Wharncliffe Gardens

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

  • Hello,

    My family have lived on this estate since 1994, and I am sure you will be glad to know that my neighbours and I also grew up playing along the canal way and were some of the last children to use the infamous standalone yellow climbing frame in London’s “dullest” playground. I am super interested in everyone’s stories and I am hoping to conduct research on the history of the area around Edgware road. I would love if anyone who lived in the estate or nearby before the 1980s could reach out for a chat and to hear your stories in more detail!

    By Francesca Pearce (10/10/2023)
  • My great grandparents, James King and Clara Jane Ratcliffe, lived at 399 Wharncliffe Gardens in 1911 with their 3 children. The youngest being my Gran who was 11 at the time.
    He was a Constable with the Met. More than a century ago, doubt anybody on the group will have memories stretching that far back

    By Patricia Stern (02/10/2021)
  • Hi I’m Phil Defraine I lived in one of the blocks from 1965 till around 1973 and we were one of the very last to leave. I recall the name Peter Saville -I was 4 when we moved in – does anyone remember me? I have very fond memories of the estate including the Irving, Pherzackaly and Woods families.

    By phil defraine (07/08/2021)
  • Moved into 458 Wharncliffe Gdns with my mum and dad in 1950 when I was 5 years old. My dad worked for the railway. The flat consisted of living room with a corner used as a kitchen, one bedroom and a toilet. Around 1958 we all then moved into number 363 a flat with a living room, two bedrooms and a separate kitchen. This of course seemed like luxurious living to us. I went to Gateforth, North Paddington and Bell Street in Marylebone. I have some really great memories of living in Wharncliffe where I lived with my parents until 1971.

    By Ian Barnes (26/03/2021)
  • I lived there at no.103 with my parents in the 1960s until the early to mid 70s when I was still a child and we moved over to Lisson Green Estate across the road. My father was called Ronald Grange and my Mum was German and named Sigrid. My grandparents (Lawrence and Kathleen Grange) also lived there for some time before us. I went to Gateway nursery and primary school.
    I remember being bathed in the kitchen sink and playing on the roof where the washing was drying on sunny days and also used to play downstairs in the courtyard and along the canal. Very humble beginnings and life wasn’t easy but I have good memories from the old Wharncliffe.

    By Annette Grange (23/02/2021)
  • Annette, we would love you to write a piece about living there and your memories. Please do contact me on 07767786075. Jane Leaver

    By Jane Leaver (26/04/2021)
  • Hi, I am researching the life of my grandfather who lived in Wharncliffe Gardens as a boy. Can you please tell me where they were located by reference to the current flats that are now on the site. If you can please give me some present day road names to define the area then that would really help me to understand precisely where he grew up. MAny thanks

    By David Gray (26/12/2020)
  • Wharncliffe Gardens were built on a site that is bordered by Lisson Grove to the east, the canal to the south, Cunningham Place to the west and St Johns Wood Road to the north. There were 4 large block running north to south and at the crossroads of Lisson Grove and St Johns Wood Road there was an orphanage with two small blocks to the south. Henderson Drive and Pollitt Drive now run through the site and there is a path by the canal.

    By Bridget Clarke (29/12/2020)
  • We moved to Wharncliff Gardens about 1960, had a 2 bed flat at 341 and our auntie was in 518. We walked to St Vincent’s Primary School in Marylebone and moved to Lascelles House in Blandford Square when the flats were built.

    By Angela (22/11/2020)
  • Born in St Mary’s Paddington, I was Sandra Clark till I married. I lived in Wharncliffe Gardens from 1950 – 1968.First in no 521 opposite The Crown (spent many hours outside the pub with lemonade and Smiths crisps while mum and dad had a drink in there). Also used to pick mint at the artists studio next door to the pub if I remember rightly. Later moved round to no 61 opposite the church. My dad worked for the council (plumber) and part of his job was to walk round the flats at night to make sure all the lights were on in the blocks. His name was George Clark and us kids used to hide from him in the evening when we played on “The Boat” down by the canal, he was nicknamed “the lamp lighter” by us . Hide n seek up on the roofs, rounders and two balls always being played in the back yards (always being told off too haha). There was a big group of us. I remember Linda and Helen McCarthy, Alan Drinkwater and Anne and Sue to name a few. Gateforth and Sarah Siddons were our schools. I later went on to work at Abbey National Baker Street with Linda and Helen…what a small world !!

    By Sandra Mary Dawe (15/10/2020)
  • I saw a post from May 2020 from Michael Garcia who lived in 361 Wharncliffe Gardens . I was born in that flat in November 1960 . My parents Breda and Patrick O Callaghan , my brothers and sister had previously lived at no. 244. Michael do you have any photos? I remember we had no bath so we were lined up on kitchen worktops for a wash with a flannel and had occasional baths in a tin bath in front of the fire . All our washing was on the roof, and kids all playing between the blocks.

    By Annette O'Callaghan (21/07/2020)
  • My grandparents and mother, whose surname was Breed, lived at 276 until the bombing.

