy years later, in the 21st Century.
  2. There were habitable houses in Milton Road north of Town Hall Approach and in Shakespeare Walk. Therefore the place to start was on the bomb sites on either side of Milton Grove.
  3. It was decided to have one tower (Chaucer House) and the rest would be two to four- storey blocks of flats or houses. The detailed designs of most of these would be left to later. Today the changes in style across the estate reveal the dates when the different blocks were built, but this is a more subtle matter. It could not have been in anyone’s mind at the first planning meeting.
  4. The northern border was to be the Right of Way for pedestrians. Cut another one from Milton Grove through to Cowper Road at the southern end of the worst damage. This would allow tenants to reach their flats. It could have been a road, but this would have become a rat run for motor traffic. People wanted this to be cut to the minimum.
  5. There could be two rows of flats; on the east side of Milton Grove and the west side of Shakespeare Walk. Delivery vans and private cars would have to reach them, but passing traffic was to be kept out. Therefore there would be one gated- entrance in Shakespeare Walk and a second one for emergencies at the other end. It would not be possible to drive into the centre courtyard without first getting out and opening a gate.
  6. They would have planned the one Tower Block (Chaucer House) at the southern end of Shakespeare Walk and Spencer Grove. Tower Blocks were new to Britain and many architects were anxious to try their hands. There must have been an eager queue for that job.

The rough sketch that the planning group might have decised on at their first meeting.

They could not have planned the whole estate at that time as many of the old houses were still occupied. Their first job was ti build on the bomb sites.

These rough, numbered blocks later became:-

  1. Leet House
  2. Binyon House
  3. Shelley House
  4. Browning House
  5. Chaucer House

Then, some years later, as tenants could be moved out of the old patched up houses into the new flats, the old houses were demolished and new flats could be built. It was a slow, carefully considered, process. The order of building can be followed today by looking closely at the flats.

The earliest flats burnt coal and have tall chimneys. Earlier blocks, with sloping roofs, have tall chimneys above the top floor fires but these are hidden by the roof slopes. Flats with flat roofs, a design which came slightly later, have very tall chimneys standing clear above the roofs. These are much more noticeable. If the flats had short chimneys, the fumes and carbon monoxide would not have been carried away and the tenants in the top flats could have been asphyxiated.

Later blocks of flats have gas boilers with balanced flues, and do not need chimneys.

The latest flats and houses have cavity walls and gas boilers. Some, as in Howard Road, have outside walls laid as stretchers. Others, as in Cowper Road, have outside walls in special bricks which are a different shape and are slightly thinner. Go and look.

The Final Block Plan of the New Estate

Having decided all that, the meeting would have been declared Closed, and everyone could get on with detailed planning. In the end, the first sketch became this Milton Gardens Estate Plan.


Milton Gardens Estate Plan

The old Right of Way (not shown) runs along the top of the site map, with Butterfield Green above that

Please remove this line. I cannot


And Seventy Years later

London Borough of Hackney map of
Butterfield Green and its Environs.

With thanks to the Property Services.





The Adventure Playground in Shakespeare Gardens

Grasmere Walk 4 will describe the building of Milton Gardens Estate in detail but, in the meantime, this is a picture of Butterfield Green, a new lung for the neighbourhood, which could so easily have become a mass of flats. In the end the houses on the east side of Cowper Road were demolished and the site added to Butterfield Green, so the gardens were even bigger than shown on the preliminary sketch above.


Part of Butterfield Green in 2007, showing the end of Cowper Road and the rocky stream


In Walk 4 we will see how everyone built a new Town Estate.

Grasmere School
Preparation for Walk 4

Walk 4

<- Swipe Left or Right in this box to Navigate ->