|The baby boom after the Second World War lead to huge pressures on housing in and around London. the problem was exacerbated by the loss of much residential accommodation during enemy bombing, and the dilapidated condition of much of the remaining housing stock.
The Oxhey Estate arose as a direct response to this situation. It was one of the council estates that grew up rapidly on green-field sites at this time. Composed mainly of prefabricated panels, accommodation for 4,000 families was constructed between 1947 and 1952. The houses had a design life of about 25 years, but those houses are still there today.
The housing, despite being prefabricated, was to a relatively high standard, boasting an internal as well as an outside toilet, three bedrooms and a garden. In the days before universal central heating, the centrally located open fire with a hot water back boiler added to the comfort, although going to bed in the unheated box room in the depths of winter was bracing. For some of the folk who moved in from the London slums, this was luxury. The rural location and quiet roads made it paradise for the many children who grew up on this estate, although it must have been hell for the local farmers.
I was one of those children. My family relocated from a tenement in Edgware to South Oxhey in about 1949. My family consisted of Mum, Dad, five girls and two boys, of which I was the youngest. I shared a bedroom with all of them at one time or other. I presume that Hampden School was constructed at about this time, although it would be another nine years before I would go there.
In September 1950 there were 393 pupils, but in less than six months this number had grown to 513. A huge number of feeder schools were involved, many children came from Paddington, Hammersmith and Kensington. They came into a new school with a 18 acre playing field, to a new estate surrounded by open countryside. In its early days, and to some extent later too, Hampden suffered from social problems as a direct result of the estate's rapid growth and diverse origins. A school inspection undertaken in 1955 noted "Difficulties in socialisation and behaviour have only just been overcome and they can now look forward to improvements in scholastic areas". The school's reputation for being a bit rough was still quite intact when I entered it in 1959. Social problems of a different kind were also evident later. It was a classic example of the folks on the other side of the track being better. Literally on the other side of the railway which formed one of the school’s boundaries there was a private housing estate. At least one of that estates inhabitants refused to let her daughter join us yobs at Hampden.
Incidentally, for those who are unaware of the schools's fate, it no longer exists. Presumably the age distribution on the estate does not support two secondary schools, and Clarendon was chosen to continue with its larger population and it was presumably also better equipped.