Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Another side of Marylebone

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
Paddington Green, Paddington, Westminster, 1987 87-3b-15-positive_2400
Paddington Green, Paddington, Westminster, 1987

There is another side to Marylebone, particularly to the north of the Marylebone Road, around Lisson Grove and Edgware Road. The trees are still there on the Green, and I think my tilted camera was an attempt to maximise their effect. The tower blocks at right, Hall and Braithwaite Towers, both 22 stories were commissioned by Paddington Metropolitan Borough Council, more or less identical blocks by R A Jensen, completed in 1966 and still standing, each with 80 flats, but Paddington College, opened here in 1967 was replaced by a new building for what is now City of Westminster College in 2011.

Ralfe Electronics, Transept St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987 87-3c-42-positive_2400
Ralfe Electronics, Transept St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987

Ralfe Electronics was indeed ‘The “Famous House” for Electronic Components‘ and a company of that name still exists, but is now in Watford. They were at 10 Chapel St, on the corner of Transept St, just a few yards from Edgware Rd (District) line station. Electronics geeks used to come from all over the country, if not the world, to shop here.

Bookmakers, Crawford Place, Paddington, Westminster, 1987 87-3c-15-positive_2400
Bookmakers, Crawford Place, Paddington, Westminster, 1987 87-3c-15-positive_2400
The Christian Union Almshouses, Crawford Place, Paddington, Westminster, 1987  87-3c-26-positive_2400
The Christian Union Almshouses, Crawford Place, Paddington, Westminster, 1987

The bookmakers was in Crawford Place, a short street off the Edgware Road in the rather plusher area south of the Marylebone Rd, close to the Christian Union Almshouses. This building is still there, and in very much better condition. Built as a small hospital for the elderly and inform in 1899 it was converted into a dozen self-contained flats a few years after I took this picture. It still provides housing “for older or retired people in housing need, who are of the Christian faith“, particularly those “who live in, or have a strong local connection to the Boroughs of Westminster, Camden, or Kensington & Chelsea.

Ken's Junk Shop, Lisson Grove, Westminster, 1987 87-3b-21-positive_2400
Ken’s Junk Shop, Lisson Grove, Westminster, 1987
87-3b-36-positive_2400
Lisson Grove Cottages, Lisson Grove, Westminster, 1987

The date on the houses in this small street off Lisson Grove is 1855, and they were Grade II listed a few months after I took this photograph. I think I was aware of these artisanal dwellings and Bell St from the drawing and writing of Geoffrey Fletcher – these cottages are drawn on p51 of his London Souvenirs (1973).

It was easy to walk past the entry to them without noticing, and I think it is now behind a locked gate.

Bookseller, Bell St, Lisson Grove, Westminster, 1987 87-3b-23-positive_2400
Bookseller, Bell St, Lisson Grove, Westminster, 1987

Bell St here now has a very different character, with most of the shops including this second-hand book dealer now converted to residential properties. Back in 1987 it was difficult to walk along this street without being diverted into browsing the extensive stock in search of a bargain, though these were hard to find.

The first Turkish Bath in London was opened in this street by Roger Evans in 1860, but the area was described at the time as being densely crowded with a population lower than the ‘decent poor’ on the east side of Lisson Grove, with Bell St “the main stream of a low colony, with many tributary channels.”

Stirling & Sons, Bell St, Lisson Grove, Westminster, 1987 87-3b-12-positive_2400
Stirling & Sons, Bell St, Lisson Grove, Westminster, 1987

One of my favourite pictures from this area shows the street and pavement outside Stirlings at 54 Bell St, a junk and scrap metal dealer with an extensive range and whose premises appear to need scaffolding. But it is the group of people in the doorway that provide much of the interest, as well as their backdrop.

Numbers on the street now go direct from 52 to 56, with no 54. The space of this shop and that on its right are now the Lisson Gallery, built to the designs of Tony Fretton shortly after I made this picture. The concrete pillar at left, part of a run-down single-storey building, continued to deteriorate until around 2010 when it was refurbished and in 2015 had two storeys added in a late Victorian manner that could be original.

More pictures of various areas of London in 1987.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


1986 Page 12

Thursday, June 25th, 2020
Leeke St, Pentonville, Camden 86-10c-44_2400
Leeke St, Pentonville, Camden

Page 12 of 1986 London Photographs

1986 was the year I began seriously to photograph the fabric of London, and the number of photographs on Flickr, 1,370 reflects this, although I took several times this number, mainly in a series of planned walks exploring different areas of the capital.

