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These Photos Show How Social Housing Once Made London Affordable To Ordinary People

See the "most successful social housing" over 80 years of history.

An art project has gathered historic photos and mementos of an east London housing estate to show what life was like in the UK’s "most successful privately built and owned social housing".

The exhibition features photos of the Warner Estate in Walthamstow, dating as far back as 1902 through to the 1980s, portraying families renting and living close to each other in affordable housing. A typical two-bedroom flat in the same area today sells for around £450,000, two and a half times the national average.

Markhouse Road, c.1902

Pretoria Avenue, Interior, 1903 and 2014

Bedford Lemere & Co / Katherine Green
Bedford Lemere & Co / Katherine Green
Bedford Lemere & Co / Katherine Green

The photos are in stark contrast to today’s London, where many of the current generations of these families have been forced out of the city because of rising property prices and a lack of affordable housing.

Large flat, drawing room, Markhouse Road, c.1903

Large flat, kitchen, Markhouse Road c.1903

Northcote Road, 1903 and 2014

Bedford Lemere & Co / Katherine Green
Bedford Lemere & Co / Katherine Green
Bedford Lemere & Co / Katherine Green

Artists Lucy Harrison and Katherine Green pulled the collection together from sources as far afield as America and Australia, along with oral stories from those who have lived in the area for 20 years or more.

WW1 Courtenay Road street party, 1918

Harrison said in a statement: “At a time when east London is becoming rapidly gentrified and a lack of affordable housing is a huge issue for many, the project looks at one example of how a private company developed large amounts of good-quality housing stock and its legacy for the area today.

“These outstanding photographs show an era where working-class families could live comfortably in stable accommodation, enjoying their homes and community life. The images provide a stark contrast with the conditions in the rented sector for families like this today.”

Take a look at a selection of some of the best photos from the exhibition.

Left: WW1 street party, Crissie and Dolly Phillips, Leucha Road, 1918. Right: Garden, Clementina Road, 1930s.

Outside Clementina Road, 1930s, courtesy of Molly Middleton

Tenancy agreement, 1937

Rent book, 1937

Street party, date unknown

Fireworks, Diana Road, 1950s

Brettenham Road, c. 1950

Left: Brenda, Bemsted Road, c.1951. Right: Judith in garden, Rushbrook Crescent, 1951.

Donald and Peter Wilkes, date unknown

Mike, Brettenham Road, c.1952

Coronation street party, Wetherden Street, 1953

Bloxhall Road, c. 1953

Hazel Lundbech feeding Deborah, 1954

Brettenham Road, 1954

Baby out for air, "in gate", May/June 1954

Family, 1950s

Christening day, Leyton, 1954

Date unknown

189-195 Brettenham Road, 1954


189 Brettenham Road, 1959

Left: Brettenham Road, August 1962. Right: Fleeming Road, 1960s.

Elphinstone Road, 1963

Bob and Sylvia, Warner Road, 1971

Fleeming Road, 1972

189 Brettenham Road, date unknown

Fleeming Road, 1972

Elphinstone Road, 1970s

Warner Road, 1970s

Sarah, Silver Jubilee street party, Penrhyn Avenue, 1977

Bemsted Road royal wedding street party, 1981

Bemsted Road royal wedding street party, 1981

Alec and Kitty, Warner Road, c.1982

The exhibition WE: The Ex-Warner Estate in Waltham Forest is on show at London’s Vestry House Museum, from 29 October 2016 to 19 February 2017.