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Estate · Somers Town · NW1 · Contributed by The Underground Map
August
10
2017


The Ossulston Estate is a multi-storey council estate built by the London County Council in Somers Town between 1927 and 1931.

The estate was built to rehouse those poor who were not being served by the LCC’s new suburban estates, and was significantly denser to suit the urban site. It was located on the site of the Somers Town slum, between Euston and St Pancras stations. The original proposal made in 1925 was for 9-storey blocks on the American model, which would have required lifts, and with more expensive flats for private tenants on the highest floors. This was rejected and the height reduced to a maximum of 7 storeys, with fewer lifts and no private flats. The provision of central heating was also eliminated, but the buildings were unusual in providing electricity from the start, and Levita House had the first central heating system installed by the LCC.

The design, by G. Topham Forrest, chief architect of the LCC, and his assistants R. Minton Taylor and E.H. Parkes, was influenced by Viennese modernist public housing such as Karl Marx-Hof, which Forrest had visited. The estate consists of blocks grouped around three courtyards, and small greens, reached by archways from Ossulston and Chalton Streets; some of the original plantings survive. The buildings have some neo-Georgian features in the treatment of roofs and windows, but are modernist in being of steel-frame construction with unornamented roughcast walls, the facades instead enlivened by spatial features such as the archways in front of the balconies which lead to the individual flats.

Chamberlain House, three blocks of flats, was built in 1927–29; Levita House, south of it and named for Cecil Levita, who was chairman of the LCC’s Housing Committee in the 1920s, was built in 1930–31 and consists of the 7-storey section and wings enclosing a grand courtyard which was originally intended to lead to the premium flats. Walker House was begun in 1929–30, but the other side of the courtyard was completed in 1936–37 with more traditional brick 6-storey buildings. The total number of flats was 310. Chamberlain House, Levita House, the southern part of Walker House and the associated shops and The Cock Tavern public house are all Grade II listed buildings.

In 2004–07, Levita House was extensively refurbished by Sprunt Architects, which included creating larger flats, external refurbishment of the fabric and transformation of the courtyard areas.

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VIEW THE SOMERS TOWN AREA IN THE 1750s
The 1750 Rocque map is bounded by Sudbury (NW), Snaresbrook (NE), Eltham (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
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VIEW THE SOMERS TOWN AREA IN THE 1800s
The 1800 mapping is bounded by Stanmore (NW), Woodford (NE), Bromley (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
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VIEW THE SOMERS TOWN AREA IN THE 1830s
The 1830 mapping is bounded by West Hampstead (NW), Hackney (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Chelsea (SW).
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VIEW THE SOMERS TOWN AREA IN THE 1860s
The 1860 mapping is bounded by Brent Cross (NW), Stratford (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Hammermith (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1860 map does not display.

VIEW THE SOMERS TOWN AREA IN THE 1900s
The 1900 mapping covers all of the London area.

 

Somers Town

Somers Town is a district close to three main line rail termini - Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross.

Historically, the name Somers Town was used for the larger triangular area between the Pancras, Hampstead, and Euston Roads, but it is now taken to mean the rough rectangle bounded by Pancras Road, Euston Road and Eversholt Street.

Somers Town was named after Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers (1725–1806). The area was originally granted by William III to John Somers (1651–1716), Lord Chancellor and Baron Somers of Evesham.

In the mid 1750s the New Road was established to bypass the congestion of London; Somers Town lay immediately north of this east-west toll road. In 1784, the first housing was built at the Polygon amid fields, brick works and market gardens on the northern fringes of London. The site of the Polygon is now occupied by a block of council flats called Oakshott Court.

The Polygon deteriorated socially as the surrounding land was subsequently sold off in smaller lots for cheaper housing, especially after the start of construction in the 1830s of the railway lines into Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross. In this period the area housed a large transient population of labourers and the population density of the area soared. By the late 19th century most of the houses were in multiple occupation, and overcrowding was severe with whole families sometimes living in one room, as confirmed by the social surveys of Charles Booth and Irene Barclay.

When St Luke’s Church, near King’s Cross, was demolished to make way for the construction of the Midland Railway St Pancras Station and its Midland Grand Hotel, the estimated twelve thousand inhabitants of Somers Town at that time were deprived of that place of worship, as the church building was re-erected in Kentish Town. In 1868 the lace merchant and philanthropist George Moore funded a new church, known as Christ Church, and an associated school in Chalton Street with an entrance in Ossulston Street. The school accommodated about six hundred children. Christ Church and the adjacent school were destroyed in a World War II bombing raid and no trace remains today, the site being occupied by a children’s play area and sports court.

