Wandsworth History


Wandsworth is a largely residential borough, with a sea of private housing in tightly packed streets interspersed with twentieth century public housing estates. Victorian terraces cover much of the north, east and centre of the borough with later Edwardian and interwar housing spreading out to the south and west.


Much of the housing that had sprung up in the nineteenth century was insanitary and overcrowded. During the twentieth century great efforts were made to improve housing conditions. Some of the most innovative and historically important public housing developments in London were built in the borough in the early part of the twentieth century. Battersea Council pioneered the development of “artisan” housing in London with the building of the Latchmere Estate in 1903 and the LCC developed the “cottage” estates of Totterdown in Tooting (1911) and Dover House in Roehampton (1920). After 1945 war damage replacement was added to the extensive slum-clearance programme left outstanding in 1939. For the first time high-rise estates were constructed, some set in parkland settings such as the Alton Estates in Roehampton next to Richmond Park and the Ashburton Estate next to Putney Heath, built in the fifties. More typical were the austere concrete slab blocks prevalent in the sixties and early seventies. Often built at lower densities than the streets they replaced they were considered to lead the way to a better future. Yet by the mid seventies it was clear that
many of these new flats were unsatisfactory and unpopular, particularly with families with

Wandsworth History


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young children. Efforts switched away from demolition and rebuilding to renovating and improving areas.


Since the 1980s the emphasis has switched to more sensitive development in terms of scale and design, and to improving the overall quality of the existing public housing stock. Private housing in many parts of the borough, initially in Battersea, Clapham Junction and Wandsworth, has become “gentrified” as home ownership levels have risen. Many new homes have been provided in private housing developments on windfall sites, particularly on former industrial land on the riverside and on former institutional land such as schools, colleges and hospital sites. In the last ten years over 6,000 new homes have been provided on such sites throughout the borough and a further 3,600 are under construction or have planning permission. Often housing is provided as part of mixed use

schemes. Planning policies encourage the provision of “affordable” housing on large sites. A quarter of all new homes in the borough has been provided by housing associations in recent years, and there are over 1000 “affordable” homes in the planning pipeline.
New homes have also been provided from the conversion of other uses into housing and from houses into flats. In the last ten years nearly 2,500 new homes have been provided in this way, particularly one or two bedroomed flats for small households. While the number of houses converted to flats has slowed down, this has been compensated by the conversion of former schools, offices and workshops. Many redundant or empty buildings can provide suitable accommodation, particularly for small households and people looking for “loft style” living space.



Wandsworth High Street 1903


Wandsworth High Street 1903 – traffic congestion in Wandsworth High Street