The Estates

The term ‘housing estate’ conjures up different images to different people, depending on what kind of estates they are familiar with. It covers all sorts of urban developments, from the exclusive and expensive – with large properties and lots of green space – to the council-built concrete high-rise where space might be very limited.

It comes from an older use of the word ‘estate’, which meant a large area of rural land owned often by a single very rich family, typically with a sizeable house to match. By appropriating this word, housing developers presumably hoped that some of its lustre would rub off on their own projects.

Archibald Corbett aimed his housing estates predominantly at the mid market – specifically at a new class of Clerks who were needed in large numbers to do office jobs in the rapidly expanding city of London. He called his company ‘The Corbett Estates’, and it was run from offices in Sloane Square in the centre of London. Over a period of about 40 years, he developed seven huge housing estates in London, which totalled around 10,000 houses. It all started in Forest Gate in east London, where his father Thomas bought some land near the station and started building. He died before the project was completed, but young Archibald took up the reins.

This was followed by developments in nearby Ilford, Catford/Hither Green, and Eltham.