Tachbrook Estate, Pimlico

Tachbrook Estate, Pimlico

The Tachbrook estate was built on land once part of the Equitable Gas Company’s Pimlico works sited by the King’s Scholar’s Pond Sewer.

After closure of the gasworks the site was a temporary holding point for coaches whilst the new Victoria Coach terminal was built. After the coaches had been moved to their new home at the Victoria Coach station in 1932 the Pulford Street Site Committee was set up to raise funds for a new housing estate to be built.

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Victoria coach station’s temporary base, 1929, where Tachbrook Estate is now. The King’s Scholar Pond sewer is on the left. Every single building seen in this picture has gone! Source: Flashbak

The Tachbrook estate was ultimately built by the Westminster Housing Trust, a consortium of Westminster Residents (including the Pulford committee) who raised the £32,000 needed to buy the land. The estate opened in two stages. The northern half was opened in the 1930’s whilst the southern half was opened in the late 1940s and early 1950s with the last phase, Harvey House, being formally opened by Princess Margaret on 22 October 1953.

The then Queen (Elizabeth, the Queen Mother 1900-2002) opened the Tachbrook Estate by unveiling a plaque at Malcolmson House in July 1949, as the picture from Getty’s below shows.

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The estate was designed by Frederick Milton Harvey (1905-69) previously architect and later Borough Surveyor for Great Yarmouth Corporation. He moved to London in 1929 and set up offices at 3 Raymond Buildings, Grays Inn, Holborn, where he drew up the designs for a number of local schemes including the Bessborough Centre.

This Britain from the air image shows the finished blocks in 1935 whilst this image shows the partially completed blocks just a year earlier.

The later parts of the estate, including Malcolmson and Harvey houses, were built after the second world war when the last remaining buildings belonging to Pimlico gas works were demolished along with the Mission House and properties in Pulford/Aylesford Streets.

(Note: Although the two streets were separate and Pulford Street the main throughfare, a large part of the estate was in fact built around Pulford Street thus the bit left over became Aylesford Street. See the picture referring to Malcolmson House below.)

The open air, tidal, section of the King’s Scholar Pond sewer continued to be a prominent feature alongside the east side of the Tachbrook estate until it was covered over in the 1970s. I am reliably informed by the people who run the Cave project in Tachbrook Street, that despite it being a sewer, kids used to play games and explore the tunnels and perhaps this was one reason the authorities decided to build over this very last open air section of any of London’s sewers. Nowadays Bessborough Garden estate and its car parks occupy the site.

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The entrance to the estate off Bessborough St, Pimlico.

The Peabody Trust took over Tachbrook in 1972. Peabody has a number of unusual London estates and although one may view the Tachbrook estate as being similar to the numerous other estates spread throughout London, it had features the other estates didn’t.

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Part of the Tachbrook, with estate plan. Malcolmson House is on the right.

The above image actually shows the alignment of Pulford Street, whose former course was kept as an avenue (or perspective) looking from Aylesford Street towards the section where Cockburn, Harvey and Marsh Houses meet in the distance.

This uniqueness lies in the plaques commemorating the peoples each block is named after. Even the estate’s designer F.M. Harvey had one such placed on the block named after him.

The various plaques are shown below. Apart from the foundation stone, the others are nicely rendered in concrete. Despite concrete being quite a difficult material to beautify, its been done well on the Tachbrook estate. Some of the plaques may have been renewed, faithfully copying the originals (if any) which had their lettering gilded in red and others added later.

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The very first plaque denotes the stone laid by Sir Hilton Young, Minister of Health, in 1933.

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The Queen Mother opens the estate. The plaque at Malcolmson House can be seen from Aylesford Street.

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A close up of the plaque commemorating the visit by Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) in 1949.

The Queen Mother was not the first Royal to open flats on the new Tachbrook estate. That honour was in 1935 and belongs to the Duchess of Kent (Princess Marina) as shown below.
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Kent House, opened by the Duchess of Kent in 1935.

Perhaps the next plaque of importance is that at Harvey House, almost opposite the sluice keepers houses where the King’s Scholar Pond sewer meets the Thames. This plaque can be seen from Grosvenor Road, Pimlico.
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Harvey House, commemorates the work of F. Milton Harvey, the estate’s designer.

The estate’s other plaques are dedicated to various locals of historic importance and are shown in alphabetical order:

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Abbots House, after the Monastery of Westminster.

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Beaufort House, after Lady Margaret Beaufort.

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Cowper House, after William Cowper.

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Founders House, after Lady Walston, Sir John Davidson and Pulford Street Committee who instigated the Tachbrook Estate.

The next, Tuttle Fields, is an old name. The area was known by this name for centuries. It was synonymous with Thorney Island, on which Westminster Abbey once stood. Tuttle Fields was the low lying land to the north and west of Thorney Island.

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Tuttle House, after Tuttle Fields. Tothill Street in nearby Victoria is the modern name for Tuttle.

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Wren House, after Sir Christopher Wren. As the plaque says, he was a pupil at Westminster School.

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Bessborough Place, SW1, built to hide the former gasworks that stood at the rear prior to the Tachbrook Estate being built.

The 19th century houses opposite the estate in Bessborough Place were built by Thomas Cubitt during 1842, and rebuilt by Chapman Taylor Partners in 1984-87, quite why I don’t know. Perhaps the original properties were quite narrow as they had to fit in within a thin parcel of land alongside the King’s Scholar’s Pond sewer. Pevsner records that Cubitt built the terrace “chiefly to raise the tone by hiding a gasworks.” Clearly these houses hid the King’s Scholar Pond sewer too! These terrace houses have now been extended to the rear with modern units, and the main entrances are now, quite ironically, accessed from a car park covering the sewer’s former open section.

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A view of the Tachbrook estate (left) with the extended Bessborough Place dwellings at right. The open section of the King’s Scholar’s Pond sewer ran along where the cars are parked. Its still there, underground of course! This picture from Alamy looks south from the above location and shows a maintenance gang wading along the sewer in 1947.