20 August 2017

Housing then and now

Fascinating local walk today, about the way the Tollington/Archway area was dairy farms and then built on in the 19th century, not good quality housing, and soon it was a poor ghetto, many workhouses ... postwar, lots of housing was pulled down, estates built, until the 1970s when tenants/owners got organised and the council changed policy and repaired existing houses.

At least some green space came out of the pulling-down; Islington is very short on green space and public parks. Elthorne Park was created, and now is slightly sinister because the trees have grown so large and dense, and much drinking takes place at all hours. Nor is the Peace Garden looking at its best - the ponds were having some work done -
 A while back this mound received archaeological attention - the mounds were formed by the rubble from the demolished houses -
 Nearby, Sunnyside (community) Gardens have been going for 40 years -
 This is what's left of an enormous workhouse that housed 1300 of the poorest poor -
 Tucked in among the newer estates are some of the older "saved" houses -
 Caxton House was part of a "settlement", a middle-class attempt to provide education and life-skills in the 19th century; obviously the building is newer than that -
 Up the hill lived the better-off, and the Whitehall Park estate was privately developed in the late 1880s and 90s by a series of builders -

 A few of the houses show inventive animal carving -
More estates along the Archway Road, some spared by eventual decision not to further widen it - but the Tollgate was lost early on, 1864 in fact -
Also nearby, the Whittington almshouses had been knocked down -
 The Whittington Stone (topped by a cat since the 1960s) has been replaced several times, and was originally a place to leave donations to the leper hospital nearly; it dates back to 1473 -
 In the grounds of what is now the Whittington Hospital is the Small Pox and Vaccination Hospital, dating to the 1830s -
 and near it are two of the three workhouse infirmaries of the area -
 1880 is writ large (top left) in the brickwork  of this Victorian school, built in the early days of mandated education -
In the sunshine, and seeing how some things had improved for many people over the years, this walk was hardly depressing. I wish the same could be said of the current housing crisis, as "luxury flat" developments and the lack of affordable rentals and social housing drive the poorest and most vulnerable from pillar to post and shatter communities. Grenfell has crystallised this for many people, as was evident in the film "Dispossession" and the discussion afterwards -
It left me feeling appalled and impotent, and full of admiration for the articulate and dedicated people who give up free time to "do battle". Sometimes good things do happen; good luck to them.

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