Posts Tagged ‘demolition’

Harlesden, Willesden, Mary Seacole & a Wassail

Friday, February 2nd, 2024

Harlesden, Willesden, Mary Seacole & a Wassail: Sunday 2nd February 2014, ten years ago today was a pleasant winter day, not too cold and with some sunshine and light clouds, perfect for panoramas, so I went early to have a walk around the area before going on to photograph the wassail in Willesden Green.

Harlesden, Willesden & Mary Seacole

Harlesden, Willesden, Mary Seacole & a Wassail

It was long ago on one of the dirtiest trains imaginable, windows think with dust so I could hardly see outside that I first came to Willesden Junction Station from Richmond on the North London Line which ran to the City and Broad Street Station. Upgraded to run to North Woolwich in the 80s with new rolling stock the line became a key way for me to travel to photograph around north London. Nowadays the line is part of London’s Overground, since 2016 run by Arriva Rail London, a part of Deutsche Bahn and rather cleaner, with trains running to Stratford.

Harlesden, Willesden, Mary Seacole & a Wassail

Willesden Junction, which links with the Bakerloo line and another Overground service from Euston to Watford Junction is not in Willesden but in Harlesden and has platforms at two levels, and also has mainline trains rushing past without stopping. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, in earlier years it was was nicknamed “Bewildering Junction” or “The Wilderness” because it contained such a maze of entrances, passages and platforms and it is still rather like that.

Harlesden, Willesden, Mary Seacole & a Wassail

If you can find it, a footpath leads over the mainline tracks next to the line from Richmond and Clapham Junction through an industrial wasteland and eventually to Hythe Road. Google Maps even dignifies it with a name, Salter Street Alleyway. Turning left at into Hythe Road takes you to Scrubs Lane, but going right can take you to the Grand Union Canal, with a bridge leading across to the tow path. I did both.

Harlesden, Willesden, Mary Seacole & a Wassail

The blue sky with clouds was perfect weather for panoramas, and I took a number going back and forth a little in the area, across the Scrubs Lane bridge and back. At the corner of this bridge is a memorial garden to Mary Seacole (1805-81) who nursed many British soldiers in the Crimean War as well as working in her native Jamaica and Panama and Cuba, funding her medical work from the proceeds of her general store and boarding house in Jamaica. The garden, on the canal bank next to Mitre bridge, on Scrubs Lane, not far from where she was buried in St Mary’s Catholic cemetery, Kensal Green, was begun in 2003, shortly before the 2005 bi-centenary celebration of her birth.

The garden, now rather overshadowed by a new development, was a pleasant place to sit in the sun and eat my sandwiches before making my way to Willesden Green for the Wassail. Pictures from the walk start here on My London Diary and include more panoramas as well as other pictures.

Willesden Wassail – Willesden Green

This was the fifth Urban Wassail in Willesden High Street organised by Rachel Rose Reid to celebrate local shopkeepers who give Willesden Green its character and help to create a vibrant community.

The wassail is described as a “small free festival run by and for people from Willesden Green” and also celebrates the work of all who live there and create the neighbourhood and brought together artists and volunteers from the area including James Mcdonald, Berakah Multi Faith Choir, Poetcurious, Errol Mcglashan and several others, with more performing later after the wassail.

The group met at Willesden Green Station, though unfortunately this was closed for engineering works on the day. Here there was a performance from ParkLife singers, a local community choir run as a not-for-profit co-operatvie and led by Charlotte Eaton, before Rachel Rose Reid introduced us to the first shopkeeper who told us a little abor her shop, Daisychain Florist, with all of the 70 or so people present repeating her words in Occupy ‘mike-check’ style.

Then everyone sang a Wassail Song, borrowed from the Carhampton Wassail, with the shop name in place of its “Old Apple Tree”. You can read this on My London Diary.

The same pattern was repeated at a number of shops along the High Stret including Hamada supermarket, Khan Halal Butchers,, Corner Barber Shop, Red Pig, Fornetti, Mezzoroma and Buy Wise.

There were other stops on the route for poetry and songs, including one in the yard at the front of Sainsbury’s, one of relatively few chains in the area.

Here we were also told about the campaign to save the Queensbury Pub on Walm Lane from demolition, with a petition of over 4,000 signatures to Brent Council against the demolition of this ‘Asset of Community Value’ and its replacement by a 10 storey block of flats. The pub had been open since 1895 but was bought by developer Fairview New Homes (North London) Ltd in 2012. Brent turned down the development, but the developer, now called Redbourne (Queensbury) Ltd put forward new plans in 2018. Again these were refused by the council but the developer’s appeal succeeded. The pub vlosed in 2022-3 and was demolished in October 2023 to build 48 flats. The development is supposed to include a new pub.

The Wassail ended with a number of poetry performances opposite the Willesden Green Library building site, after which we moved to the neighbouring cherry tree for a final wassail after which everyone let off the party poppers and decorated the tree with ribbons. It was slightly less noisy version of the traditional banging pans and firing guns in order to wake up the apple trees.

The wassailers then moved to the Bar Gallery in Queens Parade on the corner of Walm Lane, where refreshments were available and there were to be more performances. I went along but then realised it was time for me to start my journey home and left.

