South Court, Ossulston Estate

South Court sign

South Court sign

Found: Levita House

This modest sign, found abandoned in grass outside Levita House, originally marked one of the most remarkable council estates of the interwar period. With its white rough-cast facades, deep-set galleries and curved balconies, the Ossulston Estate, built between 1927 and 1931, still catches the eye; its steel-frame construction, not visible to the eye, was equally innovative. Cecil Levita, the chair of the London County Council’s Housing Committee, after whom the block was named, believed it ‘a noteworthy scheme which would mark a new departure in the construction of buildings’.  

In other respects, it is a more conventional estate of its time – essentially a walk-up, balcony-access tenement block of a type very common in central London. Low-rise cottage estates remained the ideal for most but the need to clear inner-city slums and rehouse locally and at density those in Somers Town who lived in some of the worst housing in the capital compelled a multi-storey solution. It might uniquely have been a nine-storey scheme with lifts, unheard of in working-class dwellings of the era, had the original proposals of the London County Council to build a nine-storey, mixed-use, public-private scheme (featuring shops and offices, middle-class apartments as well as working-class tenements) proved viable.  

By John Boughton