The Montalt Villas in Montalt Road, the first houses built on The Highams Estate in 1897 were substantial semi-detached properties designed by John Dunn, FRIBA and overlooked the park. Set over three storeys, each had six bedrooms, three reception rooms, a kitchen, scullery, pantry and servants' W.C.
Detached and semi-detached houses
Following the Montalt Villa's lack of success, Land Law Building Department Ltd. decided to develop more modest dwellings to occupy the remaining estate grounds.
Comprising of larger semi-detached on the periphery, smaller semis in the park itself, and detached on most corners and junctions, they were available in ten "types", ranging in price from £1,000 to £3,000.
The largest types offered two reception rooms, a day nursery, five bedrooms and a large kitchen and bathroom.
Semi-detached types were designed and built in pairs. They were predominantly symmetrical, set as pavilion forms, with views in between to reveal mature trees and woodland.
Their design largely eschewed the modernist design revolution that was taking place in architecture at the time, predominantly influenced by the earlier Arts and Crafts style, presumably to appeal to a wider market.
Like Montalt Villas, these houses enjoyed high levels of craftsmanship and attention to detail using British materials. In truth, as there were so many types and modifications that prospective buyers could make, most buildings were unique.
Housing design "types"
Purchasers were entitled to modify these layouts or have a complete house built to their specifications. For example, 20 Nesta Road was built as a special commission by the Law Land Building department for V, elder brother of Lucian Ercolani, the founder of the furniture company Ercol. 19 Crealock Grove, shown at the top of this page and known as Pepperpots, was built for The Estate Manager and remains remarkably well preserved. It was the subject of a photographic study by HRA in 2022.
Construction materials and design
If you wish to preserve the features of your home on The Estate, the HRA offers free advice on these matters. Speak to us to learn more.
Walls: constructed from hand-made British facing bricks, with cement mortar joints wiped flush. All facing bricks were made in local brickfields within the former grounds of the manor house. The first floor was pebble dashed (left unpainted), although some detached houses were not rendered. Some types had Tudorbethan timber detail on the upper floors.
Roofing: clad in hand-made British red clay tiles with sloping gable ends, fixed with cement mortar. Gables featured wide, dominant symmetrical chimneys with distinctive brick detail, with a more modest chimney stack for the back boiler in the kitchen. Distinctive Tudorbethan timber detail was used for gables.
Windows: vertical and bay windows are a universal feature. Made from oak and painted cream and green, colours synonymous with Warner developments. They featured unique and intricate stained glass designs combined with leaded diamond patterns. Ironmongery was made from solid brass.
Doors: front doors were made of solid oak and available in several designs with cast ironmongery. They would have been varnished rather than painted. Many of them remain and are extremely valuable. French doors provided garden access from the rear reception room.
Gardens: generous front and rear gardens were provided, accessed via wooden swing gates, with some trees retained from the original manor house grounds. Front boundaries were enclosed by sawn oak fencing to a height of 2ft 6in, although some were made from stone. Rear fences were sawn oak to a height of around 5ft.
Drive and pathways: brick herringbone surface accessed from single or double wooden swing gates.
Garages: semi-detached or detached garages had hinged wooden doors complete with obscure glazing, made from brick with pitched tiled roofs. Some had windows and separate entrance doors.
Floors: made from pitch pine, these would have been stained in a dark brown and rugs laid on top. Hallways featured narrow oak strip flooring, and the kitchen and bathroom floors were tiled.
Bathrooms: all homes had an internal bathroom on the first floor, comprising a sink and square-topped porcelain enamelled bath, with enamelled slate front and ends. Fittings were chromium-plated. A chromium-plated towel airer was connected to the hot water service. The WC was usually located next to it, in a separate room. Most had an additional WC downstairs. They were tiled in white, up to dado height, with a contrasting black round cap.
Kitchens: these were fitted but basic and relatively small by today’s standards. They came with an Easiwork dresser, and a draining board fixed next to the sink, with a cupboard underneath. There was space for a coal or coke-fuelled back boiler. Most had a larder.
Staircases: feature a distinctive, octagonal newel post design connecting the handrails, made from solid oak, with panels or spindles in pine.
Doors: six-panelled designs in softwood, either with oval bakelite finger plates and round door knobs or solid brass door handles with rectangular finger plates.
Carpentry: hallways, reception rooms and bedrooms had picture rails. Oak panelling could be specified. Skirting and architraves were in an “ovolo” design. The architraves feature an elegant rectangular join with the skirting. The woodwork was painted. All joinery was carried out on-site by hand.
Fireplaces: reception rooms featured colourful tiled hearths and fire surround, with a large hardwood mantlepiece made of oak (drawing room) and mahogany (dining room). Bedrooms were heated by gas stoves in bedrooms one and two, with decorative tiled surrounds.
This leaflet was produced by Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow, detailing the architectural character of The Estate in more depth.
The following photos were taken during or just after completion. These were likely the earliest houses built, located on The Charter Road, the first road to be built during the second phase of development.