Friday, 18 November 2011

The Heaver Estate, Balham

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Much of 18C Balham was owned by the Duke of Bedford, including 150 acres of prime farmland known as 'Charringtons'. A century later, with farming in decline, the Bedford family sold the land to Richardson Borradaile, a wealthily merchant and MP, who built Bedford Hill House - a beautiful ivy-clad mansion situated where Veronica Road is now, roughly between Nos 12 and 18.

1i 1843 the house and its estate were sold to William Cubitt, brother of the builder Thomas Cubitt. Together they improved the house and grounds, adding an ornamental lake which lay by Elmbourne Road - between Manville and Huron. The family enjoyed uninterrupted views towards Balham until 1855 when a railway embankment was built along Balham High Road and Bedford Hill. A year later Balham Station opened and landowners were put under pressurev to release land for much-needed homes.

Alfred Heaver was an ambitious and visionary house builder when he acquired the now empty house and parkland. Ritherdon Road was the first to be laid out in 1888 and was to be the main access to the estate. That same year Heaver applied to construct Streathbourne, Drakefield and Louisville Roads across the grounds of Elms Farm and the nearby mansion Streatham Elms, and by the time they were completed in 1892, he was already building more roads running north off Ritherdon Road. With around twelve different styles of property, the Heaver Estate had now reached the neglected gardens around Bedford Hill House and when Veronica Road was built in 1897, it was demolished.

On 4th August 1901, at the age of 60, Alfred Heaver was shot in the back and head as he walked to church with his wife in the village of Wescott near Dorking. The assailant, who turned the gun on himself, was his sisters's husband James Young. The inquest stated that had had a grudge against his brother-in-law for many years and had even filed down the ends of the bullets to cause him maximum injury.

Although Heaver did not live to see the completion of his estate, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of 19C suburban development and was made a conservation area in 1978.

Sullivan Thomas

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