Sherwood Estate, Nottingham

A centenary celebration

Sherwood Estate Centenary History Group

In 2022 Residents of Sherwood Estate Nottingham got together with historian Mo Cooper to uncover the history of our special council estate. We focused on three elements, the development of the estate, people who lived there, and the history of a house and street. An exhibition was produced and launched at Sherwood Community Centre in September 2022. The following text is a summary of the research findings but more detail is available on our website.


The Development of the Estate

The Sherwood Estate was the second planned estate of council housing in Nottingham and was the largest at the time. It took shape immediately after WWI, influenced by national policy towards council housing, local progressive ideas to improve working class housing and the reflection of natural landscape through design.

Key dates

1919 - Land purchased, estate competition, Kneller appointed as architect

1920 - Howitt appointed as housing surveyor, building started,   

            commemoration stone laid

1921 - First houses let 

1923 - Initial build completed and all houses let

1924 - Building started on the western side of Edwards Lane with different     

            housing designs including the £300 house. 

1972 - Nottingham City established the right to buy for council housing  

            tenants - beginning the change to mixed ownership we know in the estate today

Adoption of Garden City Principles

  • Adapted to the natural landscape
  • Wide roads, minimum housing frontages and maximum number of houses per acre
  • Living rooms oriented for maximum sunlight
  • Parlours oriented for afternoon sun
  • Inside WCs and separate bathrooms
  • Gardens, allotments, and green playing spaces



People of the Estate

Harry Houghton 1885-1984

Henry (Harry) W Houghton was a painter and decorator, an artist, and a member of the French Foreign Legion. He lived with his mother, Anna, at 27 Oxton Avenue. Harry was born in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire in 1886. His father was a decorator and french polisher who brought his family to Nottingham via Leicester. Harry took up painting as a hobby and soon joined the Nottingham Society of Artists on Friar Lane. He exhibited his work right up to his death having painted many Nottingham scenes including sketches of the Sherwood Estate.

Constance Bertha Shacklock, OBE 1913-1999

Constance Shacklock was a famous opera singer who lived at 2 Lexington Gardens in the early 1930s and was born at nearby Woodthorpe Grange Farm on 16th April 1913. Her father, Frederick Randolph (Fred) Shacklock worked on the 65-acre family farm with his wife Hilda, they were married in 1911. Another daughter, Rosamund, was born in 1919 after Fred returned from War service.

John Henry Spree 1869-1832

If you enjoy looking at pictures of old Nottingham, there is a good chance that many will have been taken and developed on Danethorpe Vale by someone who became the foremost photographer of early 20th Century Nottingham. Spree started his own business as a photographer with a shop on Willoughby Street in Lenton where he lived at 44 Johnson Road. With a growing family, Jack, Esther, their son Reginald, their other son John Henry, and his wife Lillian moved to 101 Danethorpe Vale in Sherwood where John Henry and Lillian’s son Victor was born on 25 June 1922.

 The Drury Family: 12 Staunton Drive

The family moved into 12 Staunton Drive in January 1944. Mum, Poppy Wheeldon, had lived with her family at 2 Upton Drive on the estate and married William Drury in 1941. William was from a mining family in North Notts but met Poppy when they were both working as nurses at the City Hospital. Their first two daughters were born before they moved in, while they lived with Poppy’s mum, A son and third daughter were born at Staunton Drive.


House History: 4 Branston Walk

The first occupier of Branston Walk was Percy Barkworth, shown on the 1922 electoral register. He and his wife Mabel had only just got married in July of the same year. Percy was born in 1896 in Radford, Nottingham. His father was a railway clerk and in 1911 they lived in Lenton. At age 14 he was working as a lace machine fitter. Mabel was born in 1898 in West Bridgford, her father was a lace salesman. In 1915 Percy joined the Royal Flying Corps; he returned to England in 1916 as a casualty and was admitted to Bagthorpe Hospital, not far from his future home.

An advert in the Nottingham Evening Post, 1 July 1936 provides evidence of the next person living at number 4. Sherwood Institute Cricket Team advertised for fixtures and the contact was J H Lowe at this address. John’s father Charles was a printer’s warehouseman and they lived on Marshall Street, Sherwood in 1911. John and his mother Gertrude moved from Branston Walk after his marriage. John was a builder’s clerk and his wife Mary also worked as a clerk.

The residents at Branston Walk in 1939 were Ernest and Mary Oswin. They were the purchasers of the property for £1904 in 1972 under the controversial policy to sell council houses led by the Conservative administration of the City Council.


Street History: Edwinstowe Drive

In the electoral roll for Autumn 1922 there were only 30 residents listed, implying that some of the houses were unoccupied or newly occupied. The roll for 1923 lists 77 residents but it is not a complete picture of the earliest residents as no children, women under 30, or men under 21 were included. Looking at the 1939 register, only 4 of the original households were still living on the same street. Only one of those adults was born in Nottingham. Lillian Foster at no. 40 was born 1887 in Sherwood as Lilian E Stenson. She married Bert in 1913 but was widowed by 1939. Her job in 1939 was in the civil service as a clerical assistant. This shows a high turnover of residents, and that people came from beyond Nottingham to live here.

Many of the occupations of the residents, shown in Kelly’s Directory 1925, were not typical working-class manual or industrial labour. There were engineers, a printer, a railway worker, a joiner, and a carpenter but there were also several clerks, a surveyor, accountant, schoolteacher, police constable, draughtsman, buyer, and manager. The wide range of different jobs was still very noticeable by 1939 with a mix of professional, managerial, and manual labour. Most married women did not have paid work, but single women were working as secretaries, typists, supervisors, and shop assistants.


