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The Boundary Estate In Winter

January 2, 2024
by the gentle author

Arnold Circus

The Boundary Estate is one of the commonplace wonders of the East End. Hundreds live there and thousands pass through, so that over-familiarity may have rendered it invisible to some. Yet the sparkling winter sunlight – that we enjoy as a brief respite from the procession of rainstorms – offered the opportunity to examine its architecture anew.

Completed in 1900 as Britain’s first Council Estate upon the site of the Old Nichol, the Boundary Estate comprises a series of towers of diverse design, linked by the use of red brick and the inventive employment of vernacular architectural forms. Here are turrets and Dutch gables, and steeply pitched roofs that evoke Medieval tithe barns. Named after villages along the Thames and labelled in ceramic signs made by Doulton, there is an unapologetic Romanticism about these structures which, in their modest Arts & Crafts folksiness, would not look out of place in illustrations by Arthur Rackham or Charles Robinson.

More than a century later, the Boundary Estate continues to serve its purpose and to draw the affection of its inhabitants. The attention to detail and use of quality materials in these buildings coalesce in the realisation of an Estate that is domestic and humane, allowing a large number of people to live in close proximity within a civilised environment.

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. John Dew permalink
    January 2, 2024

    A masterful eye on a winter’s walk, highlighting that what looked good on the drawing board still commands an unpretentious presence. Always a pleasure to walk the London streets and neighbourhoods. I confess that on my annual visits to London, I now adopt the Gentle Author approach, and wander to be surprised.

  2. January 2, 2024

    Yes, it’s exactly as described in the article: the neighbourhood in which you live and feel comfortable becomes an everyday occurrence. You no longer perceive it as something “special”. It’s only when you see a photo series about it that you realise the wonderful reality.

    I live in Kassel/Germany on the Hasenhecke, a former military barracks complex. From the very beginning, I was aware of the special 1930s style of architecture (1936 to 1939). And I love the spacious style with extensive green areas every day anew!

    Love & Peace

  3. jenny galton-fenzi permalink
    January 2, 2024

    What a wonderful place to live…..your winter photos brought to mind the poem by Roy Campbell:
    ‘I love to see when leaves depart, the clear anatomy arrive, Winter, the paragon of art, which kills all forms of life and feeling, save what it pure and will survive….’

  4. January 2, 2024

    What an incredible place. Thanks, dear G.A.

  5. aubrey permalink
    January 2, 2024

    Childhood memories-both good and bad.

  6. Avril Towell permalink
    January 2, 2024

    When I lived in Fellows Street Haggerston in the 1940s &50s before they were demolished, we used to visit my aunt at Henley Buildings (later changed to House). No lifts to take us to the top where she lived but they had a bathroom which to us was a luxury. The rooms were quite small but cosy. The school around the corner was where my cousin attended and it was a mixed but friendly community. As a child the buildings seemed very tall and it’s nice to see them still standing – too good for the planners to demolish – so far!

  7. Irene Lilian Pugh permalink
    January 2, 2024

    The eight years I lived at Valance Road I do not remember the posh road with the elegant buildings above. However, page 30 – the second page from the end… seems familiar.

  8. Jill Wilson permalink
    January 3, 2024

    Lovely photos of some great buldings with so much interesting architectural detailing. If only modern developments were designed with such care and beauty…

    Not only that – how refreshing to see such lovely blue skies!

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