Tag Archives: Worcester Park

The road that never was

A rough guess as to the new road route
A rough guess as to the new road route

Back between the wars a new arterial road was planned running from Chessington to Sutton. It was never built but the route was still being safeguarded when I joined RBK in 1974. We had a map of it in the RBK planning office. While I was working there (c.1976?) the safeguarding was lifted but legacies of this plan remain.

The road (see the Sabre roads website Lost Arterial A24 for more detail) entered New Malden just south of the A3 then would have run along what are now Sheephouse Way and the end of South Lane – now you know why they have such generous grass verges. It would then have run across Malden Park and the railway. The line on the map above (from freemap.org) gives a rough idea of the intended route.

Look at the map and you’ll see a green swathe between Pembury Avenue and Risborough Drive. This was left undeveloped in the when Wates developed this area as the Worcester Park Station Estate in the 1930s and is now called Risborough Green. Rumour has it that its elevated ground level is down to the site being used as a dump for WW2 bomb site rubble.

The site between 133 Pembury Avenue and 200 Kingshill Avenue was also set aside for the new road – it’s now been infilled with a block of flats, Primrose Court. The houses on the other side of the road are much newer too.

Hopefully someone reading this knows a lot more about this road than I do. If so, please add a comment.

Sheephouse Way, New Malden - note the verge width
Sheephouse Way, New Malden – note the verge width
Risborough Green, Worcester Park
Risborough Green, Worcester Park
Primrose Court
Kingshill Avenue, Worcester Park
Kingshill Avenue, Worcester Park
Green Lane footpath - this might have been an arterial road
Green Lane footpath – this might have been an arterial road

Wates: The brothers who changed New Malden

In my September 2022 piece I noted the dominance of  developer Wates in shaping modern New Malden, especially south of the A3. This month I’m writing about the firm; next month I’ll concentrate on their archetypal chalets with their “exterior of outstanding loveliness”*.

The Wates business began around 1900 when Edward Wates (1873-1944) set up a furniture store in Streatham, South London, his brother Arthur joining him in 1902. The store, E & A Wates, sold furniture and furnishings and handled removals. It closed in May 2021 and the buildings are now being converted into flats under the name Wates Yard. Younger brothers William and Herbert, who were builders, joined the firm in 1904 and persuaded their older brothers to invest in some land in Purley to speculatively build two new houses. Wates was in the housebuilding business and by 1914 they’d built 139 houses.

During the 1920s Edward’s three sons, Norman (1905-69), Ronald (1907-86) and Allan (1909-85) joined the firm, progressively taking over from the first generation. Norman was the dominant figure: in 1926 under his leadership it embarked on ‘what was then an enormous speculation’, an estate of 1,000 houses in Streatham Vale, which took five years to complete. Ronald trained as a surveyor and took responsibility for site acquisition, later pursuing a second career as a borough and LCC councillor, for which in 1975 he was knighted. Allan joined the firm in 1930; from 1936 he was responsible for the contracting side of the business. All three brothers took an active role in community and philanthropic activities, something which younger members of the family have continued: since it was formed the Wates Foundation has made grants totalling over £100 million, which have provided vital support to thousands of charities.

The period up to WW2 saw enormous expansion, though activities were largely confined to a relatively small geographic area to the south of London from Twickenham in the west to Sidcup in the east. By doing this Wates could maintain a permanent workforce rather than using casual labour. By WW2 Wates  had completed 30,000 houses, 1500-2000 a year.

During the 1930s Wates built more homes in Malden than any other developer. From memory the first houses built by Wates in Malden were some  terraced houses on the south side of Kingston Road – built around 1930 IIRC. After this Wates moved on to build many of the houses in Cromwell Avenue estate. Kenneth Bland (1909-83) joined Wates as chief architect in 1933 and would be there until 1970s – he may be responsible for the Dutch gables found on later Wates houses (they’re not exclusive to Wates of course). Estate layouts, road and utility service design and the like were generally handled by Chart, Son & Reading, a Croydon firm of architects and surveyors.

With the opening of the Kingston Bypass (A3) on 28 October 1927 the land to its south was fair game for development and between 1928-34 Wates bought up multiple parcels of land. During the 1930s they were building houses by the hundred – Wilverley Park, Motspur Park, Barnfield and Wendover estates, the Worcester Park Station estate and several infill developments such as Burford Road.

