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 designers Ivor Cunningham and Michael Brown. 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 newlyweds 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.
Architects wanted to build a modern Britain, with 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 the layout and planting of the gardens but in the relationship between the two.
Eric Lyons, “Private Housing” in 25 Years of British Archite
Span built 30 housing estates between 1948 and 1984. Between them, the estates have won 11 Housing Design Awards and 7 Civic Trust Awards.
Although the projects vary in size from 3 houses (Fox Dale, Blackheath) to the new village of over 500 houses (New Ash Green), the majority are small estates of between 15 and 50 units.
Lavishly illustrated and deeply researched, this book celebrates the work of the architect Eric Lyons OBE (1912–1980), whose famous post-war housing – that today would be marketed as ‘lifestyle housing' – is as well-loved today as it was vibrantly successful when first constructed. Built almost entirely for Span Developments, its mission was to provide an affordable environment "that gave people a lift".
This is a self-published book by James Strike, an architectural historian and resident of Fieldend, a span estate.
This small book aims to capture the spirit of Span housing, detailing all the estates and focusing on Fieldend as a typical example.
A narrated program about the RIBA Eric Lyon book:
BBC iPlayer is currently hosting an Omnibus episode presenting a portrait of Eric Lyons:
Span promotional brochure 1960