in Shaftesbury

Shaftesbury in 1945

Post-war scars as seen from Google Earth 1945

Google Earth have released imagery of London from 1945 (and other years) which give a fascinating view of how the Luftwaffe left the area.

Following on from my post about the V1 that demolished a large part of the area around Brassey Square you can see in the map above the hole left in the centre of the image above.

It’s also quite interesting to see, as the joke goes, how the post-wars planning finished the job that the Luftwaffe started. To the east of Tyneham Crescent you can see the north-south roads that no longer exist, likewise the housing sandwiched by the Shaftesbury Park Estate and Lavender Hill. In both cases while damage is apparent it’s clear that far more was destroyed by council demolition than German.

I can’t help wondering how many homes would be there now if we had rebuilt houses, and allowed for the subsequent conversions, extensions and development rather than creating inflexible blocks of flats.

(Thanks to @marxculture for pointing it out to me. I should probably also add that the image is ©2010 The Geoinformation Group and the map overlay ©2010 Tele Atlas)

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  1. That’s a really interesting find! I’ve always wondered why the blocks of flats behind the shops East of the Gideon Estate seem so haphazardly laid out, it’s as though someone has intentionally created as many dead spaces, roads that go nowhere and slightly intimidating lonely dark passages as possible, while making the worst possible link with Lavender Hill. There are even some faded ‘no loitering’ signs at the end of Tyneham Road, always a sign that the street layout isn’t quite working – as well as some poor ex-shopfronts on Tyneham Road that were obviously completely cut off from the high street and have ended up converted into curiously shaped ground floor flats.

    I always assumed it all got bombed, and whatever was built to replace them had to be cheap, so some plans were photocopied of whatever ‘estate’ they had pre-designed that just about fitted the space. But this rather knocks that theory.

    There’s another interesting set on the small estate on the Stormont Road / Gideon Road corner – which has the same design as Dawes Road estate. The estate is the right size and shape for a bombsite infill – indeed the low-rise estate is still bookended by the two ends of the large Victorian terrace that used to connect; I assumed that the gap had been patched up. But looking at the 1945 Google photo, which is presumably post-war, the old Victorian houses are clearly still there.

    Which opens up a bit of a mystery: for some reason, at some point post-war, the Council decided to knock down most (but not all) of an existing terrace of 4-storey houses, and replace it with a similar terrace of 2-storey houses. This has intrigued me – something must have been *very* wrong with one half of the terrace to go to all that expense… It is possible that the aerial photos were before the end of the bombing, but this seems unlikely, as why would you do a reconstruction survey (presumably the purpose of the comprehensive aerial photography) while still at war? Hmm.

    • I never quite understood post-war housing policy of destroying perfectly good housing to build council estates (as opposed to repairing and renovating). It is difficult to tell from the photo, but it appears to me that only the Tyneham Close Estate was a consequence of bombing, with the Wycliffe Road, Ashley Crescent and Gideon Road Estates the result of deliberate clearance and rebuilding.

      Certainly in the case of Wycliffe and Wickersley Roads the five or so remaining houses on each would suggest that the buildings that were destroyed by a post-war council were perfectly adequate. I would guess that the number of houses destroyed and number built were roughly equal (I know other blocks in the borough which saw more homes demolished than were created, and the new flats obviously lacked their own gardens, and had no potential for extension or conversion). It would not surprise me to discover that the net effect of purpose built council housing in London has actually been to lower population density.

      Even when you consider the political motives to socialise housing and improve the lot of the average tenant it’s hard to understand why some estates were built seemingly without thought for human nature. Ashley Crescent (the block mentioned to the east of Gideon Road) is a case in point, the internal communal areas are incredibly dark and have little natural light towards the rare and the layout is such that, if someone tried to build it now, we’d be having words with the developer to get them to improve natural surveillance and use. And while I know people there who do love their homes, I also know that several share your views on the layout.