Only Fools and Horses

Only Fools and Horses: When the real Nelson Mandela House will be demolished and what’s happening to the famous estate

In the TV series Nelson Mandela House was based in Peckham, in reality it is a tower block in West London called Harlech Tower

Harlech Tower in Acton, Ealing
Harlech Tower was the original Nelson Mandela House, where the Trotters lived (Image: Google maps)

A mandatory pilgrimage for any serious Only Fools and Horses fan has to be a trip to the real life Nelson Mandela House, but the famous tower block has been lined up for demolition for some time now. However, while an initial date on July 2022 had been set for it to be pulled down, that date has since been pushed back to 2027, MyLondon can reveal.

For those who aren’t hardcore fans, it might be a surprise that the tower block is in fact in West London, not Peckham, and the block’s real name is Harlech Tower. The iconic tower, on the South Acton Estate in Ealing, is seen at the beginning of every episode during the title sequence and is 13 miles away from Peckham

But, despite this geographical difference, many fans feel like a bit of the show is being lost through Harlech Tower’s demolition. In recent years, decision to demolish the iconic tower has been criticised and now Ealing Council has said it’s likely to be another five years before the block comes down, buying fans plenty more time to take selfies and indulge in some nostalgia.

While Harlech Tower was the original double for Nelson Mandela House, filming actually took place at multiple different locations around the country as well as in London and a tower block in Bristol later became the most commonly used filming location according to Steve Clark, author of Only Fools and Horses – The Official Inside Story and and The British Television Location Guide.

When the decision about Harlech Tower was first made public, Del Boy himself wasn’t happy about it. When asked at a premiere whether the tower should be listed, Sir David Jason said: “Of course I think it should be a listed building. What a shame. But they are not going to listen to me are they?”

A demolition notice previously issued by Ealing Council said the authority intended to demolish a number of buildings including Harlech Tower by July 24, 2022, or as soon as they became vacant. It’s part of a wider project to regenerate the area around the South Acton Estate, which includes demolishing 14 blocks of housing.

Harlech Tower in Acton, Ealing
The building was the fictional home of Del Boy, Rodney and Grandad in Only Fools and Horses (Image: Mirrorpix)

In an update after MyLondon asked what was happening with the iconic building, the council said: “Harlech Tower (aka Nelson Mandela House from Only Fools & Horses) is not part of any demolition work that has taken place as part of the project so far; 2027 has been mentioned as a potential year for that.”

Sir David Jason, who played Derek Trotter in Only Fools and Horses between 1981 and 2003, explained back in 2020 how much West London has changed over the years within his new autobiography called Del of a Life: The Lessons I’ve Learned.

The television legend also explains his “despair” at the proposed demolition of Harlech Tower and wants to save it for the nation. In his book, David explains: “But in the first instance the Trotters’ high-rise abode was actually, by the magic of television. a picture of Harlech Tower in Park Road East in Acton.

Sir David Jason, seen here as Derek 'Del Boy' Trotter
(Image: BBC)

“Imagine by trepidation and despair, then, when I learned that Harlech Tower – the crucible, if you will, of the Only Fools story – was slated for demolition, part of a £650 million rejuvenation of the area.

“Asked to share my opinion of this scheme at the time – the papers coming to me on account, no doubt, of my renowned expertise in matters of urban planning – I said I thought the tower should become a listed building and have a preservation order on it forthwith, effectively saving the building for the nation. Did they listen? Did they heck.”

The new estate, once all buildings are taken down, will be called the Acton Gardens and 2,350 homes will replace the current buildings and a brand new community hub including youth, community and retail facilities will be installed.

To date the council and Acton Gardens have demolished 19 old blocks and over 1,000 new homes have either been built or are in the pipeline, half of which will be available for social rent or shared equity/ownership. Do you think the tower should be listed? Let us know in the comments.

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