Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Secret History of Our Streets airs tonight on BBC2

'Creek Street' residents were labourers, poorer artisans and street sellers. What has changed since 1889?

Back in January 2011, Crosswhatfields posted that it had been contacted by Century/Halcyon Heart Films, with a request for us to help them find people they could interview for their documentary series on six London streets – one of which was Deptford High Street.

We had already posted quite a bit about Charles Booth's 1889 Poverty Maps of London (see links below), which the producers were using as a starting point to base their enquiry on. They wanted to know: how have these streets changed in the past 120 years?

Whether we were any help or not (we were slightly concerned that people's stories might end up on the cutting room floor), they have now finished making their series, and the first episode of The Secret History of our Streets airs tonight on BBC2 at 9pm – and it's all about Deptford High Street.

To give you a flavour, Time Out previewed the Deptford episode last week – the programme looks set to reveal an interesting story about slum clearance and social engineering. Also see the short clip on the BBC 2 website.

Meanwhile, here's what Marmoset wrote on Crosswhatfields about Booth's Poverty Map of Deptford:

A brief history of Deptford-Greenwich borders October 2010
Putting the clock back in Deptford (1) October 2010
Putting the clock back in Deptford (2) November 2010
Putting the clock back in Deptford (3) November 2010

You can view Booth's Poverty Map at the Charles Booth Online Archive, courtesy of the London School of Economics.


  1. Though Booth's journal entry for his 1899 tour of the manor is available online, there's a transcript (complete with my own typos) at the bottom of our Backtalk page.

  2. I am watching this programme right now. No idea what to say, except that I'm glad I am a libertarian, because I would never want to be responsible for voting for the kind of people who did this to Deptford.

    1. It's not over, anon. If you drive down the A2 into London, when you arrive at Deptford, the sign (we paid for) says ''Welcome to Lewisham.'' How they want to hide the shame of their own incompetence!

      It's not that long ago that the Lewishameless tried to rename us North Lewisham. They're not finished.

  3. Oh.My.God. So upsetting! Programme makers skirted the confusing in-yer-face present-day issues and found gold yet managed to make it more contemporary than ever.

  4. Agree, Marmoset! Completely at the mercy of New Labour's deals with developers. It's a full time job keeping an eye on them now with all the technology we have, no wonder no one could do anything back in the 60s. Well done the street market for fighting the fuckers off. If we had a "Deptford Council" now there's no way they could do it again. In fact it's about time we got the Ward situation sorted out so that Deptford isn't split in the middle between an equally useless bunch of indifferent wanking councillors.

  5. Some people on Twitter seem disappointed at the bad press this programme gives out – lots of positive things were left out, such as independent business initiatives like caffs and pubs. They seemed to have missed the point of the series, and this programme showed that decisions are made in secret that affect loads of people while they're doing something else. Have daily battle with the difference that can be made by putting out good positive publicity versus the importance of reality checks. More than one person has died from exhaustion doing the latter though...

  6. At the end of that programme my friend texted me saying 'god I'm so upset by that film'. And I was too.... sad and depressed. I felt it was skewed to make it seem as if there was no life left in the high st at all. Also highlighting the fact that lewisham council have always done whatever the fuck they want and don't give a shit about the community. I hope every single councillor watched that and are squirming at their predecessors bentness. I think we should start a campaign of anonymous letters to the council just saying "We know what you did" with an SE8 postmark........ But well done to the beeb for revealing the truth behind this particular 'slum' clearance - fancy finding that document stating 'there is no damp', 'there is no disrepair' etc. I'm amazed it hadn't been destroyed along with all the houses it spoke about. I'll be very interested to see how the other streets in the series are treated. I just wish they could have included 10 minutes at the end showing what a vibrant and exciting place Deptford continues to be despite lewishams best and in my opinion, continuing efforts to rend Deptford from itself.
    Deptford Parish Council anyone?!

  7. Wow - I had always assumed that Deptford looks like it does due to bomb damage - I never knew it was due to Lewisham planning policy that ripped the heart out of it. They should be ashamed - if Deptford is ever re-united, let's hope it is under Greenwich Council - who had sense to preserve their heritage - and not Lewisham Council who only want to demolish it.

    A truly moving documentary.

    1. Be careful what you wish for Anon, Greenwich council's history is every bit as shameful as Lewisham's, possibly more so. Under previous boundary idiocies Deptford Dockyard was once under Greenwich and they wilfully presided over the demolition of the historic Great Tudor Store, one of the largest and most unique Tudor buildings in the country, adding insult to injury by shipping off it's clocktower and planting it in Thamesmead to guild the appalling turd.
      They give developers completely free reign rendering the Greenwich waterfront about the worst-planned and nastiest in London. If the planners had been offered the right sized brown envelopes they'd have probably found a reason to demolish the Naval College !

    2. There was a lot of bomb damage, Anon. There was a bit of rewriting history in this film...

  8. The BBC made a big mistake in their depiction of Deptford in 'The Secret History of our Streets' - instead of depicting all the wonderful, cool and interesting aspects of what Deptford now is, it portrayed the religious zealots, betting shops and drunks - And pretentious idiots coming in to buy what's left of the 'period property' at a snip. What they did do well was show how local prosperous families were tricked out of their houses only so they could be demolished. So SO sad.

  9. Controversial but..Thursday, June 07, 2012

    Very interesting that Deptford was actually once a well to do area.

    I've read so many negative posts over the years on many a local blog that 'rich people are coming into Deptford and trying to gentrify it'. The reverse seems true - they are simply coming back into an area that was once theirs.

    Given Deptford was already once a wealthy area maybe people will be less bitter now people realise that Deptford was already a well to do area and have less of a grudge when more affluent people move back?

    If nothing else, we've seen from the documentary that with more money'd folk living in an area it is to the benefit of all residents as commerce grows and services flourish.

    So please don't knock us newcomers as we are just as keen as you to ensure that Deptford is once again a nice place to live.

  10. Nothing wrong with a bit of gentrification, Controversial, if newcomers take part in local life and use the shops etc. But many treat the place like a dormitory and spend all their money in town.

  11. The documentary got a good showing in the Birds Nest, followed by a Q&A with people making it. One of them name-checked this blog, saying they have kept abrest of it. So you must have been some use.

    Interestingly, the same makers did a documentary about a street in Notting Hill and wondered if the destruction of houses merely changed the class of people moving in- in Notting Hill, the nice houses led to gentrification and working class people being priced out of the area.

    And the makers also gave some of the reasons why they made the documentary they did, rather than one of many other documentaries they would have liked to have made about the street.