Deptford High Street The Secret History of Our Streets


Deptford High Street

How London has changed since Charles Booth's survey recorded social conditions in 1886. Deptford High Street was once 'the Oxford Street of south London'.


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London in 1886,

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then the largest city in human history

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and the centre of the known world.

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With its self-importance, its dirt, its wealth and awful poverty,

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it seems a mystery to us now.

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It was a different world, an entirely different world.

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But there is a guide to this human jungle -

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Charles Booth, Victorian London's social explorer.

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Booth produced a series of pioneering maps

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that colour-coded the streets of his London

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according to the ever-shifting class of its residents.

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Booth's maps are like scans, X-rays that reveal to us the secret past

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beneath the skin of the present.

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If people knew how many cattle was killed there, I don't think they'd live there.

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He wanted his maps to chart stories of momentous social change...

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Those houses were the lowest of the low.

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..the ebb and flow between enormous wealth and terrible poverty,

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how easily desirable or well-to-do neighbourhoods could descend

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into the haunts of the vicious and semi-criminal and back again.

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Now the maps can help us reveal the changes that have shaped all our lives

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and made the story of the streets the story of us all.

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Oh, my goodness! The old toilet's gone.

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So we're going back to one of the tens of thousands of streets Booth mapped...

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..to tell the story of how, sacrificed to new ideas of urban planning,

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a 200-year-old community was bulldozed.

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For some unknown reason,

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they wanted to condemn Deptford.

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Deptford High Street in the heart of London just four miles from the financial capital of the world.

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A Victorian relic marooned amid 1970s sprawl.

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When Charles Booth arrived in 1899,

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it was booming, the Oxford Street of South London.

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More than a hundred years on,

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it's now one of the poorest high streets in the capital.

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This used to be fantastic. It's gone, finished.

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The story of Deptford High Street is of how it lost both its wealth

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and the community which had given it life.

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August 1899.

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13 years into his epic survey of London,

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Charles Booth visits Deptford High Street,

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incorporating it into his vast social map of the city.

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Booth's map is a breakthrough,

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a new way to anatomise the complex lives of Londoners.

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And in a district rarely visited by respectable people,

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it throws up surprising results.

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Booth marks Deptford High Street as red for "well-to-do",

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the second highest social ranking in the middle of one of London's poorest districts.

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It's a busy, thriving high street where traders live above their shops and prosper.

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Despite their working-class origins,

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one in three shopkeeping families keeps at least one domestic servant.

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One family trading on the High Street when Booth arrived is still here today.

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John Price owns the Bent Can discount shop

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yards from where he was born and from where his people have always had market stalls.

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I don't know what we'll do about the food prices, John.

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Robert keeps telling me I'm too dear and I keep telling him he gets service.

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-Service with a smile, John.

-When he goes in Sainsbury's, they go "dip".

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When he comes in here, I go, "Hello, Robert!"

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-Who's the cheapest out there?

-You don't go for the cheapest. You go for the best.

-Are Sainsbury's cheaper?

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At least you'll come to my funeral.

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You're always going to Sainsbury's spending your money. I won't go to your funeral!

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-Did your family used to live in nearby streets round here?

-This one here.

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Oi, Ange, I'm just going out a second.

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My grandfather was a Price. My grandmother was really an Ovenell and they married together.

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So the Prices have probably been here about 250 years.

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The Ovenells, I think, have been here longer.

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We're going down Hales Street.

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Down here is where we used to have our house, just on this corner here.

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This was my nan's house.

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It's hard to imagine now, but this used to be a gate.

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And that used to be our back yard.

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-That's where all the stalls used to be.

-Where's it gone?

-It's gone. They made it a road.

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They made it a road. The arch used to come here.

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Down like that. A big arch coming through and you pulled the barrows all the way through.

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This used to take a hundred barrows.

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Me nan's family, their house used to be here right next to the pub.

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There's the pub and the Ovenells' house used to be here.

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You see how easy it was. You'd fall out of bed and go to work on the stall at the top of the High Street.

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Round about here at Christmas time, my father would be sharpening, looking through the window.

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We'd all be sitting round the table, waiting for Dad cos he's half-drunk cos he's been at the pub all day.

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It's about four o'clock on Christmas Day and we're all waiting for him to come in to carve the turkey,

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so we can all get in and eat some food, and there he is going like this with the knife.

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We're all saying, "Is he going to fall over?"

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LAUGHS LOUDLY

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And you had all these beetroots - beautiful.

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Fresh, cooked beetroots which then you took up on the stall and sold.

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Then you'd light the gas. They'd be ready for Friday and Saturday.

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And they'd be cooking all the winkles.

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You could see all their faces round the table, going...

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And they'd be hard at it, trying to nick a tater or somethin'.

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You'd hear all the winkles screaming on a Saturday night. "Eeeh!"

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When we cooked the crabs, there used to be crabs like that. Now you get crabs like this.

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What happened to all the crabs like that? They've ripped the seas. They've ripped all the food out.

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Everything's ripped out.

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One stall used to keep three families.

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It used to keep my father's family, my Uncle John and my Uncle Jack's family.

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The other half of John's family had come from the Low Countries,

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as Huguenot refugees.

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But by the beginning of the 19th century, they had set down roots in Deptford.

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Both sides of the family had made their money in fish and greengrocery.

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They set up home in Reginald Road which Booth's map marks as pink for "comfortable".

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It was the most respectable of the side turnings running off the High Street.

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There was quite a few wealthy people in the turning, including my father and my aunt.

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If you try and find somebody who was poor down Reginald Road,

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no, there was no-one poor down Reginald Road.

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A goods yard connects Reginald Road to Hales Street

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where more of the Price and Ovenell families lived.

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But just a few yards from Reginald,

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Hales Street dropped way down the social scale.

