The area known as the Townsend Lane Estate in the nineteen sixties was built by George Wimpey and Sons. It embodies Barns Dene, Pondwick Road, Claygate Avenue, the north side of Townsend Lane and a small part of Broadfields. Wimpey had put in planning applications for a variety of brick built houses in 1959, all to be detached with four bedrooms and generous plots.
The site consisted of several parcels of land. Adjacent to the Nickey Line was Claygate Orchard which closed in 1955 after two poor seasons. Between the orchard and Townsend Lane, which was just a rough track, was pasture where cows grazed. Next to it ponies occupied a shallow valley draining down to a pond which no doubt gave Pondwick Road its name. A few old barns were scattered along the valley and at the far end of the site was a mushroom farm where Broadfields is now. The entrance to the mushroom farm is still marked by a five barred gate near 36 Townsend Lane but the track has long gone. Owners of the houses built on this part of the site had mushrooms coming up in their gardens for years.
In the north east corner the land had belonged to the Shrubberies a large house at the top of Moreton End Lane. Four green prefabricated huts stood there among the mud where Claygate Avenue now joins Alders End Lane. They were left over from the wartime evacuation of the offices of the Friends Provident Company to the grounds of the Shrubberies, which was the home of the Company Secretary. They were demolished in 1962. All that remains to be seen of their occupation is a brick and slate toilet block. It now (1) serves as an annexe to the house on the corner of Claygate Avenue and Alders End Lane which was made up when the final part of the estate was developed. The last three houses in Claygate Avenue and those on the east side of Pondwick Road stand on former Shrubberies land. Mrs. Bea Spring who moved into Pondwick Road in 1964 remembers digging the garden and coming across concrete foundations where heavy safes belonging to the Friends Provident had stood. The boundary between Claygate Orchard and the Shrubberies appears to have run from the side of 31 Claygate Avenue down the west side of Pondwick Road and along the northern boundary of Barns Dene’s back gardens to the back of 5 Broadfields.
The scene began to change in 1960 when building started on the Townsend Lane and Barns Dene section together with five houses in Broadfields. Wimpey’s offered at least twelve different designs some with a choice of wood or tile cladding. Mrs. Gill Mulley who moved into 5 Claygate Avenue in 1962 gave some of the original sales brochures to the history society. They list features including central heating, woodblock flooring, Hygena kitchen units and pink bathroom suites complemented by black tiles. Among the extras available were concrete paths at £0.6.0d per foot, a concrete clothes post at £2.5.0d and additional power points at £4.0.0d each, A standard fireplace was fitted or for buyers wanting their own choice an allowance of £10 was made. Some properties had integral garages while others came with the garage as an optional extra. The houses proved so popular that the plots were reduced in size as more were fitted in. By 1965 the estate was complete. Red bricks covered the site and the rural scene was no more.
Now (2018) a second transformation is taking place. Most of the houses have alterations of some sort. Porches have been glazed to provide shelter for the front doors. Garages, no longer large enough to accommodate modern cars, have been converted into living space. Many houses have major extensions, some built right out to the boundaries of the plots, providing as many as seven bedrooms. Loft conversions incorporating dormer windows allow more room for bedrooms, extra bathrooms and studies for those who work at home. Solar panels now dominate some rooftops reflecting changing environmental priorities. Several houses have been demolished and rebuilt on a much larger scale some incorporating a third floor others a basement. The area is no longer a uniform estate. Looking at them it is not easy to identify the types they once were but with the help of the original brochures it is possible to sort most of them out. Less than a dozen houses remain unaltered.
(1) The former toilet block was rebuilt as a garage to 4 Alders End Lane in c.2020.
There is a gallery of the whole Townsend Lane estate
Photographs of houses which still show the original house types are shown below. Ed: We apologise that the new layout of our website makes it difficult to group the pictures and Wimpey catalogue designs meaningfully.
27 Barns Dene
13 Claygate AVenue
On a separate page is a gallery of images, with notes on their house-type and comments on alterations, or rebuilding.