Stay Home? They wanted to…

As England enters a third lockdown where all people are ordered to “stay at home,” at Spectacle we are reminded of a community in Clapham Old Town, Lambeth SW4 that was told to “get out” of their homes.

In Rectory Gardens, there lived a group of creative and industrious people. As young artists and divergent thinkers they turned a derelict bombed out row of uninhabitable houses into a flourishing artistic community. For forty years they lived in a housing backwater largely unaffected by social housing policies, despite sporadic attempts by the council to “formalise” the street. They created a housing cooperative, until Lambeth, the ‘cooperative Council’ began taking their “million pound” houses from under their feet. The community that now included the vulnerable, elderly, and unwell, was broken up and dispersed. 

A Tragedy in the Commons 

The street circa 1980

Rectory Gardens (RG) is a L shaped Victorian pedestrian street in Clapham Old Town SW4 that was badly damaged by bombing during WW2. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the decimated houses attracted a group of squatters who saw the opportunity to create a utopia. This motley crew of characters with their own ideologies, housing needs, and reasons for living outside of the norm, formed a collective community which lived in relative harmony for four decades.  

Rectory Gardens circa 1980

By the 1980s these squatters had revitalized the houses, and formed a housing cooperative. Rectory Gardens offered a home for all kinds of artists, free-thinkers, draft dodgers, and other socially liminal characters. Through the 80 and 90s, it remained a diverse community at the epicentre of a flourishing arts scene.

Squatters clear rubble, circa 1960

The street was host to an industrious community of artists, musicians, poets and unconventional ‘free thinkers’ who found a cheap way of living while developing their creative endeavors. It became a hub of cultural activities initiating art studios and cafes that brought life to the area. Spectacle interviewed both Vivienne Westwood and Maggi Hambling about the value of Rectory Gardens’s cultural contributions.

Bombed out windows, circa 1960

Residents of this dynamic community were the initiators of much that made the area distinct and attractive, the skate park and cafe on clapham common, Cafe des Artistes, Fungus Mungus, Voltaire Studios, bric-a-brac shops, rehearsal studios, artisan crafts and pool of skilled creative labour. The street itself had a public garden that served as a safe play area in the day and a performance and social space in the evening.

As with any tragedy, their success was key to their end as well. The artistic growth contributed to the popularity of the neighborhood and ultimately its subsequent gentrification. The council had its eyes on the properties, and though the residents tried to work with the council to legalize their living arrangement the deal fell through. The residents were recently evicted by Lambeth Council, who sold the houses to a developer on the private market.

Evicting the community was devistating for the mental health and well-being of many of these elderly and vulnerable residents. They lost not only their homes but their community and support networks. Many struggled to live away from their home of forty years, some died or were sectioned. Housing is integral to well-being, a point overlooked by this profit driven housing department.

Spectacle at Rectory Gardens

In the spring of 2014 Spectacle was contacted by the residents of Rectory Gardens. They wanted to record the final months of their squat-turned housing-cooperative. Rectory Gardens had been a lively arts community for over forty years, but growing conflict with the local council left the residents desperately fighting to avoid eviction, something that perhaps some media advocacy and intervention could assist them with, they believed.

Spectacle begins filming at Rectory Gardens in 2014

During our preliminary engagement with Rectory Gardens, Spectacle offered training to any residents who were interested in filming techniques. Spectacle conducted workshops where participants learned camera techniques, collected peers’ stories, and collectively discussed the footage and ways to continue the production process. The production process was dictated by the participants themselves, and they shaped the narrative scope by inviting ex-residents to contribute with their memories. This work developed into an archive of oral histories of the street. 

Peers interview eachother and collect an oral history of the street

The production has continued for over six years, far longer than the initial few months originally envisioned. Together, Spectacle and Rectory Gardens residents have collected over 150 hours of footage including: long interviews with residents; key events on the street; residents resisting evictions; historic footage filmed by residents during the 90s; and residents in their new flats, reflecting on living away from their community where they lived for decades.

Post evictions, the street is home to wealthier residents

During Spectacle’s engagement, RG has been dismantled through evictions and relocations, and the residents have been scattered to various and disparate areas of the borough. The street, on the other hand, has been transformed to make way for the arrival of new wealthy tenants. 

Framing the Street 

Spectacle’s video archive of Rectory Gardens brings out many topical themes and offers inspiration for the post-Covid City through an examination of the past. Rectory Gardens is a portrait of forty years of resistance to the government housing policies. 