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Booth mapped it as a mix of the very poor and the vicious and semi-criminal.

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It's a reputation that stayed with the street long into the next century.

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If you go back in time, Hales Street was very much uncontrollable.

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But Hales Street was a complete, utter slum

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with every crook you could possibly imagine who used to live in Hales Street.

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But the council really wanted Hales Street pulled down because it was a den of thieves.

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When Charles Booth arrives on Hales Street and Reginald Road,

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he finds people occupying the houses in tenement conditions,

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renting from a landlord, entire families in a single room.

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People eat, sleep and wash in the same room.

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The nicest place anyone has to escape to is the pub.

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Aware of the rapid spread of the drink culture amongst the working class,

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Booth produces a map of London's several thousand pubs.

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It shows Deptford High Street with 12.

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It's a disconcerting discovery for Booth

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who is convinced that drink dependency is wrecking Deptford's neighbourhoods.

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# That I love London town

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# Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner... #

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That used to be The 45.

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It was The Red Lion & Wheatsheaf, but because it was number 45, we always called it The 45.

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-Lively pub, was it?

-Yeah, one long bar, that was all. One long bar.

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He'd drink Guinness all day long with my Uncle John.

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Never, ever got drunk. As soon as the off-licence was open,

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my job was to go and get six bottles of Guinness.

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Then as I come out of school, I used to go up there and get another six bottles of Guinness.

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By night-time, it was another six bottles of Guinness.

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As soon as he was down here, washed and shaved, he'd go in The Deptford Arms for another load of Guinness.

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He was never, ever drunk.

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In the aftermath of the Second World War,

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the London County Council sets out to assess the devastation

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by drafting a series of bomb damage maps.

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Again black marks the most devastated streets, the ones that have been totally destroyed.

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But by sheer chance, the High Street escapes unscathed.

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Post-war prosperity rejuvenates Deptford.

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Deptford has never had it so good.

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Money is being made and people are spending it on the High Street.

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This stall, there'd be 100 people round it.

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All screaming and hollering and fighting

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and "I'm next" and "this is mine!"

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In its heyday, there were very, very good shops in Deptford High Street.

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It was very, very easy to earn a living.

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If you was a fit person able to work,

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then you had money because there was plenty of work in Deptford.

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You just walked out of your house and went into work.

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You went home, got changed and went out to the pub. That's why there are so many pubs. People had money.

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The side streets are changing too.

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Deptford people have started to buy the houses they once rented

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and families have a whole house to themselves.

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The tenement dwellers are becoming owner-occupiers.

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You had a house years ago.

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Your grandmother lived in it

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and normally, the eldest daughter or the eldest son, he stayed in the house with the mother.

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But the eldest daughter or whoever it was then took over and looked after Mummy and Daddy.

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It all stayed in the family and the place just got handed down all the way through.

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We never had a toilet in the house. There was no toilets in the house. They was all in the yard.

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"A toilet in the house? Oh, terrible! You've got to have it in the yard."

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What they did then is downstairs, they done away with the old wash-house

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and put a bathroom and a toilet in there.

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-So people were improving their houses for themselves?

-Oh, yeah.

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The places were spotless.

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The streets were spotless.

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Outside the houses, all the knockers and letter-boxes used to be cleaned.

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They couldn't help it. They'd do it every morning.

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They couldn't help it. It was a ritual.

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"Oh, I've got to do my step. I don't want her to see my step next door."

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They was like that, proud.

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Yeah. "I don't want her to talk about me." You know? That's how they was.

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But the planners fail to notice how people are improving their homes.

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They make a propaganda film,

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arguing for the destruction of 19th century London.

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And they come to Deptford to shoot it.

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'Pubs, schools and churches

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'are all jumbled up together in a hopeless confusion.

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'And you will see mean, hideous slums of which any city ought to be ashamed,

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'row upon row of dirty, dismal houses that should have been pulled down and done away with long ago.

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'All these bad things must go and the sooner, the better.'

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You see, the trouble is that London grew up without any plan or order.

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That's why there are all those bad and ugly things that we hope to do away with

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if this plan of ours is carried out.

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The driving forces behind this film

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are the town planning guru Sir Patrick Abercrombie

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and John Forshaw, chief architect for the London County Council.

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Abercrombie and Forshaw have been influenced by the European Modernists

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with their theory of the city as a machine.

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Working for the London County Council, they publish The County Of London Plan,

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a plan for a futuristic, re-imagined London.

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That brings us to another aspect of London, London as a machine,

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a vast machine.

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Booth's chaotic, random city is to be removed,

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replaced by a rationalised, machine-like metropolis.

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The plan is for London to be destroyed

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and re-engineered, each neighbourhood given a single, defined purpose

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within the vast mechanism.

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Deptford, along with most of East and South London,

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is identified as a community with a high proportion of obsolescent property.

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It's earmarked for widespread demolition

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and the creation of efficient, new tower blocks.

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Chelsea and Kensington, along with the rest of West and North London, are to be left untouched.

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No need for wholesale demolition in these areas.

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A vast, modernist social experiment is to be carried out in the working-class east and south.

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It's a pretty gigantic scheme, affecting the future of the whole of London.

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Behind it all was the rhetoric of modern architecture.

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There was this huge rhetoric which architects had absorbed

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in their training at schools of architecture.

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The people who lectured, who were not practising architects, but were sort of rhetorical gurus...

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And these rhetorical gurus preached...

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You can imagine an 18-year-old student getting very excited by all this.

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People did get very excited. This was the future.

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They didn't talk to anybody in Deptford about it.

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Well, let's deal with the worst places first.

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Some of the areas in most urgent need of attention

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are the industrial boroughs in the east and south of London.

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Let's look at the roads as they are now.

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The streets are narrow and winding.

