made with Norfolk flint

April 6, 2017

Ledbury Estate
Architect: GLC Architects Department
Built: mid-1960sSize: 16 blocks

The concrete panels of these twelve-storey towers were faced with Norfolk flint.

The Ledbury Estate in Peckham is a great example of the kind of post-war building most overlooked by fans of modern architecture. The low- and high-rise blocks on the estate were built using the most ubiquious form of construction of the era – prefabricated building systems. Used mainly for the rapid construction of council housing, these systems involved large concrete panels and components being manufactured in factories and transported by lorry to the site, where they were bolted together, like giant fat-pack furniture. Many companies produced these building systems, some of the biggest being Tracoba, Camus and Sectra from France, and Jespersen, Skarne and Larsen-Nielsen from Scandinavia. British construction firms such as John Laing and Taylor Woodrow-Anglian did deals to offer these systems to their customers in the UK. Councils desperate to keep pace with the demands made on them by successive governments, who were promising voters ever higher number of new homes, turned to these building systems as the answer to all their problems.

Four high-rise blocks form part of the Ledbury Estate: Skenfrith House, Sarnsfield House, Peterchurch House and Bromyard House. They were completed in the mid-1960s for the Greater London Council at the high point in the system building boom, and were made using the Danish Larsen-Nielsen system. The concrete panels of these twelve-storey towers were faced with Norfolk flint, and the blocks were immediately recognisable from their unusual design: two concrete slab blocks stood face to face, and were joined in the middle by a tower containing the lifts and stairs. From the air these blocks form a distinctive ‘H’ shape. Despite their rugged concrete stylings, these towers are less truly ‘brutalist’ and more part of the a Scandinavian influenced tradition of ‘point blocks’ like those at Alton Estate.

Larsen-Nielsen was one of the most ubiquitous systems used for building flats across Britain in the 1960s. The design of the Ledbury Estate flats could be seen repeated all over London. There are two taller blocks in Limehosue, reaching fifteen storeys, which have recently been refurbished and covered in an off-white render. And there are four more on Wick Road in Hackney as part of the Gascoyne Estate. These are ten storeys, and have been recently refurbished. The largest collection of them was to be found on the Morris Walk Estate in Woolwich, which was also London’s first use of the system. Here the seven ten-storey towers had been designed for the London County Council back in 1962. In 2013 residents began to be moved out ahead of the large scale demolition of the estate, and the eventual construction of (mainly private) new homes. (….)

Ledbury Estate has avoided being demolished, unlike Morris Walk, or re-rendered, like its siblings in Limehouse and Hackney have. The towers remain largely in their original condition.

This is an extract from the book ‘Brutal London’
Text: John Gindrod

Photographie: Alexander Christie and what if: projects