The houses themselves were initially built as philanthropic poor-quality Victorian housing for low-income workers. After
Rectory Gardens was bombed and left derelict post WW2, it provided a solution for postwar homelessness through squatting. It offered fertile ground for experimenting with alternative ways of living, resisted the “slum clearance” in the 1970s, Thatcherism, and the sale of social housing in the ‘80s. Their methods and ideologies represent a range of approaches including anarcho individualism, anarcho-syndicalism, socialism, capitalism of small artisanal businesses looking for cheap space, and the daily necessity of the socially excluded and the legally marginalised. 

The beautiful rennovation by one of the co-operative residents, taken just before eviction

By the 2000s, the constant push to turn London’s affordable housing into profit, was nibbling at the edges of Rectory Gardens as well. The insidious forces of “regeneration” and contemporary privatised gentrification have been endemic in London where, even by global standards, the commodification of real estate is extreme. Through eviction and rehousing the community was broken up, and the squatters were replaced with live-in guardians, the modern sanitised, privatised version of squatting.

It’s important to note that not all parts of London have been equally gentrified, and Lambeth Council, where Rectory Gardens is located, was famous for its tolerance of alternative housing organisations and leftist leanings. They referred to themselves as ‘the cooperative council’ and ‘Red Ted’ Knight and his ‘Socialist Republic of Lambeth’ were the bete-noir anti hero of the tabloids. There were many houses like Rectory Gardens which were uninhabitable after the war, and Lambeth had few resources to deal with them. Squatters quickly took advantage of the council’s disinterest and moved into these spaces. Lambeth greatly benefited from the labour of these groups, and many cooperatives were able to legalise their situation, but RG was not.

The Project Now

The filming part of this project has come to a close, and we are looking for partners in the next phase – telling the story of what has disappeared. 

We are searching for funding and partners to assist in bringing the dispersed community together again for an online participatory editing process. The process will let the former residents of Rectory Gardens tell their story, by sifting through the 150 hours of footage and drawing out narratives and themes to share with a wider audience.

Searching for Partners for Rectory Gardens Online Participatory Video Project

If you are interested in exploring collaborations or can suggest potential funding streams please get in contact. We welcome academic researchers, activists, social historians, and all others. 

Read more about our model and past projects.

Please get in touch with projects@spectacle.co.uk or subscribe for more information.

For updates check our other blogs.

This project is relevant to: well-being, health, housing, social housing, urbanism, urban planning, human geography, sociology, participatory methods, co-creatation, co-authorship, knowlege sharing, community filmmaking, and participatory film.

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Battersea Power Station Chimneys demolition- History repeating

URGENT NEWS ON BATTERSEA POWER STATION CHIMNEY DEMOLITION

Thursday 12th June representatives of the BPSCG (Battersea Power Station Community Group) met with Paul Landsberg of Wandsworth Borough Council Planning Department to discuss their concerns regarding the legal and financial protections in place ahead of the imminent demolition of the chimneys, in particular whether the bond is in force and whether it is large enough to cover the cost of rebuilding the chimneys should the developer fail to replace them.  What they discovered was deeply disturbing:

The bond money is held in a Malaysian bank, CIMB
The value of the bond for the reconstruction of three and a half chimneys is only £11million.
The value of the bond is based on an estimate supplied by Philip Gullet of the Battersea Power Station Development Company.
This estimate has not been independently checked by cost consultants employed by Wandsworth Council or English Heritage.
The contract sum for the demolition and rebuilding of the chimneys was redacted from the copy of the contract sent to Wandsworth. So it is not possible to compare demolition costs against rebuilding.
The Council does not know if the bond is signed and in force, although the reconstruction contract starts next Monday.

HISTORY REPEATING…

This is all the more alarming in light of what happened when John Broome, the first failed developer of the site, took down but never replaced the west wall and roof, as it remains to this day. The council’s own report in 1989 criticised the woeful lack of safeguards and- some would say- gullibility of the planning officers.

According to Battersea Power Station Community Group the bond money should be held in a British bank if Wandsworth and English Heritage are to have any chance of getting at it in the event of a default.  The total value of the bond also needs to be increased substantially if it is to be able to cover the reconstruction of three and a half chimneys, if a default occurs.

With the chimneys reconstruction contract about to start, it is clear that Wandsworth Council and English Heritage are not protecting our cultural heritage -either in checking the proposed value of the bond or making sure the contract is signed and enforceable before the demolition and reconstruction project starts.

With interest rates about to rise, the possibility of the project failing yet again is increasing by the day.  If this happens when the chimneys are down, and it turns out the bond money isn’t there (as was the case in 1989 after Broome went bust)  the chimneys will never be rebuilt.