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Our chief aim must be to separate fast, long-distance traffic from local traffic.

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Prompted by the planners who want to open up more of London's roads to the motor car,

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Deptford Council comes up with a plan to close down its market.

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-How long have you been here?

-65 year.

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What will you do if the market closes?

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What will you do if it is closed?

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We've lived here all our life and these stalls have been here as long as I've known.

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-Does it block traffic?

-I don't think so.

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-It's got nothing to do with traffic.

-We'll fight our case against Deptford Borough Council.

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Whoever this person is has set himself up as a dictator of Deptford

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and we're definitely not going to stand for it!

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The council's plans are defeated and the market is saved.

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It's a little victory for the High Street and its people.

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But even as this battle is won, plans for a reordered Deptford are taking shape behind closed doors.

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A series of maps of the High Street and its turnings are drawn up

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by both Deptford and the London County Council.

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Lost to the archives for 60 years, they've just been rediscovered.

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The maps show the side streets designated for slum clearance,

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marking in black and red the houses to be demolished.

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The residents weren't shown these maps

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and they were never consulted about the plans to pull down their streets.

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The clearance maps expose a plan to erase Charles Booth's Deptford.

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It's the single most revolutionary change in Deptford's history,

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the near total destruction of its past.

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I got involved as an architectural historian. I was elected to the council.

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I was the architectural and planning correspondent of The Sunday Times.

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My friends saw me disappearing into some obscure byway of squalid municipal socialism.

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I had them saying to me,

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"How do you find it getting on with working-class people?"

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I have a letter from the Architects' Department about a possible housing site in Forest Hill.

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It's the site of an existing church. The question is whether adjoining houses will be pulled down.

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There was an overwhelming desire in the 1960s to sweep everything away.

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People kept on saying, "This is the 20th century.

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"Instead of grotty old buildings, what you must have is stainless steel kitchens with Formica tops

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"and those are the things which show you're being modern, up-to-date and progressive."

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# There must be some kind of way out of here

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# Said the joker to the thief

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# There's too much confusion

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# I can't get no relief

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# Businessmen, they drink my wine

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# Ploughmen dig my earth

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# None will level on the line

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# Nobody offered his word, hey! #

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Although they knew they would want to pull everything down,

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nevertheless, they knew that they could only do it in bitesize chunks,

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even though it was rather a big bite.

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1960.

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Many of the side streets running into the High Street

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are much the same as when they were built 100 years earlier.

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John Price's family still live right next to their yard on Reginald Road.

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The Price-Ovenells have continued to prosper.

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By now, they own most of the houses in the street.

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And 70 years on from Charles Booth's original survey,

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Reginald has moved up his social scale

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from purple for "mixed" to pink for "comfortable",

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respectable working-class homes.

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Let's go down. Let's go. Let's go down.

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So this was Reginald...

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The road used to go down either side, houses running down.

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And my house used to be down there, but it's never been built on since.

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It's just left empty.

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It's been empty all them years, yes.

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But my aunt had a little shop over here, a little corner shop.

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That's all gone now.

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That's my mum.

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It's a shop in the front

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and it's a back door that I'm coming out of now.

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From the side of the shop, you could see an archway. That archway was where one of my uncles lived.

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That was my mum's brothers and sisters.

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My dad came from Gosterwood Street in Deptford.

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My mum came from Hales Street and they met and they married and they moved to Reginald Road.

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And that's Reginald Road.

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-This is going down the High Street now, isn't it?

-Yeah.

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Three o'clock, Harris's clock up there.

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But just because the houses were, say, I don't know,

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maybe coming up for 100 years old, some of them,

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it doesn't mean to say the people inside them were dirty.

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-They had nice, clean curtains.

-Lovely.

-Nice, clean front doors.

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Nothing could ever happen to you, me and my cousin Pauline and all that,

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because your family all lived round you.

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And because your family lived round you, if there was any trouble,

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they all ganged up together as a family.

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So if Dad had trouble, Uncle John would come across, Uncle Jack would come across.

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And of course, they'd risk their lives because you were in trouble.

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The power lay in the hands of the environmental health officers

0:22:400:22:45

because the environmental health officers went round determining whether things were slums.

0:22:450:22:50

It was very difficult to challenge them. They were the word of God.

0:22:500:22:54

If the environmental health officer was saying they were slums, they were slums.

0:22:540:22:59

That's what everyone went along with. That was being modern and 20th century.

0:22:590:23:03

Will this mean that some of us have got to move then?

0:23:030:23:07

Yes, I'm afraid some of you will have to move.

0:23:070:23:10

'And the point of the inspectors' look round is to see how clean they are.

0:23:100:23:15

'It all goes down on the form.'

0:23:150:23:18

They had a form they filled in

0:23:180:23:20

in which they made what you might call social and moral remarks about the family.

0:23:200:23:25

They talked about the family's lifestyle.

0:23:250:23:27

They made an appointment to say somebody would come round.

0:23:270:23:31

A lot of people said, "Well, I won't be in for a start."

0:23:310:23:34

"If they think they're getting me out..." That's how it would be.

0:23:340:23:38

But eventually, the council did come round to see what property you had, looking all over it.

0:23:380:23:44

I remember the man coming to my mum's and saying, "What were you thinking of doing here?"

0:23:440:23:49

She said, "I'm going to try and put a bathroom in.

0:23:490:23:52

"If you think we can stay longer because we've got a bathroom, we'll do it."

0:23:520:23:56

These houses never had bathrooms in. That's all they never had.

0:23:560:24:00

There was three bedrooms, four bedrooms, two living rooms downstairs.

0:24:000:24:04

There was plenty of room for a bathroom, but they never had bathrooms.

0:24:040:24:08

As they never had bathrooms, they called them slums.

