TQ 1771 PARKLEYS, HAM COMMON
22/23/10052 1-14 Marlowe Court
Four blocks, set round a courtyard, one of six flats, one of two flats and two of three flats. 1954-5 by Eric Lyons for Bargood Estates Ltd, subsequently Span Developments Ltd; Geoffrey Paulson Townsend developer, G Scoble project architect, Wates builders. Brick cross- and partition walls, concrete, 'Eternit' block and tile hanging. Flat felted roofs. Brick stack near each end of each block. Two storeys. Courtyard formation, Nos. 1-3 linked at corners with Spenser Court (q.v.), Nos. 4-14 linked in U-formation, nos. 4-14 linked also with Brooke Court (q.v.). All long facades have full-width timber windows with three square lights per bay, some with top-opening casements, the storeys divided by tile hanging. Nos. 1-3 of six bays, first floor of eastern two bays supported on stilts and end crosswall over open ground floor. Next bay has entrance to side with plate glass windows: two vertical-light windows and louvres to main facades, north facade with normal tile hanging and glazing to first floor. Adjacent bays have on south facade two deeper windows divided at sill level and window boxes; on rear facade these bays have central blind panel. Bays at west end also have one light blind, with windows in western wall to flats 1 and 2. Nos. 4-6 similar but of five bays, having only one bay open at ground floor. Glass half-screens to Nos. 1-3 and Nos. 4-6 Flat 6 has window in southern wall. Nos. 7-10 of eight bays. Entrance and stairs in fourth bay from east, with plate glass window to right of entrance on north (courtyard) facade, with vertical two-light window and louvres over. Similar window and louvres to ground floor of south facade, normal glazing above. Flanking bays, and that at west end, have to south two deeper windows divided at sill level and with window boxes, and tripartite windows to north. The other bays each have one blind light; flat no. 9 has one window in its eastern wall. Entrance to stairs screened by timber screen with numbers inset at dado height. Nos. 13-14 of four bays. Entrance to Nos. 11-14 in south end, with two-bay four-light windows of full height above and to side. South bay of west facade with vertical two-light window and louvres to each storey, adjacent bay with two deeper windows divided at sill level and with window boxes, other bays with single lights blind. East (courtyard) facade of three bays, that to south with one blind light and two in tripartite composition, end bay with central blind light. All the stairs are of terrazzo, with steel balustrading inset with timber panel to first flight and to first-floor landing. Nos. 1-3 have doors to stores with green glass, Nos.4-6 with blue, Nos. 7-10 with green, Nos. 11-14 with blue. Interiors originally had timber floors and had some had sliding living room partitions, but have not been inspected.
Marlowe Court is the central and one of the most complex courtyard groups in the Parkleys Estate, the first, largest and perhaps the most influential of Lyons's schemes for Span. Eric Lyons and Geoffrey Townsend met in the late 1930s and renewed their partnership after wartime service. They developed a number of small private developments in the south-west London and north Surrey border, until in 1954 Townsend set himself up as a developer and was forced to give up his RIBA membership. This is their first mature work, and their first as Span Developments Ltd. It is on the site of a nursery, and the blocks of flats were carefully laid out so that existing trees were kept, and the nursery stock and its gardener were taken over as part of the development. It is laid out as a series of cul-de-sacs, with many blocks set out in pedestrian quadrangles. The combinatiton of two- and three-storey blocks is distinctive to Parkleys, while that of brick and tile hanging was repeated subsequently in Span works, particularly at Blackheath. Their mixture of old materials used in a modern manner makes for a particularly humane environment which was much admired. Lyons's squares and terraces were a modern vernacular answer to the Georgian tradition of central London, set in lush suburban landscaping but at such relatively high densities (about eighty persons per acre) that Span were frequently in dispute with planning authorities. Parkleys was developed for first-time buyers, and Span was one of the first companies to promote the endowment mortgage. It is also the first example of the system of residents' management companies set up by Span which has kept most of their developments in such exceptional condition. Each leaseholder contributes to the funding of paid maintenance staff, and is a member of the management company that runs the estate. Eric Lyons was admired for 'bridging the gap' between speculative work and the creativity most architects of his generation only found in the public sector. 'Twenty years ago he would have been regarded as barely respectable, today he is important. He may even come to be looked back upon as a key figure' (Architectural Review, February 1959). And so this has proved. The opportunity to work in such a close partnership with a sympathetic developer enabled Lyons to pursue his own ideas in materials, layout and design. Yet the blocks had to be simple, for 'the architect has to design and organise so that buildings can be produced at the same cost as a builder's scheme providing the same accommodation', or so Townsend told the Architects' Journal (20 January 1955).
Listing NGR: TQ1794571649