Open House Festival

Winscombe Street 1960s terrace

housing, residence, garden

Neave Brown, 1965

26 Winscombe Street, N19 5DG

Terrace of five three-storey houses and a studio incorporating a sequence of communal and private spaces. Influential prototype for Camden social housing developments of the 1960s and 70s.

Getting there


Archway, Tufnell Park


Upper Holloway, Gospel Oak


4, C11

Additional travel info

There is free on-street parking in Winscombe Street and on surrounding streets on Sundays.


Accessibility notes

All visitors will be asked to remove their shoes on entry to the house to protect original wooden floors. Visitors should take extra care on the stairs.


The story of the 1960s Winscombe Street terrace

Neave Brown (1929 – 2018) started to design the terrace in 1963 to provide housing for him and four other professionals and artists who together formed a housing society which they named Pentad. It was built on a small plot of land at the end of Winscombe Street, a cul-de-sac of nineteenth century terraced houses.

The building services were designed by Max Fordham (1933 – 2022) and Anthony Hunt (1932 – 2022) was the structural engineer.

As funding for the building was a loan from Camden Council it was built to the same cost standards and space limits (the 1961 Parker Morris standards) as a three storey, three bedroom, five person council house. The required parking spaces were provided on the communal forecourt.

The five families moved in in 1966. Original owners included architects Patty and Michael Hopkins and Ed Jones. A further plot of land was added later allowing more garden space for children to play. Neave Brown lived in the terrace until 2008.

The terrace was listed as Grade II in 2014 for its special architectural and historic interest.

House design and layout

The houses are identical in plan with the three floors forming ‘zones’.

The adults’ zone is on the top floor comprising a sitting room and a bedroom separated by a pivoting door. The children’s rooms are on the lower ground floor which consists of a hall, a large double bedroom divisible with sliding doors and opening on to the garden through glazed barn doors, as well as a single bedroom, a bathroom and a vestibule/utility room.

The middle floor is where adults and children meet, eat and socialise. The main street entrance is at this level and leads through a generous hallway to a combined kitchen / dining room which opens on to a terrace connected to the garden by stairs. A family bathroom and cloakroom completes this floor.

Connecting the three floors internally is a single post-tensioned plywood spiral stair, lit from above by a circular domed rooflight. On the lower ground floor is a secondary entrance enabling this level to be converted into separate accommodation.

Feature: designed for community

The Winscombe Street terrace is designed to enhance community within and between households. According to Neave Brown it was conceived ‘as a community, an extended family’ enabled especially by the use of the outdoor space which was designated as communal. As he explained: ‘the communal garden, vastly larger and more expansive than five ordinary private strips, works as an extension of each house exactly because its boundaries are explicit and it belongs to its small community, particularly that of the children and the magic world they create within it’.

This intention is supported by Pentad’s ‘Rules’ a list of 18 practical points drafted by Neave and signed up to by all Pentad members and their tenants. The Rules state their aim as being to ‘to protect and maintain the good spirit of communality of the Pentad community’ noting that Pentad’s ‘external areas (the forecourt and garden and the private terrace off the kitchen of each house) provide exceptional conditions, a rare and precious place for the children and adults who live there, perhaps unique in London. Within that shared environment the houses are designed to provide a complementary privacy. The quality of its combination of freedom, community and privacy is valuable and vulnerable’.

Feature: modernist design

The design concept is that of a traditional London terrace interpreted for modern living. Each house has a raised front door and a lower ground floor with its own front door. As such the 1960s terrace sits comfortably alongside its Victorian neighbours in Winscombe Street.

Design influences include inter-war continental modernism (Mart Stam, Le Corbusier, Atelier 5) and British modernists, for example, Amis and Howells’ 1956 terrace of six houses in Hampstead.

The street frontage has a cantilevered brick upper floor punctuated with square windows with the lower storeys recessed. Each house has a concrete spiral stair in a semi-circular board marked concrete ‘drum’. This leads up to the main entrance via a tiled balcony enclosed by a timber and wire mesh balustrade. Below is the concealed entrance to the lower ground vestibule/ utility room whose end wall is made of glass bricks facing the street.

The garden side of the terrace also has a cantilevered brick upper floor with picture windows forming an almost continuous band of glazing. A deep terrace, accessed through a sliding glazed door from the kitchen / dining room, runs across the whole building at the first floor. Wire mesh screens, up which plants can be grown, separate each terrace from the next. Sheet steel spiral staircases projecting from the building and protruding into neighbours’ air space link this level to a patio below and from there down steps to the communal garden.

Feature: construction and materials

Each house is of concrete block crosswall construction with in-situ concrete terraces front and rear and cantilevered wall beams forming the top floor overhangs. The brick elevations are grey flint-lime. The roofs are flat, separated by a brick upstands.

The main internal feature is the post-tensioned wooden spiral stair connecting all three floors. The treads and risers are of birch ply as are the first and second storey floors. Walls are painted blockwork. Doors are all full height giving a feeling of spaciousness; some partitions are space-saving sliding doors. Windows, external doors and balustrades are of chunky dark stained softwood.

The kitchen / dining room features a cantilevered tiled concrete work surface with inset hobs and sink. There are plywood-fronted cupboards over and drawers and cupboards underneath. The brick-paved rear terrace (now re-tiled) extends inwards to form a heated raised brick step. The wood surround of the main spiral stair forms one wall of the dining area.

Feature: efficient design

Within the constraints imposed by the Parker Morris standards the Winscombe Street house plan is considered a masterpiece of efficiency and domestic detailing. Neave Brown was able to conjure homes that feel effortlessly spacious, delivering four bedrooms and two bathrooms and private outdoor areas within the space allocated for a three bedroom and one bathroom dwelling.

Neave’s rigorous elimination of any undefined or residual space helped to achieve this – it feels as though there is not one redundant square inch in the house.

Feature: designed in the era of cheap energy

The houses were built all-electric. To take advantage of ‘Economy 7’ cheaper night time electricity, heating of the upper and middle floors is by large blockwork storage slabs located in the central core. These slowly release heat through vents during the day, helped by a thermostat-controlled fan. The brickwork step on to the terrace in the kitchen/ dining room is also heated.

The lower ground floor has underfloor heating that extends across the entire floor apart from the bathroom. The houses were built single-glazed.


In retrospect Neave Brown regarded Winscombe Street as the prototype for his two later much larger low-rise high-density housing schemes which he designed when working for Camden Council. These are Fleet Road (1967) and Alexandra Road (1969).

‘When I designed Winscombe Street I had no idea it would be followed by such projects. I designed paved terraces, stained softwood windows with sliding frames, timber balustrades with mesh infill, sliding doors and kitchens with tiled worktops looking integral with the house, a part of its primary architecture. The same elements, modified to the different circumstances, have been repeated throughout the three schemes’ (Brown).


Swenarton, M. Cook’s Camden: The Making of Modern Housing, 2017, Lund Humphries.

Watkinson, F. The Golden Age of Camden Housing, 2019, Independent Publishing Network

English Heritage Advice Report for Listing: Post-War Private Houses: 22 – 32 Winscombe Street Camden, 2014.


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