The housing scheme which utilised a no longer needed corner of the Gas Works site was sponsored by the Gas, Light and Coke Company. There was a team of architects headed by Maxwell Fry, with Robert Atkinson, C H James and Grey Wornum (whose work has been on the blog before). They were joined by a housing consultant, Elizabeth Denby.
Fry and Denby used Kensal House to put into practise their ambitious Modernist ideas for social change starting at home.
Unlike other similar contemporary schemes which catered to single young affluent professionals, the housing blocks, now Grade II* listed, created a home for working class families relocated from the surrounding Kensington slums. The communal spaces designed for the families of Kensal House and their collective 250 children were ground breaking: allotments, a nursery, a woodworking club, and many more. These buildings created a space where the balance of the architects' dreams for the tenants came together with the tenants' dreams for themselves.
The consultant to the project, Elizabeth Denby describes it as "the first urban village to be built in Britain". The design committee also had responsibility for ensuring the new residents settled in and that rent and fuel costs remained reasonable. She remained on the new estate for a while in her consulting role. She reports on the success of the Club Rooms and the social club which took in members from the surrounding area, and took particular pleasure in the enthusiastic take-up of the gardening facilities. "On a sunny evening or at the weekend each balcony was its tenants leaning elbows on the rail, smoking, gossiping, happy, like a group of cottagers perched above each other on a steep cliff. The possession of canaries by some of the tenants intensifies the country illusion."