Downham Estate: Its Origins and Early History
by Alistair Black
My father, his first wife and two children moved to the newly built Downham estate in about the mid-1920s. They had moved from Hasborough Street, Paddington, part of an estate built on land owned by the Bishop of London between 1860 - 1865. That part of the estate was 'sandwiched' between the canal to the north, Harrow Road to the south and Edgware Road to the east - and the workhouse to the west! They were mostly three or four storey houses. The census records show how overcrowded they were towards the end of the 19th century.
My 84-year-old half-sister describes seeing rain water running down the inside walls of the two-roomed flat she shared with her sister and parents. Grove Park/Downham was luxury after those conditions. She also speaks of returning home from school and passing furniture that had been put out on the street belonging to people who had left without notice or had defaulted on their rent or both. Many people they knew did return to Paddington but she says it was because they missed their family and friends there.
I have also read (somewhere) that the one and only public house built on the estate was a deliberate move on the part of the authorities. Apparently the idea was to prevent "working people spending their time and money in pubs". Instead, there were long queues outside the pub waiting for it to open, so it didn't work!
My Parents-in-Law until a year ago lived in Downderry Road. My Father-in-law lived in this road all his life, marrying and bringing up a family in the same house, until he died in 2002. While they were there, I was fascinated by the wooded walks behind their house. They threaded through that area of the Downham Estate and gave it a rural 'lung'; the Green Chain walks of today.
I consulted maps of the area before the Downham Estate was constructed and noticed that the line of trees, field boundaries, were left intact by the planners in the Downderry road area. The roads followed these lines of trees and rendered the area very pleasant.
These woodland walks greatly improve this particular area of the Estate, and I would actually argue with the information on this page that all trees, etc., were cleared leaving a pre-ponderance of concrete. This was not so.
Jill Hogben, Cornwall