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The Secret History Of Our Streets

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Joseph Bullman Joseph Bullman | 13:00 UK time, Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Charles Booth's survey of London is the most ambitious social survey ever conducted. Starting in 1886, it took Booth 17 years to visit every one of its tens of thousands of streets.

When he was finished, he'd produced a series of stunning social maps, which colour-code each of London's streets according to the class of its residents - from yellow for the Servant Keepers, all the way down to black, for Vicious and Semi-Criminal.

Drawn map of Deptford High Street, London

Charles Booth's descriptive map of Deptford, London

I remember sitting in a greasy spoon near Borough Market in London, and putting the idea for The Secret History Of Our Streets to my friend the director Brian Hill.

I told him we should go back to Booth's original study, to find out what had happened to the streets he'd visited 130 years earlier. Brian saw the potential instantly.

We were determined that the people of each street would tell their own story, collectively, for themselves.

But handing over the story to the residents was a challenge, because most knew only fragments of the street's story.

There were no 'experts' in Deptford High Street and historians don't specialise in single streets.

The Deptford High Street we found is one of the poorest shopping streets in the country. But when Charles Booth had arrived in the 1890s it was the Oxford Street of south London - so prosperous that many of its working class shopkeepers kept domestic servants.

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The storyteller John Price remembers his family history

When our young cub researcher walked in to John Price's Bent Can discount shop on the high street, John right away told him to "F*** off!" What did he know about Deptford High Street?! And young people today "don't know nuffin!"

The young researcher advised us to steer clear of John's shop, as he had gone so mad.

But experience taught me that the best documentary characters can often seem that way, so I asked my assistant producer Jaime Taylor to go in again, this time wearing a crash helmet. Jaime had more luck.

Over the weeks, we got close to John. He turned out to be a dazzling story-teller... The kind of person who was so good at conjuring up a lost past that he ought to get paid just to stand in his shop and talk. (Which he does anyway, the Bent Can acting as a kind of hang-out for hundreds of larger-than-life Deptford characters.)

John told us his family had been trading on the high street for 250 years, and that the side-street he'd been born on, just a few paces from his shop, had been "torn down cos it was too violent."

His family had spent two years living in their house, surrounded by rubble, because they didn't want to go.

John Price as a boy, poses with his extended family in a black and white photo

The Price family of Deptford: John is the boy at the front

Nearly all the Victorian terraces that had once fed into the high street had been pulled down in the 60s and 70s and there was no official account of the mass demolition.

Jaime spent weeks in the London Metropolitan Archives, going through thousands of uncatalogued papers, thrown in boxes, half a century earlier.

To our astonishment, these hand-written notes seemed to confirm what John and the Deptford people had told us.

That the street was full of solid, well maintained homes. No need for demolition...

John Price's strange comment had thrown up a story that needed to be told.

And through the series, every time we drilled down into the history of a single street, our researchers kept coming up with stories which seemed to re-write the history of London.

George Andrews looks up at a row of terraced houses in Portland Road

Episode four: George Andrews in Portland Road

On Portland Road, Notting Hill we found multi-million pound houses once occupied by a family of eight in each room.

On Caledonian Road, Islington we found a road whose history was shaped by a prison.

On Reverdy Road, Bermondsey we found the aristocratic landowning family that built the street more than a century earlier.

I reckon that anyone who watches this series is gonna end up walking down their own street, looking over their shoulder, and thinking 'how did we end up here?'

Joseph Bullman is the co-producer of the series The Secret History Of Our Streets and the director of episodes one and four.

The Secret History Of Our Streets is on BBC Two at 9pm on Wednesday, 6 June.

For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

BBC Four has launched The London Collection, a selection of archive BBC programmes which you can watch in full on BBC iPlayer.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Cant wait to see this. My family come from No 47 which is and has been a fishmongers for over 100 years. And my father was born upstairs in 1899! Could this be the oldest continually occupied business? Especially that is still selling the same "goods". I believe the current owner is some relative of mine but he doesnt feel able to reply to letters...maybe after this programme? My "uncle" Alec and auntie Bibby ran the shop for years and Alec was, I think, one of the first, if not THE first to "come out" as a gay transvestite.

  • Comment number 3.

    My husband was on call the other night when he thought he saw an otter at Glasson dock in Lancaster, whilst he was driving along. I have been followed along the canal, in Lancaster, by either a mink or weasle ( it was black and running along the ice of the canal). how do you tell them apart by a silhouette???

  • Comment number 4.

    The London County Council middle class planners with their arrogance plotted against working class communities under the guise of slum clearance,similar age properties in Kensington and Chelsea where never considered for slum clearance.
    Social engineering at its worst.

  • Comment number 5.

    Brilliant film with thought provoking comments from residents. However why on Earth did you find it necessary to give subtitles for any contributor from the Carribbean or Africa? They were all easy to understand. One man has been here since 1976! and the African had a very cultured accent, what is not to understand? I feel insulted on their behalf. this may be new policy for the BBC? I noticed the same thing while watching the Julillee Pageant.

  • Comment number 6.

    What a fantastic documentary, The BBC doing what they do best. This just goes to show how wrong the town planners were.

  • Comment number 7.

    What a fantastic programme. It was such a good example of how council planners can wreck a whole community with their shortsighted arrogance. Its obvious that the heart was ripped out of this community and families split up. You can never rebuild that. I can't wait to see the other episodes.

  • Comment number 8.

    Excellent programme and very well documented.
    Amazing how the arrogance of a few people in power can ruin an area and lives..

    Shame that lessons have not been learnt - planners are making the same mistakes today allowing cheap poorly designed blocks to be built... They need to have some pride and study historic architecture! Half these new blocks will not survive 100 years. The rendered fronts are ugly and environmentally unfriendly... Speaking of Deptford, look at the monstrosity built on Brookmill Road at the road kink. Appauling!! I wonder who took a backhander for that!

  • Comment number 9.

    I concur the above...I use to go there as a child and occasion pop down there for fis. I know some of the shop owners. Town Planners are back again as Deptford gets a reconstruction of the station and top end of the market new the bridge shall have some new builds!

  • Comment number 10.

    Interesting programme but i think very hard on the councillor. Obviously his words were edited to make him hang for all the crimes of the past. And when they were showing footage with the clip of Canary Wharf (is that visible from Dept' High St - no), then the camera swings to show Deptford. This was shown in black and white but filmed post 1988 it must have been in colour, so why take the colour out. Another trick to make things bleak. Come on, this programme had a one sided agenda - we're not mugs we now how TV works.

    The best was showing the transformation of the crap road which survived and has become gentrified, showing the old homes could have been made up nice (like in Spitalfields. It would have a much better programme to have shown Battersea and the like where the old houses survived BUT the working class community is not there either. What happened?

    At least the programme touched on the usual un-spoken subject of immigration. Its all part of the story.

    As for me, i was a toddler in the east end in early 60s and we were living in a slum getting ill from the rising damp etc, thank god we got a lovely council flat and moved out of the east end, and despite all the talk, we're far better for it - no doubt!

  • Comment number 11.

    Thank you for this fantastic documentary - one of the finest I've seen for years. Social history and journalism at its best.

  • Comment number 12.

    This is the best programme I have seen in such a long time. I am really looking forward to the others. The subject matter is fascinating anyway, but it was treated in such a brilliant way and you let the people speak for themselves, even the religious fanatics. Most TV documentaries seem to want to string us along with inane commentary designed to spell out the "message" behind the programme, but this lets us feel and decide for ourselves, making it far more powerful. Thank you.

  • Comment number 13.

    Great programme. Social engineering at it's worst.

  • Comment number 14.

