- widely seen as demonstrating a credible solution to the urban housing problem.
Shaftesbury Park was built between 1872 and 1877. It was the first major development of the Artizans’, Labourers’, & General Dwellings Company, founded by a band of working men in 1866–7.
Through ‘industrial partnership’ and a unique financial model it could build better houses for less than the speculative builder, pay its workmen more than standard wages, sell or let its houses below the market level, and yet produce a return on capital of six per cent. It offered its inhabitants not only a healthy home environment but the benefits of community living, underpinned by co-operation and self-help.
The estate occupies a flat area of land at the edge of the River Thames flood plain just north of the slope rising to Clapham Common
. Historically the area was occupied by Battersea Fields, the poorly drained common land covering the area as far as the river. The Heathwall Ditch ran along the foot of the slope and drained into the River Effra and Falcon Brook, making Battersea an island; present day Heathwall Street
marks the line of this water course. A stream crossed the area on the line of present day Grayshott Road
The land for the Battersea estate was purchased in 1872. The original concept was to combine new housing of various classes with social facilities such as meeting rooms, school rooms, a wash house and baths.. One facility certainly not to be provided on the estate was a public house, which was an attempt by the reformers behind the scheme to avoid the social problems of cheap alcohol.
The houses were generally well built and well-appointed by the standards of the day. They incorporated a few minor technical advances over much speculative housing of this class, notably built-in ventilation and an improved system of drainage. Effort was made to bring architectural variety and interest to the terrace fronts through simple decorative features.
The Artizans’ Company embarked upon three more estates on the same basic pattern: Queen’s Park in Kensal New Town in 1876; Noel Park in Hornsey, begun in 1881; and Leigham Court in Streatham, begun in 1889.
In 1877, with the estate not quite complete and only part of Queen’s Park built, the leading figures were ousted on charges of mismanagement and corruption. The entire board of directors was replaced.
In the years that followed, Shaftesbury Park faded from the wider public consciousness. It may have contributed to the thinking behind the London County Council’s Edwardian cottage estates. But its special sense of community is more prophetic of certain middle-class developments, notably Bedford Park and the garden cities.