0:24:080:24:11

I have to be clear with you that a lot of the houses that were cleared really had to be cleared.

0:24:110:24:18

They were too far gone. They had terrible rising damp.

0:24:180:24:21

There were problems in the structure of the houses.

0:24:210:24:25

Deep, damp basements of which we had a whole lot in Deptford, including on the north side of Reginald Road.

0:24:260:24:32

I mean, whichever way you looked at them, they were little damp houses.

0:24:320:24:37

They had some really, really nice people living in some of them, but they were little damp houses.

0:24:370:24:43

Well, if he was on the council at the time... I know how old I am now and how old I was then.

0:24:430:24:48

He was either very young to be on the council or he's very old now and perhaps his memory's going a bit.

0:24:480:24:54

I can't remember the conditions that he's talking about.

0:24:540:24:57

He must have been talking about an entirely different area to where I lived. They wasn't slums.

0:24:570:25:03

There's places over at Fulham, similar type of houses and just as old.

0:25:030:25:08

They didn't pull them down.

0:25:080:25:10

In Battersea and some parts of Chelsea, the houses are older,

0:25:100:25:14

but because of where it is and they had got an indoor toilet now,

0:25:140:25:18

although some of them, it was only a third or fourth bedroom being converted.

0:25:180:25:23

They just wanted doing up. They're old houses.

0:25:230:25:26

It wasn't a problem. The ones they left are making half a million pounds, a million pounds now.

0:25:260:25:32

You know? It's ridiculous. They're going to be there for another 100 years.

0:25:320:25:37

They just won't fall down, will they?

0:25:370:25:39

The environmental health officers were not surveyors or architects.

0:25:390:25:43

They were looking at the conditions in which people were living

0:25:430:25:47

and they very often made sweeping judgments about the buildings

0:25:470:25:51

when they didn't know a lot about buildings.

0:25:510:25:53

They knew much more about the conditions in which people were living.

0:25:530:25:58

'And seen from the social heights of professional people

0:26:030:26:06

'who plan slum clearance and design new buildings, one working-class street looks much like another.

0:26:060:26:13

'In fact, the style of life lived in them varies from extremes of respectability

0:26:130:26:18

'to shiftlessness and downright criminality.'

0:26:180:26:21

November 1964.

0:26:270:26:29

Environmental health officers condemn Reginald Road as "unfit for human habitation".

0:26:300:26:36

The Price and Ovenell families are issued with compulsory purchase orders

0:26:380:26:43

and offered around £1,600 for their homes.

0:26:430:26:46

Along with many others, they refuse to leave.

0:26:460:26:50

It happened to Aunt Violet first.

0:26:570:27:00

She lived down Hales Street and they pulled all down round her.

0:27:000:27:05

She lived in this house in Hales Street on her own.

0:27:050:27:08

Just rubble all around, wasteland,

0:27:080:27:11

and the house was sitting in the middle.

0:27:110:27:13

And of course, you know, you had...

0:27:130:27:16

Where they had pulled down, you've suddenly got vermin everywhere.

0:27:160:27:20

Nobody wants to go down there at night cos all the lights are out.

0:27:200:27:24

Next week, we're pulling down next door.

0:27:240:27:27

And now they've pulled down next door and someone cuts the pipe.

0:27:270:27:31

Now what happens?

0:27:310:27:33

Now you've got no water.

0:27:330:27:35

Now she becomes slums.

0:27:370:27:39

They then create the slums.

0:27:400:27:42

Now they've knocked down next door, half of your roof is open to the elements.

0:27:440:27:49

Now the rain comes in and your ceiling falls down.

0:27:490:27:52

Now the bloke comes round to value your house

0:27:520:27:55

and he says, "The ceiling's fallen down and the walls are all damp and we ain't gonna give you no money."

0:27:550:28:00

Now how do you feel?

0:28:000:28:02

How do you feel with that man who's told you your house is now falling to bits

0:28:020:28:08

because of what they've done either side of you?

0:28:080:28:11

We was in our house for about two years with everything knocked down round us

0:28:110:28:16

because we didn't want to move.

0:28:160:28:18

Any idea of staying by then was absolutely hopeless.

0:28:180:28:21

It was a sort of long, drawn-out war of attrition, the clearance of these areas.

0:28:210:28:26

It didn't happen overnight. It took years and years and years.

0:28:260:28:30

-Because some people refused to leave?

-Yes, and the bureaucratic processes took so long.

0:28:300:28:34

But I do have to say that most people wanted to get out.

0:28:340:28:39

-By that stage, if your street's being boarded up and covered with corrugated iron...

-It's dreadful.

0:28:390:28:45

-Of course you don't want to stay in the street.

-That's right, of course. That's what I'm saying to you.

0:28:450:28:50

I understood all these things and my heart was bleeding daily.

0:28:500:28:55

I can't think of anybody that really wanted to move, that was really pleased about it.

0:28:550:29:00

I can't remember anybody saying, "Isn't it good? We're moving."

0:29:000:29:05

It's upsetting for a lot of people.

0:29:050:29:07

Like Nellie Pearson, she's kept it all nice and once she's moved out, you see her window gets broken

0:29:070:29:13

or the curtains flapping out the window.

0:29:130:29:16

Straight away, the turning does start to go down very quickly.

0:29:160:29:20

Then a lot of people start moving quickly because they don't want to be the last half a dozen or so.

0:29:200:29:26

Once they started pulling down, they got hold of street by street by street.

0:29:270:29:33

And then by around about nineteen-sixty...

0:29:330:29:37

sixty-five, sixty-six, sixty-seven, the whole area was flat.

0:29:370:29:42

And our stall, from taking good money, was taking no money!

0:29:420:29:48

We'd stand up there all day and take a pound or something.