    I watched the latter part of the programme with tears steaming down my face for the lost communities and the people's lives that had been so disrupted unnecessarily. The planners responsible should have been pilloried and jailed for what they did, not honoured and knighted (as many were). So many city centres were destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s, replaced by soulless concrete and steel and turned into the urban wastelands that blight all our lives into the future. Those responsible should hang their heads in shame.

  • Comment number 15.

    This was an excellent documentary that was superbly put together. The fact that roads can be slumps one decade but then be worth up to million a few decades later is fascinating. The director put a lot of thought into telling the story through the people who lived there. Can't help but feel there should be some financial compensation for the people who were wrongly evicted from homes that could now be worth potentially a fortune.

  • Comment number 16.

    Incredible! Thank you to the producers, researchers and residents – it’s history that makes us and sustains us. How thought provoking. Couldn’t make you more socially aware. Thank you for inspiring me to think differently about people and their communities. Can’t wait for the rest of the series. Would have loved to have seen spitalfields on your series list – BBC please don’t stop at six, keep uncovering the rest of our capitals streets!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    An impressive start - beautifully researched and raised all sorts of questions

  • Comment number 18.

    I Live in Albury street...I was wondering what was the "quirk of planning" mentioned in the Programme that saved most of It?
    Found the Programme both shocking and entertaining.
    I always assumed the war had taken away most of the streets.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am a London Tour guide and Deptford is one of the many areas where I lead walking tours. The people I take there are always fascinated with this area's history so I was looking forward to watching this programme and adding to my knowledge of Deptford High Street . However I was extremely disappointed. The producer had obviously set out to give a negative view of the street. Whereas I agree with the sentiment that the old houses shouldn't have been demolished there are many positive things the film makers could have shown and chose not to. They selected a stall holder bemoaning the fact that his customers were no longer English but they didn't how how vibrant and busy the street market can be. There was no mention of the recent attempts at regeneration with a new school, individually owned shops and good cafes like the Deptford Project. Where was the beautiful baroque St Paul's Church, recently restored and one of the most attractive churches in London? Where was the Albany Arts Centre with its interesting programme of music, drama and arts projects? And no mention of the street art by Deptford's thriving community of artists. We had a glimpse of the restored Albury Street with its early 18th c houses at the end of the documentary but this was the only positive. Deptford has had many problems over the years which cannot be denied but this was a totally unbalanced view of a street with a fascinating story to tell.

  • Comment number 20.

    Never been moved to comment on-line before - this programme was just stunning. Can't wait to see more. As an amateur genealogist I get so sad when looking up addresses of ancestors and finding 60's monstrosities where families formerly lived for generations. I'm a Londoner, descended from a wide range of typicals including Covent Garden porters & flower-sellers, Whitechapel brickies, Islington waiters, Greenwich carpenters, Dalston box-makers, washerwomen, labourers, seamstresses etc. and it just breaks my heart to see their histories being erased with the beautiful streets and houses they lived in. I salute John Price and his family - he's dead right, there was no need to demolish Deptford. Please God we can now start to love and appreciate our streets and their histories (if it means Americans buying our homes for £7k+, the so be it, as long as they aren't allowed to ruin them).

    Bless you, John, & can't thank you enough for lending your voice to this programme. Of course, thanks also to BBC and programme-makers!

  • Comment number 21.

    Just seen my uncle John Price, aunt Pauline and uncle John Churchill relive the heartbreak of the clearance of Deptford - the sad thing is on the other side of my family the same thing happened in Woolwich - whole families who had lived side by side for generations cleared out communities destroyed. Ironically the very same period houses attract premium prices in the areas that survived the demolition ball.

  • Comment number 22.

    What a wonderful film, brought back some memories for me. My mother's family all came from that area and close neighbouring New Cross. I remember my great grandmother and her youngest daughter, Gladys, living in very poor conditions in a few rooms in a shared house off Deptford Hight Street - maybe Childeric Rd. Paraffin heaters, scrubby brown lino, brown sticky paint, brown peeling wallpaper, no bathroom, shared outside loo in a sort of shack in a shared yard. Gladys was moved in the 60s slum clearance, to a nice self-contained victorian conversion flat in Brockley. No complaints. Her sister, my grandmother Queenie, lived in better conditions in New Cross, not self contained, no bathroom and an outdoor loo, but less terrible. By the time she died about 20 years ag the landlord had had to improve things - bathroom and loo inside - and the house next door had been bought and gentrified by a young lawyer. No doubt if the old housing hadn't been 'cleared' the area would have retained some of its character and been gradually gentrified. Still 'clearing' but in a gentler, more positive way with some benefit to the original residents maybe?
    The problems of slums were often social housing issues; the very poor like my family had to rely on landlords. Home ownership was unimaginable. Both my grandmother and great grandmother had been widowed young. Education was limited. The war opened up opportunities to work and be paid well in the print trade, but this dried up when the men came home.
    It feels like another age, it was another age, but I remember it. As a little girl coming from a more prosperous middle class home - midlands 30s/40s semi - visiting the family in Deptford felt like another age even then, even to a 6/7 year old.

  • Comment number 23.

    Deptford is a complex, vibrant place. This documentary is crass and singularly negative. Its makers seem determined to impose a simple, linear narrative onto Deptford's past and present, presumably in order to make easy or satisfying viewing. The loss of the old communities is indeed a tragedy, but there is no recognition in this film of what Deptford High Street has going for it today. It is a fascinating place, extremely multicultural and harmonious, with many thriving businesses, community groups and a busy market.

  • Comment number 24.

    Joseph - what a fantestic programme and so sad. I tuned in because I lived on the nearby Pepys Estate in the 1980's. I have a long standing interest in a range of related areas e.g. the impact of architecture on lived experience; the insensitiivity and arrogance, of middle class, social and cultural engineers to the dynamics of working class life etc. When I saw the programme I was reminded of the findings of the Stephen Lawrence enquiry that articulated, so well, 'institutional racism'. Whilst I do not wish to conflate issues here, in a way that denounces the particular sufferings of racism, this programme reminds me that there is, as far as I understand, no equivalent term for 'instutional classicism' but that one is needed. I think your programme has begun to articualte it's workings. In addition this programme relfects the experiences of my own family in the Moorland Road area of Birkenhead. A sorry tale lived by my own people and an indication of a much broader spectrum of suffering. Jane

  • Comment number 25.

    This was a quite superb short film that showed the arrogance, ignorance and incomprehension of the councillors and planners. My family were 'slum cleared' from Deptford during the period shown in the film. The tragic consequences to the mental health of those whose family ties and attachments were so brutally broken by the 'planners' were all too clear, and the gentrification and economic exploitation that really lay behind the clearances was painfully and powerfully shown, especially in the almost unbearable final scenes of the wealthy purchasers of a house in a road that was 'somehow' left intact for refurbishment and massive profiteering. There is another story to be told of the profound psychological damage done to the people who were 'cleared' into the isolating horrors of the new towns and tower blocks. The 'nervous breakdowns' and pill prescriptions painfully described in the film are only the very small part of an untold human catastrophe caused by these clearances that has been minimised and covered up by those responsible.

  • Comment number 26.

    Fantastic program. Planners can get it so wrong.I have seen how beautiful parts of London were from old photographs and thought how sad so much was destroyed and replaced by bland design.So glad somebody has asked these questions finally

  • Comment number 27.

    What a superb piece of television, a fascinating documentary, thank you BBC. It is an alarming but vital record of our city's social history and one which serves as an important reminder of the impact that so many of these failed architectural experiments have had upon London communities. There is still a wealth of derelict Victorian buildings throughout our capital which are steadily falling into disrepair. These buildings should be brought back to life, creating jobs and much needed homes.

  • Comment number 28.

