The unique South London road where residents built their own council houses

It’s hard to believe that Lewisham once had one of the most revolutionary housing programmes in the world, as its skyline is now dominated by high-rise apartments that are much to the disapproval of nearby residents.

But once upon a time, an innovative Swiss-born architect teamed up with Lewisham Council in the 1970s and 80s for a housing programme where Lewisham residents built their own council houses.

Walter Segal designed his own style of self-build houses, known as the ‘Segal self-build method’ which used traditional timber frame methods instead of typical bricklaying and plastering.

It’s easy to spot a house based on the Segal self-build method because each treehouse-like property is uniquely different in size and colour to one another.

READ MORE: The massive 3,500-home village that could soon be coming to East London

Not only is the Segal self-build method cost and time effective, houses can be built by anyone – regardless of previous experience.

And that’s exactly what happened in Lewisham, which was nothing short of extraordinary and a huge success.

At the time of the housing crisis in the 1970s, Lewisham Council naively bought every piece of land viable without checking if the land was suitable enough to build on.

Over the years, the houses have been easily extended and renovated

This resulted in a lot of unused land because it was either too small, too steep, had too many trees or was simply unsuitable for the council’s housing agenda.

However, Walter Segal and Lewisham Council’s Architectural Department saw huge potential in the abandoned land, and those on the council’s waiting list for accommodation were given the opportunity to build their own house.

The first project, known as Phase One, began in 1979 and was a huge success. Phase Two followed shortly after in 1984.

0 Croydon at night

Here at MyLondon, we’re doing our very best to make sure you get the latest news, reviews and features from your area.

Now there’s a way you can keep up to date with the areas that matter to you with our free email newsletter.

The South London newsletter goes out twice day – at 7am and 4pm – and sends you the latest stories straight to your inbox.

From Croydon to Catford, Peckham to Putney, we’ll make sure you get the very best every day.

To sign up to the South London newsletter, simply follow this link and select the newsletter that’s right for you.

And to really customise your news experience on the go, you can download our top-rated free apps for iPhone and Android. Find out more here.

The two schemes resulted in 27 self-built detached houses complete with spacious gardens. Shortly after Walter’s unexpected death in 1985, Walters Way in Honor Oak and Segal Close near Blythe Hill were named after him.

Dave Dayes, an original self-builder of Walters Way, praised the ground-breaking Segal self-build technique in a recent documentary.

He said: “We don’t have to leave it for the big boys to do it because they’re only building for profit, not for communities… Architects can design houses for real people.

“We’ve done it, and it can be done better. We hope the next model will prove that point.”

In today’s money, it would cost around £12,000 to build a house using Segal’s self-build technique.

Over the years, the houses have been easily extended and renovated, with eco-friendly features such as solar electric, water and space heating.

Walters Way and Segal Close are often used as examples in architectural studies, but have to be admired from a distance because they are now under private land.

Still, the two cul-de-sacs are occasionally open for tours under Open House, with the next one happening on Sunday, September 5.

Are there incredible houses near you in London? Let Ruby know at [email protected]

Read More
Read More

Recommended For You