We need to rescue Battersea Power Station from these shameless, grey, dozing men who will sell our industrial heritage for peanuts and the enrichment of foreign “investors”. Keep an eye on the revolving door!

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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URGENT-Save Battersea Water Pumping Station from demolition

We, the undersigned, ask Wandsworth Council to refuse listed building consent application 2014/1236 for the demolition of Battersea Water Pumping Station.

Battersea Water Pumping Station is the oldest surviving water pumping station in London.

It was built in 1840 for the Southwark Water Company and extended in 1856.  It housed a series of Cornish engines used for pumping water from the Thames.  At one time the pumping station housed the largest Cornish engine ever built, with a 112″ diameter cylinder.

The building was listed Grade II in 1994.

The pumping station commemorates the rich industrial heritage of the Nine Elms and North Battersea.  It has great potential to encouraging young people to think of science, technology and engineering as important skills worth acquiring.

Retaining and preserving the pumping station would attract visitors to the site and therefore increase footfall for the new facilities that will be open to the public.  It is in everybody’s interest that it is preserved.

We ask Wandsworth Council to initiate discussions with the owner/developer so that the development can be reconfigured to incorporate the pumping station

We further ask Wandsworth Council to convene negotiations between the owner/developer and the Battersea Power Station Company Ltd (a local registered charity) to allow the pumping station to be passed into the latter’s ownership for £1, to allow them to renovate the pumping station with Lottery funding.

Sean Creighton & Keith Garner

June 2014

Stop this cultural vandalism for profit.

PLEASE Sign the petition

For more blogs on the Battersea Water Pumping Station

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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The Victorian Society’s Objection Letter

The Victorian Society’s Objection Letter to the Battersea Power Station Planning Application.

Battersea Water Pumping Station, Cringle Street, Battersea: Application for Listed Building Consent for demolition (Grade II, 1840 & 1860)

The Victorian Society is one of many to write an objection letter in relation to the recent plans to demolish the former water pumping station at the Battersea Power Station.

The letter outlined the reasons behind the ‘strong objection’ of the Society towards the plan.

The Society highlights the water pumping station, as ‘an important historic building, the significance of which cannot be adequately appreciated once dispersed on and off the development site.’

The Society feels the applicants (with the exception of the Power Station) have approached the site as a ‘blank canvas,’  with no consideration that the pump station will be saved. The application states that the plans, ‘would bring substantial benefits for the community.’ The Victorian Society points out that there is nothing, ‘in the application to show that the same public benefit could not be brought about if the pumping station were incorporated within the new development.’

The letter also outlined, ‘The Battersea Power Station Company is a trust established in 2002.  One of its objectives is the preservation of the pumping station.  The company achieved charitable status in 2005.  They would be happy to take ownership of the building if the owner no longer requires it.  They would be happy to raise funds to repair the building.’

The closing statement of the Society ‘s Objection Letter:

‘We urge your Council to refuse Listed Building Consent for the demolition of the pumping station.  The applicant should develop a scheme that takes account of the significance of the whole site and all the listed buildings within it, not just the power station.’

The Victorian Society’s Objection Letter is just one example of many objection to the plans to demolish the water pumping station.

To read the full Objection Letter, click here and use the reference 2010/01/012.

For further information on the planning application and to read further objections click here

Read other planning applications by clicking here and using application numbers; 2009/3575, 2009/2576, 2009/3577.

Watch footage from the Power Station on Spectacle’s Archive Page

Learn about Spectacle’s Battersea Power Station Project by visiting Spectacle’s Project Page

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Battersea Power Station Community Group’s Objection letter

Below is Battersea Power Station Community Group’s objection to the planning applications.

You might find this useful reference when making your objections. The deadline for objections is 31 January. Please try and register your objection.

Battersea Power Station Community Group

16 DRCA Charlotte Despard Avenue

London SW11 5HD

Mr Bob Leuty

Planning Department

Wandsworth Town Hall

High Street

London SW18 2PU

26th January 2010

You Ref: 2009/3575/3576/3578

Dear Mr Leuty

I am writing to add comments to my original objection about Battersea Power Station and Battersea Water Pumping Station and the surrounding land.

Development of the surrounding land will be far too dense and completely obscure Battersea Power Station from views from the south of the building, especially by the application for all of the residential blocks around the Power Station being planned for up to 56 metres in height.

The buildings have the real effect of crowding the Power Station and not allowing the listed building the dignity of protected views. Battersea park road / Nine Elms Lane and Queenstown Road will be blocked off by the high buildings.

