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A Township Complete in Itself: The London County Council Architects and the Building of Becontree, 1919–34

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 November 2022


Between the first and second world wars, the London County Council (LCC) provided 82,000 working-class cottages and flats, of which 25,000 were built on the vast Becontree estate in the east of the metropolis. With these immense housing operations in hand, the LCC drastically increased its technical and administrative staff, becoming one of the largest municipal housing authorities in the world. This article sheds light on the organisation and functioning of the LCC Architect’s Department through analysis of the Becontree estate. Despite the extensive literature on municipal housing in the inter-war years, the council’s own architects during this period have remained almost entirely unknown. Contrary to the widespread preconception of the ‘official architect’, the LCC Architect’s Department evaluated and revised its organisational structure and managed to maintain a remarkable variety and complexity in its urbanistic approach — despite the overarching principles of standardisation and simplification, and despite its limited influence in relation to other departments within the LCC. Analysis of archival sources reveals the identity of these official architects and questions whether the organisational structure of the LCC Architect’s Department as a bureaucracy was reflected in the character of its housing estates.

Research Article
© The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 2022

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