More pictures on My London Diary at Willesden Wassail.

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Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot – 2017

Saturday, December 2nd, 2023

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot – On Saturday 2nd December 2017 residents of Cressingham Gardens in Tulse Hill marched with supporters to a rally at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton to demand Lambeth Council hold a ballot of residents over the plans to demolish their homes. I went early to take a walk around the estate and take some photographs before the rally and march.

Cressingham Gardens – Tulse Hill, Brixton

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot

Council estates generally get a bad press, with media attention concentrating on those which were badly planned and have been allowed to deteriorate, often deliberately populated with more than than share of families with problems of various kinds, used as ‘sink estates’ by local councils. Some councils have even employed PR companies to denigrate and demonise those of their estates they want to demolish and sell off to private developers.

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot
This has always been a popular estate, and has a low crime rate for the area

These developers have also powerfully lobbied our main political parties who have handed over much of their policies over housing to developers and estate agents and other property professionals who stand to make huge profits from turning public property into private estates.

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot

Yet many council estates are pleasant places to live, often much better planned than private developments of the same era, and providing more space for people than the cramped and expensive flats that are replacing them where redevelopment schemes have gone ahead. Lambeth Council have several such estates, including those at Central Hill and Cressingham Gardens where this would clearly be the case, and residents at both sites have campaigned strongly to keep their homes.

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot

We seem always to be in a housing crisis in the UK, and some of the solutions that were taken to meet this have not always worked to well, particularly with some system-built high rises which were shoddily erected by private developers for councils.

After I left home in the early 1960s I lived in private rented flats, then in a New Town in a flat from the development agency and then for many years now as an owner occupier. The private rentals were pretty squalid and the publicly owned flat was rather more spacious than the small Victorian house we have lived in since. It would have been good to have been able to move into socially owned housing when we relocated but it wasn’t available.

Until the Thatcher government came into power public housing had regarded as something desirable with even Conservative Councils such as Lambeth was then having a mission to provide quality housing for working class Lambeth residents. They employed some of the best architects in the country, such as Edward Hollamby, the chief architect for Lambeth Council who was responsible for Cressingham Gardens and designed this low rise ‘garden estate’ development built in 1967 to 1979 at low cost and with a high population density, but with the 306 homes each having their own private outdoor space.

As the Twentieth Century Society state “this is one of the most exceptional and progressive post-war social housing estates in the UK” but the application for listing the estate in 2013 was rejected despite Historic England praising the way the design responds to its setting, with skill and sensitivity, “both in the scale and massing of the built elements, as well as through the integration of these elements with informal open spaces which bring a park-like character into the estate”. It appears to have been a decision made in defiance of both the estate’s architectural and historical merit and solely on political grounds.

The estate is on the Twentieth Century Society Buildings at Risk list. Lambeth Council have completed their preparation and brief for its complete demolition and their web site states they “will shortly be starting RIBA Stage 2 (Concept Design).

Cressingham Gardens residents say Ballot Us!

People met up next to the Rotunda in the centre of the estate designed by Hollamby as a children’s nursery, many carrying banners and posters. Residents were joined by other campaigners, including those trying to save Lambeth’s libraries and housing campaigners from north London.

Residents love living on Cressingham – a small well-planned estate with a great community feeling and many know that they will be unable to afford the so-called afford ‘affordable’ homes that the council wants to replace their homes with – a 2 bed flat after regeneration will cost £610 (at 2017 values.)

They want the estate to be refurbished rather than demolished, which the council says would cost £10 million. Many dispute the council’s costings and say that some of the problems the council has identified are a matter of poor maintenance rather than needing expensive building works. But residents in any case point to the council having just spent over £165 million on a new Town Hall and say refurbishment is a cheap option.

It isn’t the cost of refurbishment which makes the council turn it down, but the profits that developers can make from the site – and which the council hopes to be able to get a share. Though such schemes haven’t always worked out well. Although the developers have done very nicely out of demolishing the Heygate site in Southwark and building high density blocks on it, the council made a huge loss, though some individuals involved have ended up in lucrative jobs on the back of it.

Lambeth is a Labour Council, and since the previous Labour Party conference party policy had been that no demolition of council estates should take place without consent, but Lambeth Council seem determined to ignore this and go ahead with their plans for a so-called ‘regeneration’ which would see all 300 homes demolished, without any plans to provide immediate council housing for the roughly 1000 residents who would be made homeless. To the council these residents are simply occupying a site worth several hundred thousand pounds – an asset the council wants to realise. It doesn’t care about communities, about people.

Those who have become leaseholders of their homes are likely to get even more shoddy treatment. The amount of compensation they are likely to receive is likely to be less than half they would need to buy a comparable property in the area – on or the rebuilt estate.

Cressingham is in a very desirable location, on the edge of a large park and with good transport links a short distance away. Many are likely to have to move miles away on the edge of London or outside to find property they can afford, far from where they now live and work.

