Golden Lane Estate – London

Something of an iconic, totemic, pin-up poster boy/girl for the Modernists, I bumped into you one rainy day, on the way from here to there. Initially attracted by an unexpectedly bright slab of primrose yellow and white.

Golden Lane was developed in the early 1950s to create local housing for essential workers in the City of London, following the devastation of the Blitz. At the time only around 500 people actually lived in the City of London so the estate was deliberately designed with small units to house single people and couples comprised of the broad social and professional mix needed to support the local community. 554 units were built of which 359 were studios and one bedroomed flats; the remainder were maisonettes and early tenants included caretakers, clergymen, doctors, police offices, cleaners and secretaries. Today there are approximately 1,500 people living on the estate in 559 flats and maisonettes. 

Golden Lane was commissioned from architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon by the City of London Corporation (which still manages it) and built on bombed sites previously occupied by small businesses and industries. Some of the basement areas of the former buildings were retained as sunken areas of landscaping. Building took place over a 10-year period between 1952 and 1962 when Crescent House on Goswell Road was completed. Golden Lane was listed Grade II in 1997 (Crescent House is Grade II*). When built, Great Arthur House was the tallest residential building in London and its Le Corbusier inspired design included a resident’s roof garden. The estate also included a leisure centre with a swimming pool and tennis courts. It is now run by a private operator and is open to both residents and the general public.

Academy of Urbanism

I stuck around too take a look, struck by the variety of scale, detail and space within a relatively tight integrated development. Mature greenery abounds along with a delightful water feature.

It would appear that following the 70s right to buy the estate is a 50/50 mix of social and private ownership, relatively trouble free and well maintained, something of an anomaly in our go-ahead, left behind land.

Go take a look for yourself see what you think.

7 thoughts on “Golden Lane Estate – London

  1. I’ve never heard of this estate.
    A great set of shots that capture so much of the detail. I particularly enjoyed the water feature! The shot of the stairs with the red door is a nice image with some great reflections and it also brings together some nice graphic elements. I struggle with taking straight on reflections and try to hide my own reflection in the woodwork or similar but actually having your own reflection adds something to the photograph.
    Any idea what the big scoop shaped platform feature is on top of the tall flats? It’s hard to see if it was part of the original design or not.
    Best wishes
    Mr C 🙂


    1. It’s just around the corner from the Barbican bumped into it by chance – I had an hour to spare so had a wander around. Visually interesting but also happy that it is still half in council ownership and looks to be well maintained and used. I assume the cantilevered curve is part of the infrastructure but sculptural too. Thanks for the kind words – much appreciated.


  2. Stumbled on this a few weeks back after wandering through the Barbican without knowing anything about it, so thanks for the great article. I loved the wave-like canopy on the many tower block. Interesting contrast with the fortress Barbican next door.


  3. Some say the scoop on the roof of the tower block was to provide shelter on the rooftop garden, others say it is to disguise the lift mechanism and water tower – whatever, it looks good. I had friends who lived here until quite recently, they loved it. It appeared in the 1960 Peter Sellers comedy, ‘Two Way Stretch’.


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