Architect: Eric Lyons
Foxes Dale, London SE3
Located on the popular Cator Estate in Blackheath is this fine example of a three-bedroom Span house with private garden. Forming part of The Hall, the house was designed by Eric Lyons in 1958.
The open-plan living space is accessed via a well-proportioned entrance porch and has solid oak flooring throughout. Large picture windows flood the space with light. At the front there is a gas wood-burner and at the rear, an area with space for a dining table. An original glass divider separates the dining area from the kitchen and both provide access to the rear garden. The open staircase leads to a master bedroom with built-in wardrobes, two further bedrooms and a bathroom.
Eric Lyons’ Span developments are renowned for their space, light and attention to the surrounding landscape. Through communal greens and interactive spaces Lyons sought to promote community living without the compromise of privacy.
The house is a pleasant ten-minute walk from the fields of Blackheath which lead in turn to the open spaces of Greenwich Park and Greenwich, and the River Thames. Blackheath Village and Greenwich contain a number of good shops, restaurants, pubs and delis, and a variety of cinemas and theatres.
The Hall is a quiet residential street close to the popular Brooklands Primary School. Blackheath mainline railway station is one stop from the Docklands Light Railway with easy access to both Canary Wharf and the City. Trains from Blackheath run to London Bridge in approximately 10 minutes, Cannon Street in around 15 minutes, Charing Cross in approximately 20 minutes, and Victoria in around 25 minutes. The river bus also links nearby Greenwich with central London.
Service Charge: approx. £500 per annum (paid in two instalments of approx. £250 in March and September)
Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. The Modern House has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.
The development company Span built 30 housing estates between 1948 and 1984. In his book The Spirit of Span Housing, James Strike says: “Span housing was the inspiration of two young men, who, during the 1930s, met as architectural students at the Regent Street Polytechnic. Eric Lyons and Geoffrey Townsend both had a keen interest in modern architecture[…] They believed that there was a market for well-designed houses in carefully designed landscapes for the sort of people who recognised good design when they saw it – and they were right.”
Span housing was the subject of a recent exhibition at the RIBA, and the accompanying book, entitled Eric Lyons & Span (ed. Barbara Simms), gives a comprehensive survey of its history. “The work of the architect Eric Lyons,” it states, “is as well-loved now as it was vibrantly successful when first constructed. Built almost entirely for Span Developments, its mission was to provide an affordable environment ‘that gave people a lift’.”
Outlining the background to the Span Estate at Blackheath, it says: “Span’s attention had turned to the Cator Estate in Blackheath, a charming preserve of late 18th-century and early 19th-century terraces and villas[…] The area’s history was stoutly defended by the Blackheath Society, founded in 1937, and Blackheath Park – the core of the Cator Estate – was becoming admired for its ‘Regency character’. But many of the houses had been damaged beyond repair, and the long gardens and backland nurseries of Blackheath Park and the roads immediately to its north and south were ripe for speculative development.”
The book continues: “Today, the area takes its distinctive character from the combination of Regency and Span developments, and the mature landscaping of both. That Span estates were not diluted in their execution was due to Lyons’s sheer determination to defy the planners, termed by him ‘aesthetic controllers’, and restrictive building regulations[…] He won around 20 housing medals from the MHLG [Ministry of Housing and Local Government], three in 1964 alone.”
Having worked for Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry, Eric Lyons (1912-1980) co-founded the development company Span in 1948, along with Geoffrey Townsend and Leslie Bilsby. Lyons’s Span houses are all about space and light, and blurring the edges between outside and indoor space. He paid great attention to the surrounding landscape, designing and building properties around existing splendid mature trees and creating communal areas that encourage residents to mix. An early Span publication summarises the origin of the name: “It spans the gap between the suburban monotony of the typical ‘spec building’ and the architecturally designed individually built residence.” Outside of his Span work, Lyons carried out a number of other schemes, including public housing for World’s End in Chelsea. He was appointed President of the RIBA in the 1970s.
Key Residential Projects
Estate in Buckinghamshire
Estates in Blackheath