0:29:480:29:52

Over the next 20 years, 1,000 people a week will have to load up the moving vans and head for new towns,

0:29:520:29:59

clean, neat and antiseptic.

0:29:590:30:02

What they have real grounds to complain about is the feeling that they've given up something,

0:30:020:30:08

something important, something that meant home.

0:30:080:30:11

I'm not the type to be on my own all the time, you know?

0:30:110:30:15

I mean I've got no friends come up here or anything like that,

0:30:150:30:19

you know, to see me or call in for a cup of tea.

0:30:190:30:23

I'm just on my own all day. I used to cry every day

0:30:240:30:29

until my husband sent me over the doctor's

0:30:290:30:33

and he gave me pills and all that.

0:30:330:30:35

Me mum just lived across the road.

0:30:350:30:38

And even my old gran lives in the same house where I was born.

0:30:390:30:44

-Your mother lived very near?

-Oh, I seen my mother every day.

0:30:450:30:49

There wasn't a day went past when I didn't see my mother. She came to me or I went to her.

0:30:490:30:56

-I very often get bored.

-Why's that?

-I go and smash things in temper.

0:30:560:31:00

When I have rows with my husband,

0:31:000:31:03

which I have done in the past.

0:31:030:31:06

Has it made it difficult between you and your husband because you've been upset?

0:31:060:31:11

I try not to for his sake. He has to work long hours

0:31:110:31:15

and I try to be happy, but very often he's come home and found me crying.

0:31:150:31:20

And I can't explain why. It's just a fit of depression you get into.

0:31:200:31:26

We ended up in Charlton.

0:31:270:31:29

And Aunt Harriet ended up at Brockley.

0:31:290:31:33

And Aunt Violet ended up at Greenwich.

0:31:330:31:36

And Aunt Grace ended up at Woolwich.

0:31:360:31:38

And Uncle John ended up at Brockley.

0:31:380:31:41

So from everybody living here

0:31:410:31:44

we had to move out. That's it. You had to go. There was nowhere to live round here, was there?

0:31:450:31:51

There was nowhere to live.

0:31:510:31:53

The family still stayed very, very strong together,

0:31:530:31:56

but eventually it just breaks up and breaks up, doesn't it? More and more and more.

0:31:560:32:03

There was a misty-eyed view of the past. There was a golden age, do you know?

0:32:160:32:21

There wasn't.

0:32:210:32:23

I've never... I've certainly never been in any golden age.

0:32:230:32:28

Although people actually settle down remarkably quickly somewhere new,

0:32:300:32:35

sometimes people feel guilty simply because they have settled down so happily

0:32:350:32:40

in Brockley or Grove Park or Bexleyheath. They've settled down so happily and feel a sense of guilt,

0:32:400:32:46

they feel that they really should be with the folks back home,

0:32:460:32:50

regardless of the fact that the folks back home are also living in Bexleyheath and so on!

0:32:500:32:55

'They started pulling opposite us down

0:32:570:33:00

'and my mum stayed as long as she could.

0:33:000:33:04

'She loved Deptford and wanted to just be left alone.

0:33:040:33:09

'We was the last to come down and I hated moving from there.

0:33:090:33:12

'I've been here years and I'm just adjusting.'

0:33:120:33:16

The council replaces Reginald's Victorian terraces with a low-rise block.

0:33:320:33:38

Deptford's streets of rubble start to disappear as the GLC and Lewisham Council build estates

0:33:380:33:44

to replace the terraced houses they've torn down.

0:33:440:33:49

Those who have refused to move out to the suburbs are being rehoused here.

0:33:540:34:00

In Deptford, even the new homes that have been built are under attack.

0:34:020:34:06

-Now that's where you live, right at the top there?

-Yes.

-What do you think of it?

0:34:060:34:12

Since I've lived up there, my husband's had a nervous breakdown

0:34:120:34:16

and my children have got nowhere to play. If I want to come down, I can't leave them with my husband.

0:34:160:34:22

A lot of my older council colleagues couldn't understand why people were so ungrateful.

0:34:220:34:28

I remember one of them saying to me, "But they've got wonderful kitchens, lovely bathrooms.

0:34:280:34:34

"What are they complaining about?

0:34:340:34:36

"Why are these people so ungrateful when we've given them these wonderful places to live in?"

0:34:360:34:43

Even though he was living in a great big Victorian house up the hill.

0:34:430:34:47

The first big high-rise estate in Deptford, the Evelyn Estate, everybody moved into quite happily

0:34:470:34:53

and that was finished in 1970, the year before I was elected,

0:34:530:34:58

but people were unhappy and so the other big high-rise estate, the Milton Court Estate,

0:34:580:35:04

when that was finished... in 1973,

0:35:040:35:07

a lot of people didn't want to move there, particularly the high-rise blocks.

0:35:070:35:13

The flats became hard to let. It was extraordinary.

0:35:130:35:17

Here were brand-new flats in brand-new blocks that people didn't want to have.

0:35:170:35:22

We had to go way, way, way down the housing list in order to find people who'd take them.

0:35:220:35:28

The council can't find enough Deptford-born people who want to live in the new estates

0:35:280:35:34

so they start to look further afield for tenants willing to settle in the new blocks.

0:35:340:35:39

And so a new wave of Deptford people begins to fill the side turnings.

0:35:390:35:43

1976, did you?

0:35:490:35:51

All right, Archie? Now listen...

0:36:190:36:21

What do you mean you lost your money? You can't have.

0:36:230:36:28

Last week, he came in he had no money, so I lent him the money. He promised to pay me back Monday.

0:36:280:36:33

He kept borrowing 30 quid and 20 quid. "I've got the money coming."

0:36:330:36:38

He's been doing it for years.

0:36:420:36:45

It's funny that it's got to big money

0:36:450:36:48

and suddenly he goes and gets mugged. This man Archie got mugged.

