As Woodberry Down Estate undergoes a vast, transformative regeneration, Woodberry Down Community Organisation have begun a project to uncover and celebrate its remarkable history. The People’s Story of Woodberry Down Project seeks to tell the multitude of stories that trace the estate from its post-war beginning to the present through the voices of its residents.
Woodberry Down Estate was built by the London County Council, housing working class residents from around London and becoming one of the largest estates in Europe. The history begins with the caricatured “slum-dwellers” of late 1940s to the arrival of the “respectable working class” of the 1950s, continuing to the large Turkish community of today. The stories will illustrate a lively history of community activity, from the community club of the 1950s, through campaigning groups such as the Save the Reservoirs Campaign in the 1990s to the more contemporary campaigns over regeneration. Coupled with this will be stories around the New River, which forms the boundaries of the estate and this year celebrates its400th anniversary.
There will also be narratives around the innovative schooling and health centres on the estate, which saw not only the first purpose-built comprehensive school in London, but also the blueprint for London’s first NHS health centre. Community will have a strong focus, from the positive integration of the orthodox Jewish community with their neighbours in the estate to the gradual transformation of the area and the lives of the immigrants who have made Woodberry Down their home.
The project will research and make accessible the social history of Woodberry Down Estate in Hackney, North London, which is currently one of the most socially and economically deprived areas in Hackney and England. But it is also undergoing the largest housing regeneration in the UK. All existing 2000 flats will be demolished; some have already been replaced by a mixture of social and private housing. The upcoming years will bear witness to a dramatic change in the physical and social composition of the area. Using oral history methodology and archives research, our project will record the history of our community before it becomes unrecognisable.
Through local volunteers as well as working with the newly opened Academy secondary school, we will produce a permanent record of an estate which is too often depicted as crime-ridden and run down. Through a book and an exhibition, as well as events and community outreach throughout the year, we will tell a story that celebrates our community, its history and the continuing value of Woodberry Down to the new community.
Woodberry Down Community Organisation is working on this project in partnership with Eastside Community Heritage, Manor House Development, Genesis Housing Association, Berkeley Group and Hackney Council.