The march set off for Brixton Town Hall on the corner of Acre Lane where a small crowd of supporters was waiting for them. The placed a box containing petition signatures in front of the locked doors on the steps and a rally began with shouts calling for a ballot.

Among those who had come to speak along with residents from the estate were Tanya Murat of Southwark Homes for All and Piers Corbyn, a housing campaigner also from neighbouring Southwark.

One of the strikers from the Ritzy cinema opposite told us that none of them could now afford to live in Lambeth now, and it’s clear that we need more social housing not less in the area. A local Green Party member also told us that they were the only party in the area campaigning for more social housing.

Potent Whisper performed his take on Regeneration, ‘Estate of War’, from this Rhyming Guide to Housing. The video of this was recorded in Cressingham Gardens.

Others who had come along included people from Class War and the e RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) who have been very active in supporting social housing campaigns as well as Roger Lewis of DPAC who told us how council cuts affect the disabled disproportunately.

More on My London Diary:
Cressingham residents say Ballot Us!
Cressingham Gardens

River Thames – Battersea Riverside 2012

Monday, August 14th, 2023

River Thames – Battersea Riverside: Tuesday 14th August 2012 was a nice day with blue sky and some interesting clouds in the sky and I had an hour or two to spare.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

So I took a walk from Battersea Bridge to Wandsworth along the Thames Path.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

Battersea Bridge crosses the river to Chelsea and I photographed the views over the river towards Lots Road Power Station and Chelsea Harbour.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

This is a stretch of the river I’ve walked quite a few times over the years. It’s an easy journey for me to get there but it is also one of the more interesting and varied to walk.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

When I first walked this way in the 1970s this was an industrial area, with factories and wharves and limited access to the river. Now the Thames Path takes you along the riverside with just some short diversions.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

Most of the riverside is now lined with blocks of expensive flats rather than the flour mills, oil depots and a power station at Fulham I photographed back then.

Silver Belle Flour, mill, Battersea, from Chelsea Harbour, Sands End, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1991, 91-4c-66
Silver Belle Flour, mill, Battersea, 1991

There are still a few traces of that industrial past, though some were being demolished on both sides of the river back in 2012.

Demolition at Fulham Wharf

The sand and gravel works immediated upstream from Wandsworth Bridge was still there and still working when I last visited the area a few months ago, although I expect before long it will also be another luxury block of flats.

I think the best images I made that day before catching a train at Wandsworth Town were probably some panoramic images I’ve not included in this post as they don’t fit well in its format. You can see these and others from the walk on My London Diary at Battersea Riverside.

Housing For Need Not Greed

Thursday, July 13th, 2023

Housing For Need Not Greed: Mostly my posts here look at old work, either from a few years ago or my work on London back in the 1980s and 90s. But I’m still goining out at taking pctures if not quite as often as I once did. So this post is about one of the two events I photographed last weekend.

Housing For Need Not Greed - Aysen Dennis - Fight4Aylesbur
Aysen Dennis – Fight4Aylesbury

Last Saturday, 8th July 2023 was National Housing Action Day, and a march from the Elephant to the Aylesbury Estate was one of 16 across the country on National Housing Day. Others were taking place in Lambeth, Islington, Kensington, Cardiff, Glasgow, Abbey Wood, Wandsworth, Harlow, Merton, Ealing, Cornwall, Folkestone, Devon, Birmingham, and Hastings.

Housing For Need Not Greed -Tanya Murat - Southwark Defend Council Housing
Tanya Murat – Southwark Defend Council Housing

The Southwark protest demanded Southwark Council stop demolishing council homes and refurbish and repopulate estates to house people and end the huge carbon footprint of demolish and rebuild. They demanded housing for need not corporate greed, refurbishment not demolition, filling of empty homes and an end to the leasehold system.

Housing For Need Not Greed
Marchers at the Elephant on their way to the Aylesbury Estate

Demolition and rebuilding of housing produces huge amounts of CO2, and whenever possible should be avoided now we are aware of the real dangers of global warming. Instead existing buildings should be insulated, retrofitted and refurbished and properly maintained.

Housing For Need Not Greed

Southwark Council’s estates have for well over 20 years been deliberately run down and demonised with some being demolished and replaced. Around 1000 council homes on the Aylesbury Estate have already been demolished buy around 1,700 are still occupied but currently scheduled for demolition.

Marchers on Walworth Road on their way to the Aylesbury Estate.

These homes were well built for the time to higher standards than their replacement and could easily and relatively cheaply be brought up to modern levels of services and insulation with at least another 50 years of life. The estate was carefully designed with open spaces, natural daylight and a range of properties, many with some private outdoor space. The planned replacements are at higher density, less spacious and unlikely to last as long – and only include a small proportion at social rents. Current tenants are more secure and the properties are far more affordable.

People on the street watch and video the march

Many of those whose homes have already been demolished here and on the neighbouring Heygate estate have been forced to move outside the area, some far from London as they can no longer afford to live here.

Bubbles and Marchers on Walworth Road on their way to the Aylesbury Estate.

Although the developers have profited greatly from their work with Southwark Council here and in other estates, and some officers and councillors involved have personally landed well-paying corporate jobs and enjoyed lavish corporate hospitality, the schemes have largely been financial disasters for the council and council tax payers.

