The Lissenden Gardens estate is unusual in mansion flat developments, having been built, owned and managed by three generations of the same family, the Armstrongs, on the site of their own large detached villa on Highgate Road, with additional land acquired at the lower edge of Parliament Hill Fields.
The flats were designed by architects Boehmer and Gibbs and built in the Arts and Crafts style fashionable in the Edwardian period, using red brick, with stained glass in the stairways and colourful tiled panels by the front doors. Many of the Arts and Crafts features are still in place today. These special touches – and, of course, the location – help to explain why people love these flats so much.
The layout of the estate, with the three blocks of Lissenden, Parliament Hill and Clevedon Mansions grouped around the estate’s private tennis court, creates a strong sense of identity. Gardens and balconies provide spaces where private lives can flourish out of the public gaze, while a footpath leads onto the green space of Parliament Hill Fields offers plenty of opportunities for neighbours’ paths to cross on a daily basis. Perhaps it is this combination, of the private and the public, that helps explain why, in this unusually mixed estate, people of all backgrounds live happily side by side.
It is certainly something the residents of Lissenden Gardens have fought to preserve. When the Armstrongs finally put the flats on the market in the 1970’s, developers saw it as an opportunity to turn a mixed local community into an exclusive enclave. They were seen off by the newly formed Lissenden Gardens Tenants Association, who successfully petitioned Camden Council to take over the flats, and so secure the future of both the buildings and the community – now a thriving mix of leaseholders and Council tenants. Today, with residents from every part of the world, and with every possible interest, in Lissenden Gardens something gels – but whether the reason is the architecture, the views, or the fact that residents have fought to keep their diverse community, is anyone’s guess.