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Lissenden Gardens Estate comprises three red-brick mansion flat blocks between Highgate Road and Parliament Hill Fields (q.v.). They were built by Alfred William Armstrong and designed in Arts and Crafts style by architects Boehmer and Gibbs and completed between 1898-1906. Armstrong, evidently an astute businessman, had made his money firstly in automatic vending machines and then in supplying electricity, his company the London and Hampstead Battery Company, which operated from 1892, renamed the Hampstead Electric Supply Company in 1898. In 1890 he had married Elizabeth Jane Cave, daughter of Edward Jarvis Cave, bricklayer turned successful speculative builder who was also a director of the Hampstead Electric Supply Co. The building of flats gained popularity particularly from the 1880s and E J Cave and his sons were responsible for numerous blocks, many designed by Edward Boehmer and Percy Gibbs, for example in Maida Vale, South and West Hampstead.
The site Armstrong purchased for his Lissenden Gardens Estate was that of a C19th villa, Clevedon House, The Grove, which abutted the remnants of the former village green of Kentish Town, now known as Highgate Enclosures (q.v.) and adjacent villas. Boehmer and Gibbs' initial plan of 1897 was for 4-storey blocks around a garden square. Following a lengthy battle with the LCC and St Pancras Vestry then St Pancras Metropolitan Borough Council, which demanded revisions to the designs and purchase of further land to the south for a new road linking to Gordon House Road, the estate was built. It consisted of three 4 and 5-storey blocks, which were named Parliament Hill Mansions, Clevedon Mansions and Lissenden Mansions, all characterised by Arts and Crafts detailing such as decorative balconies, stained glass in stairwells and tile panels by front doors. The block on the fourth side of the original garden square was replaced by a Gardener's Cottage, which according to the architects would be 'a decided improvement to the whole scheme as the north end of the estate will not be blocked by buildings, but will practically be left open for the free circulation of air'.
The garden was laid out in 1899, enclosed by railings, between Parliament Hill Mansions and Clevedon Mansions, with the Cottage in the north. In addition to private gardens there were landscaped areas outside each of the blocks and plane trees were planted on the estate roads. In 1928 the railed garden, which was maintained by gardeners employed by the Trustees of the Estate, was described as 'an enclosure of irregular shape surrounded by a sparse privet hedge and some trees', laid out as 'hard tennis courts' 'for the use of tenants of Lissenden Gardens Estate and their friends'. The tennis courts may have been laid out as early as 1906. During WWII part of the estate suffered bomb damage as a result of which the south part of Parliament Hill Mansions that had been Nos. 1-10 was replaced in 1949 by a new 6-storey block, Chester Court. The Armstrong family continued to own and manage the estate until 1972, the rents remaining surprisingly low.
When it was put up for sale Lissenden Gardens Tenants' Association was immediately established in order to try and protect the estate from purchase by speculators. As one of the solutions, the Association lobbied for its purchase by the local council, but it was initially sold to private company Gulindell. The tenants mounted an energetic campaign and were eventually successful in saving their estate when LB Camden purchased it on 6 October 1973, and the council continues as freeholder of the estate. There have been a number of famous residents. John Betjeman was born here and makes reference to the estate in his poem, 'Summoned by Bells'. Other well-known residents include Alice Zimmern, suffragette and educational reformer, novelist and playwright James Hanley, composer Hayden Wood and painter Anthony Green.
Rosalind Bayley, 'To Paradise by Way of Gospel Oak. A mansion flat estate and the forces that shaped it', Camden History Society, 2009; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; LB Camden, Dartmouth Park Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan, 2009; Open House information