Fight4Aylesbury was formed in 199 as Aylesbury Tenants and Residents First, and has been fighting Southwark Council’s plans to demolish the estate since then. While these schemes – part of New Labour’s regeneration initiative – have always been destructive of local communities and disastrous for many of those whose homes have been demolished, we now see that they are also environmentally unsupportable.

You can watch a video on YouTube of Aysen Dennis, Fight4Aylesbury and Tanya Murat, Southwark Defend Council Housing talking about the protest, and FIght4Aylesbury recently released a newsletter, The Future of the Aylesbury with more details on the estate and their proposals. A few more of my pictures from the event are in the album Housing For Need Not Greed – National Action Day, London, UK and are available for editorial use on Alamy.

Excalibur – The Estate – 2014

Saturday, May 6th, 2023

Excalibur“, Wikipedia tells me, “is the mythical sword of King Arthur that may be attributed with magical powers or associated with the rightful sovereignty of Britain.” As a French poem of around 1200AD where it first appears relates, “Arthur obtained the British throne by pulling a sword from an anvil sitting atop a stone that appeared in a churchyard on Christmas Eve“.

Excalibur - The Estate

In this account, as foretold by Merlin, the act could not be performed except by ‘the true king’, meaning the divinely appointed king or true heir of Uther Pendragon“. This won’t happen at today’s event in Westminster Abbey, although there does appear to be rather a lot of medieval mumbo-jumbo – described by the Concise Oxford Dictionary as “an object of senseless veneration or a meaningless ritual.

Excalibur - The Estate

But Excalibur is also the name of of what was one of the more interesting estates in London, a pre-fab estate built during 1945-6 by German and Italian prisoners of war using two prefabricated designs of housing, and was initially intended to last 10 years.

Excalibur - The Estate

The owner of the land, a Lord Forster gave it to the London County Council on a promise it would be returned to parkland when these single-storey two bedroom temporary houses were cleared.

Excalibur - The Estate

The estate lasted rather longer than expected and most of the 187 homes were still being lived in when I paid another visit on 6th May 2014 to make some panoramic images and also to visit the Prefab Museum, an art project by Elisabeth Blanchet.

My first visit had been back in the 1990s, when I walked the Greenwich Meridian in London as a part of a proposed Millennium project, Meridian, which failed to attract the funding needed to complete it, though I had taken all the photographs I needed. Only some of those north of Greenwich are on line. The Greenwich meridian actually ran through the centre of the pre-fab which housed the museum.

I’d returned back in 2010 to take more pictures after reading that the estate was to be demolished, despite valiant attempts to save it. And of course that promise made to John Forster, 1st Baron Forster of Harraby was forgotten – and he had in any case died in 1972.

Half a dozen of the pre-fabs were eventually listed after a long battle and so should survive the demolition of the estate. But it was really the estate that was important rather than the individual buildings. Although parts of the estate have now gone, much still remains, but has been allowed to decay considerably since I made these panoramas on May 6th 2014. All of these pictures show a roughly 140 degree horizontal angle of view – and roughly 90 degrees horizontal, with some fine clouds in a blue sky. These are a small sample of the roughly 70 images I made on the day.

The images online – much smaller than the orginals – are actually twice the width they appear on this post and you can view them larger – as well as many more – on My London Diary at Excalibur Estate.

Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition

Tuesday, April 18th, 2023

Last Friday I went to the first day of the Fight4Aylesbury exhibition which continues until 23 April 2023. It’s an unusual exhibition and one that is worth visiting if you can get to south London before it ends,

Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition

The exibition celebrates the struggle by residents on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark to stay in their homes since the estate was first threatened in 1999 and takes over the flat of one of those still remaining, Aysen who writes:

Welcome to my home.

I am opening the doors to my flat for a collective clelbration of 20+ years of housing struggles to defend our council homes against social cleansing and gentrification. Our fight is ongoing.

Since 1999 the council has subjected us with privitisation, “re-generation” and now demolition. We, Aylesbury residents, other council tenant all over the country, and our supporters, have been resisting and are still resisting and defending our homes.

My home tells the story of this struggle.


Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition

You are invited to Aysen’s council flat on Aylesbury Estate to celebrate 20+ years of housing struggles for housing justice and against gentrification, social cleansing and demolition of social housing. The flat has been transformed into a living exhibition with flyers, posters, video, audio and installations on housing struggles.
Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition
The exhibition is in this block, Wendover

The Aylesbury estate, designed by Hans Peter “Felix” Trenton was one of the largest areas of council housing in Europe, built from 1963 to 1977 with 2,700 dwellings for around 10,000 residents in an area containing some earlier social housing a short distance south of the Elephant and Castle between East Street market and Burgess Park.

Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition

There are a number of large blocks of various heights, from 4 to 14 floors, all well designed and built to the high standards of the era, with rather larger rooms and more solid walls than current buildings. The estate also had a central boiler to supply heat more economically to the flats.