From 1936 speculative house building in Greater London started to wind down. Most easy-to-develop land had been developed and the flow of new buyers had probably slowed down. The last Wates houses built in Malden before WW2 were for the most part larger detached houses pitched at a slightly different demographic.

As with other pieces in this occasional series, some of the information given here is drawn from memories of my time (1976-84) working at R.B.Kingston upon Thames Building Control and may be incorrect. If you can add anything or see any errors in what I’ve written please add a comment. Unfortunately the British Newspaper Archive has yet to digitise copies of the Surrey Comet for the period covered by these pieces.

* Weekly Dispatch (London) – Sunday 21 January 1934

The title I’ve given this page is a bit tongue in cheek. Wates were responsible for most of the interwar housing between the A3 and the Chessington railway line but a number of other builders were active in the Malden & Coombe BC area including

  • E&L Berg: Notable for their halls-adjoining semis in the High Drive area and their Berg Sunspan houses in Woodlands Avenue.
  • Crouch Group: Builders of many semis in the Kenley Road area.
  • Gleeson: Built lots of houses between the large Wates developments and the Hogsmill river. Their attempt to copy Wates chalets doesn’t IMO come off.
  • R.Lancaster (Wembley): Kingston Vale estate, SW15 (Bowness & Ullswater Crescents, Derwent, Grasmere and Keswick Avenues, Windermere Road). Large houses for better off buyers.
  • Lavender and Farrell: Developed the Worcester Park end of M&C: Manor Drive, Highdown and Leyfield. For a detailed history see Worcester Park Life, Dec 2012, Local History article.
  • New Ideal Homesteads: Set up in 1929 and grew to be the largest homebuilder in the 1930s. Undertook development to the north of Clarence Avenue
  • For more information see ‘Dictionary of British Housebuilders‘, Fred Wellings, 2015

The Book(let) I wish I’d written

Two months ago I wrote about my eight years working as a Building Control Officer (Building Inspector) in what had been the Malden and Coombe Borough Council area in S.W.London. Over that time I really got to know the area and its history. It was always fascinating to look at the archived plans and peruse old maps – many of the old hand-tinted plans drawn on linen were real works of art. It wasn’t really part of our jobs but we regularly got phone calls from estate agents asking when a property they were to sell had been built, our pre-computer era card index quickly providing the answer. If I’d thought about it, I could have spent my lunch hours compiling ‘Malden and Coombe, Street by Street’, giving a potted history of each street. Too late now! But since I left RBK in 1984 lots of other information has become available. Here’s some:

New Malden’s early development owed much to the railway: New Malden station opened in 1846, with the remaining section of the Kingston loop line from New Malden to Kingston following in 1869. Then just before WW2 the Chessington branch opened, with Malden Manor station serving the new estates south of the A3 Kingston bypass (opened 1927). Although outside the municipality, Motspur Park (1925) and Worcester Park (1859) stations also serve the SE area.

Semi-Detached London New Malden was transformed by inter-war suburbanisation as described in Alan Jackson’s excellent book ‘Semi-Detached London’. Although published in 1973, copies are readily obtainable through AbeBooks. The Medical Officer of Health’s reports available on the Wellcome Library website show the M&C population growing from 7,199 in 1903 to 15,366 in 1923 to 39,930 in 1939. 

Various developers were at work in the area during this period including R.Lancaster, New Ideal Homesteads, Lavender and Farrell, E & L Berg, Crouch and Gleesons, but the biggest of them all was Wates, whose built their distinctive chalets and more conventional Tudor-style semis by the hundred – check out their Wilverley Park estate brochure here.

Whilst preparing this page I found a vast collection of OS maps digitised by the National Library of Scotland. Check out these extracts from the 1911 and 1933 OS maps, the latter showing part of the Wilverley Park estate. The kink in Malden Road provides a reference point. In the 1933 map you also see the A3 clipping the top corner.

New Malden OS extracts 1911 and 1933

New Malden OS extracts 1911 and 1933 reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

What’s interesting to me is that I’m now seeing this story being replayed to the north of Melbourne, with consent being given for fields to be turned into new housing states at a rate that is hard to believe.

More resources on Malden history:

Maldens and Coombe Heritage Society web site

Village Voice and Worcester Park Life – each issue contains a very good history feature

Alan Godfrey maps: Sy0713: Coombe and Norbiton 1911; Sy1301: New Malden 1911 – hopefully at some point they’ll publish Sy1305 and Sy1306 to cover a lot more of New Malden.