0:36:480:36:53

How can he go and get mugged? Everybody in London knows Archie!

0:36:530:36:57

He's got a steel plate in his head where he got bombed in the war.

0:37:090:37:14

I've got to move the plate to get the money out of him!

0:37:170:37:21

Were you in the Army?

0:37:260:37:30

-So you was here in 1960 when I was growing up.

-Yes!

-That's right.

0:38:000:38:05

-That's right. When I had a Jag.

-Yes!

0:38:070:38:09

No, not that pub over there.

0:38:130:38:16

Three years for shooting the pub up.

0:38:210:38:23

It used to be called the Duke of Cambridge. I used to use it when I was a boy.

0:38:230:38:28

-All right, mum?

-Yeah.

-Have a look round, darling.

0:39:010:39:05

-How long have you been working on the High Street here?

-All my life.

0:39:050:39:09

How long's that?

0:39:090:39:11

Oh...

0:39:110:39:12

60 years, I suppose.

0:39:150:39:17

The original people who lived here, there's none of them here any more.

0:39:170:39:21

You don't see any of them now. About 5%. Like the old timers, the old people, old British people.

0:39:210:39:28

The fish we used to sell like cod fillet and all that, we don't sell hardly any now.

0:39:280:39:33

We used to sell...

0:39:330:39:36

I don't know. 200 or 300 stone of cod fillet a week.

0:39:360:39:40

We sell about four now.

0:39:400:39:42

-And why is that?

-Because it's different people. They don't eat it.

0:39:420:39:48

The ethnics, they love fish, and they love fish whole, with the heads on.

0:39:480:39:54

I mean, years ago we wouldn't dream of having fish with the heads on. It was cut off and thrown away.

0:39:540:40:00

But they love eating the heads.

0:40:000:40:02

-But where have they all gone, all the original south Londoners?

-Moved out.

0:40:020:40:08

Oh, that hurts, don't it? It's got her. Dave, it's got her.

0:40:080:40:12

She won't do it again. Take a photo of that, mate. Look.

0:40:120:40:16

Take a photo of that. Zoom in on that.

0:40:160:40:20

OK, OK...

0:40:200:40:22

Ow!

0:40:230:40:25

It won't let go, Dave. It just won't let go.

0:40:250:40:29

You shouldn't pick them up!

0:40:310:40:34

-Lobsters?

-The crab got her!

0:40:340:40:37

It did get her, didn't it, eh?

0:40:370:40:40

-I tell you, he wouldn't let go.

-No, they won't. The little ones are just really fierce.

0:40:400:40:46

-She's crying now.

-Are you all right?

-She's crying.

0:40:460:40:51

Broken, yeah? You want bandage? Want a bandage?

0:40:510:40:55

It crushes them to bits. It won't let go. You all right, boss?

0:40:570:41:02

Oh, here it goes.

0:41:020:41:04

He won't have that. He won't have that. He won't have that.

0:41:040:41:09

He won't have it, will he?

0:41:090:41:11

Oh, here we go. It's off.

0:41:110:41:13

It's an angry High Street, mate.

0:41:130:41:15

No one likes anyone down here.

0:41:150:41:18

As the spread of the housing blocks ushers in a new Deptford,

0:41:220:41:25

those who can afford it join the exodus to the suburbs.

0:41:250:41:30

Old iron.

0:41:300:41:32

The High Street is left marooned amongst low-quality council blocks

0:41:320:41:37

lived in by people on low incomes.

0:41:370:41:40

These flats can't be gentrified, so those who do well tend to move away

0:41:440:41:50

leaving behind the people that Booth would have ranked at the bottom of the social scale.

0:41:500:41:55

With its once-prosperous community displaced,

0:41:590:42:03

the High Street has slid back

0:42:030:42:06

from well-to-do red to poor and very poor.

0:42:060:42:10

Just across the Thames from the high-rise new money of Docklands lies Deptford.

0:42:180:42:24

It's one of London's most deprived areas with nearly as many closed or derelict shops as there are

0:42:240:42:30

places open for business.

0:42:300:42:33

The sons and the daughters moved out. The old ones all stayed here and died. All dead now, ain't they?

0:42:330:42:39

I think there's... about a handful left.

0:42:390:42:43

If that.

0:42:430:42:45

Once they started pulling everything down, it went down.

0:42:450:42:50

As we're sitting here, the clock is ticking and nothing's going in the till.

0:42:500:42:56

Nothing at all is going in the till.

0:42:560:42:59

This is very scary.

0:42:590:43:01

Since Charles Booth's visit here, the High Street's other great business has declined dramatically.

0:43:290:43:35

Today the number of pubs is down from 12 to 2.

0:43:350:43:40

The Deptford Arms, once the meeting place of a revolutionary group run by the man who wrote The Red Flag,

0:43:400:43:48

is now a bookies.

0:43:480:43:50

The Mechanic's Arms and the Royal Oak are African restaurants.

0:43:500:43:55

The Pilot is a nail shop.

0:43:550:43:57

The Windsor Castle is a centre for teenagers with problems

0:43:570:44:01

and the Red Cow, which once doubled as the coroner's court, is now a Costcutter.

0:44:010:44:07

But despite the draining away of traditional pub culture,

0:44:070:44:11

the people of Deptford are still coming to the High Street to drink,

0:44:110:44:15

only now it's mostly on the street, keeping up an ancient tradition of hard drinking

0:44:150:44:21

that reaches deep into Deptford's past.

0:44:210:44:24

PREACHES IN THE STREET

0:45:150:45:18

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

0:45:250:45:27

In the name of Jesus, we speak peace in this place.

0:45:370:45:41

In the name of Jesus, ever altar here, every altar that is not of God...

