Petts Wood: The making of a 1920s garden suburb

by Peter Waymark

East West Divide

Having established his estate on the east of the railway, Scruby intended to develop on the other side as well, but by the early 1930s he was heavily overlent and did not have the resources to continue. He therefore decided to dispose of the land west of the line and Petts Wood West, where building started in 1933, assumed a different character. Instead of more than 40 builders there were just two and the houses were generally cheaper and more standardised. Although some used half-timbering, Tudorbethan extravagances were shunned. The Morrell brothers, the main builders, no doubt anxious to echo what Scruby had created across the railway line, still referred to their development as a "garden estate". Indeed, they went as far as to call it a "veritable paradise". As in Petts Wood East, a shopping centre was built close to the railway station.

The separate development of the two parts of Petts Wood was unfortunate in creating social snobberies which took a long time to break down. They were highlighted as early as 1936 by the local MP, Sir Waldron Smithers, who even drew a parallel with the Civil War which had just broken out in Spain. He denounced what he called "silly squabbles" and pleaded with residents from the two sides of the railway to get together and promote "tolerance and good friendship". But as an early resident of Petts Wood West recalled: "You got chatting to someone on the train and when they found you lived on the 'other side' they did not want to continue the friendship."