The Sutton Dwellings Trust was founded after 1900 as a result of the will of William Sutton who left his fortune to a charitable trust to provide ‘model dwellings and houses for occupation by the poor of London and other towns and populous places in England'.
The Trust, similar to today’s housing associations, built new homes and its first estate was opened in 1909.
The site of the Sutton Estate, Chelsea was purchased by the Trust in 1910 and completed in 1913. The Estate’s name reflected the wishes of its benefactor William Sutton. Designed by ECP Monson the Estate originally comprised 674 flats of one room to three rooms across 16 blocks and was home to about 2,200 people. The Estate also included 34 shops.
On completion the Trustees stated that “the tenants shall be selected from the poor of good character, preference being given to married men with families for the larger dwellings, and dwellings being allocated accorded to the number in family, full use being made of the accommodation provided.”
Although better than what it replaced, the Estate came in for early criticism due to the constraints of the site, the number of dwellings and the cramming of accommodation. In the Daily News of 1 April 1911, it was reported that the Housing Committee of the Council condemned the ‘block dwellings’ proposed at Chelsea as perpetuating the back-to-back system and not allowing enough ventilation and stated that as ‘this large amount of money had been left for the housing of the poor it was a very great pity that it should not be spent in a manner which would conduce to the best housing conditions’
In the years that followed there were extensive works to the properties, including demolishing one of the blocks in the densest part of the Estate. During the 1970s works were very costly and in part funded by the Housing Corporation and RBKC in return for 75% nominations to two bed upwards and 50% for one bed and studios. Between 1982 and 1996 more modernisation took place to the west of the Estate with remaining blocks converted, lifts put in, structural repairs, new kitchens, new flat layouts, central heating and decoration.
Over the years improvement works, including the demolition of one block, have resulted in a loss of 212 flats to the current 462 and there are now 28 retail units.
In 2013, the Estate celebrated its centenary with a street party organised by the Residents’ Associated supported by funding from Clarion. The day was a great success with residents getting together to share their memories and enjoy the day.
We want to uphold the legacy of William Sutton, and in seeking to redevelop the Estate, Clarion have applied three basic principles:
To maintain the long term future of social housing on the Estate
To ensure a better standard of living for tenants
To create a more balanced and sustainable community