Downham Estate: Its Origins and Early History

by Alistair Black

The Role of the London County Council

Before 1914 most dwellings built by the LCC were in London's inner city. Between the wars, however, a policy of 'suburban colonisation' was adopted. Between 1919 and 1929 the LCC constructed eight new, cottage-style estates, most of them of considerable size; and in the late 1930's seven more estates were started.

By far the largest of the estates was that built at Becontree, to the east of London. In 1939 it contained 26,000 dwellings, housing some 120,000 people. The second largest was the St. Helier estate near Croydon, which contained 9,000 dwellings housing 40,000 people. Downhain was the third largest, with 7,000 dwellings housing a population of 29,000.

By 1938 the total stock of LCC dwellings had reached over 86,000, housing over 382,000 people - a population equal at the time to that of Bristol. This was an impressive achievement, particularly when one considers that less than 10,000 LCC dwellings were in existence by the end of the First World War.