    I've watched the programme on Deptford High St
    I worked for Lewisham Council between 1971 and 1974 as an environmental health officer dealing with privately owned housing. Although I didnt work in Deptford, I remember the GLC had large redevelopment schemes in the area. They often used the local authority eho's to try to declare streets unfit for habitation - probably so that when the house was declared unfit, it would be worth less and the cost of compulsory purchse was less. Local councils sometime did the same thing. In Forest Hill there was a large area that was due for demolition and most of them were not unfit ( a GLC scheme) but there was a small area close by that was marginally unfit that I was involved with. By the early 70s councils had powers and resources to give grants for improvements on an individual or area basis; my head of section Bob Davis pioneered these improvement schemes in Lewisham and the first one was in Brookmill Rd Deptford. By the mid 70s slum clearance was over ; but the 'damage' had been done in more than one sense!
    The programme didnt make clear that the LCC and GLC after it sometimes tried to overrule what the local council wanted. And there was a political dimension, when many Labour Councils wanted to maximise municipalisation of housing. It was the same in Bristol ( where I worked after 1974)
    Two other comment abouts the programme i) I'd be interested in the archived documents re ehos reports. I wondered if my own ones for Forest Hill are archived?
    ii) I was a bit unhappy about the focussed shots on new shops and businesses compared to the 'old and white' London shops - and WHY subtitle the speech of some contributors and not the 'sarf' London accents which are just as unfamiliar on other parts of the UK.....?

  • Comment number 29.

    well what a great programme,my family name is giffin and of course being related to the original owner of giffin street, 84 dwellings were there around 1700 they were built but cant find much about the street now days as its a swimming pool and now a new libary,was hoping you would mention something about it and might go and talk to the old timers before the final bit of its history disapears,

  • Comment number 30.

    This was a brilliant documentary, best I've seen for a long time! Totally agree with comment no.12 about the bland, biased stuff usually served up as 'documentary'. This was well-researched, well-presented and above all it allowed the people whose lives were so deeply affected by the slum clearance programme to tell their story. John Price is a star, isn't he?!
    Well done to all involved. Can't wait to see the rest of the series.

  • Comment number 31.

    This was one of the most engaging, informative and radical (dare I say that for fear of being 'moderated-out?) TV programmes that I have watched in years. As a middle-aged, middle-class ex-south london squatter it confirms my worst suspicion regarding that which I saw and lived through in the early 1970s albeit further west in Stockwell and Brixton.

    Stephee astutely calls it "social engineering at its worst", perhaps one might also call it institutionalised class warfare; that would seem to be the implicit but considered judgment call of the principle protagonists.

    Dare we hope for a prequel and sequel? There are many more equally insightful stories to be told and contradictions to be elicited regarding this subject, amongst which it might be worth considering the splendidly conflictual tale of Rachel Whiteread's East London 'house'; an inside-out morality tale if ever there were one......... not that I'm planning on casting any deliberate dispersions.

  • Comment number 32.

    I was interested in the documentary about Deptford High Street as I spent the first 5 years of my life growing up in Walpole Road New Cross just off the high street.

    My parents grew up in the local area, and I remember walking under the bridge and into Deptford High Street with my Grandfather treating me to an ice cream from the Italian ice cream shop, which was a "foreign" luxury in those days, a few years after the finish of rationing.

    My grandparents were one of the few in the road to own their own house, which the council made the subject of a compulsory purchase order for a fraction of the true price. When my Uncle took on the council to fight the case for true compensation, they moved in problem families to neighbouring houses to drive them out. Eventually they had to admit defeat, and move out of London, which they loved, to Lincolnshire to be able to afford to buy another property.
    I believe the road was then made into a skateboard park.

    I have just discovered in the attic of the house where I know live in South London, my 14th birthday present, bought in a shop in Deptford High Street, - a pair of ice skates.
    I haven't been back to the area for years, and now I'm not sure I would want to.
    I think I would find it heartbreaking, and destroy my happy memories of what, at the time, was regarded as quite a "posh" area.

  • Comment number 33.

    Fantastic start to the series, well done. I have myself been studying the social history (for my own interest) where I grew up in East London for artistic purposes and have covered the East London Nichols area, Whitechapel and Spitalfields. All extremely deprived areas only 40 years ago, now elite areas for the rich and famous to bag an urban pad down with the gritty locals. What locals???? Again, social planners in cahoots with councils on how they feel the poor working classes should live whilst clearing swathes of these areas that border the City and rendering the poorest families homeless to make way for development where they have no place for those ousted. Ironically, Boundary Road in Shoreditch which was one of the poorest streets in the UK according to Booths study and Jack London's, now has a development for private flats going up which no one but the very wealthy will be able to afford. Cheekily called The Boundary (what gall). Again, a case of the council not providing for the those from the area but for the big buck developers to sell onto city Traders as flats for the week instead of families thus eroding communities and making these areas heartless. Nothing has changed in 100 years in these areas so close to the City. The poorest keep being squeezed tighter and tighter on top of each other in deprived areas. As your documentary shows, many people can be in the same earnings bracket due to circumstances out of their control (coming from many different backgrounds with different beliefs and viewpoints) involuntarily pushed together, could fracture our society in this class even further than has ever been seen before in our history. Booth would have to use a lot more colours on his map for the lower classes than ever. But hey, I could be wrong.

  • Comment number 34.

    I too have never been moved to comment online before. But this documentary really angered me. How dare the post war town planners tear a community like this apart. I am young and new to London and have always been confused by the mix of old and new housing in the capital. I knew much was due to the bliz but this total disregard for period architecture is unexceptable. Come friendly bombs and fall on slough was defiantly not the case. Greatly saddened. Paul 25 London

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm really interested in social history, so was quite looking forward to this programme. It was fascinating, and the fact that you'd been able to talk to one of the original residents made it more so (what a great story teller he was.) That councilor was so ignorant, as were they all at that time (it happened to my grandparents and aunties and uncles in Hulme in the 60's-one of the worst disasters in modern housing in this country,) it killed so many communities and set up one problem after another. I actually cried at the end as John recalled old times watching his family's old movies.

  • Comment number 36.

    What a brilliant documentary. I feel quite angry for the people who had the hearts ripped out of their communities by the faceless planners. I can't understand why the houses that survived the war were pulled down anyway! It wasn't just Deptford this happened, it was all over London, and their replacements have led to many of the social problems we have today. Very sad. Appalling planning decisions like this still go on today, what does that say? Looking forward to next weeks programme.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hard not to biased as my parent featured, but i have to say this was a fantastic insight into London's recent history. The editing was excellent and the story all the more prevalent given the fact that London is firmly in the limelight at the moment given the recent Jubilee and the forthcoming Olympics. I congratulate the makers and the BBC for their bravery in commisioning and airing the programme. We got to see a personal and poignant side of an inner London working class enclave that is all too easily forgotten. I thought that it showed an enduring sense of community and cameraderie.

    For those who thought it biased against the Council and its post war planners, well unfortunately, it was, and i hope this is justified and borne out to be a fair reflection as the series continues. This wasn't just a community that was evicted but individual lives that were ireperably changed. Well done.

  • Comment number 38.

    Great program, that shows how city planing destroys communities. Those houses could have been improved with minimum destruction. This is a typical centralist planning that sees buildings but fails to understand the sociological impact.

    A great example of a living community is documented at https://spitalfieldslife.com/ The book is amazing too.

  • Comment number 39.

    As for 23 Emilgillian's coments about the programme not reflecting Deptford High street/market as a vibrant and exciting place; please try to get the point Emily, the documentry wasn't about how exciting and vibrant Deptford is now, It was about a thriving and centurys old community that had lived, worked and prospered through two world wars being systematically and forcibly destroyed. If you want a TV programme extolling the virtues of the current area either make one youself or watch an local council advert.

  • Comment number 40.

