Shoreditch Park Project

Exploring the recent history of a neighbourhood of factory built prefabricated homes, and the design of daily life in east London.

"It was ever so poor, when we was young. Very poor, wasn't it? Our mothers used to come out shopping every single day, because not like today, you can go in and fill your basket, you couldn't do that, your money didn't go to that. That money was every week lotted out each day, It was life."

"...its geographical location is accidentally based on what was dropped from above. It's not where you would put a park ideally..."

[traffic]

Right as you can see, since London Borough of Lewisham decided to regenerate the area, a lot of the bungalows on this side of the estate are now vacant, they're void, they have no occupants, the occupants were moved on in the last 18 months, er, but you, hopefully you'll get the general set up of how it originally looked, because it has been unchanged since 1945, the only thing that has changed of course is the occupants over the last 67 years. If I take you up to a er, a vacant bungalow, erm, just up here, you'll get the idea of the interior, as well, er, as the general look.

The bungalows themselves are a structure of, erm, er, asbestos panels, which is mostly what you can see on the outside, including the interior, and the government decided, or the local government decided, that was unfit for human habitation, being that they were outdated, and they were originally made as or constructed as a er, emergency measure, to house people that were bombed out in this area back in the 1940s

This was a mark 2, this building, this was built near the end of 1945. Where I live is actually a mark 1 prefab, and er

Dustin: What's, what's the difference?

Well it's basically, the mark 1s have the central door, doorway, and the mark 2's have a side door, so the inside of the bungalow is slightly differently configured.

Right, the construction to these bungalows is basically what we know as flat pack. They came along on a large, er large area trucks and simply unloaded from the trucks and placed on their concrete platforms. We're standing on a, erm, a concrete platform, which distributes the weight of the bungalow to stop it from subsiding. I've lived on the estate for about 18 years, and the bungalow I live in has moved about two or three inches, I think east, as the ground's moving around underneath. It's quite swampy. And it was originally, erm, decided that no building should take place on this particular area. We're surrounded by what's known as the Downham[?] Estate which was completed in about 1927. And the local lord at that time owned all that land and he gave over bits of land as building was required but left this particular land because it's quite marshy, ok. But this is basically what we call a mark 2, erm, bungalow and they were built by the end of 1945, which is slightly different to some of the other bungalows you'll see on the estate. But it has got worse during the last two years, since they started moving people off the estate. We have, er, unfortunately it encourages fly tipping and other, er, social activities that we wouldn't normally, erm, experience has, has become, er, quite, er, a normal thing now. This particular bungalow's been empty for about a year. Lord Foster immediately gave over this land so that the bungalows could be built to house, er, families that had been bombed out during the second world war. They were living in er church halls, er tents, until these places were built. And of course when they moved in - and they actually had a choice, and they was, erm, invited to come onto the estate, you could take any bungalow you liked. You could just walk on and say I'd like to live there, or, I'd like to live there. There wasn't a list for you to, you wasn't given a bungalow, you could simply walk around the bungalow once they were built, and you choose your bungalow where you wanted to live. Er, and that was a process then in the late 1940s. And yes I would say these were quite luxurious compared with where people used to live. Er, you can imagine the faces of demobbed soldiers from the second world war, coming to a place to where, before they used to go outside to the toilet, to come to a building like this where everything was internal - because it was American, American-Canadian - you got inside toilet, inside bathroom, and it was, it was quite, quite luxurious for the time. And a lot of us here still like the bungalow, erm, a lot of us here don't actually want to leave the area we're living in. But unfortunately fighting local government, we lost, and they decided to go for regeneration. And just before you arrived, we was discussing the fact that the ground here is unstable for any substantial building -

Dustin: Right, so doesn't that negate the whole effort

it does

Dustin: of moving everyone out of here?

Of moving - it would have been actually more cost effective to refit the bungalows. They're going to have to remove thirty feet of topsoil over a two year period, and then refill it with a more stable ground

Dustin: So, how long have you lived here?

Four years.

D: Four years?

Yeah and I've updated it myself, done it all out myself, you know,

D: Oh ok

Brought it up to the standard, like, you know

D: Where did you live before?

I lived in, er, Greenwich

D: Greenwich

SE10. It's on the…

D: And what brought you here, what did you like about…?