0:45:410:45:45

In the name of Jesus, Holy Spirit of God,

0:45:450:45:49

let there be change in Jesus' name!

0:45:490:45:52

The kingdom of Jesus has come into this place. Let the kingdom rule.

0:45:520:45:57

Cover these buildings right now. Have your way over these buildings.

0:46:110:46:15

SPEAKS IN AFRICAN DIALECT

0:46:160:46:18

We'll break every power, the ruling power.

0:46:310:46:36

This is Reginald Road

0:46:500:46:53

and the Victorian terrace on the other side had already gone by the time I became a councillor.

0:46:530:46:59

There was a terrace of houses here, you're quite right, which were in an advanced state of decay.

0:46:590:47:05

-We've spoken to people who lived on this street.

-Yes.

-They don't agree they were in a state of disrepair.

0:47:050:47:11

Well... Even the picture you showed me of them showed what a state of disrepair they were in.

0:47:130:47:20

They were, well...

0:47:200:47:22

That's all... That all went through a process of public inquiry and all the rest of it.

0:47:220:47:28

It was, um, agreed

0:47:280:47:31

that they should come down.

0:47:310:47:33

-No, but the houses were not in a state of disrepair.

-In your opinion.

0:47:330:47:38

-No, actually in the opinion of...

-Yes.

-..the council officers that came and inspected the street here.

0:47:380:47:44

2012. The documents lost in the council archives are discovered.

0:47:480:47:53

Notes written by council officers as they inspect Reginald Road,

0:47:530:47:58

anxious to please their bosses by declaring it a slum.

0:47:580:48:02

But the council officers can't find a genuine reason

0:48:030:48:07

to declare Reginald Road as unfit for human habitation.

0:48:070:48:11

At number 42, home of the Price family, the officer says, "Damp: there is no damp.

0:48:120:48:19

"Repair: there is no disrepair.

0:48:190:48:21

"All defects remediable at not too great a cost.

0:48:210:48:26

"There is no doubt in my mind that this whole street can be dealt with by means other than slum clearance

0:48:270:48:32

"if the council want to." The Health Inspector's verdicts are kept private.

0:48:320:48:38

Three years on, Reginald is declared a slum

0:48:380:48:42

and residents are instructed to leave.

0:48:420:48:46

Gracious.

0:48:480:48:50

Dear, dear, dear. I just feel amazed, really... that it's come to light now

0:48:540:49:01

after all these years.

0:49:010:49:03

And you wonder who are these people when they've been told structurally

0:49:030:49:07

that the house is OK to live in.

0:49:070:49:10

And then, all of a sudden, they go against what they've said, but nobody knows what they've said

0:49:100:49:16

-because it doesn't come out.

-Just the letters.

-Just a letter saying...

0:49:160:49:20

-"Your house is a slum."

-Mm.

0:49:200:49:23

My mum had lovely curtains.

0:49:240:49:26

As I'm growing up, I wanted to fight the council, but you couldn't fight them. Understand?

0:49:280:49:34

My uncle John, he didn't want to move.

0:49:350:49:38

Big, strong man. Some little creep comes along and tells him he's got to get out?

0:49:380:49:44

And then the creep hides behind the bloody door and sends bloody bulldozers in?

0:49:440:49:49

We had it. Bulldozers knocking the top off and then saying, "Oh, that was an accident."

0:49:490:49:55

Then you try and fight them. Who are you going to fight? You can't fight no one.

0:49:560:50:02

Go up the Town Hall, you get some bird on the office desk banging your head? She don't take any notice.

0:50:020:50:08

You can't even get to them. If you go to Greenwich now,

0:50:080:50:13

all them houses are exactly the same as the ones that stood in Deptford.

0:50:130:50:17

For some unknown reason

0:50:170:50:20

that no one will probably ever get the truth to, they wanted to condemn Deptford.

0:50:200:50:25

Councillor Taylor isn't responsible for pulling down Reginald Road.

0:50:330:50:37

He joined the council some time after the compulsory purchase orders had already been issued.

0:50:370:50:43

But he is convinced that the houses on Reginald had to come down

0:50:430:50:47

and that the council made the right decision.

0:50:470:50:51

Cos we found some documents

0:50:540:50:56

and these are the council's own medical officers going up and down,

0:50:560:51:01

-looking for reasons to declare them unfit for human habitation.

-That's right. Slums.

0:51:010:51:06

-They can't find any reasons.

-No.

-It says here, "Number 42..." The Price family lived at number 42.

0:51:060:51:12

-"Repair: there is no disrepair."

-Yeah.

-"Dampness: no dampness."

-Yes.

0:51:120:51:17

"Any defects: remediable at not too great a cost."

0:51:170:51:20

-You're talking about one row of houses.

-The council's own officer says maintenance is good...

0:51:200:51:27

-I'm not denying that.

-"Some are very well kept and may be difficult to declare a slum."

0:51:270:51:33

I'm not denying that. I'm not defending that. Maybe those ones should have been kept.

0:51:330:51:38

I, of course, set out... It was very difficult to stop the bulldozer.

0:51:380:51:43

When I was elected, I couldn't stop the bulldozer. Most of my colleagues wanted to continue bulldozing.

0:51:430:51:50

In order to persuade them to stop bulldozing, you had to select where you were going to make your stand.

0:51:500:51:56

It was a very difficult area to redevelop, this. Very, very difficult to redevelop.

0:51:560:52:01

But there is one side street visited by Charles Booth that had a different fate.

0:52:080:52:14

Albury Street, running off the High Street to the north of Reginald,

0:52:160:52:20

and classed by Booth as mixed, with ordinary working people and some artisans.

0:52:200:52:26

Albury was originally built in 1700

0:52:270:52:30

for sea captains and the well-to-do.