    I was amazed to see a still photo of Griffiths & Co. William Powell Griffiths was my great grandfather and this shop was one of six grocery shops he owned and ran in South London. I am also pretty sure that the people pictured outside included members of my family who also worked in the business.

    I would dearly love to obtain a copy or sight of that photo for my family research - would that be possible?

    Programme was absolutely fascinating and I am looking forward to next week!

  • Comment number 41.

    I really enjoyed tonight's programme, although I should declare that I am a town planner (but not even born in the 1970's)! It's such a shame that perfectly good housing was demolished and communities torn apart through slum clearance. Thankfully the profession has come a long way since then from what was then its infancy.

    I didn't like the way that the programme demonised town planners, I think there was a genuine spirit amongst planners at the time that they were improving housing conditions (rather than class warfare as others have suggested) and needs to be viewed within the context of post war welfare state etc as well as online shopping and supermarkets today (with repsect to the decline of Deptford and many other high streets). Suffice to say that the a good deal of housing was probably of very poor quality and many people were very satisfied with their new homes.

    Nevertheless a great programme and well done to those involved in making it.

  • Comment number 42.

    With respect to Diane Burstein, you are talking nonsense. This documentary was looking at a small area over a long period of time. A few tokenistic, present day arts projects cannot compensate for the housing and communities built up over generations. And I think you are exaggerating to say the stall holder was "bemoaning the fact that his customers were no longer English". He got on well with a diverse number of people. I seriously think you saw what you wanted to see. If I was a guide in Deptford, I would be very interested in this history rather than embarrassed that it wasn't a PR job for the area.

  • Comment number 43.

    Fascinating documentary - this series is definitely worth watching.

    How blinkered the people who stubbornly flattened the area must've been, in wanting to re-engineer society in Deptford without any regard for the wishes of the people themselves! Heart-breaking outcomes.

    And how ironic that the one street definitely designated as slum housing wasn't cleared at all and now has a house on offer for 3/4 of a million pounds.

  • Comment number 44.

    I have yet to see the whole documentary as just caught the end as I was actually on the phone to Mr Taylor the Councillor after having just spoken to a friend from Deptford; both mentioned the program was on at that very moment so I turned on. It seemed like a great documentary but Mr Taylor was unfairly portrayed I feel (although exonerated at the end). He had come to politics as an eminent Architectural Historian, chaired the Housing Committee and served as Mayor of Lewisham (including the merged old Borough of Deptford). He has currently just finished working on a Biography of Pevsner (whom he knew and corrected some of his work). Albury Street and Reginald Street were both classed the same by Boothe (purple, mixed) but Albury had beautiful carved porches by workers who usually carved ships (Grinling Gibbons worked not too far away!), this may have helped exempt them, I do not know. Jess Steele's book 'Turning the Tide' is a more accurate history of this most multicultural of towns the world. I look forward to seeing the whole episode, and to next week's that focuses on Camberwell Grove where was born in Grove Lane, the adjacent Grove, now Queen's terrace and very desirable! The Rotherhythe program will also be interesting to show how the Catholic Dockers Politician Property Developers demolished Southwark's post war surviving streets (akin to similar Irish Catholic Builder Property Developers in Lewisham). Expect a lot of feedback to this Blog by real Deptford people with long histories of involvement. Keep up the good work. Another interesting documentary on Deptford is of course 'The Tower' in 2007.

  • Comment number 45.

    I am more than disappointed with this film. It completely omits the regeneration dimension of the Deptford story, physically represented by the new school and library, the Albany Centre, the rebuilt railway station, and the very exciting Deptford Project. Of course the story of Lewisham's incompetence and (perhaps) skullduggery in the 60s and 70s needed to be told, but the conclusion that Deptford High Street is one of the poorest in the country is neither fair nor accurate: Time Out, for instance, has called it London's most lively high street. You completely failed to notice that the most prevalent religious group here in Deptford is not the jolly African gospel church you showed, but in fact is the Buddhist community. We have at least as many southeast Asians as Afro-Caribbean people in the High Street, but your only reference to this was showing a lady getting her finger bitten by a crab. I'm doubly disappointed because a couple of years ago we gave your researcher much information and practical assistance as well as historical and archaeological maps of the area (we live in Albury Street). With the exception of a couple of minutes in Albury Street, the show concentrated on one side street -- Reginald Road -- which doesn't necessarily serve as a paradigm for the rest of Deptford. And you showed only the southern portion of the High Street; but this was not made at all clear. I was a professional television producer (LWT, 1978-89) and a journalism teacher (City University, 1996-2006), so my criticism is not amateur. Actually, we think Deptford High Street is an exciting, vibrant, colourful place to live, and given half the budget the BBC gave you to make this film, I'd be happy to make another one to prove it.

  • Comment number 46.

    Agreed with all the positive comments so far - an excellent programme. The council's grand plan to wipe away the 'problem' communities using the spurious excuse of the houses not being fit for human habitation was an experiment in social 'cleansing' that went on right across working class communities in London during the 1960s. My own parents were forced to leave the home they loved, demolished in North West London's version of the Deptford fiasco outlined in this programme. The documentary I would love to see made is one that joins the dots of all these attacks on poor people, all being made at the same time, all calculated by a set of town planners who knew nothing of community values and the scale of destruction they were wreaking with their clipboards and their forms. It was an act of social vandalism, co-ordinated to a chilling degree, it rather reminds me a bit of our friends in government today. What are the poor for if not for experimenting on, and pushing around?

  • Comment number 47.

    Fascinating programme and deeply moving.

    My grandparents lived in Reginald Road and must have been near neighbours of the Prices. I remember visiting their house regularly as a small child in the early 60s (and buying my sweets at Harriet's corner shop). Most of my family lived in the immediate area and I have clear memories of big gatherings for birthdays and Christmas. Most of them had moved to the suburbs or new developments in Kent by the time the area was demolished. By the time my grandparents were moved out in (I think) 1967, the area was considered to be 'going down.'

    The High Streety was indeed vibrant and had the sort of shops I've never seen anywhere else - Pecry's(?) sticks in my mind - I think it was a sort of haberdashers -and Fantos, as well as the market in Douglas Street. I'm pretty sure there was also an M & S at one stage!

    I think it's easy to be outraged now at what was clearly the wholesale destruction of a thriving working class community, but I think at the time my grandparents, like many people, welcomed the chance to move further out, to what they saw as better houses, with green space nearby.

    Great programme which brought back a lot of memories. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the series.

  • Comment number 48.

    And they wonder what happened to communities in this country?

    It makes your heart bleed when you've come from that area. Twenty years or so after the war, the very people who fought for a better place were having their own communties blitzed by the social dreamers and the saddest thing as he said on the programme, was the old ones who stayed until they died and the others who like my Grandad eventually left, but like an old dog he always found his way back, to be where he knew even though it was a shadow of its past. I was the last in my family born there, we were part of the clearance in 1971 and when we left I became the last in my family to live there for 200 years.

    The same type of people responsible, still run the show now, ignoring and never listening to the people who matter, always knowing better. Has anything really changed?

  • Comment number 49.

    I must congradulate the BBC on this wonderful outstanding series..If ever we wonder or moan about the licence fee remember this series..The scandal of Deptford and the withfil ruining of communities in the late 1960s and early 1970s is highlighted.The disgrace of how The London County Council steam rollered it image and the lack of public consultation.The highrise was only to become the worst slums of tomorrow and the loss of communities proved to be the undoing of East and South London.The finding of docuuments that confirm that there was little wrong with houses in Reginald Road is a national disgrace....I salute all the people who hung on to the end even seeing their compulsury purchase monies reduced because they were driven out.As a nation we should bow are head in shame we tore down so much of our history.Yes there were terrible slums in some areas and rightly they needed to go but to pull down perfectly good homes just needing modernisation was a scandal......Let this be a lesson to us all...Once again I appauld the Producers and cant wait for future episodes.