I like it because, er, you've got close communi- communication amongst your community, the local community. I mean, we all stick together like, you know, we look out for each other. And we've got very close community. And I've got nobody on top of me, nobody around me, I've got my own bit of freedom, you know. And, er it's nice.

D: Yeah

You just can't buy that, can you? [laughs] That's worth all the money in the world to me, you know, er

[cuts]

Yeah this is the front room, yeah. This the bathroom and that yeah, right. And they're quite nice, they're quite easy to maintain, you know, nice and cosy

[students chatter and laugh]

Student: It's a lot warmer in this one, it's nice

Pardon?

Student: It's a lot warmer in this one, than the one

Much better

[laughter]

It's freezing in some of them, I can tell you. You know. But they're quite nice and cosy, you know? The bedrooms are about the same size, and the bathroom, bathroom's in there, nice big bathroom with a shower and everything, and er, the dining room, you know, quite nice aren't they? Do you want to have a look, Les?

Dustin: Do you know who lived here before you?

Yes, it was er, a black, a nice black fella, lovely man he was, bless him he died of cancer. He was here for about 20 odd years you know. And er, I took over from him, and of course, when I moved in, I had to strip the whole place, cos you know, his being elderly and you know, and I had to renovate it myself, you know. And I stripped it and decorated it, cos I am a decorator anyway, so, you know, that's what-

Dustin: Talking about the space here, what do you, what are some of the features of your bungalow that you like most, about it?

I like it because it's ar-, if you look at it it's artistic, it is, because you ain't going to get anywhere else, you know. It's something that's er, it will never happen again. I mean these were built as you know in the 19-, just after the war, by the prisoners of war. And er it's something, part of our history, innit, really innit?

Yeah, yeah

And, it's part of our history. And I love it, you know, to be amongst it, to live in it and so cosy and so cheap to maintain. And I'd rather live here than live in a bleeding house, to be honest about it. And, cos the community is very close, and we all get on together, don't we?

Oh yes

Very close community. And you won't get that in a block of flats, will ya? You could be living in a block of flats and you wouldn't know your neighbour for the next ten years, you wouldn't see them hardly.

[laughter]

No it's true, I'm telling ya. But here I know everybody. I know everybody in this estate, there's 186 there were here, weren't they, living here, now it's dropped down a bit, to about 140, innit

Er, yeah, it's about 139, I think, 139, 140

And, er, I've never met so many people to talk to. You're never alone, put it that way. They always call in and say, oh, if you're not about, and they don't see you for a few days, you'll say, oh I haven't seen Roger whatever, for the last few, I'd better call in and see how he is, but you could be living in a block of flats and nobody would care whether you were dead or not, you know [laughs]

The prisoners of war Gerry's mentioned didn't want to go home when they completed this project here

Yeah, oh yes

Because they were actually building here after the war completed. Er, I think, 194-, October 1945 was the last bungalow that was erected, but, the prisoners, the German and Italian prisoners that helped build this, and some of them were engineers, didn't want to go home, they wanted to stay in England, but of course, er, they had homes to go to, they did, so they were asked to, asked to leave the country and go back to where they, er, where they originated. People couldn't wait, once the word got out about the bungalows, everyone wanted a bungalow. The facilities in the bungalow, which of course an [American?] idea, everything was contained in one low level building, and er, the government were requested to build more, but of course, it was, there was only a limited amount of bungalows throughout the country, to house the most needy, er

[cuts]

At the moment, as you know, we've been fighting with Lewisham, over the decanting, because they're not going through the proper stages. And what they're doing is they're moving people out, without even notifying them that they can come back. I mean they're giving them all these promises, tell them that they can come back, move in, and I know for a fact now they're telling people that those who have moved out can't move back. Which is all wrong.

Hmm.

Sad, I sad to see people in here, I've see them, I've see em, some old people in here, and they're so stressed out over having to move on, and they're forcing them. There was a man called Mr Brown who lived on the corner of [M?] Road, number 2, and they did everything they could, they even went packed his stuff for him, give him this, give him that, and in the end he got so fed up with the bittering and arguing over it, he just moved out, they forced him into a corner, he just couldn't stand it no more, you know, the poor man, he was 80 odd, he was 80 odd years of age, you know, and he said I don't want to be moving at my time of life, I want to finish off my last few days what I got left here, know know, but they don't look at it like that