    By Denis Newell (01/07/2020)
  • My Nan and grandad live here for much of their lives after being bombed out of their first home. When my parents married, they lived there as well and my eldest brother was born there. After moving to their own home, Mum went on to have three more children before we all moved to Harold Hill, Romford. I remember visiting Nan and granddad regularly and always knew we were nearly there when we passed the George and Dragon memorial. My granddad would carry me on his shoulders and take me and my siblings to the park and Zoo. As we got older we would play in the spaces in the courtyard, and take walks along the Regent Canal. I have a lot of fond memories of that place. When it was demolished my grandparents got one of the new flats, but only stayed for 10 years or so because of the amount of crime and other problems on the estate. I still remember a lot of the people and friends we made in the old flats. My Nan and grandad were Mr and Mrs Varney.

    By Andy Smith (27/06/2020)
  • I was born at number 451 and then moved to 361 Wharncliffe. I remember my friends fondly. I remember going to the rent office with the book to pay rent when my mum was ill, and the lack of bath and a tiny kitchen. I also moved to Blandford Sq Harewood Avenue as did many others from Wharncliffe. i remember playing around the old trees that are still there.

    By Michael garcia (08/05/2020)
  • My Grandparents resided in Wharncliffe Gardens firstly at 485, then they moved to 408, the flat I remember on the fourth Floor and finally as they grew older they moved to 234. I was born at St Mary’s Hospital W2 as my parents were living at 515. My Grandparents were Herbert ( Bert) and Florence ( Flo) Weathetherhead, my grandfather was on the works team and I remember his office in the basement of one of the blocks.

    By graham thompson (14/04/2020)
  • I lived in WG with my two sister Denise and Gillian (I’m Sue) at 145 then later 167 in the 1950s. Our surname was Nicholson. Friends I remember were Lorraine and Marcel Curtis, I remember my big sister’s friend Anne Allen and Sandra, Helen Mcarthey. I lived there until my mum was killed in a road accident in 1963. Gateforth and Gateway were our schools, Sarah Siddons for Denise. Fond memories of all the kids playing rumours together or playing on “the boat” 😊

    By Sue Tuminting (née Nicholson) (24/07/2019)
  • I remember you Steven – I used to be very friendly with your two elder sisters. Our mums were best friends. We lived on a different block to you though when we moved there in 1955 when I was 3 – firstly a one-bedroomed flat and then when my siblings arrived we were given two-bedroom. Tin bath on a shelf in the 6ft x 6ft kitchen. Remember my mum heating the water in her washing machine and pumping the water into the bath – it was emptied with a big saucepan. Regents Canal, which was teeming with rats, ran along the end of the rows. Happy days they were – couldn’t remember children of different ages – everyone included even if you were only 4 – all playing rounders together now! I went to Gateforth then Gateway primary school – our school merged with Rossway. Left London at 14 for a house with a proper kitchen and bathroom. Still here and settled with family.

    By Ann Allan (05/04/2019)
  • I lived at 67 Wharncliffe Gardens as a child 1958-1968. The yards, rooftops and the canal towpath from Little Venice east to the zoo were our everyday playgrounds as well as the church across Lisson Grove which had a crypt and a graveyard. A rite of passage was to sneak out of the flat after dark and spend some time alone down there, in the crypt. The nearest playground was in St Johns Wood church gardens. Other favourite haunts were Primrose Hill, Regents Park and Paddington Rec. I remember when Goldie the Golden Eagle busted out of the zoo in 1965 and roosted on top of the lamp post under my bedroom window for a spell. Thanks for this thread, it brings back some sweet memories of childhood

    By Terry Murphy (05/09/2018)
  • I was actually born in 211 Wharncliffe Gardens in June 1967 before moving to Bedford in late 1969. My parents had originally lived in 206 before moving upstairs (presumably for extra room) when my elder brothers arrived in the late 50s. They both worked for the railways when they married and got the flat through that.

    By Colin Jones (30/08/2018)
  • I lived in Wharncliffe Gardens from 1952 -1957, firstly at #449 top floor one bedroom on Cunningham Place. Then when when my brother was born in 1955 we were moved to a ground floor flat, #512 further down the same block opposite The Crown pub. My dad was a fireman and later a driver out of Paddington. I have wonderful memories from my childhood there and can still remember the names of my friends who lived there and attended Gateforth Street School (I was seven when we were re-housed in 1957). I remember all us kids riding our scooters up and down the slopes by the railings beside the canal. A big treat was my dad taking me up on the roof on his “rest day”. I was fascinated that you could walk among the chimney pots and through gates from one end of block to the other! I cannot remember any three bedroom flats either. Ours was one bedroom where my brother and I slept (and my Dad slept there when he was working nights). and my Mum and Dad slept on the put-u-up couch in the living room. Saturday was bath night and we all bathed in the tin bath on the tiny kitchen floor with water heated on the stove in saucepans by my Mum!

    By Maureen Burns (nee Janes) (05/08/2018)
  • Gina, we lived on the top floor number 470 of the block closest to Cunningham Place, one bedroom, no bath, no kitchen,- just a hatch in the hall.
    I remember the roof and the lovely view down to Little Venice, always felt very posh- the view that is but I was just 4 when we moved in. We moved to Harewood Avenue -Blandford Square, in 1970 and my mum still lives there.

    By Penny Baker (01/08/2018)
  • Hi Peter, hope you’re keeping well. Yes you’re right, I did spear my upper arm on the roof top railings (good memory). We used to have a fast- track access to Paddington Green Children’s Hospital back in those days. I guess it was because we were always out and about.

    By Steven McCarthy (03/07/2018)
  • 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)

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