Swanpool Garden Suburb

Description

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  • Overview
    Swanpool Garden Suburb is a rare example of a Garden City style suburb of the early 20th Century and is also an important example of early social housing in Lincoln built by private enterprise. As all the houses were constructed in a short period in the same Arts and Crafts architectural style, the area has a coherent townscape with a strong rhythm. Short rows facing on to corners give added emphasis in some areas and the rows and semi-detached houses are on an almost continuous building line. There is repetition of materials, style and scale although detailing and some elements of form vary on individual houses. The main architectural details include tall chimneys, steep roofs, small windows, upper windows immediately below eaves, rendered frontages in pastel colours and projecting stringcourses. In keeping with Garden City ideals the area has a leafy appearance with mature trees, grass verges and large gardens separated from the public domain by hedges of varying heights.
  • Historical Development
    Swanpool Garden Suburb has a unified townscape, designed and built over a short period of time during the Inter-War Period and is an important and rare example of the Garden City Movement of the early Twentieth Century. Post-WWI housing in Britain was heavily influenced by the Tudor Walters Report of 1918 which had set out guidance on housing standards including the recommendation of a standard housing type with two storeys and at least 3 bedrooms, to be set no more than 12 houses to the acre in the Garden City style. The Garden City Movement had developed from the Arts and Crafts movement around the end of the 19th century and emphasised healthy living in a semi-rural environment. In Lincoln the St. Giles Estate and Swanpool Garden Suburb were planned according to these principles. Colonel J.S. Ruston, a director of Ruston and Hornby engineering, attended a lecture given by Mr Culpin of the Garden City and Town Planning Association and was inspired to create a garden suburb in Lincoln – the Swanpool Garden Suburb. He purchased 25 acres of the Boultham Hall estate and established the Swanpool Co-operative Society with the houses being built between April 1919 and September 1920 to designs by architects Hennell and James of London. The vision for the new suburb included the construction of a pleasure ground, cricket ground, technical institute, church, schools and swimming baths, offering easy access to healthy outdoor recreation for the working population. After running into financial difficulties the development was sold in 1925 to Swanpool Garden Suburb Ltd, a private company, but only 113 of the planned 2-3000 houses had been constructed and no more were built. Houses in the scheme were to be affordable for the city’s industrial workers.
     
    The Arts and Crafts style of architecture placed a strong emphasis on regional vernacular architecture and exaggerated ‘traditional’ elements such as tall chimneys and steeply pitched roofs both of which can be seen at Swanpool. Other typical architectural elements of Arts and Crafts visible in the development include small windows, asymmetrical facades, overhanging eaves, bay windows, heavy rendering and recessed doorways. Financial considerations affected the design of the houses at Swanpool. Single houses were avoided as they cost more to construct while a lack of sufficient quantities of cheap, good quality facing bricks led to the use of Fletton bricks (unsuitable for use as finishing bricks) and roughcast while detailing on facades was restricted to door surrounds. Arts and Crafts is the only 20th-century style of architecture with its own style of garden design, and this is an integral part of the Swanpool development with its large gardens, foliage growing over buildings, grass verges with mature trees and the planting of hedges instead of boundary walls. Existing elm trees were augmented by the planting of cherry, laburnum and hawthorn trees while hedges were beech, privet or yew.
     Typical architectural elements of Arts and Crafts visible in the development include small windows, asymmetrical facades, overhanging eaves, heavy rendering and tall chimneys. The property is located on Hartsholme Drive.
    Figure 1 Typical architectural elements of Arts and Crafts visible in the development include small windows, asymmetrical facades, overhanging eaves, heavy rendering and tall chimneys
     
    Although the houses are the key characteristic of Swanpool Garden Suburb it is still possible to discern earlier elements in the townscape. The line of Skellingthorpe Road may date from the High Medieval Era and was part of the road from the medieval settlement at Bracebridge to Skellingthorpe. Pre-1886 field boundaries form the northern and western boundaries of the Character Area. The boundary to the west was the boundary of Hartsholme Hall Estate while that to the north may represent a survival of part of the layout of the fields of the Boultham Hall Estate.
     
    Importantly, since the garden suburb was built, there has been limited change in the townscape. Most of the houses retain their original materials including wooden doors although many have been fitted with uPVC windows in a variety of styles out of keeping with the style, materials and scale of the originals. Almond Court was originally laid out in the late 1920s as an access road to tennis courts, the site of which is now occupied by housing on Almond Court and some front gardens have been removed in order to accommodate off-street parking. Since 1967 numbers 67 – 77 Hartsholme Drive have had their back gardens increased in size, taking them up to the field boundary to the west.
  • Urban form
    Swanpool Garden Suburb has a coherent townscape formed by the houses, which, although varied in terms of detailing and building footprint, are unified in terms of scale, height (two storeys) and, most importantly, architectural style, including significant elements such as roofline and window size. The area includes Almond Avenue, Hartsholme Drive, Cherry Grove and Westwood Close and part of the north side of Skellingthorpe Road.
     
