Wharncliffe Gardens

Wharncliffe Gardens
Westminster Archives
Douglas Fairbanks and Lady Ashley
After the flying bomb struck
westminster Archives
2016
Bridget Clarke
2016
Bridget Clarke
2016
Bridget Clarke
2016
Bridget Clarke
2016
Bridget Clarke
2016 The Canal
Bridget Clarke
2016
Bridget Clarke

The original Wharncliffe Gardens  was built in the late 19th century on the site of Edwin Landseer’s house and garden, by the  Great Central Railway  – chairman, Earl of Wharncliffe – to house the workers whose homes had been demolished when the line arrived at Marylebone station.  There were 6 five-storey blocks of flats facing north/south, with the 2 eastern blocks  smaller than the others in order to leave room for the  existing School of Industry  for Female Orphans. Each flat was designed so sunlight entered at some part of the day. The frontage of  the flats were paved, with clipped hedges  and huge carriage entrances in the middle of each block for horse drawn vehicles to enter. A typical flat would have three bedrooms, a sitting room with an open fire, a kitchen and an inside lavatory, which was an innovation for “model dwellings”.  Laundry could be  hung out to dry at the top of the buildings, and  milk  and coal were delivered.  The residents were  mainly in regular work with good wages and Charles Booth said it was the only model dwelling “in London in which I conceive life as bearable.”

A famous resident in the 1920s

Sylvia Hawkes, a lingerie model, Cochran dancer and actress,  and one of the loveliest  girls in London, was the daughter of Arthur Hawkes,  a livery stable employee who lived on the estate. On 2 February 1927, she married Lord Ashley, son and heir of the 9th Earl of Shaftesbury, much to the horror of his parents and the excitement of the Press. A few years later, she left him, having met film star Douglas Fairbanks Snr, then married to film star Mary Pickford.  In 1934, Lord Ashley sued for divorce, citing Fairbanks. Eventually Fairbanks and Pickford divorced, and Sylvia married Fairbanks in 1936. Fairbanks died at the beginning of the Second World War and left Sylvia the bulk of his estate. In 1941, she established a charity in Los Angeles to help refugees in the war. Her marriage to Edward, 6th Baron Stanley of Alderley, ended in divorce and then in 1949 she wed the film star Clark Gable.  This  marriage did not last long and finally she married Prince Dmitri Djordjadzo, and died in 1977.

Sylvia’s father, Arthur Hawkes still lived in Wharncliffe Gardens after the War, tired and sick and with a small pension; he had latterly been a porter in a block of flats and doorman at a restaurant.

The flying bomb incident 21 August 1944

33 people were killed, 38 were seriously wounded and 107 had minor injuries after the flying bomb cut out above the estate  on 21 August 1944.   It landed at 8.18 p.m.and by 8.45p.m. six heavy rescue parties, three light rescue units and ambulances had arrived. By nine o’clock, the first of 3 cranes, 12 skips and 17 tipping lorries had arrived plus listening apparatus and the last body was recovered at 8a.m. on 23 August. The WVS ran an enquiry bureau and provided facilities for workers and residents. Fifty flats were demolished and others were made uninhabitable.

Miss Madge Hunt, who lived on the ground floor with her mother and sister, left an account of her experiences:

My mother, sister and myself had not long had our dinner.  We were all sitting in the sitting room in the ground floor flat – at about 8 o’clock our flats had a direct hit from a flying bomb.  I ran to the side of the fireplace and my sister followed me when we heard the terrible screech of the bomb. The next thing I knew, I was pinned from my shoulders to my right arm across my chest, my left arm was free and I could just move that and was able to put it out at the side a little way.  It seemed a very long time and difficult for me to make a noise, as my mouth seemed full of debris, anyhow I made as much noise as I could and was greatly relieved when I felt somebody get hold of my hand.  He said he would come back.  After some time I could feel that the wall at the back of me was being loosened and I was able to move the top part of my body.  I was gradually dug out with the men taking turns to release me.  There was a doctor giving me attention, we were all in a very small space.  I had a drink through a tube and was given injections in my arm but was conscious all the time.  Finally I was hauled up by ropes, put in an ambulance and taken to Middlesex Hospital.

