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Upper Woodcote

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A garden village in south-west Purley and a paradise for tree lovers and horticulturalists – if they can afford it. Chartered surveyor William Webb bought the 260-acre Foxley estate in 1888 and planted trees, flowers and hedgerows that were allowed to mature before homes were built and offered for sale. The coming of the tram to Purley in 1901 spurred him to make a start on construction and the first dwelling to be completed was Upper Woodcote House, which Webb himself moved into. Cottages were then studded around a village green in the south-west corner, originally for Webb’s workmen but soon snapped up by commuters. The outer roads of the estate were mostly built up with semi-detached properties, and these have been the worst affected by traffic and by alterations and infilling. Most of the inner roads were laid out from 1907 and the plots developed between 1912 and 1920. Webb planted Rose Walk with 6,000 rose bushes, South Border with herbaceous plants and Silver Lane with a double row of silver birch and a host of bulbs and wild flowers. The Promenade de Verdun came last, lined with an avenue of Lombardy poplars with their roots in soil brought from Armentières and sifted to remove shrapnel. At the end of the avenue is a granite obelisk dedicated to the memory of French soldiers who died in the First World War. The estate was virtually complete by 1925 and contains around 230 houses, which themselves are of varying architectural merit, but in an incomparable setting. Webb expounded his landscaping theories in a short but well illustrated publication that is still available from antiquarian booksellers. The council conferred conservation area status on Upper Woodcote Village in 1973, extending this to cover the rest of the estate a decade later. There is a blanket tree preservation order and no subdivision of plots is allowed.

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The village's creator let gardens mature before building houses, resulting in lush scenes like this

Postcode area: Purley, CR8
Further reading: William Webb, Garden First in Land Development, Longmans, 1919

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