More For Your Money: Hanwell, London W7

Where the grass is greener
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The Independent Online

Obscure despite its attention-grabbing name, the Cuckoo Estate in Hanwell, west London, is a large inter-war estate of small houses on and around Cuckoo Avenue, a tree-lined boulevard that would not look out of place in Paris.

The Cuckoo Estate was built by the London County Council between 1933 and 1939 on land that was originally part of the Central London District School, a Victorian Poor Law school that closed in 1932 (its best-known pupil was Charlie Chaplin). The school's large central administrative block now houses the Hanwell Community Centre.

A 140-acre plot went to the Cuckoo Estate for working-class housing. The estate was reasonably near three railway stations, a tram serving Shepherds Bush, and new factories accessible by bus or bicycle.

To individualise the houses, the architects varied their materials, using pantile, clay-tile and slate-tile roofing, and yellow and red stock bricks. The street pattern favours open spaces with pedestrian walkways.

The focal point is the Grade-II-listed community centre at the southern end of Cuckoo Avenue, a dual-carriageway with a central gravel path and containing a long avenue of mature horse-chestnut trees set in grass verges. The other roads are much narrower and less grand, and contain mostly two-storey semis and terraces. The estate became a conservation area in 1995.

In 1958 Margaret Mills and her new husband applied for council housing and, meanwhile, lived in the Cuckoo Estate in his parents' house on Kennedy Road. This temporary arrangement lasted for six years, until they moved into a council flat near the estate. Now a widow herself, she has worked at the Hanwell Community Centre for more than 30 years.

"This has always been a very nice estate to live on," Mills says. "The houses are extremely well built, and the rooms are a nice size, and there are nice little gardens. It has the feeling of a privately-owned community.

Today's residents are getting older and more ethnically diverse: "There used to be a great many children here, and when they became adults, many would apply for council housing and get a house on the estate. Several generations of the same family lived here. The key used to hang behind the front door and you would pull it through the letterbox to let yourself in."

What properties are available there?

The estate consists mostly of houses with a few flats, some private, some still council-owned. Despite the large number of properties, few are available at any one time because they sell very quickly. However, a large number of affordable Victorian and Edwardian houses, and purpose-built and conversion flats, are available on adjacent roads.

How big are the original estate houses?

Built as working-class residences, the houses tend to be small and functional, with kitchen/diners and downstairs bathrooms. But some renovations and extensions had been completed before the conservation-area designation happened.

What do flats cost?

A one-bed ground-floor flat in a purpose-built five-storey block on Riverside Close has a large cupboard that could be used as a utility or computer room. Riverside Close is located just north of the Cuckoo Estate; £159,950 at Castle. Estate agent Edward Pereira of Castle says that young buyers often prefer a freehold house in the estate rather than a flat elsewhere for similar money.

What about houses?

An extended mid-terrace house on Westcott Crescent next to Cuckoo Park has a downstairs bathroom and upstairs shower-room, and a rear garden; £250,000. For the same price, an extended end-terrace has a conservatory/reception and patio doors opening on to a south-facing garden. Meanwhile, a three-bed end-terrace on Laurie Road is £265,000, all at Robertson Smith & Kempson, which lists other two-bed mid- terraces on the estate at £225,000 to £240,000.

How's the transport?

Castle Bar Park and Drayton Green national rail stations link the estate with Ealing Broadway station, for connections to the District and Central Line tube and the Paddington-Reading line. The estate is very near the A40 and is convenient for the North Circular and M4.

Tell me more about the Grade-II-listed Hanwell Community Centre

The HCC offers pottery, upholstery, scenery production, five-a-side football, basketball, badminton, boxing and judo. The building hosts an art studio, offices, classrooms, meeting rooms and councillors' surgeries.

What about the estate's recreational possibilities?

The large Cuckoo Park behind Hanwell Community Centre is a "designated village green" with limited recreational facilities, says Mills. Tennis courts are located in a small park on Greenford Avenue. Two large recreation grounds are just north of the estate.

How well do the local schools perform?

Above average are Hobbayne Primary (between two and eight points in English, maths and science), Brentside Primary (18 and 14 points in English and maths, eight in science), and Drayton Manor High School (10 points above for GCSEs). But well below the national average is Brentside High.

Castle Residential Properties, 020-8566 4499; Robertson Smith & Kempson, 020-8566 2339; Sinton Andrews, 020-8567 3219