The Alton Estate is a large council estate situated in Roehampton, southwest London. One of the largest council estates (public housing) in the UK, it occupies an extensive area of land west of Roehampton village and runs between the Roehampton Lane through-road and Richmond Park Golf Courses.
Designed by a London County Council design team led by Rosemary Stjernstedt, the estate is renowned for its mix of low and high-rise modernist architecture consisting of Alton East (1958) styled a subtle Scandinavian-influenced vernacular and its slightly later counterpart: Alton West (1959). At Highcliffe Drive on Alton West the LCC essentially retained the Georgian landscape and placed within it five ultra-modern slab blocks: Binley, Winchfield, Dunbridge, Charcot and Denmead Houses (all grade II* listed buildings), inspired by Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation.
Overall, the estate, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2009, has over 13,000 residents, making it one of the largest in the United Kingdom. The architecture is mainly split between brutalist architecture and its Scandinavian-inspired counterpart.
The Alton East Estate consists of slab blocks, point blocks and low-level housing. The design "represents a desire by some architects to formulate a British version of modernism that was more sensitive to context and referenced a traditional vernacular."
What made Alton West so special at the time was its response to its setting. Built on a large expanse of parkland on the edge of Richmond Park, Alton West was a direct translation of Le Corbusier's idea of the Ville Radieuse or park city, sets of "point" and "slab" blocks being surrounded by the beauty of Richmond Park below.
On this natural landscape at Alton West stood a number of different housing configurations: 12-storey "point" blocks with four flats per floor; terraces of low-rise maisonettes and cottages; and, perhaps most famously, five 11-storey "slab" blocks, heavily influenced by the recently completed Unité d'Habitation by Le Corbusier.
Notable buildings and establishments
Roehampton has a rich history and, now, to a certain extent so does the Alton Estate itself. Within the locale of the footprint occupied by the estate there are several notable buildings and establishments
- The Cornerstone – (Roehampton Parish Great Hall – also serves as a community centre providing social facilities for locals)
- The Highcliffe – (Perhaps the Alton's most famous landmarks: 5 Grade II* Listed tower buildings, developed as part of the Narrow-Fronted Maisonette concept of the 1950s inspired by Le Corbusier)
- Maryfield Convent – (An order called The Poor Servants of the Mother of God)
- Mount Clare – (A smaller campus which is part of Roehampton University centered around an eponymous manor house)
- Parkstead House – (A stately home with a long and varied history which now forms a main campus of Roehampton University)
- Clanfield House is one of eight red brick blocks of maisonettes built during the 1950s, on the east section of the Estate. It is an example of early attempts to create urban utopian communities, particularly in the use of allotments in front of Clanfield House.
Alton Estate in popular culture
The Alton Estate has featured as a film and television location. Fahrenheit 451 (1966) used some of the estate as its backdrop for a bleak dystopian society of the future. Thames Television's film division Euston Films used the Danebury Avenue area of the estate to film the opening scene's of Sweeney 2 (1978) spun off from the hugely popular British TV show The Sweeney, and the first episode of Minder, Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette (1979). Alton Estate West was also a filming location for Prime Suspect: The Final Act (2006).
Alton West appeared in an advert for the NHS' HPV Vaccine, in 2009. Alton East appeared in an advert to Keep Britain Tidy with Roy Hudd.
- Alexandra Road estate, Camden
- Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury
- Thamesmead, Bexley and Greenwich
- Aylesbury Estate
- Open University, http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/heritage/roehampton-alton-east-alton-west-estates
- Alton area masterplan, Wandsworth London Borough Council. Retrieved: 17 October 2015
- Modern Architecture London, http://modernarchitecturelondon.com/pages/alton-east.php
- Harwood, Elain (2003). England: a Guide to Post-War Listed Buildings (rev. ed.). London: Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-8818-2.