History: Building Raynes Park

Building Raynes Park: Part 2


Part 2

by John Tarling


The Builders

While George Blay was the main builder of Raynes Park between the wars, Sidney Ernest Parkes was the principal developer of Motspur Park. Like Blay, Parkes did not start out as a housebuilder. In the 1911 Census he described himself as a manufacturer of folding boats and in deeds from the 1920s as a constructional engineer.

He formed his company Modern Homes and Estates Ltd in 1924. He first built houses on extensions of Queens Road and George Road New Maiden towards the Kingston By-pass and then worked on the other side of the A3, advertising in the Wimbledon Borough News from April 1925 onwards. Phyllis Avenue and Arthur Road are named after his children. Byron Avenue was an early development and Tennyson Avenue is presumably a counterpoint to that on the other side of Motspur Park.


Marina Avenue

By the early 1930s his interests were shifting to promoting greyhound racing at Wandsworth Stadium and he also pioneered an early, and short-lived, attempt to bring Rugby League to the south of England. Like many developers Parkes began to sell off frontages to other builders but his Company did build Marina Avenue in 1935, the name doubtless commemorating Princess Marina who had married the Duke of Kent the previous year.


West Barnes Lane

At the end of World War One a number of large-scale builders from other parts of the country including Laing (from Carlisle), Boot (Sheffield) and Costain (Liverpool) opened offices and began developments around London. There was a second wave of incursions from outside London in the early 1930s including Gleesons (Sheffield) and Taylor Woodrow (Blackpool). H. Dare and Son Ltd, a Birmingham firm, acquired the east side of Blakes Terrace and the adjacent part of West Barnes Lane from Parkes in 1932 and built about two dozen houses. Their variegated style with its split elm shingles and brindled brick does give that part of Motspur Park the appearance of an affluent part of Birmingham. The houses were advertised as having "town amenities in rural surroundings". The pace of London's growth could soon make references like that obsolete. Consfield Avenue was described by Modern Homes and Estates in 1931 as "on the verge of delightful unspoilt country" Dare's style is shown more consistently in their estate at Mortimer Crescent and nearby Kingston Road, Ewell, about two years later. After that I am not aware of any other Dare developments between the wars in London though ‘Dare's Distinctive Houses’ were sold in thousands around Birmingham.

Wates also acquired land on the west side of the straight part of West Barnes Lane where they built their version of mock-Tudor houses which they named the Jerningham type. On the far side of the level crossing Wates chalets appear to stretch to the horizon and there is a continuous belt of Wates houses from the Hogsmill to Beverley Brook with the West Barnes Lane houses almost taking them to Pylbrook. There are a further seven Wates houses of the same type in Grand Drive just south of Bijou Villas.


Cavendish and Claremont

The problem about identifying some of the smaller developments at this time is that planning decisions in Merton and Morden Council were taken in sub-­committee and the main Council ratified those decisions without identifying the land. It tends to be only the larger or the more contentious developments that reached the full Committee and so are recorded and identifiable. Only surviving title deeds or building plans will identify the extent of the work done by Hales in West Barnes Lane or E.H. Hayes Ltd in Cavendish Avenue, or W.H. Whitehead & Co in Seaforth Avenue or RJ. Thomas who built in the low numbers of Claremont Avenue in 1925 and the high even numbers

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Kingston Bypass. At one stage a railway was planned from Putney to Kingston on that route but by the time of the London Roads Conference of 1912 it was clear that the Portsmouth Road would have to be steered south of Kingston through the gap between Wimbledon Common and Coombe Hill. The new road sliced diagonally across fields. Where land is compulsorily acquired statute had provided ever since the railway mania of the 1840s that the developer had to acquire the remaining fragments of acquired plots where those fragments are less than half an acre in size and cannot be economically joined by bridges.

In this case compulsory powers might not have been used or the adjoining owners might not have troubled the Ministry of Transport, probably because the plots were larger than half an acre. Then there was less reaction against building houses that faced major roads though service roads were constructed for safety. A developer called T.W. Heath, a champion ballroom dancer and cyclist, who did a lot of building on his own account in Neasden, acquired a string of fairly small plots at Kingston Vale and on both sides of Beverley Way. There is a trap here for local historians in relying on the covenants in the deeds as these refer only to T.W. Heath but planning permissions, advertisements and the distinctive style all show that the building was done by Crouch. On the east side of Beverley Way some streamline modern houses are interspersed with the mock-Tudor and show how a speculative builder had to respond to purchasers' preferences. Nostalgic yearnings had been satiated and styles had to be attuned to a crisper, glittering future. Except where the Blay estate had not been finished at the West Barnes Lane end of Linkway and for an area at the station end of Claremont Avenue, Raynes Park and Motspur Park had been fully built up by the time the sirens began to ululate in earnest seventy years ago.


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