  • Comment number 50.

    What a cracking show..well researched, thoughtfully put together, reasonably balanced and overall very informative. This restores my belief in the BBC and it's output. Good job!

  • Comment number 51.

    Victoria 1967, thank you for your observations re my comments. I respect your point of view and I would appreciate it if you would respect my own point of view by disagreeing but not insulting me by accusing me of "talking nonsense". I do not expect the documentary makers to do PR for the area. I merely expressed the view that the documentary was unbalanced offering only a negative view of the area and not highlighting any of the positives. I am perfectly happy with them telling the history of the demoliton of the houses and found the story very interesting. When leading my tours I tell people about the negatives as well as the positives. I often touch on the subject of displacement of communities and destruction of old housing which didn't need to be replaced, just renovated. My issue with this programme is that it was supposed to tell the story of a street so they should have bought it up to date by talking about recent regeneration and showing the more vibrant aspects of life in Deptford, not only the street drinkers.

  • Comment number 52.

    This programme was wonderful. Informative and moving, I watched with mounting fury at it all. The Gospel singing at the end was inspired.
    This should be compulsory viewing for all Town Planners in training. I have urged all my friends to watch it.
    Thank you so much

  • Comment number 53.

    It was a revealing programme but it concentrated on just one tiny area of the High Street, and it was mostly over a century ago and when houses were knocked down in that one area. It also just showed the High Street part of the Saturday market without no mention of the branch off, Douglas Way part which at one time extended all the way to the New Cross station end. With all the branch off roads, it concentrated on just one, Reginald Road. At one time, Deptford had many good stores: Marks & Spencers, Woolworth's, David Grieg and so on as well as many good small businesses. But as said, when rows of houses were knocked down and replaced with flats, Deptford people did not want to move into them and went elsewhere so they ended up searching the bottom of the housing list for tenants, which was often recent immigrants and in a short time the area became flooded with them. In the seventies, many of their customers having been moved elsewhere, the big businesses moved out and the cheap shops moved in and the decline began. There was no mention of St Paul's church, which you saw from and you reached from the High Street but plenty of mention of pubs. I don't remember any public drunkenness. I moved to Deptford from nearby New Cross in 1953 to a small mid terraced house in Adolphus Street and we were rehoused in four storey flats in Evelyn Street in 1959 and 23 years later I moved out of the area. I have fond memories of my time there but was shocked to see how Deptford had changed for the worst when I went back in the late 90's. Yes the houses were small. No bathroom and outside toilets but they were good solid houses and the only case of damp I heard was a street in nearby New Cross, which made the local newspaper, The Kentish Mercury. And those same houses are still there.

  • Comment number 54.

    It was very annoying that the programme failed to show the location of all the roads mentioned in relation to the High St. There was far too much zooming in to maps so much that you couldn't tell where the road was!
    The mystery about Albury Street surviving is no mystery at all. The programme failed to make it clear that only the north side was saved from redevelopment. A quick look at a map reveals why. The north side is in Greenwich, the south side is in Lewisham!
    Nonetheless an excellent portrayal of what happens when meddling clueless experts start interfering in people's lives, and people are not able to do anything about it. Something that is sadly still happening today.

  • Comment number 55.

    This was a fantastic programme. Original, informative and beautifully created. I look forward to the remaining programmes in the series. However, it must be noted that it was extremely one-sided and the councillor was very unfairly portrayed.

    Great programme but same old shameless BBC left wing bias...

  • Comment number 56.

    I really enjoyed the programme last night and cant wait till the bermondsey street. I was born in bermondsey and remember the slum clearances and moving to essex. it definitely wasn't good as all my aunts uncles and cousins were very close until we all ended up moving to all different parts of suburbia. some went to kent some went to essex, some to surrey. there were only about 2 who stayed in london and went to flats, not high rise flats tho. Cant wait. thoroughly enjoyable series. jennyann60

  • Comment number 57.

    An excellent programme, well told for the most part, but spoiled by the final third. It's a shame that the programme-makers felt the need to create a distorted narrative about modern-day Deptford in order to try to reinforce their point. I lived in Deptford in the late 70's and early 80's and still live locally. Of course it has changed - all areas and communities do. But it has definitely changed for the better since I lived there and has undergone a lot of regeneration. It now has a really vibrant arts community and a lot of new public buildings and facilities. It feels as though the producer actively avoided reflecting that because it might dilute their narrative. They needn't have worried: the extraordinary story of the planners' incompetence was strong enough.

  • Comment number 58.

    A fascinating absorbing programme but I can't help but agree with tmpd (comment 55). There may have been streets full of perfectly good houses which were condemned but there were many more homes which were built cheaply and could never have been made good. (Note that the street which survived and rose again, Albury Street, was built significantly earlier and presumably of better materials.) London slum clearance began in the 1870s and wasn't really completed for a century.

    The real problem with the slum clearance, aside from the design mistakes of some of the new tower blocks, was that many of the communities displaced were moved away to the edge of London, and then the new residents were brought in from all over. People don't just attach to 'London', they put down roots in their particular bit. Extended families live in the same area and form communities. It would be good if this was remembered when housing benefit changes are being designed.

  • Comment number 59.

    This was a fascinating, if biased programme.
    I note the BBC has made a stack of documentaries about London available on i-player.
    Surely there’s room on BBC4 for this archive gold?
    What a contrast to the dross that fills today's schedules: endless ‘talent’ shows, home makeovers and cookery programmes – truly the opium of the masses.

  • Comment number 60.

    I was furious to see what was done to those decent hardworking people in South London. Rather like today, I felt the lives of the working classes were being controlled by Middle Class people whose policies had no effect on them. They used getting rid of the houses as a reason to get rid of the people and the pubs! The ancestors of those 'policy makers' would now be paying 700,000 grand upwards to live in those 'slums' if they had not pulled them down eh? Like they do in Fulham and other gentrified areas.

  • Comment number 61.

    These social class maps show some interesting distributions of social classes across the UK.

  • Comment number 62.

    Very interesting program and it's about time the story of London community demolition was told. The town planners ie The LCC did the same thing in Walworth demolishing areas around the Elephant & Castle (Heygate Development) and St.Georges Way (Aylesbury Estate). Ripped out the heart & soul of the local community erecting a montrosity at great cost as a replacement. Sad V. Sad.

  • Comment number 63.

    It's an irrelevance that there may be the odd positive aspect to Deptford today. What this amazing documentary showed was the needless destruction of a community by forcibly re-housing the population. If this story had depicted a similar tale about Romania, Russia or any other country then there would be an outcry. For it to have happened here was a disgrace.

    My only criticism was that while the programme rightly pointed the finger at inept, idealistic planners and councillors, it didn't (and possibly couldn't) "follow the money". The planners merely provided the means for developers to make a fortune out of this sorry mess. Have we learnt by these mistakes? I doubt it.

  • Comment number 64.

    As an EHO myself I was amazed by the rabbit you pulled out of the hat John when you revealed the EHO's actual report on the Prices' house and left the questions hanging tantalisingly in the air - Who was responsible for deciding that their street should be part of the slum clearance programme and why?

    This was especially gratifying as EHOs had been the subject of such harsh comment by a contributor earlier in the programme.

    Where did you obtain that EHO's report from John?

  • Comment number 65.

    Sorry Joseph that I have your name wrong in my previous posting

  • Comment number 66.