Southwark neglected the estate in the 1980s and 1990s, failing to carry out necessary maintenance and the estate and the estate environment became in poor conditions. The heating system in particular suffered. Southwark began to use this and the neighbouring Heygate Estate as ‘sink estates’, deliberately moving in families with various social problems and people with mental health issues. It was because the estate had become unpopular that Aysen, who had to leave Turkey after the 1980 coup, was able to get a flat here with her sister in 1993.

The estate came to get a reputation as “one of the most notorious estates in the United Kingdom“, reinforced by it becoming a popular area for TV crews filming “murder scenes, gun and drug storylines and gang-related crimes in soaps and gritty dramas.” In particular from 2004-15 Channel 4 used it in an “ident” for which they had added “washing lines, shopping trolley, rubbish bags and satellite dishes” to create what was described as “a desolate concrete dystopia.”

Its poor reputation led Tony Blair to hold his first speech to the press as Prime Minister in 1997 on the estate, promising that the government would care for the poorest in society. It was a promise that he and later prime ministers have spectacularly failed to keep.

Southwark Council’s response to the estate’s decay they had overseen was to try and wash their hands of it by trying to transfer it to a private housing association to be redeveloped. But a campaign by residents in 2001 led to this being soundly rejected – not surprisingly they voted against demolition, displacement, rising rents and smaller flat sizes.

Undeterred, Southwark decided to go ahead with the redevelopment themselves, producing new plans for demolition in 2005. This time they didn’t bother to ballot the residents.

Solidarity collage which includes some of my images

The plans were for a 20 year phased demolition, with rebuilding of modern blocks by a housing association. The generous public space of the estate would be reduced and the housing density almost doubled. The first phase was completed in 2013 and Phase 2 is currently underway. All four phases are due for completion around 2032, and the 12 storey Wendover block in which the exhibition is being held has already been largely emptied of residents and is expected to be demolished around the end of this year.

Residents have continued their fight to stop the redevelopment, with protests and in January 2015 housing activists and squatters occupied flats in one of the emptied blocks. Moving from block to block they were finally evicted 18 days later. The squatters occupied another building and again were evicted. Southwark spent £140,000 on a fence, completely destroyed all bathrooms, toilets, pipes and kitchens in empty properties and spent £705,000 on security guards to prevent further occupation.

Other protests took place, including one in which part of the fence was torn down, and various protests at council meetings. Aylesbury residents also joined with housing activists in Southwark and across London at various other protests. But although these brought the Aylesbury campaign and the scandals over housing to national attention, the demolition continues.

Part of the scandal has been the “well-oiled revolving door” between the council – councillors and officers – and developers. The toilet in the exhibition flat is devoted to Southwark Council, and in particular for its Leader for more than a decade Peter John, who stepped down in 2020. He described his years as a “decade of Delivery“; community; anti-gentrification collective Southwark Notes call it “a Wild West gold rush for developers.” A 2013 report showed that “20 percent of Southwark’s 63 councillors work as lobbyists” for developers in the planning industry.

Similar estates built with the same system elsewhere have been successfully refurbished at relatively low cost to bring insulation and other aspects up to current standards. These buildings will probably last into the next century and their demolition is expensive and incredibly wasteful of both the huge amount of energy that was embedded in them and and energy require to demolish and rebuild.

There is more to the exhibition – and you can see some hints of it in the pictures. After visiting the show I walked up four floors to the top of Wendover for the view. The windows were rather dirty and most fixed shut but I did find a few places where they were open slightly to let me take photographs of the views across London.

You can see a different set of pictures in my album Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition.

More From Bow Creek, April 1989

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

The second part of a short walk by Bow Creek on Friday 7th April 1989. The first part is at Bow Creek, East India Dock Way, April 1989.

London Sawmills, Bow Creek, East India Dock Rd, Canning Town, Newham, 1989 89-4b-15
London Sawmills, Bow Creek, East India Dock Rd, Canning Town, Newham, 1989 89-4b-15

I walked back a few yards to the west along the East India Dock Road and made this picture looking south down Bow Creek, again showing the stacked timber on the wharf. The closer of the two bridges visible was I think just a pipe bridge, probably to carry gas from the nearby gasworks from Poplar to Canning Town, and has since been removed.

The second bridge is a Dock Road Foot Bridge, more commonly called the Blue Bridge (a name it shares with several others in London), though it also carries pipes and is still in place. I think it was intended to provide a route for people living in South Bromley to Canning Town station, and it leads to a bridge taking the footpath over the DLR, but unfortunately this has been almost permanently locked. It has been at least partly rebuilt since I made this picture

Hidden by this bridge a few yards further downstream and fenced off is another bridge, Canning Town Old Railway Bridge, long disused which was built to carry a single rail track over the river.

Pipe Bridge, Bow Creek, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1989 89-4c-61
Pipe Bridge, Bow Creek, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1989 89-4c-61

I walked on across Bow Creek and took this picture of the pipe bridge. As you can see it was well fenced off and although there were steps up and a footway across I could not access this.

All this brickwork on the Middlesex side of the river has gone, I think when the road bridge here was widened and a link road provided to the Limehouse Link tunnel but the brick abutment remains on the Essex side. The bridge was built to give sufficient clearance for navigation.

