The town planner Ebenezer Howard's book Tomorrow appeared in 1898 and was reissued four years later as Garden Cities Of Tomorrow. It launched the garden city movement, and London County Council soon started worker housing programmes in Tower Gardens, Tooting, Hammersmith and Croydon. The largest of the four, Tower Gardens, which was started before the First World War, is now a conservation area including flats built in Topham Square in 1924.
"All of the houses in the conservation area are essentially two-up, two-down, but they do not all look the same," says resident Robin Lemare. "Although the houses were not expensively built, they have lots of little interesting architectural features. The façades change all over the estate." Terraces of four houses were designed to look like large country mansions.
Currently desk officer for Somaliland for Action Aid, Lemare attended university in Hull and then spent seven years in Kenya before returning to the UK. "I moved into Tower Gardens 20 years ago because of my job. I discovered that I could buy a two-up, two-down house only a half-hour cycle from my workplace for the price of a one-bed flat closer to work. It is a 15-minute walk to the Tube but there are plenty of buses, and in terms of price, it was quite reasonable and still is."
The mix of private owners and council - or housing association - tenants has an increasingly diverse population. "We have teachers and lawyers, and many craftspeople - plasterers, plumbers, engineers," according to Lemare.
"Many residents are from other countries, some who own, others as council tenants. Some houses have people or young kids who make life tricky, but it is basically quiet and peaceful."
What are the original houses like?
In the conservation area, different building phases resulted in houses of varying sizes. "Legislation dictated house size, and the first houses to be built have front doors into the living room," says Lemare. "New legislation increased the amount of square feet, and later houses are bigger, with front doors opening on to a hall with stairs and space for a box room upstairs. The older houses had outdoor toilets, and the bath hung on an outside wall."
What about starting prices?
The price range is narrow: two-bed houses start from £170,000, and the most expensive three-bedders rarely exceed £225,000. A two-bed house on Risley Avenue with two receptions and 40ft garden has an asking price of between £160,000 and £170,000. The lower price reflects the modernisation needed in the house, whose previous owner lived there for 70 years. The agent is Douglas Allen Spiro.
What about the larger properties?
There is a three-bed house that needs updating but is "tunnel linked" (attached on the first floor to the adjacent house but separated on the ground floor, and the two are sheltered from one another's noise by a tunnel); £204,950 at Bridges. A three-bed, two-reception end terrace with garage is £220,000 at Douglas Allen Spiro.
How's the transport?
Tottenham Hale, Wood Green and Turnpike Lane Tube stations are a short bus ride away. Bruce Grove rail station serves Liverpool Street. For driving, the A10 Roundway is near the A406 North Circular for access to the M1, Brent Cross Shopping Centre and the M11.
Is Tower Gardens a true community?
It has an active-in-spurts residents' association that succeeded in obtaining better lighting and traffic calming devices, which ended the estate's rat runs. The Tower Gardens Community Centre was officially opened last Saturday.
Resident Ruth Crowley almost single-handedly got the estate included in the London Open House programme. A former resident involved in communal affairs was David Morris, best known for going the distance, with Helen Steel, against McDonald's in a protracted libel case.
Schools and shopping?
Risley Avenue primary and John Loughborough secondary, on Holcombe Road, achieved appreciably below-average results for English, maths and science, and GCSEs respectively. Wood Green is a major shopping hub, with ethnic groceries and restaurants.
What about green spaces?
The large Lordship Recreation Ground is just south of Tower Gardens, and Bruce Castle Park immediately east has tennis courts, a bowling green and the Grade I-listed Bruce Castle Museum.
And one for the pub quiz
Other famous early housing developments for workers include Port Sunlight and Bourneville. What famous people and products are associated with them?
Port Sunlight (1888), Merseyside, was built by WH Lever, of the soap maker Lever Brothers. Bourneville (1895), in Birmingham, was established by the chocolatier George Cadbury.
Bridges Estates 020-8808 5225
Douglas Allen Spiro 020-8365 7222 Kings 020-8801 2696
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