Housing Estates – The Keep



What do you get when you combine post-war architecture with the allure of community in London? Span Developments of course. During the 1950s and 60s Geoffrey Townsend working alongside Eric Lyons built thousands of modern homes in London and the South East. Mainly set on estates and consisting of two and three bedroom single family homes and apartment buildings under the name SPAN.

Nestled within a private, gated community in Blackheath, one such Span Development provides a great example of post-war housing. The Keep. Walking round The Keep, it’s easy to understand how these homes have become a collectors item.

The Design

Typically a Span design has mono pitch roofs, large floor to ceiling windows and other areas of glass, hung tiled or white timber facades and open-plan interiors. For the average joe, these can look rather basic in terms of design but they are light, airy and give the impression of living outside.  These were the first of their kind and paved the way to the modern estates we see today. Exterior space is also a recognised feature and many Span developments which helps develop a sense of community. Many are car free which was a radical difference from other post war developments (think a row of terraced houses). Private garages are around the side to hide the cars from view.


When you own a Span home, there are a few limitations with what you can do to it. Given the allure and cult like status in the architect world, Span homes are protected by legal covenants which purchasers are automatically obliged to observe and abide by. Each estate is run by a committee of management which is elected each year by the residents and who are mandated to enforce the covenants. I’m not sure this is what they meant by sense of “community”. With these limitations, a Span home may not be for everyone but for the ones who do, they seem to take great pride in owning a part of architectural history.