Pipe Bridge, Bow Creek, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1989  89-4c-63
Pipe Bridge, Bow Creek, Tower Hamlets, Newham, 1989 89-4c-63

At the centre of the river I had crossed from Newham into Tower Hamlets. My street atlas names this area as South Bromley, but I don’t think anyone now knows where that is, as there is no station of that name, the DLR having decided on East India instead.

A few yards on along waste ground I made another picture showing the pipe bridge and the river, before turning back to the East India Dock Road. I made two exposures and I wonder if I may have chosen the wrong one to digitise as it is just slightly unsharp.

London Sawmills, Bow Creek, East India Dock Rd, Canning Town, Newham, 1989 89-4c-65
London Sawmills, Bow Creek, East India Dock Rd, Canning Town, Tower Hamlets, 1989 89-4c-65

Across the water you can see much of the planks produced by the sawmill on the wharf, as well as stacks on a further wharf downriver between the building around 50 yards away on land but half a mile downstream round what is now the Bow Creek Ecology Park. Behind the cut timber you can see part of the Pura Foods edible oils factory on the opposite bank of the invisible river, and above that the top of the flood barrier across the river on the other side of the factory.

Timber was for many years a major industry on Bow Creek and along the Lea Navigation, as the Surrey Docks just across the Thames was mainly a timber dock, with large timber ponds. Boats and barges would have brought huge trunks to sawmills such as this, and the cut timber was also mainly transported further on by barge.

Pura Foods, Bow Creek, Tower Hamlets, 1989  89-4c-52
Pura Foods, Bow Creek, Tower Hamlets, 1989 89-4c-52

I walked further east and used a short telephoto lens to make this image of Pura Foods. Their factory processing vegetable oils here at Orchard Place had grown considerably over the years, as had the smells from it, and many locals were pleased when the factory moved out in 2006.

Almost all of my pictures at this time were taken with a 35mm lens, giving a moderate wide angle view. The Olympus Zuiko lens I used was unusual in being a shift lens, allow me to move the optical elements relative to the film to give additional control over the perspective. It made it possible for example to photograph taller buildings without tilting the camera which would have resulted in verticals that converged.

Lens design has improved considerably since, and so have our expectations of lenses. Many of my pictures made then have a lack of critical sharpness at the corners which we would now find unacceptable. Digital imaging in particular means we now routinely look at images on a much larger scale on screen than the prints we used to make.

West Ham Power Station, Bow Creek, East India Dock Rd, Newham, 1989 89-4c-55
West Ham Power Station, Bow Creek, East India Dock Rd, Newham, 1989 89-4c-55

I crossed to the other side of the busy East India Dock Road, going along Wharfside Road under it, and made this view looking north up Bow Creek. As you can see the West Ham Power Station was then being demolished. This was the last in a number of power stations on the site since 1904, when West Ham Council built one here to power its trams. This was West Ham B, built in 1951 and it used coal brought up Bow Creek as well as coke from the neighbouring Bromley Gas Works.

Power production at the station dropped off from the late 1960s and it closed in 1983. By 1989 its two 300ft cooling towers had already been demolished and the rest of the station was following.

West Ham Power Station, Bow Creek, East India Dock Rd, Newham, 1989 89-4c-56
West Ham Power Station, Bow Creek, East India Dock Rd, Newham, 1989 89-4c-56

A second view shows more of the Newham (or Essex) bank south of the main power station building and the closer parts are again full of stacked timber.

Newham Council together with Tower Hamlets has plans for a number of new bridges in the area providing links across Bow Creek, at Lochnagar St, Poplar Reach near to Cody Dock and Mayer Parry connecting the Leven Road former gasworks site to roughly where the old power station was, now the SEGRO industrial park.

It had been a short and interesting walk and I made my way to Canning Town station for the slow journey home. Canning Town is much easier to get to since the Jubilee Line opened at the end of 1999.

Lung Theatre ‘E15’ Battersea March 2017

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

Lung Theatre ‘E15’ Battersea March: Thursday 16th March 2017 was a rather unusual day for me in that rather than photographing a protest I was being part of a theatrical performance, though not in a theatre but on the busy evening rush hour streets of Battersea.

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

But like many of the others there, I was playing myself as a photographer of protests, and taking pictures as I would if this had been a real protest.

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

This performance was to announce that Lung Theatre, a small theatrical group, were bringing their Edinburgh festival award-winning performance ‘E15’ to Battersea Arts Centre, and they were doing so with the help of many of the housing protesters, particularly from the Stratford-based Focus E15 campaign, on which their ‘verbatim theatre’ performance was based.

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

An interesting article, Documentary & Verbatim Theatre by Tom Cantrell of the University of York gives a clear definition, “Verbatim theatre is a form of documentary theatre which is based on the spoken words of real people. Strictly, verbatim theatre-makers use real people’s words exclusively, and take this testimony from recorded interviews.”

The “protest” began in the rather dim light of the street outside Clapham Junction’s busiest entrance, and it was hard for me to distinguish the actors from the housing protesters by their speech and actions, though rather easier in that they were the only faces I didn’t recognise, having met and photographed the activists so often at previous events. But the group certainly put on a convincing performance as they handed out leaflets and fliers, both about the Focus E15 campaign and their forthcoming performances at the Battersea Arts Centre.

