History: Building Raynes Park


A Local Story of the 1920s Housing Boom by Paul Marsh©
Part 2
By 1928 Rowland and Cyril Marsh had built up a very substantial business and were looking for further land to develop and decided to buy some to the west of the Southern Railway Line at Links Avenue in Morden which was being offered for sale by the Housing and Land Development Corporation Limited.  This land had been formerly the Morden Park Golf Club and new roads had been laid out by the Development Corporation and offers were invited for building plots along the new roads.  Road number 1 subsequently became Hillcross Avenue and road number 3 became Arundel Avenue.  The only road at that stage which had been named was Maycross Avenue.  Rowland Marsh purchased a number of acres of land to continue building.  Included with the land he bought was the former golf house of the Morden Park Golf Club.  As he developed Hillcross Avenue, Maycross Avenue, Arundel Avenue and Leamington Avenue and the surrounding roads the Golf House was retained and converted into flats for letting.
The Marsh’s sales particulars provided “The houses with which we are concerned are being erected in Hillcross, Maycross and Arundel Avenues.  These houses have pleasing elevations and an attempt has been made to break up the usual monotony of the average suburban street, the roads when completed will be planted with trees which in the course of time will give the Avenues a rural aspect.  Each house is set well back from the road, the front gardens are laid out and planted and at the rear the gardens vary from 100ft in depth affording each house ample garage space.” The houses were advertised as having the foundations and drains passed by the local Building Inspector, a slate and cement damp proof course and “a damp proof course is inserted in the chimney stacks which is desirable and very unusual in houses of this price”.  “Electric power points, switches and pendants are fitted to each house.  Gas points are fitted to principal fire places and a picture rail is fixed in every room and stained glass fanlights are fitted to the front of the house”.  Although many hundreds of houses were built and sold, Rowland and Cyril only employed 3 or 4 regular workman.  Virtually all the building work was done by self-employed bricklayers, plasterers and carpenters.  A bill dated 11th May 1932 records the cost of providing all the brickwork for front and dividing walls, coal boxes and steps for 17 houses in Leamington Avenue at a total cost of £586.10.
The completion statement for 47 Hillcross Avenue which took place on the 4th October 1933 records that the purchase price was £960 with a deposit paid of £75.  The sale price of 19 Hillcross Avenue completed on the 16th October 1933 was £875 with a deposit of £25.  In that case Rowland lent £100 to the Buyers to assist with the purchase which was secured by way of a second charge.
This again proved to be a winning formula and within a few years Rowland and his son were buying further land to develop.
In 1935 they purchased from the Housing and Land Development Corporation 20 acres of land fronting the newly constructed Cannon Hill Lane for the sum of £5,113 which was a substantial investment to make in 1935.  The plan was to construct houses along Cannon Hill Lane and also in three new adjacent roads to be laid out, Queen Mary Avenue, Glenthorne Avenue and Camborne Road.  A second piece of land backing onto the Raynes Park playing fields stretching along Cannon Hill Lane from Grand Drive to Elm Walk was also purchased.
The construction on this land started early in 1936 and again interesting sales particulars were published.  Houses were advertised at £750 freehold or £595 leasehold with an annual ground rent of £8 8 shillings.  The properties were described as being built in an area with “all the amenities of a desirable residential area 30 minutes from Waterloo”.  It was quoted that a quarterly season ticket to Waterloo was £3 3 shillings and Cannon Hill Lane was 5 minutes bus service from Raynes Park Station.
The Marsh’s were not alone in developing this area.  H W Selly Builders Limited of Streatham built a major section of Hillcross Avenue during this period.  Their sales brochure at the time refers to the Merton Park Estate and provides “this estate, laying quite high up, has a charming view over the well known Morden Park Golf Course which bounds it on its longest side, while another side is flanked by the glorious Cherry Wood, an actual portion of the estate … which will remain a beauty spot forever as a permanent open space this became known as Morden Park”.  They advertised the travel times from Hillcross Avenue as 30 minutes to London Bridge, 24 minutes to Waterloo and 26 minutes to Charing Cross.
Ernest Copp was another developer as were the Waites family.  Virtually all the properties built during this time were based on a single repetitive design as published by the Government in 1919; the so-called mock Tudor “design” being particularly popular by prospective purchasers along sections of Cannon Hill Lane.  Another builder who made a significant contribution to the building boom around Cannon Hill Lane and the surrounding area was a former miner, Mr. Belay.  His houses can to this day be instantly recognised by the fact that he acquired from a coal company a substantial number of redundant pickaxe handles which very shrewdly he used as part of the balustrade in the staircases in many houses in Cannon Hill Lane and the surrounding area.
Rowland and Cyril were similarly astute. They bought very cheaply several thousand ready-made internal panelled doors from the liquidator of bankrupt builder in North London. When they were delivered to the site in Cannon Hill Lane it became apparent that many were of different sizes. As they were panelled it was expensive and time-consuming to cut them to size so the carpenters on site made the door openings in different sizes to fit the individual doors. That is why the doorways off halls and landings in many of the houses they built are of different heights. Many people who now own these houses now do not realise this until they try to change the internal doors and only measure one!
Although all the buildings were based on the standard designs a number of the builders introduced slight modifications in order to provide some variety and it is easy to identify the properties built by the different developers.
The outbreak of the Second World War brought to an immediate halt all development and it wasn’t until the 1960s that the country would see a second housing building boom.  After the war Rowland and Cyril decided not to start building again and Cyril used his local building expertise to very good effect by leading the Social Housing Policy on Merton and Morden Urban and District Council which was responsible for substantial redevelopment of the High Path Estate near South Wimbledon Underground Station.  He continued a very successful career in local politics becoming the first Mayor of the London Borough of Merton in 1964.


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