Spotlight on social housing in the East End

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 September 2010

Mary Smith and her childrn after a fire broke out at her home on the fifteenth floor of Balfron Tower, Poplar, in 1976

Mary Smith and her childrn after a fire broke out at her home on the fifteenth floor of Balfron Tower, Poplar, in 1976


THEY’VE been derided as soulless slums and celebrated as the great social experiment.

Now the humble housing estate is set to be the focus of a festival exploring East End history and culture.

As part of The Story of London festival, which runs from Friday October 1 to Sunday October 10, Tower Hamlets Council will be holding four free events tracing the history of social housing in the borough.

On Tuesday October 5 and Saturday October 9 there will be two guided walks through estates in the borough.

On Monday October 4 there will be talks on the history of social housing with Guardian journalist Lynsey Hanley, CEO of Tower Hamlets Community Housing Mike Tyrrell and Marcel Baettig from Bow Arts Trust at Tower Hamlets local history archive in Bancroft Road.

And on Thursday October 7 the premiere of documentary 14th Floor, which charts the development of social housing in the East End, will be screened at the Rochelle School, Arnold Circus.

Places have to be booked for both events at

Director Shane Davey, from Poplar, said: “The unique context provided by the extreme deprivation and slum clearances of the 19th century and the post-war reconstruction of the Blitz-damaged borough provided fertile ground for experimentation in addressing key issues of poverty and regeneration.”

Social housing has an important place in the development of Tower Hamlets, with the borough being the home of the Boundary Estate – one of the first social housing schemes in the country.

The £10,000 project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

For more details visit

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