Focus E15 began when a group of young mothers housed in the Focus E15 hostel in Stratford were told that Newham council were going to evict them and they would be dispersed not just in the borough but to rented accommodation across the country in far away places where they had no friends, no family and away from any jobs, schools, familiar services and support.

Newham had adopted a policy which amounted to social cleansing, removing people from its area who, as the then Mayor put it, could not afford to live there. Rather than accept this they came together to fight the council, and inspired others across the country to fight for ‘Social Housing NOT Social Cleansing’.

And Focus E15 won their fight but didn’t stop there, continuing the fight for others in the area faced with homelessness and eviction, demanding the council bring empty council housing back into use in a campaign for ‘Housing For All’. They are still out on Stratford Broadway with a street stall every Saturday, still forcing the council to face up to its responsibilities despite considerable harassment (and more recently a change of Mayor.)

As well as some of the leading activists from Focus E15 at the eevent were also other campaigners including some from Sweets Way in north London and Lewisham People Before Profit and others fighting the demolition of council housing by London’s mainly Labour controlled councils, increasingly in league with estate agents and property developers scrambling for excessive profits from sky-high London market prices. And they had brought some of their banners with them for the event.

From Clapham Junction the “protesters” marched up Lavender Hill to the Battersea Arts Centre, where they occupied the foyer for a few final minutes of protest in what had been a pretty convincing event. And while actors had to go on stage and give their performance, the activists could sit down in the theatre and watch.

I didn’t join them, as I knew I had to come back to view it a week later and then be a part of a panel discussion Art & Accidental Activism, a week later. It was an impressive performance and gave a real impression of some of the more dramatic aspects of the real protests I had covered and made clear the political aspects of the housing crisis and why activism was necessary. But sometimes it did seem strange to hear words I remembered well coming out of a different person.

I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I would have liked as I was very nervous, considerably daunted at having to appear afterwards ‘on stage’ to answer questions with fellow panelists Jeremy Hardy, journalist Dawn Foster and theatre legend Max Stafford Clark. But in the event it went well (my sternest critic says) and I rather enjoyed it and the session in the bar that followed.

More at Lung Theatre ‘E15’ march to BAC.

Houses, Flats, Shops & Peckham Arch

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

The previous post on this walk I made on Sunday 29th January 1989 was Laundry, Timber and Glengall Road. My walk ended on the site of Peckham Arch at Canal Head, but the arch was only built five years later. Despite local opposition Southwark Council seems now determined to demolish this local landmark.

Houses, Peckham Hill St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-34
Houses, Peckham Hill St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-34

These houses are at 10-16 Peckham Hill St. 10 and 12 appear to be lived in although 12 seems to be in poor condition, while 14-16 are derelict with broken windows and corrugated iron over the ground floor door and window of 14. Now the all look rather tidier and expensive. I think all these houses probably date from around 1840 or a little later. A terrace of smaller houses at 34-40 a little further south is listed and looks to me roughly of similar date. These are larger and grander houses, with two boasting substantial porches. The one at right I suspect has at sometime been rebuilt – perhaps after war damage and looks as if this was done in a plainer style.

Love One Another, flats, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-35
Love One Another, flats, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-35

Plain flats with small balconies – large enough to perhaps put out a clothes horse or stand watching the street and enjoying a cigarette or a cup of tea. But the boarded up window at lower left and in one of those above the graffitied ‘LOVE ONE ANOTHER’ suggested to that this block was being emptied out for demolition. I wondered too what message had been painted over on the balcony – probably something short and crude.

Commercial Way is quite a long road, but my contact sheet gives a 100m grid reference which places these flats close to Cator St, and these flats, probably dating from the 1950s, have been replaced by more recent buildings.

Shops, Peckham High St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-24
Shops, Peckham High St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-24

I walked down the path following the former canal to Peckham High St, where you can still recognise the building that was Julian Jewellers, now a mobile phone shop, which also spills over into what was in 1989 Candyland. “SWEETER THAN THE REST – SPECIALISTS IN CUT PRICE CIGARETTES – 80 PECKHAM HIGH STREET” with two large cigarette adverts. Stiletto Expresso looks very closed in my picture – did it once sell shoes or coffee?The building in its place bears a slight resemblance but is now around twice the height.

The building at extreme right, mostly out of frame is also there, and until recently recognisable, but recently everything above the ground floor has been covered by an advertisement. The ground floor is now Mumasi Market.

The building on the left edge was demolished when the Peckham Arch was created in 1994., and I was standing where it now is to take this picture. The arch is now again under threat after an earlier proposal in 2016 for its replacement by a block of flats was defeated by determined local opposition. But Southwark Council still appear determined to remove it, despite it having become a landmark feature of Peckham, now much loved by residents and a great space for community activities.

The council make clear why they want to remove the arch, basically so they can build more flats in “a significantly larger development on site” with “more commercial and/or community space on the ground floor“. They do make a few other minor points, such as the current inconvenient cycle route, which could easily be remedied with the arch still in position. They claim that 80% of local residents in 2016 did not want to see the arch retained, which seems at odds with the views expressed by residents to the local press.