76-78, Caledonian Rd, Kings Cross, Islington 86-10g-11_2400
Caledonian Rd, Kings Cross, Islington

A few of those I’ve not digitised are near duplicates, though usually I only took a single image of each subject, often taking some time to consider the best viewpoint and sometimes waiting for people or traffic to leave me a clearer view. Although I was working on 35mm and almost always hand-held, my approach was generally like that of a photographer using a larger camera – and the 35mm Olympus shift lens gave me much of the flexibility of large-format camera movements.

Nat West Tower, Old Broad St, City 86-10e-61_2400
Nat West Tower, Old Broad St, City

I had tried using 4×5″ cameras, a first with a monorail and then with an MPP, but found them too restrictive. Heavy to carry any distance, slow to set up and even with several magazines and a small pile of dark slides I was very limited in how many exposures I could make in a session. The movements on the MPP were also fairly limited, and the Olympus shift lens was more useful for this. While I admired the quality of large format results – and tried at times to emulate it by using Kodak Technical Pan – it wasn’t practical (or affordable) for the kind of large-scale project I had embarked on.

Venus, Canonbury Rd, Islington 86-10k-64_2400-2
Venus, Canonbury Rd, Islington

Most of these walks in October 1986 were in Islington, where I walked around areas including Clerkenwell, Pentonville, Canonbury, Barnsbury, Highbury and Islington itself, though I think I occasionally strayed across the borough border into the City of London and Camden.

Bartlett Export Packers, Regent's Canal, Islington 86-10t-31_2400
Bartlett Export Packers, Regent’s Canal, Islington

I travelled on public transport, using either the North London Line or the Underground, and it was sometimes easier (or cheaper) to travel to stations outside the borough – such as Bank (then still ‘City’), still a ‘London Terminus’ of British Rail Southern Region until 1994. I didn’t often use buses, partly because it was still rather harder than now to find out where they might go.

St Agnes Place, Kennington, Lambeth 86-10c-66_2400
St Agnes Place, Kennington, Lambeth

There are also a few pictures from south of the river, around Walworth and Kennington, where we used to go to a monthly meeting with friends, arriving for Sunday lunch. I’d often leave early in the morning for a few hours of walking and photography before these meetings.

The pictures here are just a few of those I now find more interesting from the page, but there are many others worth seeing in the hundred that make up Page 12 of 1986 London Photographs.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


1986 Complete – Page 2

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020
Varden St, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets 86-5d-11_2400

Images in this post are embedded from Flickr where you can view them at a large size by clicking on the image. You will need to use your browser back button to return to this post. Or you can right-click and select ‘Open link in new tab’.

My album 1986 London Photographs is now complete on Flickr, and this is the second of a short series of posts pointing out a few of my favourite images from the year.

Fashion St, Spitalfields, Tower Hamlets 86-4r-16_2400

Several things come out strongly to me as I look through these pictures, mostly taken around Brick Lane and other areas of Whitechapel. One of the major themes that has run through much of my photography is the writing on the wall, whether graffiti or signs and posters. Language is such an important aspect of our social interactions and its inclusion in these images makes them into a record of how people lived and thought.

Brick Lane, Spitalfields, Tower Hamlets 86-5a-01_2400

In 1984 London was rapidly becoming the multicultural city we now know, though of course it had been so on a lesser scale for many years if not centuries. Spitalfields where some of these pictures were made had long been a home for new communities moving to London and there was still abundant evidence of its Jewish population as well as the Bangladeshis who had by then largely replaced them.

Commercial Rd, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets 86-5c-64_2400

Housing, then as now, was an important issue in London in particular, and some of these pictures reflect this and other issues such as racism. Although I think some of these pictures are well-composed and even attractive compositionally, I’ve always considered the formal aspects – line, shape, tone, texture, form etc to be the means to communicate a message rather than an end in themselves. I aimed to make photography that had something to say and said it well rather than to produce well composed, attractive or even striking or popular images.

Limehouse, Tower Hamlets 86-5h-66_2400

There are another 95 pictures on the second page of the album, all with a location, taken from the usually rather incomplete information I recorded on the contact sheets. I’ve tried to check these before posting, but corrections and other comments are always welcome. I’m happy for these pictures – with suitable attribution – to be shared on social media, but they remain copyright and any commercial or editorial use requires a licence from me.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
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Hackney Housing

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

I took a short walk in Hackney before the protest outside the town hall to remind me exactly where Marian Court was, just behind the rather empty ‘fashion village’, an implant into the area with government money, £1.5m of Boris Johnson’s regeneration funding after the 2011 riots. It seems if anything to have been an expensive way to prove that gentrification isn’t an effective way to combat racist policing with a shoot to kill policy, and has failed to generate the promised jobs.