    A poignant and accurate portrayal of slum clearance and its social and other consequences. Have you considered featuring the Braganza Street area of Southwark? This was a large area behind Kennington Tube destined for slum clearance in the early 1970s, becoming desolate and being bought up at distressed prices by the Council. A small group of residents (of which I was one) fought against the compulsory purchase orders at the Public Enquiry, where we lost and then again at the High Court where we also lost. We then appealed (daringly) to the court of appeal where we won! The grounds of appeal were that the Council had not taken the relative costs of demolition and rebuild compared with rehabilitation into consideration. The Court of Appeal ruled that cost was a relevant consideration and that the compulsory purchase orders were therefore unlawful. This judgement finally put a stop to any further slum clearance, thankfully.
    The Victorian houses in Braganza St area survived and today change hands for £750k or so.
    If you are interested in more information do email me.

    The judgement created case law: "In Eckersley v Secretary of State for the Environment (1978) the Secretary of State confirmed a compulsory purchase order for the acquisition of land to permit the clearance of slum properties, by virtue of powers contained in Part 3 of the Housing Act 1957. It was decided that the confirmation was ultra vires on the ground that there was a failure to take into consideration comparative costs of demolition and rebuilding." (Introduction to administrative law, Hawke N, Parpworth N, Cavendish Publishing, 1998

  • Comment number 67.

    this was a terrific programme - informative and also questioning of the attitudes, and facts, of what happened in deptford.

    like others, i've been carrying out research into my local area, in this case TULSE HILL, where the LCC - led by peter mandelson's grandfather, HERBERT MORRISON, destroyed most of tulse hill and upper tulse hill in order to build 'working class dwellings'.

    the good - thousands got housed at a time, like now, of housing need

    the bad - 120 beautiful houses with huge gardens got flattened, and an area - that was the south london equivalent to HIGHGATE - got transformed into a mass of blocks of flats. in this case, the middle classes didn't escape the wrecking ball.

    i shall be publishing my researches in due course, tribute has to go to the MINET LIBRARY, the LM Archives, and other places where we can find incredible documents and photos. these places of 'buried treasure' must NEVER be ''privatised''.

  • Comment number 68.

    I loved this programme. Since moving to London in '97 I have always been interested in how London has changed over the years. I felt it dealt very well with how little the planners knew of the people whose communities they were ripping apart and neither did the community understand the 'progressive' ethos of the planners and architects. For those complaining that the programme didn't reflect the Deptford of today, I would say you are missing the point, that is not what the programme was about. It was sad to see how neighbourhoods were torn apart and regardless of what is said, it is difficult to be neighbours in 20 storey tower block. Great programme and look forward to the rest of series.

  • Comment number 69.

    I lived in deptford all life and very proud of that fact, then it was tough but very, very safe. Now it is crime ridden, none of the great people now live there because of the very high crime. The program was interesting but could have interviewed the people of manzis and goddards pie mash shop's who have been there for years. We were also part of the slum clearance and even then we knew it was engineered by the labour council and the then MP John Silkin, was fully aware of this fact. I feel very sorry for deptford with it's incredible history and the once thriving and classy high street, now it's third world and getting worse. Still we had  the best times there and with great schools like John Evelyn you couldn't ask for a better and very happy child hood. 

    In the 90's money was just thrown at the place through "city challenge" so I wonder we're all that money went, now that's a program!.

  • Comment number 70.

    A terrific documentary although there is so much to say about Deptford now that is positive with some stunning new buildings (the Laban Centre won the Sterling prize for architecture in 2002) and a thriving arts scene. Going further back there is incredible history at the medieval church of St Nicholas, monuments to Tzar Peter the Great and social housing railings crafted from second world war blitz stretchers. I've been leading a walk through Deptfford using Charles Booth's notes for well over a year which can be found at charlesboothwalks.com

  • Comment number 71.

    Jeanette 10. Marks and Spencers was opposite Reginald Road. I think everyone was shocked when it closed. Pecry (a name I had forgotten) was the other side of Deptford railway station, and on the same side of the road. Fantos was a little further along on the other side, before St Paul's church. The one shop I liked and I think every other kid was Nobles toy shop around the corner in the Broadway, which was two shops in one and always had a great railway display at Christmas. My father always like Johnson's bread (corner of Douglas Way) but there was also Hurst's at the Evelyn Street end, a Clarke's a little past Johnson's and three other bakers, so we were spoilt for cakes. I remember a meat shop a few shops from Edwards Street which at night sold hot pease pudding and saveloys, and did a good trade.

  • Comment number 72.

    The point of programmes like this are that they give a voice to those who are usually unheard. I dont understand those bemoaning the lack of reference to current regeneration and 'arts projects' which in my view are not relevant to this programme. In fact, mention of arts projects irritate me somewhat, as they are generally a 'good idea' imposed on a community by outsiders. Whilst they bring benefits of their own, they do not fill the void left by forcible removal of core values generated within an existing community, causing its collapse and degeneration.
    Telling use of the phrase by Diane " I often touch on the subject of displacement of communities...." - this is why this film is of value, because it does more than 'touch on' this subject and hopefully brings more awareness to new communities of the recent history of their area. That can only be a positive thing.

  • Comment number 73.

    Shame the producer didn't edit out the last few minutes of the presenter haranguing the old councillor. Otherwise it was a nice reminder of what happens when planners, architects and politicians (local and national)decide what is best without bothering to ask residents.

  • Comment number 74.

    OK, I don't watch much TV but this is clearly the best thing on TV! It somehow mixes social history, contemporary documentary, drama, even arthouse cinema (I thought the projection on the building was vaguely derekjarmanish). Moving, inspiring, informative, free - this is what public service broadcasting should be.

  • Comment number 75.

    Really surprised at all the positive comments about this extremely biased programme. If I lived in Deptford I'd be fuming. Please don't let these film makers come to Brixton!! Deptford High Street may be poor but it has a really vibrant community with Vietnamese, African, and West Indian people, not to mention all the alternative artistic people who live and work there. None of these groups were given a voice! Deptford market is still thriving and there is a great cafe made from a railway carriage! Go there on a Wednesday morning and see! The programme had an agenda and was clearly sign posted. revolving around one particular family. This level of bias isn't what I expect from public service broadcasting and I was very disapointed.

  • Comment number 76.

    Hilling... you're not wrong but you are missing the point. You want diversity and contemporary life but this is another diversity and a fading contemporary life that echoes the past. The film you want to see could sit quite happily alongside this one, so why censor this vision? Isn't that real diversity?

  • Comment number 77.

    I agree with the Deptford tour guide - comment 19 Diane Burstein.

    I live in the area and everyone I know loves Deptford High Street. Why? Because it's still an oasis of spirit, colour and character within a larger picture of chain stores and homogeneity.

    On market day, the street is so packed it takes effort to get from one end to the other. Hundreds of people flock there not just to buy stuff, but to feed on the atmosphere, the character and the spirit of the place.

    If that's too airy-fairy and subjective a statement, then consider this: Jay Rayner set up his stall in the High Street a few years back for his food programme, because he knew that Deptford High Street was a diverse and vibrant place. How did he know this? Possibly he'd heard of a a recent survey which proclaimed Deptford High Street as “the capital's most diverse and vibrant high street” .
    The survey was based on basics, choice, and mix, and took into account the type of shops available. Deptford High Street beat more well-known places like Oxford Street and Kensington High Street.

    Where was the mention of that in the programme? Or the continuity of a radical, bohemian culture, the artists who flock to the area?

    And what about the consistency of social tinkering, which saw Aragon (Arrogant) Tower first erected, then 40 years later its council tenants evicted so rich yuppies could move in? Or the current behind-the-scenes plans to 'regenerate' Convoys Wharf and the High Street?

    Somehow, in spite of the patronising meddling by media and planners, Deptford High Street''s golden egg still remains.

  • Comment number 78.

