London 1978


River Thames & Chelsea from Battersea, Battersea, Wandworth, 1978
14l41: wandsworth, river, thames, battersea, tug, barges, power station, works, flats

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In this view from Battersea Bridge looking upstream two towers of the World's End Estate and the chimneys of Lots Road Power station, then supplying power for the Underground, are clearly visible. THis site is now being redeveloped to plans by Terry Farrell as Chelsea Waterfront. The lighter building to the right of the chimneys is the Chelsea Flour Mill, parts of which has been demolished thou some warehouses hardly visible in this image beyond remain as a part of Chelsea Wharf, a mixed development on Lots Rd.
To the left of the power station there is a view of a gasholder at Sands End. None of the other buildings remain and the area around Chelsea Basin is now Chelsea Harbour, with the reduced size basin becoming a marina for the owners of the luxury flats and hotel residents around it. Planning permission for the 'millionaires' Toytown' was granted and work began there in 1986 and it provided a memorable locale for J G Ballard's 2003 novel 'Millennium People'.
The design for the World's End tower blocks was commissioned by the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea from Eric Lyons in 1963, but work only began, then under the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in 1969 with the first residents only moving into the blocks in 1972, and the estate was only completed the year before I made this picture. The design of this ‘village style living in the heart of London’ was for a density of 250 people per acre, almost double the LCC's limit; the council argued this was needed to rehouse those who would be moved out of the 11 acre site of closely packed Victorian housing, and their appeal was allowed. The 7 towers are linked by low rise blocks with walkways in a plan of two rectangles with towers at all but one corner, which links to the corner of a second rectangle by a low block; the towers and low rise links contain a roughly equal number of the 750 homes.
Slated by critics when built, World's End has become one of the more successful council estates and a desirable place to live. Over three quarters of the homes are still council-owned and flats seldom come on the market with 2-bed flats selling for around £500,000.