Chalkhill Estate

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Chalkhill Estate is located in the Wembley Park area of northwest London. It was one of three large estates built in the London Borough of Brent. The design was based on that of Park Hill in Sheffield.

Chalkhill Estate 1970 - Photograph by John McCann c/o Brent Archives
Chalkhill Estate 1970 - Photograph by John McCann c/o Brent Archives

Description[edit]

Chalkhill Estate was developed as a Metroland estate from 1921 but it was between 1966 and 1970 that the high density, high rise council estate providing flats, shops, a medical centre, car parking and open space was developed. There were low-rise two-storey developments such as Buddings Circle and Wellsprings Crescent and 30 high-rise "Bison" built blocks linked by "walkways in the sky". In total there were about 1900 houses and flats.[1] Chalkhill Estate also contained a number of recreational facilities for children and the elderly almost at every corner such as slides, seating areas with flower beds, climbing frames and other such things you would expect to find in a public park.[2]

Dwellings on the high-rise estate comprised single-storey one- / two-bedroom flats and larger two-storey family homes and were located along corridors or walkways affectionately called Goldbeaters Walk, Greenrigg Walk, Redcliffe Walk and Bluebird Walk. The dwellings were all-electric, utilizing what was then state-of-the-art technology; central heating was available in all homes and all homes contained what was called a "Garchey", a manually operated waste-disposal system located in the kitchen sink.

Social reality[edit]

The architect's vision of contented tenants living in harmony and connected by these "walkways in the sky" might have seemed like some kind of aerial utopia but the reality was very different. During the mid-1970s those drafty "walkways in the sky" quickly became convenient escape routes for criminals and Chalkhill Estate was becoming known as a crime hot-spot attracting any number of unsavoury characters from neighbouring areas. Often but not always football hooligans would visit the estate after matches at the nearby Wembley Stadium vandalising property and buildings and attacking local residents. Milkmen who had previously delivered to residents doorsteps using hand-pulled milk-floats via service lifts had restricted their operations due to the high number of robberies. Lifts when they were operational, constantly stank of urine so that it was preferable to walk up dozens of flights of poorly lit concrete stairs. The two high-rise car parks became a hiding place for stolen cars and shady drug-deals. The local shops were regularly robbed.

The recreational facilities due to poor maintenance and vandalism also deteriorated rapidly. Areas like the paddling pool, adjacent to the shops and the sandpit - both of which were popular in the summer as a meeting place for parents and children, became dangerous due to presence of quantities of broken glass. The flower beds and seating ares for the elderly were destroyed as fast as they were repaired. Gradually one by one, these facilities were decommissioned, some removed and replaced by other facilities only to become vandalised once again.

In 1980s, widespread concern about the conditions on the estate including poor quality and crime which led to a number of initiatives that included door entry systems and walkway closures. Years of notoriety and poor living conditions led to a decision of demolition and remediation stages of the final 450-house scheme.

The 1900 houses and flats were eventually demolished and Chalkhill Estate was refurbished early 2000.[3][4]

Image[edit]

Over the years the estate has dramatically tried to shake off its poor image to little avail. In the 1990s, Chalkhill Estate along with several other local housing estates in Brent became contested drug markets, one notable gang to hold influence over the area was known as the "Press Road Crew". Rivalry between individuals associated to the Press Road Crew and South Kilburn resulted in the murder of 29-year-old Jason Greene in 2006.[5] From then on the newer generations of youths, proclaiming gang names and adopting the estate as their territory, have existed under a range of names.

Chalkhill Estate has since been given the nickname "Crack Hill" and from the late 2000s the local youths in the area began to refer to their gang as the "Crack Hill Mob", or "Chalk Hill Boys". Sometimes also referred to as "Blue Gang" as they identify with the colour blue. In terms of media attention, some activity was noted in local press (Harrow Observer) from 2009 onwards with regards to the Chalkhill Estate.[6] There has been an increase in reported incidents of youth robbery, shootings and drug raids on the revamped estate throughout 2009–10. In January 2010, a young man was shot on the estate and left with a fractured skull after an incident on Chalkhill Road.[7]

In 2011, three high-living members of a £20m drugs network, which included Charlotte Church's former lover Kyle Johnson, were jailed for a total of 22 years. During the police operation and investigation £6m worth of heroin was recovered from a man in Chalkhill Road and a nearby flat.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Grant, Philip. "Chalkhill – 1,000 Years of History" (PDF). Brent Council. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  2. ^ "Chalkhill Estate: Brent 1970-1979". British Pathe. 1975. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 
  3. ^ "Chalkhill Redevelopment Project: Summary of the regeneration project". Brent.gov.uk. 2011-07-02. Retrieved 2012-06-24. 
  4. ^ "Hidden London". Hidden London. 2005–2010. Retrieved 2012-06-24. 
  5. ^ "Guns are not the way to solve problems". BBC. 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2012-06-24. 
  6. ^ "Crackdown on gangs on the Chalkhill Estate in Wembley". Harrow Times. 2010-03-29. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  7. ^ "Man in serious condition after New Year shooting". Harrow Observer. 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  8. ^ "List of North West London Gangs — Chalkhill Estate". www.londonstreetgangs.com. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 

Coordinates: 51°33′50″N 0°16′12″W / 51.564°N 0.270°W / 51.564; -0.270