'homes within a garden'
Span Developments Limited was a British property development company formed in the late 1950s by Eric Lyons and Geoffrey Townsend. They teamed up, as developer and architect, with landscape designer Ivor Cunningham. During its most successful period in the sixties, Span built over 2,000 homes in London and Kent - mainly two and three bedroom single-family homes and apartment buildings.
After the second world war, there was an urgent need to build new houses, and there was a particular need for small family units to cope with the newly-weds and their “baby boomers”. There was a strong social feeling and an urgency to build the houses quickly. People were looking for a socially conscious society, better living conditions and a better standard of living.
“Span is a bridgehead … It spans the gap between the suburban monotony of the typical spec’ development and the architecturally designed, individually built residence that has become, for all but a few … financially unattainable” Span promotional brochure 1960
Architects wanted to build a modern Britain, buildings as an integral part of modern art and design, as part of what became the “Modern Movement” in design. Eric Lyons made a positive contribution to this humane approach, both in the way his schemes place people into communities with landscaped parkland, and also in the way his buildings were refreshingly modern.
The uniqueness of Span housing schemes lies not in the architectural quality of the buildings alone nor in the layout and planting of the gardens but in the relationship between the two.
“The architects designed the landscape hand-in-hand with the design of the dwelling; and it was the integration of roads, car-parks, children’s play spaces etc – that created an ambience and the scale hitherto unknown in housing for ordinary people” Eric Lyons, “Private Housing” in 25 Years of British Architecture (RIBA, 1977)
Click here to view the 1960 T8 Span promotional brochure. (PDF format)
Click here to view the 1960 "Span - living with new ideas" brochure. (PDF format)
Grand Designs magazine featured Span in their March 2005 issue. Click the image below to view the article. (PDF format)
More information on living in a span house can be found in the BBC article "A house like no other?"
2016 Houzz Article about Templemere "Garden Tour: An Idyllic Communal Garden Landscaped Around Ancient Trees"
2019 Chocolate Films Workshops has produced a website including oral histories about living in Span homes https://www.livinginspanhomes.com/