Marian Court appears to have been a well-designed small estate built for the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney in the late 1950s. It was built to the standards of the time and was in need of modernisation, and had been allowed to deteroriate. But as on many other council estates, rather than investing in the relatively modest cost of the necessary refurbishment, the council decided on an expensive scheme involving total demolition and the building of roughly twice as many housing units on the site by private developers, with a large proportion for sale at high market prices and others also at high prices as ‘affordable’ or shared ownership properties. Reports say that despite the roughly doubling of the number of units there will be 40% less social housing than at present.

The replacement flats in such schemes are almost always built to lower space standards than the existing properties, and demolition and rebuild involves an enormous environmental impact. Given our current problems with global warming and the impending threat of human extinction unless we take urgent actions to avoid this, demolition of existing buildings such as this should now be a rare last resort.

The human impact is of course also huge, with the estate being emptied. Those in social housing will have been offered rehousing, but usually in far less convenient places than this, targeted in part because of its central location and close transport links, and also probably with less security of tenure and higher rents. Leaseholders typically get compensation at far less than the cost of a similar property in the same area – or the new properties.

Schemes such as this effectively lead to social cleansing, despite the promises often made (but seldom kept) by local councils about residents being able to stay in the area or move back into the redeveloped properties. Those on low incomes are forced to move to the peripheries of the borough, to outlying borough or sometimes well outside London, away from jobs, schools, friends and other links in the community.

The protest at Hackney Town Hall, organised by East End Sisters Uncut and London Renters Union was over the failure by Hackney Council to provide suitable rehousing for two families remaining in Marian Court, both of whom attended and spoke at the event, and who seem to have been victimised because they particular housing needs and have stood up for their rights. You can see more about both of them and their issues with the council at Hackney don’t victimise housing activists.

And a few pictures of the area including Marian Court in Hackney


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Cold spell – no heating

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Southwark are perhaps the worst of London’s councils so far as their housing policies are concerned, though they face stiff opposition from others. But their demolition of the Heygate estate next to the Elephant & Castle is hard to beat for its combination of lies, total disregard for residents, loss of social housing, veniality and sheer incompetence and has been well-recorded on local blogs. It is a truly sad story for any local council, and particularly for a council dominated – as most of London’s councils are – by the Labour party, which currently holds 49 or the 63 seats with the only opposition being the 14 Lib Dems.

The Aylesbury estate is more or less immediately south of the former Heygate in Walworth, and is said to be the largest public housing estate in Europe, with 2700 homes built between 1963 and 1977. It contains a mixture of huge blocks like those in the picture below and much smaller and lower ones. Residents turned down a plan to pass the estate over to a housing association in 1999 and in a later ballot turned down Southwark’s plans for demolition, calling instead for the much cheaper minor works needed to refurbish each property up to modern standards.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Southwark Council had failed to carry out much necessary maintenance, and although the varied properties were generally well designed and built, the estate was allowed to deteriorate. Like the Heygate it was also used to house people with various problems including mental health and drug use and gained a notorious reputation, very much exaggerated by its use for filming a number of TV crime series.

The lack of proper maintenance has continued into this century, and residents feel it has worsened since the council made the decision to demolish the estate, parts of which have already been emptied and destroyed, to be replaced by properties at expensive market rents or the unaffordable ‘affordable’ rents at around 80% of market rates. Few of the Aylesbury residents can afford to take up any of the new properties, and are forced to move to the outer areas of London.

The Aylesbury was built with a central boiler house to run an energy-efficient district heating scheme. Because of the council’s failure to properly maintain this, there are repeated breakdowns in cold periods of winter such as that we had just been suffering. Residents either freeze or rely on expensive electric heating. One of those who spoke told how she had put £20 into her prepayment meter only for it to run out a day later; another told of having reported the heaters in her flat for six months without the council coming to maintain them.

Residents are convinced that Southwark council have been purposefully neglecting their well built homes to justify the demolition of the estate and bully the residents out against a ballot result which called for refurbishment rather than demolition. They protested outside the local housing office for over an hour, calling for someone from the council to come out and speak to them. No one came out and security men prevented the protesters from going inside.

Southwark Council claimed in a statement to a regional TV programme which covered the protest that they were doing their best to keep the heating going, but no-one on the Aylesbury believes them.

More at Aylesbury residents protest lack of heating


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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