Moving into the Wates Estate in 1965 – by David Williams

When my job was moved to Gunnersbury, the office block over Gunnersbury Station, we decided it was time to try and buy a house and we finished up almost accidentally in Ham, we wanted a modern house, we didn’t have a lot of money and we didn’t like the 1930s or the older stuff.  Both us had grown up in 1930s houses and almost by accident we moved to the Wates Estate in Ham.  This was a relatively new development, we must have been one of the first second owners, the house we bought was only 18 months old and we moved in there in December 1966 while the estate was still unfinished.  The estate was started, I believe, at the Southern End in Simpson Road in December 1962, or that was when the first flats and maisonettes were occupied and it finished in 1967 or 1968 at the Northern end by Riverside Drive in Perryfield Way.  So Breamwater Gardens where we were, about half way between the two, that house had been first occupied in March 1965, we bought it in September, or agreed to buy it, and we moved in in December.

The Wates Estates then was basically starter homes for young marrieds, a very young population, a lot of children, people very much of a similar outlook as well as age.  The social life on the Wates Estate was quite active, there were lots of parties, especially in the summer, we would have open air parties on the open spaces at the back of the Wates Estate.

The social life on the Wates Estate was quite active, there were lots of parties, especially in the summer, we would have open air parties on the open spaces at the back of the Wates Estate.  The Wates Estate has very small gardens and plenty of open amenity space which was very good.  But an awful lot of people moved from there, the turnover was enormous to start with.  In the first two years we lived there in the square in Breamwater Gardens, ten of the twenty houses changed hands and the next ten changes were probably a dozen years later, it was that different as it stabilised.

We eventually moved to Petersham, we thought we might live on the Wates Estate for a couple of years but we were there for over 20 and moved a mile away to a house in Petersham, and in a typical blinkered way that people think about things, I was absolutely determined not to live near a main road and I wanted to have the same orientation of the house facing West or South-West that we’d had because we so much liked it in Breamwater Gardens with the small patio overlooking the Ham Lands and Riverside Drive.  There was really only one road in the whole of Ham and Petersham which I was determined to stay in having already been a Councillor for some years which was Arlington Road on the West side overlooking Bull Meadow the detached playing field for Grey Court School.  Of course after we moved in with a standard fairly large 1930s house with a standard fairly large 1930s garden we realised it didn’t make any difference at all which way round the house was because you get the sun into the garden in a completely different way than in the little patio we’d had in Breamwater Gardens.

The socio-economic changes had made a considerable difference to Ham and Petersham in that what had been the council estates with about 40% of the housing in Ham and Petersham, at least two-thirds of this has been sold, and the people that buy the ex-council house or flat are generally middle class who can’t afford anything more expensive because it tends to be cheaper, though it’s still not cheap outside the prices in the south-east and the more expensive houses go up and up in price.