Improvement of the slum housing conditions, amongst the worst in the capital, was first undertaken by St Pancras Council in 1906 at Goldington Buildings, at the junction of Pancras Road and Royal College Street, and continued on a larger scale by the St Pancras House Improvement Society (subsequently the St Pancras & Humanist Housing Association, the present owner of Goldington Buildings) which was established in 1924. Further social housing was built by the London County Council, which began construction of the Ossulston Estate in 1927. There remains a small number of older Grade 2 listed properties, mostly Georgian terraced houses.

During the early 1970s the neighbourhood comprising GLC-owned housing in Charrington, Penryn, Platt and Medburn Streets was a centre for the squatting movement.

In the 1980s, some council tenants took advantage of the ’right to buy’ scheme and bought their homes at a substantial discount. Later they moved away from the area. The consequence was an influx of young semi-professional people, resulting in a changing population.

Major construction work along the eastern side of Somers Town was completed in 2008, to allow for the Eurostar trains to arrive at the refurbished St Pancras Station. This involved the excavation of part of the St Pancras Old Churchyard, the human remains being re-interred at St Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley.

Land at Brill Place, previously earmarked for later phases of the British Library development, became available when the library expansion was cancelled and was used as site offices for the HS1 terminal development and partly to allow for excavation of a tunnel for the new Thameslink station. It was then acquired as the site for the Francis Crick Institute (formerly the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation), a major medical research institute.

OTHER LOCATIONS NEAR HERE
Agar Town · Ampere Way · Brill Place · British Library · Chalton Street · Chenies Place · Church Way · Coach Road · Conservatoire for Dance and Drama · Cooper’s Lane · County Hotel Ground Floor Bar · Cranleigh Street · Crowndale Court · Doric Way · Doric Arch · Drummond Crescent · Duke’s Road · Eastnor Castle · Edith Neville Primary School · Elixir Bar · Euston · Euston Road · Euston Road · Euston Square · Euston Tap · Flaxman Terrace · Goods Way · Grafton Place · Judd Street · Mabel’s Tavern · Maria Fidelis Roman Catholic Convent School FCJ · Medburn Street · Midland Road · O’Neill’s · Oakshott Court · Penryn Street · Prince Arthur · Purchese Street · Regent High School · Regent’s Canal towpath · Royal George · Secrets · Somers Close · Somers Town · St Aloysius Catholic Primary School · St Aloysius Social Club · St Mary and St Pancras Church of England Primary School · St Pancras Cruising Club · The Bree Louise · The Circle · The Cock Tavern · The Euston Flyer · The Place Theatre Bar · The Polygon · The Rocket · Unity Mews · Whittlebury Street · Woburn Walk · Woolf Mews ·
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Stanford's Geographical Establishment. London : Edward Stanford, 26 & 27, Cockspur St., Charing Cross, S.W. (1901)

Cruchley's New Plan of London (1848) FREE DOWNLOAD
Cruchley's New Plan of London Shewing all the new and intended improvements to the Present Time. - Cruchley's Superior Map of London, with references to upwards of 500 Streets, Squares, Public Places & C. improved to 1848: with a compendium of all Place of Public Amusements also shewing the Railways & Stations.
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Cary's New And Accurate Plan of London and Westminster (1818) FREE DOWNLOAD
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John Rocque Map of London (1762) FREE DOWNLOAD
John Rocque (c. 1709–1762) was a surveyor, cartographer, engraver, map-seller and the son of Huguenot émigrés. Roque is now mainly remembered for his maps of London. This map dates from the second edition produced in 1762. London and his other maps brought him an appointment as cartographer to the Prince of Wales in 1751. His widow continued the business after his death. The map covers central London at a reduced level of detail compared with his 1745-6 map.
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London Underground Map (1921).  FREE DOWNLOAD
London Underground map from 1921.
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London Underground Map (1908).  FREE DOWNLOAD
London Underground map from 1908.
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Ordnance Survey of the London region (1939) FREE DOWNLOAD
Ordnance Survey colour map of the environs of London 1:10,560 scale
Ordnance Survey. Crown Copyright 1939.

Outer London (1901) FREE DOWNLOAD
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