Architect: Eric Lyons
A rare opportunity to purchase an outstanding ground-floor three-bedroom ‘Span’ apartment with garage and storeroom, located on the sought-after Cator Estate in Blackheath. The apartment block was designed by the renowned architect Eric Lyons and built by the company Span in the late 1950s. It can be found on The Hall, a quiet and secluded location set within immaculately maintained communal gardens. Internal accommodation extends to approximately 1,012 sq ft.
The apartment has been comprehensively and beautifully renovated to a design by interior architect David Fern, retaining a number of original features such as single-reeded glazed doors, handles, and re-utilised original light switches and power sockets. Wood-block flooring, similar to that used in later Span houses, extends through much of the apartment which is arranged around an expansive, open-plan living room and dining area with large picture windows and working open fire with replica Eric Lyons’ design surround.
Joinery throughout was designed specifically, most notably in the kitchen, which is faithful to the original Span design whilst incorporating modern fittings and Neff appliances. A new utility area has been created. Both large double bedrooms have built-in wardrobes, and all three bedrooms overlook the communal lawned gardens.
The renovation included full re-wiring and plumbing, and the installation of a new gas-fired central heating system.
The apartment has been featured in Grand Designs Magazine as an ‘Historic Gem’, been the subject of an article in the South East London Journal, and featured in the The Modern House Journal.
Eric Lyons’s Span developments are renowned for their space and light. He paid great attention to the surrounding landscape, designing and building houses around exisiting splendid, mature trees and creating communal areas that encourage residents to mix. Indeed, Graham Morrison of Allies & Morrison Architects, who bought a Span house in Blackheath in the early 1980s, describes the joy of living on the Cator Estate: “I find it hard to imagine a more pleasant and safe place, so close to the city, in which to bring up young children. A shared garden made the making of friends easy and a sensible management structure helped to ensure the maintenance of not only the buildings and gardens, but also the aims of the community.”
The apartment is very close to Brooklands Primary School, which is one of the best primary schools in the Borough of Greenwich and is described as ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED. Places are awarded according to your home’s proximity to the school. The property is approximately seven minutes’ walk from Blackheath mainline railway station, which is one stop from the Docklands Light Railway, with easy access to both the Docklands and City. Trains from Blackheath to London Bridge take approximately 10 minutes, and approximately 25 minutes to Victoria. Blackheath offers a good selection of restaurants, shops and services as well as the open green space of the heath.
Tenure: Share of Freehold
Lease Length: approx. 980 years
Service Charge: approx. £195 pcm
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 Lons 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