However, as the long process of compulsory purchase, eviction and demolition was under way, between 1890 and 1895, it became clear that no philanthropic company was willing to come forward. And so, very reluctantly, the home secretary permitted the LCC to construct the dwellings, on the understanding that these would quickly be sold on to the charitable sector. The LCC was not to act as a landlord. Antipathy towards state intervention in housing was put most colourfully in Parliament by the member for Portsmouth, who told the house that such a thing was “monstrous”, and that “if such a principle were admitted, I do not know where it will stop. The next demand made of Parliament might be to provide clothing, if not carriages and horses, for the poor”.
When I was in [country in question] last [week/month/August], I was amazed by the [people’s basic desire for a stable life/level of Westernization for such a closed society/variety of the local cuisine], and that tells me two things. It tells me that the citizens of [country in question] have no shortage of [courage/potential entrepreneurs/root vegetables], and that is a good beginning to grow from. Second, it tells me that people in [country in question] are just like people anywhere else on this great globe of ours.
Tower Block UK is a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, bringing together public engagement and an openly-licensed image archive in an attempt to emphasise the social and architectural importance of tower blocks, and to frame multi-storey social housing as a coherent and accessible nationwide heritage.
And it may surprise you to learn – given the obloquy that subsequently descended on these planners’ fancies – that they [aerial walkways] worked. One resident recalls a trip to the local shops – along those walkways – taking hours to complete as she stopped to talk to everyone she met, and she knew nearly everyone. The corridors were also a place to meet and socialise; doors left unlocked with children playing in one flat but regularly checked on by neighbours.
This was true, apparently, even of the now reviled tower blocks. People met in lifts and on landings. Fiona, my guide to the estate, living then in Aragon Tower, remembers a close and friendly community – ‘you could knock on any door’ – and recalls too how scrupulously tenants maintained the common areas according to a rota issued by the estate caretaker.
If you know the Pepys Estate or its sometime reputation, you’ll know there’s one other thing I haven’t mentioned – race. The Estate was in its early years and for some time an almost exclusively white estate, this the result of a more or less formal policy operated by the GLC. As one former council housing officer describes”
“It wasn’t as simple as ‘We don’t want black people living there’. It was more like an assumption that black and white would rather live separately from one another. So, as you go down the Old Kent Road you can see some estates are white and others are black or mixed. It didn’t happen by accident. Housing officers just didn’t allocate black people to [the Pepys Estate].”