    One of the most distinctive elements repeated throughout the Character Area is the steeply pitched clay tiled roof with varying eaves heights, varying windows and projections at some corners with substantial brick chimneys and overhanging eaves, which give the area a strong roofscape. Many of the houses have short projecting extensions. There is a variety of house types within the area including semi-detached and rows of houses but all are two storeys in height and none are detached. All the houses have solid brick walls and are rendered in roughcast and painted in various pastel shades. Windows are generally small but vary in style and include many examples of the dormers and bay windows that are typical Arts and Crafts features. The small windows give an overall high solid-to-void ratio and provide strong repeating rhythms throughout the Character Area. Façade detailing is limited to slightly projecting string courses and lintels, exposed brick courses and plain architraves with classically derived door surrounds.
     The Arts and Crafts style of architecture placed a strong emphasis on regional vernacular architecture and exaggerated ‘traditional’ elements such as tall chimneys and steeply pitched roofs
    Figure 2 The Arts and Crafts style of architecture placed a strong emphasis on regional vernacular architecture and exaggerated ‘traditional’ elements such as tall chimneys and steeply pitched roofs
     
    All houses face on to the street and the almost continuous building line, small spaces between houses, relatively wide frontages and regular doorways and windows result in active street frontages throughout the area. The houses are set well back from the public/private boundary.
     
    The two rows of houses at the corner of Almond Avenue and Skellingthorpe Road provide an impressive gateway to the suburb although they continue the same height and scale as the rest of the buildings in the area. Front gardens are relatively small with hedges and gates facing on to the footpath. There is a broad horizontal emphasis in the Character Area with the strong roofscape and eaves line, the rendered walls, rows of small windows, especially below the eaves as well as the hedges. However, confined views close to the buildings can give a vertical emphasis with details such as the steep roofs, chimneys and some projecting two storey gabled extensions.
     Rows of houses at the corner of Almond Avenue/Skellingthorpe Road provide an impressive gateway to the suburb even though they are the same scale as the other buildings
    Figure 3 Rows of houses at the corner of Almond Avenue/Skellingthorpe Road provide an impressive gateway to the suburb even though they are the same scale as the other buildings
     
    The topography of the area is flat with tarmac streets of two-cars’ width laid out in a straight pattern with one strong curved corner. The block structure is long and narrow and impermeable plot boundaries to the north and west of the area provide a boundary that effectively restricts access to the Character Area to that via Skellingthorpe Road. Skellingthorpe Road is a busy main road and provides the link from the Character Area to the rest of the city. The rest of the area is made up of quiet, relatively wide residential streets, with one residential square, a cul-de-sac and some pedestrian footpaths crossing the blocks to provide access to garages. There is a strong sense of enclosure created by the tall hedges, mature trees planted along the streets, steeply pitched roofs and a building line which generally only has small gaps between houses. The trees, hedges, wide grass verges, front gardens and large narrow rear gardens give the area a leafy, peaceful atmosphere. The only open public space is the grassed area at Westwood Close which was formerly larger but is now partly used for parking.
     
    As the majority of houses do not have garages there are many cars parked on the streets, but there is little vehicular through-traffic away from Skellingthorpe Road where there is a high volume of traffic throughout the day. There is some pedestrian activity during the day. Original lampposts are still in situ as are cast-iron utility covers.
  • Views
    The steep pitched roofs and tall chimneys give a strong roofscape that can be seen from both within and outside the Character Area. The views along the streets provide an excellent impression of the Garden Suburb/Arts and Crafts architectural style and streetscape design. There is an exceptional vista from the track at the end of Hartsholme Drive across open fields and trees, low level industrial buildings and graduating rooflines up hill towards the Cathedral. The wide skyline is punctuated by the Cathedral, the observatory tower on the Castle, Westgate water tower and Mill Road windmill.
  • Condition of Buildings and Streetscape
    The overall condition of the buildings and streetscape is very good, with the majority of original features retained, although some gardens have been removed and replaced by hard surfaced areas for car parking and many properties have been fitted with replacement uPVC windows in a wide variety of styles which are out of keeping with the style, materials and scale of the originals.
  • Use

    The area is entirely residential.

  • Relationship to City and Surrounding Areas
    There are good pedestrian and vehicle links to the neighbouring residential localities to the north east along the continuous residential local road layout. Access to the rest of the city is limited to the entrance to the Character Area from Skellingthorpe Road. There is access to the rural landscape to the north from a gate at the end of Hartsholme Drive.
  • Key Townscape Characteristics
    ·           Quiet, wholly residential suburb
    ·          Rare example of a Garden City style suburb of the early 20th Century
    ·          Coherent townscape with strong rhythm
    ·          ‘Leafy’ appearance with hedges, gardens, grass verges and mature trees along the roads are dominant features of the townscape in keeping with Garden City ideals
    ·          Unity in style and period of houses with some alterations
    ·          Main architectural details repeated throughout Character Area include tall chimneys, steep roofs, small windows, upper windows immediately below eaves, rendered frontages in pastel colours and projecting string courses
    ·          Many replacement windows out of keeping with originals
    ·          Rows and semi-detached houses along almost continuous building line
    ·          Short rows facing corners gives added emphasis in some areas
    ·          Isolated from rest of town except via entrance on to Skellingthorpe Road
    ·          Connection to nearby rural landscape through gate at end of Hartsholme Drive