0:52:300:52:33

But by the time of Booth's survey, it was no longer what it had once been

0:52:350:52:41

and over the next 70 years, it continued to drop down the social scale.

0:52:410:52:47

By 1960, Albury was a genuine slum,

0:52:470:52:51

in a worse state than Reginald.

0:52:510:52:54

Its residents were evicted and Albury, too, was scheduled for slum clearance.

0:52:540:53:00

But a quirk of the planning process left Albury escaping the bulldozer and it didn't get pulled down.

0:53:010:53:09

It's still here today, running off the High Street,

0:53:110:53:15

the last vestige of old Deptford.

0:53:150:53:18

Ha! There we go.

0:53:190:53:21

It's a bit like a sort of country house in miniature here.

0:53:220:53:26

You've got this lovely hall going right through the house

0:53:260:53:30

and then this is the main downstairs reception room.

0:53:300:53:34

-What do you think?

-Nicely done. And I know which picture I'd ask my dad for to put above the fireplace.

0:53:340:53:40

Yes.

0:53:400:53:42

-It's quite stylish, isn't it?

-Mm, very.

0:53:420:53:46

-A lot of the staircase is original. You've got these lovely barley-twist banisters here.

-I love that turning.

0:53:460:53:53

-Isn't it lovely? And this, to me...

-Awesome.

-I think this is the loveliest room in the house.

0:53:530:54:00

-It really feels like a piano nobile.

-Piano nobile, exactly.

0:54:000:54:05

It could even be another big reception room up here.

0:54:050:54:08

-And that could make the downstairs living room more of a casual dining/living room.

-Exactly that.

0:54:080:54:14

-This could be more of a state dining room.

-Mm.

-For important occasions.

0:54:140:54:18

-When I grew up, we did have the family dining room and the formal dining room.

-Quite rightly.

0:54:180:54:25

-London evolves, doesn't it?

-Absolutely.

-And somehow this little street is still here.

0:54:250:54:31

A precious little survival amongst it all.

0:54:310:54:35

Well, the price for this house at the moment, I think it's on the market for about £750,000.

0:54:350:54:41

-It's great value for what it is.

-Do you think so?

-I do, for the quality of the restoration.

0:54:440:54:49

And the neighbourhood isn't likely to change dramatically in the next few years...

0:54:490:54:55

Is this Pauline's wedding?

0:55:230:55:26

I think it was Pauline's wedding, isn't it?

0:55:260:55:29

Eh?

0:55:290:55:31

Yeah, there's Uncle Jack there.

0:55:310:55:33

Dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.

0:55:330:55:35

God...

0:55:350:55:36

Oh, there's Aunt Harriet, look.

0:55:410:55:44

I was loading up the lorry there.

0:55:440:55:48

Yeah. Hey, that was me.

0:55:480:55:51

It is me! Yeah.

0:55:510:55:53

In the baskets would have been Jersey potatoes.

0:55:530:55:58

Ah... Dear, oh, dear.

0:56:030:56:05

It's another time, innit? It's another era.

0:56:080:56:12

You can't turn back the clock no more, can you? Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

0:56:120:56:18

I think I'd like to finish now, son.

0:56:240:56:27

Yeah? Can we finish now?

0:56:270:56:29

# Will the circle

0:56:380:56:42

# Be unbroken

0:56:420:56:46

# By and by, Lord

0:56:460:56:49

# By and by

0:56:490:56:54

# There's a better

0:56:540:56:57

# Home awaiting

0:56:570:57:01

# In the sky, Lord

0:57:010:57:04

# In the sky

0:57:040:57:09

# Will the circle

0:57:090:57:13

# Be unbroken

0:57:130:57:17

# By and by, Lord

0:57:170:57:20

# By and by

0:57:200:57:24

# There's a better

0:57:240:57:29

# Home awaiting

0:57:290:57:33

# In the sky, Lord

0:57:330:57:36

# In the sky... #

0:57:360:57:40

Next week, we tell the story of Camberwell Grove,

0:57:420:57:46

how the street was built for the middle classes in Georgian times.

0:57:460:57:51

When it was built, it was like an object landed from space in the farmland itself.

0:57:510:57:57

How it was engulfed by the Victorian city of London.

0:57:570:58:01

And how, as period houses were being demolished all over the city,

0:58:010:58:05

the fight began to protect the Grove.

0:58:050:58:09

To discover more about Britain's Secret Streets, the Open University has produced a free guide book.

0:58:090:58:15

Go to bbc.co.uk/ourstreets and follow the links to the Open University

0:58:150:58:20

or call:

0:58:200:58:23

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:460:58:48

In 1886 Charles Booth embarked on an ambitious plan to visit every one of London's streets to record the social conditions of residents. His project took him 17 years.

Once he had finished he had constructed a groundbreaking series of maps which recorded the social class and standing of inhabitants. These maps transformed the way Victorians felt about their capital city.

This series takes six archetypal London streets as they are now, discovering how they have fared since Booth's day.

Booth colour-coded each street, from yellow for the 'servant keeping classes', down to black for the 'vicious and semi-criminal'. With the aid of maps the series explores why certain streets have been transformed from desperate slums to become some of the most desirable and valuable property in the UK, whilst others have barely changed.

This landmark series features residents past and present, exploring how what happened on the street in the last 125 years continues to shape the lives of those who live there now.

In Booth's time, Deptford High Street was 'the Oxford Street of south London'. Today, marooned amid 1970s housing blocks, it is one of the poorest shopping streets in London. Featuring compelling accounts from residents, including one family which has been trading on the high street for 250 years, the film tells the story of transformation and endurance as the people themselves tell the history of their own past and the street they lived in. Through these deeply personal accounts of huge extended families living together in a single street, the bigger story of slum clearance and the unravelling of the old ways of life emerge - a change which shaped the lives of tens of millions of British families all over the country.


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