    It is easy for programme makers to depict a problem in simplistic terms, as they have done here, and it can smack of hypocrisy when it was earlier media colleagues who originally helped pave the way for some of the worst excesses! (Many newspapers were cheerleaders for the drive to get rid of Britain's slums)

    The programme featured some fascinating cameos- the real people who continue to work and live in Deptford - and for this reason it was worth watching. Also the detective work which found the suppressed document which could have saved Reginald Road.

    But it was too simplistic - to describe the high street as marooned in a sea of 'low quality' council housing is lazy journalism. Many of the new housing estates of the post war era, including Pepys, were well-designed spaces, featuring homes with a much more generous living space than most people could afford today. As the excellent film Utopia London shows (www.utopialondon.com )what turned these places into ghettos was the decades of underfunding starting from the 70s onwards, as neoliberal economic policies took hold and ideas of 'society' and 'the common good' got squashed.

  • Comment number 79.

    Having now read some of the comments on here it's clear who the real Deptford people are, from the rose tinted and very cosy comments.

    Upto 1970 Deptford was a great safe place to live, steeped in our county's amazing history. I will also say I'm incredible proud to British but to be born and brought up in good old "Dirty Deptford", top's even that. When I travel around the world and people ask me where I come from I say proudly, "Deptford". 

    After 1970 the place went down rapidly to what it is today, a socially engineered crime ridden slum. During the 90's artists moved in buying up property usually ex council homes and Deptford became trendy and these newcomers pronounced themselves "local". Now they become an authority on the area which they are not. They see the run down high street with it's tatty shops as  the norm, well it's not. If only we could take them back just to the 60's. Douglas street market alone was a real gem and the high street, well just amazing.

    The high street is only the tip of Deptfords vast history. As for some of the demolition footage it's clearly, Not Deptford more like Manchester.

     I think the best comments are from a passerby in the beginning of the program who simply said, "Tell them the truth. How they f....... everything up" .... Well said sir!.

  • Comment number 80.

    I found this programme (episode one - deptford) profound and deeply moving. It was brilliantly researched, written, edited and presented. What these concrete towerblocks show is that when you create a class of building completely unlike anything people with choices would choose to live in, you prevent social mobility. The potential for social mobility is the key to the economic success of an area. And yet even today social housing is instantly recognisable: mean windows that you can't open properly, horribly coloured and textured bricks, token detailing, a carapace of satellite dishes, lack of planting. If planning authorities could only see that the best way to chip away at poverty is to insist on buildings that middle-class people might actually want to move into, we'd stop the ghettoisation of our cities and many of our social problems would begin to dissipate.

  • Comment number 81.

    A fascinating and really well-made quality programme. The one part of this issue I would have been interested to see a little more about is the actual town planning and layouts of the developments in the modern estates they built. Having been at college in Deptford in the 90s (at a college now demolished to make way for newbuilds) I was always struck by how random and nonsensical the new street systems seemed to be in roads leading off the highstreet. So many odd dead-ends and empty spaces, bleak roads that just trickle off into nothingness. I would have been very interested to see more about what thought processes went into deciding how they were building the 'better' modern Deptford as well as why they destroyed the old one. I find this particularly interesting because Deptford is a horrible, horrible mess of a place, sliced through with massive multi-lane roads, and the new streets and estates just seem to be dropped around with no reference to any of the structure of the area, no evidence of a plan to make this a world where people would actually live. When so much of the planning of the 60s focussed so heavily on functional spaces, with influences like the Radburn plan and the pedestrianisation of the new towns, why, for instance, was the Pepys estate built without thought for pedestrian access to the high street area? In my opinion Deptford is the absolute worst example of 60s rebuilding I've ever seen. I don't think the utopian dreams of 60s planners were uniformly bad or ill-judged, but in the case of Deptford, they were definitely a disaster.

    Although, I was struck in the programme by the descriptions of the high street in its hey day, with hundreds of people around the stalls and fights breaking out etc - and this was used as an example of how wonderful it used to be - where as when we saw jostling at the market in the modern footage, it was an example of how nowadays the place is full of hate. Deptford high street is still a place with a busy market and a huge amount of humanity out on the streets - had the beautiful old buildings stayed and the place been gentrified, is that neccessarily better? How long would the market have lasted without the multicultural community and the relative poverty? If it was a cleaned up, sanitised, area with expensive restored houses, how many of those old families would still be there, and how many would have cashed up and shipped out? You can go down to Greenwich where the houses weren't demolished, and yes it looks lovely, but it's not the same community that lived there for generations.

  • Comment number 82.

    Deptford High St...Brilliant documentary giving the voice to the people to tell their story. My grandmother who died over 30 years ago lived a few streets away and I lived with her for a time in the 1972/3. She shopped in Deptford High Street and told me about the 'old days' when my grandfather swam in the Thames as a boy and the passageways and alleys leading to the river. I remember seeing cargo ships in Deptford Creek in the days of working London Ports and the men waiting outside the hostel ... sadly many of my photographs of the area disappeared and it was not until the mid 70s that I went back and photographed the area again.

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 84.

    Just watched this excellent and moving documentary on iplayer. Brilliant to see a programme that gives voice to everyday people, rather than a sanitised soap, a celeb-driven talent show or the jingoism of the Jubilee. sentimental and harsh, it exposes the veneer of gentrification which the pernicious development of docklands and the faux bohemian arts regeneration are a part of. It was unashamedly biased and John is a natural performer, commanding the stage as he does so often in his shop. It was not perfect by any means, the uncritical inclusion of late-night evangelists (I believe a recent documentary exposed these churches for the rackets they are) harrassing drunks at the anchor was uncomfortable viewing.

    I've lived off Reginald Rd in a 1980's council flat, visible in the programme, for the last decade. I grew up in the 70's and 80's in what is now called St. Johns but is on the borders of Deptford, Brockley, and Lewisham but have always identified with Deptford. Apart from a few years working abroad this is where i've always lived. Like Deptfordboy, I'm proud to say I'm from Deptford. That's where we went to school and the high st. was an adventure though not always a safe one. Now it is a struggle most days. The plethora of betting shops, a multi-cultural community that largely sticks to it's own. The desperate people, drunks, junkies, care in the community, even TB cases have broken out. The urban cultural grazers and the young arty slummers love it for it's 'character' but the majority don't live here and even if they do it's usually only for a couple of years until they move on up to the more affluent suburbs. What this programme gives is a specific historical and material perspective.

    But hold on. I had a middle-class upbringing, am an artist, and studied geography at Queen Mary College. I grew up in a big, if rundown, Victorian house. Why am I not banging the drum for modernism, gentrification, regeneration. Partly because I've seen a lot of waves of regeneration that have had little impact. Gentrification can be summed up by the The 'modernism' of the sixties was a snobbish paternalism by an arrogant elite, imposing their ideas of urban living on an historically established community. A modernist vision can work but only on a blank canvas and London has never been a blank canvas. The clearing of existing housing in working-class area was a political decision, it literally paved the way not only for large housing estates but for fast roads right through to the city and west end. A2, A201, Deptford Church St. is a dual carriageway. Many children have been injured or killed on these urban clearways just crossing the road. In the 70's and 80's these roads were super-fast, with no crossings or traffic calming measures.

    My father was a GLC architect in the 70's until it's abolition. He and his colleagues spent most of those years trying to rectify the mistakes of the 60's by renovating and improving scores of council estates, including the Pepy's estate and incidently the roof of the youth centre which was melodramatically shown in black and white, and my mates teased me about the leaks when we played there. In the 80's it was a very rough estate but the flats are spacious and decent. I used to enjoy sleeping over in the

    Thanks for making a brave programme. Looking forward to camberwell grove

  • Comment number 85.