Whenever I’ve been in Peckham on a Saturday afternoon there has been something happening under the arch (and it’s particularly useful when it be raining.) Here’s one example:

Houses, Flats Shops & Peckham Arch

Peckham Pride – February 2016

Wikipedia states “The Arch was constructed in 1994 and was designed by architects Troughton McAslan as monument to and as instigator of regeneration in a borough which had suffered from years of decline.” It’s article goes on to quote various criticisms of the 2016 plan to demolish the arch. Although it has proved itself an ‘Asset of Community Value’, Southwark Council turned down the application by local residents to have it listed as such as they wanted to demolish it, though it seems impossible to read the reason they gave on the spreadsheet on the council site.

My walk on Sunday 29th January 1989 ended here on Peckham High Street, a convenient place to catch a 36 bus back to Vauxhall for my train home. The first post on this walk I made on Sunday 29th January 1989 was
Windows, A Doorway, Horse Trough and Winnie Mandela

Art School Nude to Hospital Tower

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

The final set of pictures from my walk on 27th January 1989. The previous post on this walk is The Workhouse, Town Hall, Council Offices and Art School.

Sculpture, South London Gallery, The Passmore Edwards South London Art Gallery, Peckham Rd, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1g-26
Nude, South London Gallery, The Passmore Edwards South London Art Gallery, Peckham Rd, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1g-26

A bronze nude by Karel Vogel was at the entrance to the gallery, and in 1989 seemed under threat by the tree emerging behind. I think both the sculpture and the tree behind it have gone although a large tree closer to the road remains. Vogel, (1897-1961) was a Czech sculptor who came to England fleeing the Nazis in 1938 and taught at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts from 1948, and became in charge of the School of Sculpture there.

Perhaps his best-known work in this country is his 1959 Leaning Woman, Grade II listed in 2016, situated close to the A4 by St Peter’s Church in Hammersmith.

The London Institute, Camberwell College of Arts, Peckham Rd, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1g-11
The London Institute, Camberwell College of Arts, Peckham Rd, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1g-11

The Art School and gallery designed by Maurice Adams was built in 1896-8 is Grade II listed. It’s extravagantly baroque exterior includes a number of caryatids in supporting roles. ‘The Buildings of South London’, page 620, describes the 1960 addition at left by Murray, Ward & Partners as “totally unsympathetic” and it is certainly and doubtless intentionally a complete contrast. But it deserves to be seen and judged on its own.

Guardians Offices, London Borough of Southwark, Havil St, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1g-14
Guardians Offices, London Borough of Southwark, Havil St, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1g-14

The Havil Street frontage of the Poor Law Guardians building whose frontage on Peckham Road featured in the previous post in this series. It was built in an vaguely Art Nouveau style in 1904. I found the octagonal building with the rectangular blocks behind with its rhythmic patterns of windows and odd towers, together with the odd street wall, its curves echoed by the hood around the doorway quite enchanting.

St Giles' Hospital, Havil Street, Camberwell, Southwark 1989-1g-15
St Giles’ Hospital, Havil Street, Camberwell, Southwark 1989-1g-15

In 1889-90 a new 4-storey ward tower fronting onto Havil Street was opened for the Camberwell Workhouse Infirmary, later St Giles’s Hospital. Circular in design (which was fashionable at that time), it had cost about £14,500. Each storey contained 24 beds radiating around a central shaft, in which heating and ventilation services were located. This Grade II listed building is now flats. The pile of rubble behind the wall is from the demolition of unlisted hospital buildings.

St Giles' Hospital, Havil Street, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1g-16
St Giles’ Hospital, Havil Street, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1g-16

Another view of the hospital tower seen from Havil Street. Designed by Robert P Whellock it is Grade II listed. This was the last picture I took on Friday 27th January 1989, but two days later, Sunday 29th I came back here to begin another walk, beginning with more pictures here and a little further along Havil Street and I’ll include these here.

St Giles' Hospital, Havil Street, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-02
St Giles’ Hospital, Havil Street, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-65

Much of the former St Giles Hospital was in 1989 a demolition site with just the listed buildings being left standing. The area is now filled with rather dreary housing with two and three storey solid-looking blocks around ‘St Giles Tower’. I think this picture was taken from the corner of Brunswick Villas, just after I had made a picture (not on-line) of the Grade II listed Bethel Asylum for aged women founded by William Peacock in 1837 at 159-163 Havil Street.

House, Brunswick Villas, (Brunswick Rd) Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-62
House, Brunswick Villas, (Brunswick Rd) Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-62

I walked up Havil Street to the corner with Brunswick Villas, formerly Brunswick Road as the stone pillar still asserts. These houses are presumably a part of W J Hudson’s Brunswick Park development begun in 1847, though rather less grand than some.

From here I made my way towards Peckham – where my next series of posts on my walk on 29th January will begin.

My posts on this walk on 27th January 1989 began at St George’s, Camberwell, Absolutely Board & Alberto.