WHEN DRIVING HOME after leaving our vacuum cleaner for repair at a small shop in Ealing, we passed a tidy estate consisting of houses and blocks of flats, all decorated with mock half-timbering painted in black and white. Near to West Ealing Underground station, this housing colony is called Hanger Hill Garden Estate.
During the period between the two World Wars, much residential building work was undertaken in London’s suburbs. Often, estates were built with features that mimicked rusticity. The idea was that the commuters, who lived there, might imagine that they were enjoying a village atmosphere, without being far away from the inner city, where many of them worked. To create this illusion, house builders adorned their constructions with decorative features that were supposed to make them seem older and more traditional than they were. The use of mock half-timbering on external walls was a commonly used decorative trick designed to evoke suggestions of ‘ye olde England’.
At Hanger Hill Garden Estate, there is a uniformity of style, which makes the use of half-timbering eye-catching rather than suggestive of rustic traditions. Interestingly, the mock half-timbering does not extend to cover the dull, pebble-dashed rear walls of some of the blocks of flats. These surfaces are less easy to see from the roads than the mock half-timbering. Overall, the result is attractive. When I first saw this well-maintained estate with neat gardens, I thought of early 20th century garden suburbs rather than old country villages, which are often delightful because they lack uniformity in their layouts.
The opening of the branch of the Central Line, which runs from Shepherds Bush to Ealing Broadway, in 1920, and especially the opening of West Acton Station three years later, were the stimuli for the construction of residential estates in the area. In 1925, the first bit of land was acquired by Hanger Hill Garden Estate Ealing Limited. The estate was built between 1928 and about 1932. The buildings, flats and houses, were all designed by the architectural practice of Douglas Smith & Barley. The resulting layout has considerable uniformity, and is attractive without being monotonous. A good feature in the estate’s design is that the blocks of flats stand in spacious lawns.
The Residents Association’s website has a good history of the place (www.hhgera.com). It noted that in the 1930s:
“…times were clearly pleasant and peaceful ones for all the tenants on the Estate. Occupiers of some of the four-bedroomed houses employed a maid, the fourth bedroom having been designed with this in mind. Whilst all the houses and many of the flats had garages, only a small number of people on the Estate owned cars … These were the days when goods were delivered to the home. Tradesmen were not allowed to call at the front doors of the houses or flats, but had to call at back doors using the service roads. Bakers, butchers, fish salesmen and greengrocers all called weekly, some attending earlier in the day or week to take orders. In the parking bays behind the flats, vans from Harrods, Dickens & Jones and the like, were to be seen drawing up.”
However, life on the estate was not free from regulations:
“Tenancies of flats were refused to people who had young children. No animals were allowed to be kept in the flats … House tenants were allowed to hang out washing only on Mondays and Tuesdays; flat tenants were not permitted to hang out washing at all.”
Currently, so two friendly residents informed us, the estate is subject to strict conservation regulations. This is a good thing because it would be a shame to spoil the appearance of this charming and unusual enclave of residential accommodation in this part of west London.
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