Keeping our history alive

Have you ever noticed the old gates on Black Prince Road between Vauxhall and Tyers Streets? Thanks to Geoff Roche from Lambeth Community Works team (born and brought up in the area) these gates are now straight, and restored as far as is possible in their frail state. I went to check them out and practice looking serious.

This site holds a lot of local history – once upon a time it was the site of one of London’s worst workhouses. From 1726 -1881 (thanks Wikipedia) it took in the poor of the area. An enterprising journalist spent time there undercover and reported on the abuse and neglect. As a result the Doulton family built a new one that now houses the Cinema Museum and became the extensive Lambeth Hospital.

But these gates commemorate the building of Vauxhall Gardens Estate in 1927 by Lambeth Metropolitan Borough Council. It was a huge estate part of the ‘Homes for Heroes’ policy.

In the 1970’s faced with a decline in the local population and the need for social housing, (imagine that) the council pulled down blocks on the estate to create more space and the mound behind these gates are all that remain of two of them. I sometimes bump into people who lived in them as children. Here is how the area looked in 1945 taken from the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps:

And here is a PS from Jon Newman Lambeth’s Archivist:

We actually have a great deal on the original blocks of flats, acquiring the papers of their Lambeth architect, Donald Wise, back in 2012 from his daughter.

I reckon they were the first substantial piece of slum clearance undertaken by Lambeth council (hence perhaps the rather proud gates) and the significance of building them on the hated site of the original workhouse was undoubtedly not lost on people.

Cllr. Jon Davies.

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