Memories of Childhood - Jenny

 The family moved into the house in 1952. It cost half a crown extra in rent to live on this peaceful street and Jenny’s mother hoped it would be worth it. The family bought the house in 1972 and made some changes by extending the kitchen into the coal house and removing the side door.

There were no pavements along the road when they first moved in, but Jenny’s family were one of a few who owned a car. They got permission to add a garage in 1956 and pavements were laid the following year.

Jenny’s house is on the Edwards Lane side of the road so did not have an allotment but has a large back garden. When Mr. Staley moved in next door a friendly rivalry began with Jenny’s father over the annual garden competition. They almost took it in turns to win. One year an unusual silver rose disappeared from the garden and there was some suspicion thar Mr. Staley was responsible to help his chances of winning. Jenny remembers Mrs. Staley as a particularly fastidious gardener, pulling up weeds with tweezers. She worked in a bridal shop making beautiful dresses covered in sequins.

Jenny went to Seely School on Perry Road and then to Manning School but playing out after school was where she had freedom and fun. Around the age of 10, she was part of a gang of friends, seven boys and she was the only girl. She was allowed out until 9pm but her father would sometimes come to fetch her from the park if she was not home; this was embarrassing for Jenny as it didn’t happen to the boys.

They played football too at the park, nearer the bowling green. They were often joined by Alan Birchenall and Mick Somers, who both went on to be professional players. They also played in the sewers, the large pipes that carry the Day Brook. Mr. Wood the park keeper warned them not to take the right-hand branch of the pipes as this led to the big house where they might be caught and punished.


W A Kneller - The first Estate Architect

It is Walter Alfred Kneller’s winning vision that gives us the Sherwood Estate we know and love today. T Cecil Howitt is often assumed to be the architect of the Sherwood Estate. However, it was Kneller who planned the original layout of the estate in 1919 and created a set of designs which make up at least half of the houses built on the estate.


Kneller was the second of four sons, born to Mr. and Mrs. H Kneller of Claughton Lodge, Woolston, in Hampshire. He married Hilda Elliott of West End, Hampshire, in 1913 and they had three children together. The Kneller’s were a relatively well-off family with business interests in Hampshire and London. They were also an artistic family; his youngest brother Sydney Francis was a photographer and enemy plane spotter during WWI.


Walter trained in the office of Mr. A F Gutterridge, Southampton, before becoming Assistant to Mr. W B Starr of Victoria Street, Nottingham. In 1919 he opened his first practice and won the competition to design an estate of houses for working class people. He was appointed Estate Architect in August of that year by Nottingham Corporation and saw through the development of the estate and the build of most of the houses until Sep 1923. Wright’s Trade Directory shows his office location, home location in Mapperley Park and lists him alongside other notable Nottingham architects in 1920.


The Hampshire Advertiser (12.09.1919) reported on his achievement:


‘His prize design is beautifully executed, with a view to art as well as utility, and in this particular it has been said that a special feature of the designs is the entire absence of “long unlovely streets, and any appearance of monotony”. His success in this important undertaking cannot but be most gratifying to his many friends’



Sherwood Estate Houses

From Howitt’s reviews of the housing projects in Nottingham we know there were 1,087 houses across the whole of the estate, including the area west of Edward’s Lane, by 1927. The most common house type is a three bedroomed house with a parlour. Kneller and Howitt were strongly in favour of houses with parlours, but also recognised that some people would not be able to afford the rent on these larger houses. 428 non parlour houses were included in the development.

Kneller’s original plans were for four house types, but we also know that other house designs were used across the estate, especially once Howitt became closely involved with managing the build from 1922 onwards. It also appears that builders would adapt the plans; many houses share similarities to the original designs but changes in layout are apparent. We’ve not found it possible to exactly match our own houses to the designs published in Howitt’s reviews. Also, since many houses on the estate have been modified and extended over the years, many are substantially different, making it harder to know exactly the original internal layout.

The £300 house: narrow-fronted non-parlour houses

Some ex-service men were refusing to rent the parlour houses due to costs but were still in need of alternative, healthier housing. Howitt proposed a special project in April 1922 to study the construction of a house for £300. Howitt argued that this type of house might not be ideal for the development of a Garden City estate, but these houses would be suitable for numerous small sites around the city where roadways were already in place and there was no scope for enlarging the open spaces.

The plans produced show narrower frontage and the requirement to put the third bedroom on the second floor. However, each bedroom was designed to accommodate a double bed. There are 116 of these on the Sherwood Estate. They are on the western side of Edwards Lane, so were probably in response to the need for cheaper housing once this part of the estate was under construction from 1924.


Photo:The estate under construction. Looking east towards Danethorpe Vale/Valley Road

The estate under construction. Looking east towards Danethorpe Vale/Valley Road

Colin Spree

Photo:Houses on Edwinstowe Drive 2022

Houses on Edwinstowe Drive 2022

N Holmes

Photo:Commemoration Stone

Commemoration Stone

L Simons

Photo:the £300 house

the £300 house

Howitt, "A Review of the first two years progress of the housing schemes in Nottingham" 1921

Photo:The non parlour house

The non parlour house

Howitt, 1921

Photo:The parlour house

The parlour house

Howitt 1921

Photo:Kneller's original plan for the estate

Kneller's original plan for the estate

Howitt 1921

This page was added by Nicola Holmes on 30/08/2023.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.