Posts Tagged ‘Walterton’

Maida Hill & Elgin, 1988

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

Prince of Wales Cinema, Bingo Hall, 331 Harrow Rd,  Westbourne Park, Westminster, 1988  88-3a-12-positive_2400
Prince of Wales Cinema, Bingo Hall, 331 Harrow Rd, Westbourne Green, Westminster, 1988

Although most Londoners will have heard of Maida Vale, few will have heard of Maida Hill, and those that have will probably – like me – be very unsure of where it changes to Westbourne Green or West Kilburn. Many of the old London district names have more or less disappeared, and estate agents take remarkable liberties with the boundaries of areas they feel are currently more upmarket.

Harrow Rd,  Westbourne Park, Westminster, 1988  88-3a-13-positive_2400
Harrow Rd, Westbourne Green, Westminster, 1988

Part of the reason for this is increased mobililty, particularly in those areas of London were many live in private rented accomodation, often with short-term leases or where for various reasons tenants often move very frequently. Most of the inner London boroughs were developed by before the First World War, and grew up first around the old named village centres – and later around the railway stations, underground stations and tram routes.

Shops, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988 88-3a-43-positive_2400
Shops, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988

People know Maida Vale mainly because it has an Underground Station – something Maida Hill lacks. And most – including myself – tend to forget that the area is Westbourne Green and call it after its station, Westbourne Park. The ease of travel – by rail, bus and bike, and later by car loosened the links of people to their native villages and of course many more came into the new houses in London from other parts of the country, and later the world.

Walterton Rd, Elgin Ave, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988 88-3b-66-positive_2400
Walterton Rd, Elgin Ave, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988

I grew up in the town on the edge of London where my father had been born in 1899. He’d worked elsewhere – including a couple of years when the army and air force took him to France and Germany, but had also commuted to various jobs in towns and areas around, including Kew, Guildford and Harrow thanks to buses or a motorbike. But back in the 1950s when I walked down the main road with him he would still be greeting almost everyone we met by name.

Walterton Rd, Elgin Ave, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988 88-3a-16-positive_2400
Walterton Rd, Elgin Ave, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988

Captioning my photographs, even those where I know exactly where they were taken, I often have difficulty in deciding the name of the district in which they were taken. Sometimes I come back to one later and change my mind. Deciding which London Borough they are in is generally easier – the borough boundaries are marked by lines on maps, although sometimes, particularly where the boundary runs down the centre of a road I give both if I’m unsure what side of the road it is on. A minor confusion is that some London boroughs share a name with a district which is a part of them. I could write things like Camden, Camden, but it seems redundant to repeat it.

The Elgin Estate is possibly in Paddington, North Paddington or in Maida Hill, though the area is also sometimes simply referred to by the major road it is close to, the Harrow Road. When I put these pictures on-line I chose Maida Hill, simply because this was printed closer on the street map I was using.

Elgin Estate, Elgin Ave, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988 88-3a-21-positive_2400
Elgin Estate, Elgin Ave, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988

The triangle between Harrow Road, Elgin Avenue, and Chippenham Road contained some of the areas worst housing and the Greater London Council demolished these and built 300 maisonettes and flats in what was originally called the Walterton Road estate but later renamed the Elgin Estate. Started in 1966, the first tenants moved in in 1968.

It included two 22-storey tower blocks, Chantry Point and Hermes Point. A survey in 1983 found them and the rest of the estate in very poor condition and the GLC began a full-scale process of repairs. Unfortunately once work began it was brought to a halt when dangerous asbestos was found in the two tower blocks, which by then had been transferred to Westminster Council, though the GLC was still responsible for major works.

Elgin Estate, Elgin Ave, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988 88-3a-11-positive_2400
Elgin Estate, Elgin Ave, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988

Westminster stopped letting the blocks to new tenants though some lettings continued on short-term licences and other flats were squatted and the properties rapidly deteriorated. When the GLC was abolished in 1986 full responsibility passed to Westminster Council who secretly decided to sell the whole estate to private developers who intended to demolish the lot and rebuild at twice the density with one of the towers becoming a hotel.

Elgin Estate, Elgin Ave, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988 88-3a-24-positive_2400
Elgin Estate, Elgin Ave, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988

When the plans leaked, residents formed an action group demanding the council drop the plans and setting up their own proposals to save the homes. The council wanted to get rid of social tenants and replace them by wealthier home owners, to increase the Tory vote in the area, part of a process of exporting Westminster homeless families to boroughs on the edge of London and outside to places such as Staines. The Elgin estate – despite being known as having an asbestos health risk – was also used as a dumping ground for council tenants who were moved out of marginal wards. It was a policy that in 1997 was found by the High Court to be unlawful. The council appealed and won, but then lost in the House of Lords in 2001 when Lady Porter, leader of the council from 1983 to 1991 was ordered to pay a surcharge (including interest) of £43.3 million. She moved most of her money to Israel and to other family members and pleaded poverty, but eventually settled with a payment of £12.3 millioon.

Elgin Estate, Elgin Ave, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988 88-3a-44-positive_2400
Elgin Estate, Elgin Ave, Harrow Rd, Maida Hill, Westminster, 1988

By 1988 when I made these pictures around a third of properties on the estate were empty with doors and windows blocked by steel sheets to keep out squatters who already occupied many of the flats in the two towers. But the 1988 Housing Act gave the remaining residents the chance to form a housing association, Walterton and Elgin Community Homes, which was then able to hold a ballot and acquire the homes from Westminster Council. In March 1989 WECH became the first ‘Tenants’ Choice’ landlord to be approved by the Housing Corporation, and despite various dirty tricks by the council, in 1991 was not only given the properties free of charge, but also awarded the maximum possible amount from the council of £77.5 million to cover the cost of repair (though this was only around a half of what was thought to be needed.

A vote by residents was 72% in favour of the transfer to WECH which was made in April 1992. Redevelopment of the area was carried out with extensive consultation with them, and involved an expensive demolition of the two towers in 1994, replaced by low rise housing.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.