Her mother and sister were killed. Madge was in hospital until 21 December, but had to have her left foot amputated a year later and remained crippled for the rest of  her life. All the victims were buried at St Marylebone Cemetery, East Finchley, in a mass grave and a monument with all the names marks the grave. (WW2 Peoples War article A3489366)

(see also the website article Flying bomb at Wharncliffe Gardens)

Post War estate

All the flats had to be demolished after the War, and a new council estate was built in the late 1970s, with 4 storey blocks as a reaction to the, by then, unpopular tower blocks. There are 280 homes, 70 of which are suitable for the elderly. Those on the ground floor have their own front doors and there are small enclosures with some gardens and car parking. The estate was designed by GMW Partnership and the bricks are an unusual colour for London as there was a brick shortage nationally at the time and bricks had to be brought in from wherever was available.

 

 

 

 

This page was added on 20/03/2016.

Comments about this page

  • We lived in a flat in the rebuilt block of Wharncliffe Gdns, opposite the carpenters workshop, near one of the front gates.The spaces between the blocks were our play areas,and the slope along the railings,next to the canal,with the power station on the other side of the canal. I still remember some of my friends Steve McCarthy,David McCarthy,Bruce, and Gerry Winter. Steve, who wrote the first memories, did you spear your arm on the railings, while playing on the roof? – memories from another age.

    By Peter Saville (09/02/2018)
  • We first lived on the top floor of first main courtyard from Lisson Grove and then moved to 167 ground floor flat further along the block. Each block had white porcelain faced bricks (similar to old lavatory walls) all the way up to top floors with balconies between floors which we sometimes used as targets for ball throwing. The flats only had fireplaces for heating so when the coalman delivered, my parents had to remove the wooden draining board in the small kitchen to allow the sack of coal to be emptied into the coal shute, (coal dust everywhere). The coal was then shovelled from the hatch below when needed. The milkman “Wally” used to deliver by horse and cart and the horse always knew when to stop at each block. I was born in ’55 and have 3 sisters, 2 older and one younger, and between us we used to put on “shows” on the roof with other kids in the flats, there was always plenty to do to occupy us as kids, football, hide and seek, cricket, Queenie Anne (girls), Simon said and so on. Happy days😊

    By Steve McCarthy (27/10/2017)
  • Not quite a description of the Wharncliffe Gardens I remember living in. My grandparents lived at number 365 for over 30 years – leaving in 1966. One bedroom flat with kitchen and toilet – had left their ‘slum’ in St Anns Terrace and always talked about “getting their own Front Door”. Each block had a series of staircases with three flats on each floor – 5 stories. My parents lived with them when they first married,1951, moved to a shared house  in Notting Hill before returning to WG in 1957.  That was 2 blocks across, closer to Lisson Grove, at no. 147, the first entrance from the canal end,- front door opened onto a passageway (loo at end) where we had a kitchen dresser and cooker. Living room with sink, could be closed off with a sliding wooden door, and one bedroom.  In 1962 we moved “up the block” to no.191 -2 beds and a kitchen as well as a loo. My Mum was quite ill and asked to be rehoused in one of the new flats. Following the bombing in 1944 – whilst the destroyed blocks had been replaced our block had the end  closest to St Johns Wood Rd  rebuilt. In 1967 we moved to one of the new flats no. 228.  Top floor, end entrance 2 beds, living room, kitchen and bathroom. We stayed there until everyone was moved out when I was 17.My parents had a choice – Lisson Green, a highrise off Marylebone Rd or Blandford Sq, Harewood Ave  which is where we moved to in 1971.  Never met anyone who had a 3 bed flat in all the time we lived there.

    By Gina Sanderson (27/08/2016)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *