Petts Wood: The making of a 1920s garden suburb

by Peter Waymark

Quality Control

Building began east of the railway, in 1928. In an era of light building byelaws, Scruby's own stipulations, legally binding on both builders and house owners, shaped the character of the estate. Caravans and bungalows were banned, and there were detailed requirements on building lines, walls and roofs. Builders selling their houses stressed the rural aspect of a suburb that was only 22 minutes by train from London. An early estate brochure referred to "orderly roads, tree-planted, wide grass verges, low stone walls, hand-made tiles giving every roof a mellowed appearance" and "houses that, despite their widely differing styles, merge naturally into the green vistas of woodland that form the background. A sylvan town with birds, trees, flowers - a real country home …". The natural contours of the landscape were exploited, old trees were retained and, once the houses were built, new trees were planted.

Many of the houses underlined the idea of "rus in urbe" (country amidst town) by evoking the idealised country cottage. This was particularly true of the mock-Tudor style which flourished in Petts Wood. Externally it was distinguished by dark oak beams on while walls, the roofs broken up by barge-boarded gables, verges and valleys. The windows had leaded lights, sometimes with coloured glass, and there were elaborate porches sheltering oak front doors with their gothic panels, iron hinges and ring knockers. The theme was often continued inside, with oak beams and panels and inglenook fireplaces.

The most flamboyant expression of the Tudorbethan style came in a cul-de-sac of 29 houses called The Chenies. It was the creation of the builder, Noel Rees, a colourful character who left his mark in many parts of Petts Wood and whose name was still being used as a selling point by estate agents more than half a century later. In 1982 The Chenies was designated a Conservation Area as being of architectural and historic importance. Another Conservation Area included the single largest dwelling put up on the estate, the appropriately-named Tudor House, set in extensive grounds on a corner plot. A separate garage had space for four cars and a flat on top for a chauffeur. It was designed for his own occupation by another prominent Petts Wood builder, Leslie Carter-Clout.