Garden Suburb Challenged

Peter Hall

in London voices, London lives

Published by Policy Press

Published in print July 2007 | ISBN: 9781861349842
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447302711 | DOI:
Garden Suburb Challenged

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This chapter discusses Eltham, an interwar suburb that sprawls along and between outer London's bypass roads. Eltham is unusual in two ways. First, much of it consists of rented public housing or at least housing built for public renting, as since 1980 most of it has been bought by its sitting tenants under right-to-buy legislation. And second, much of it consists of unusual architecture, such as the 1200-house Well Hall estate designed for Woolwich Arsenal munitions workers in 1915. More than its unusual architecture, Eltham is unhappily known for the murder of a talented black student. As a consequence, it has been widely represented as a crucible for white-working class racism. Many of the residents of Eltham are from inner-city locations such as Bermondsey who have moved out from their parent's homes. Most of them are white and some belong to minorities who all came in search of a nice environment in which to live and good schools. Many felt that they fit in and felt psychologically comfortable, and this was equally true for the older white and younger ethnic minority members. But there do appear to be stark exceptions in some of the council estates. In some council estates, personal problems appear to be compounded by an increase in petty crime, problems with neighbours, and vandalism which threatens the quality of life. Add to this the general lack of shops and services, and good quality schools; all of these have contributed to the rapid churn of populations. While some of those questioned were optimistic about Eltham, many felt overcame by a powerful sense of an expansion of the ‘bad areas’ that could wreak havoc and bring down formerly respectable and pleasant neighbourhoods.

Keywords: Eltham; interwar suburb; rented public housing; white-working class racism; minorities; petty crime; vandalism; right-to-buy legislation

Chapter.  18671 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Urban and Rural Studies

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