    A great programme. However. does anyone remember the other streets apart from Reginald Rd, where the inhabitants struggled with no electricity as it was never laid from the day the houses were built until the time they were pulled down.As well as no bathrooms , there was the original stone sink in the scullery and a cast iron cooking range in the back room. Gas was the order of the day for everything. Never the less there were very happy family memories and the destruction should never have taken place. Deptford had a lovely architectural character ruined by the "blots" on the landscape which are now there.

  • Comment number 86.

    I'd just like to say how excellent this programme was. " To entertain, educate and inform" (or words similar) are part, I believe, of the BBC's charter and this one did all three. Congrats to all involved.

  • Comment number 87.

    Great childhood memory's, 1950 to late 60's... Saturday morning pictures, pie mash, Sayers court park, long very hot safe summer school holidays, karry's the great ice cream shop in Edward street, the smell from lots of fish and chip shops, johnny the bird man in Edward street who's macaw we taught to swear, the fish stall in Douglas street cutting up eel's, jubbls, the toffee apple man, playing in the bombed out houses, mr softy and mr wippy, laurie grove baths, collecting old  news papers for money, knock down ginger, Clyde street and John Evelyn schools, the nitnurse, the old slipper baths in Clyde street, Bag wash, sikh door to door carpet salesman, friday bath night in an old tin bath, outside toilet with izal or old news paper to finish off, the Corona pop delivery man, 27th deptford cub's, the blacksmiths in grinling place, horse drawn coop milkfloats closely followed by the local gardeners shovelling up the horse droppings, wearing your Sunday best, the new fine fair supermarket top of the high street, the new wimpy bar just in the broadway and the new "frothy coffee" , rag and bone men exchanging a goldfish or toy windmill for any old cloths and last but not least local celeb's  Father Frost and Charlie the tramp.

    As for the high street at Christmas,  it was simply amazing and going there with your mum could be at least a 2 hour jaunt, with all our mum's chatting and catching up on local gossip.

  • Comment number 88.

    This programme was so well made and thought provoking. Using real people's stories and memories brings the realities of what a huge impact postwar town planning has had on our cities and communities. I was brought up myself in a late 1960s housing estate in Tulse Hill, South London which I know was built on a road of what were huge victorian detached houses. It made me feel angry at the arrogance and myopia of the idealists who planned to destroy the whole of London to create a so called Modernist London. But worse were The LCC and local councillors who decided to use South and East London as their test area, who condemned and bulldozed streets of repairable housing and broke up families and communities and erecting sub standard housing that in the end, as was pointed out by the original town planner himself, nobody wanted to live in. The denouement at the end where a couple are shown around a beautifully restored C17th house on the market for £750,000 must deal a blow to the stomachs of those who had lived in similar houses in the area which were destroyed. It's a very powerful documentary. I am looking forward to next week's episode on Cmaberwell Grove as it's where my Mum went to school. Thanks again to the superb BBC for such brilliant programme making.

  • Comment number 89.

    Sorry I forgot the most important person of all, local midwife Elsie Walkerdine, who delivered 4000 Deptford babies, including my sister and we are talking all home births.

  • Comment number 90.

    Completely enthalling programme. My Grandad was an Ovenell, as mentioned in the programme, and I spent many hours listening to his stories of Reginald Road, Idonia Street, the cockles and winkles and the two Ovenell families in Deptford. Even though I have old photos, this just completely brought it all to life for me, so thank you.

  • Comment number 91.

    This was a fascinating episode, but the programme makers would have done well to read Nicholas Taylor's book 'The Village in The City' published in 1973, before taking the easy short cut and representing him as they did.
    In it he makes a careful and intelligent analysis of urban communities and discusses in detail the rights and wrongs of various methods of urban renewal. It was a pivotal period in attitudes to slum clearance and redevelopment and his insights of 40 years ago still have value today.

  • Comment number 92.

    I live in this area, and one of the things that most struck me is that a whole host of new people have moved in and recreated a way of life not at all dissimilar from that described. The main difference, however, is that it is now fabulously multi-cultural.

  • Comment number 93.

    Having lived and worked in Deptford during the 70s and 80s I was really looking forward to this programme. I genuinely would not have recognised Deptford from this patronising programme. I can only think that the filmmaker went in with an agenda of his own. Did he visit the market on a Saturday when it is packed, or the second hand market on a Wednesday? Why not mention that it has been called “the capital's most diverse and vibrant high street”. It is hard to know what was the most distasteful element of the programme, the racist nature of the way minority ethnic people were portrayed and subtitled or the way Cllr. Nick Taylor was set up. I have worked with him in the past and he was a bloody good and committed councillor. I am sure that he along with others made mistakes about development, but we can see that in hindsight. And it was largely his influence that prevented Lewisham having the huge tower block estates that blighted other boroughs. But mostly it just missed the buzz of the place with all races, art students, young families the music scene etc I loved being there and still visit whenever I get the chance.

  • Comment number 94.

    As with most utopian visions, handle with care. The modernist urban planning movement pioneer Le Corbusier dreamed "The house is a machine for living in." He sought efficient ways to house large numbers of people in response to the urban housing crisis. He believed that his new, modern architectural forms would provide a new organizational solution that would raise the quality of life for the lower classes. Unfortunately some of the vision was lost in translation, cheap building materials, poor attention to detail and soft landscaping as system built estates in the 1960s were a byword of a way to house poor people very cheaply.

  • Comment number 95.

    Excellant documentary. My grandparents lived at 26 Reginald rd. I remember going down to visit on Bonfire night and Christmas as a young boy in the early '60s. My parents moved to Battersea when they got married (in Deptford) in 1942. My father was a fireman during the war, stationed at Deptford, experiencing the Docks at the height of the Blitz. I vaguely remember a bomb site opposite their house so there would have been some bomb damage. I would not normally comment on a programme, but did feel obliged in this instance, and was both moved by and glad to be informed as to what had actually happened to the area. Some years ago I did go to Deptford to retrace my steps to Reginald rd... The film was very well put togehter, the editing excellant.

  • Comment number 96.

    This is the first time I have posted a comment about a BBC programme. What an excellent programme - I was gripped by it. I too felt angry about the wrongful demolition of people's homes and its impact on their lives.

  • Comment number 97.

    I was very disappointed with the outcome of the programme and found it unbelievable and slightly irresponsible that you failed to show or mention any of the positive and unique developments which make Deptford what it is today.

    - The Deptford Project (Cafe in an old tube carriage)
    - Deptford Lounge
    - Big Red Pizza Bus (Old Routemaster)
    - Laban Dance Centre
    - Thriving market
    - Creekside studios and it's various galleries
    - The Deptford x annual art festival
    - The regeneration to the station area
    - Future developments (New square, High Street, Convoys Wharf)
    - Independent Deli's, Shops and Cafes

    It must have been difficult to ensure none of these places were included in any of the footage because it's impossible to walk around Deptford without seeing them. I can only think the producer deliberately chose to leave these out in order to leave his simplistic conclusion intact. Expected something more balanced and accurate from the BBC.

  • Comment number 98.

    I went back to Deptford this weekend and it's once great high street after many years, for a visit. 
    I see  Labour's social engineering is still alive and well and this time it doesn't involve a, " slum clearance".

    Even Charles Booth wouldn't venture down there now in case he was  mugged.

    Thank god all the descent family's have now moved out.

  • Comment number 99.

    It was an excellent programme and I look forward to the next in the series.
    I just wondered, though, whether your 'cub researcher' was paid or an 'intern', meaning unpaid? I noticed that when it came to digging through LMA documents you went in-house and used your assistant producer instead of the 'cub researcher'; why not use a researcher when you had one?

  • Comment number 100.

    Very well crafted, excellent choices for narratives, acute history of places. Funny, nostalgic, dramatic, sad and mystical: that spooky spice - that pastor praying in the streets surrounded by the devil - I loved that and the other bits, really well done! I hope you tell about other places too. :-)


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