None of these buildings should be higher than the parapet of the Switch Houses of Turbine Halls A & B.

Views from the railway into Victoria Station will be obscured.

There is no indication about the percentage of homes that will be “affordable” We propose that this figure should be 50%.

The development is so dense with over 3000 flats that it is pure greed that there are plans to build more flats as penthouses on the Boiler House and Switch Houses. This adds further insult to the Listed Grade II* building one of the top landmarks of London. We oppose the development of structures and extensions connected to the building to provide accommodation which will ruin the silhouette of the building

The proposal for a roof top swimming pool was only ever to divert criticism from the plan to build the original, monstrous, Vinoly tower. For this to be given credibility will show the whole scheme to be discredited.

All water features are on the land are irrelevant. The Thames flows past and Battersea Park has extensive lakes. The water just serves to make the land unusable by people who might want a place to walk and sit and the water further restricts movement around the site because most of the gardens will be denied to the public as they will be private gardens for the residents.

There should be public open space/park equivalent to the open space/park on the Riverside on the south side of the power station.

The Battersea Water Pumping Station should not be demolished. It is Grade II listed, older than the power station 1860 and a unique example of the London Water supply with the Largest Cornish engine ever built (no longer existing) The Pumping Station is a compliment to the Power Station.

Nearby are the railway arches used by A.V. Roe to build the Bulldog plane, the first plane to fly, and the gasworks where balloon flight became the prelude to powered flight. It is a shame that this industrial heritage is not protected because there is the same relevance as the Iron Bridge museum right here in Battersea.

The Water Pumping Station should have the protection of a condition that it can only be demolished when the detailed plans for new buildings are approved and there is a contract in place to build the new building on the site of the Pumping Station.

The riverside walk should be built as soon as it is possible to do so.

Battersea Power Station Chimneys

The report by Stuart Tappin and George Ballard shows that the chimneys can be repaired and that the proposal to demolish is not proved. Don Bianco of English Heritage agrees that the chimneys should not be demolished. Mr Bianco is the EH inspector who regularly checked the building every six months and abseiled from the top outside and inside the chimneys.

The previous owners claimed to have entered into an irrevocable letter of credit that guaranteed the funds to rebuild the chimneys in the event that they were unable to do the rebuilding. Parkview promptly left and there was no evidence that such a document existed.. Without this guarantee of sufficient funds from the current owners we believe that once the chimneys are demolished they will never be rebuilt leading to the eventual demolition of all of the building to be replaced by luxury flats.

Internally the proposal to remove to the switch gear in Annex B to a new location is opposed and should be kept in the original location with Control Rooms A & B open free to the public.

It appears that the listed status of Grade II* is being ignored by the proposal to create windows in the walls. It is a characteristic of the listing that the large areas of brick are integral to the building and by making more windows the whole effect will be changed to the detriment of the Power Station.

Tube Line

The plans for the tube extension from Kennington are at best confused and at worst “Humbug” as described by the Minister for Transport, Sediq Kahn.

There seems to be 4 different routes proposed but there is no intersection at Vauxhall tube.

Whereas the Waterloo and City Line taken towards Clapham Junction would allow a direct connection between the City and The Junction and reduce the load on Waterloo Station with many passengers seeking to travel in the direction of the Junction.

The Waterloo and City Line could easily reach Vauxhall helping to relieve some crowding on the Victoria Line. It would also relieve crowding on the Main Line and the City branch of the Northern Line, from Waterloo to Clapham Junction and Elephant and Castle to Stockwell.

Historically there have been three routes through SE London proposed as extensions for various lines:-

  1. Through Bricklayer’s Arms and Lewisham to Hayes/Bexleyheath

  2. Through Herne Hill and West Norwood to Crystal Palace and Beckenham

  3. Through Camberwell, Denmark hill and Dulwich to Streatham and Croydon.

The Victoria Line is built to the Crystal Palace alignment and its proposed extension to Herne Hill is along it. The Bakerloo Line was originally built to an alignment towards Bricklayer’s Arms. The Northern Line’s Charing Cross branch naturally faces the Camberwell route.

There are 3 lines and 3 routes for extensions to traverse.

Sendeng the Northern Line to Battersea would remove the future possibility of some part or all of at least one of the above routes through the South East being served.

Finance for the listed buildings

If the buildings were in a development trust they would be eligible for grants from the Sport and Heritage Lottery Funds.

Yours sincerely Brian Barnes MBE

Battersea Power Station Community Group

16 DRCA Charlotte Despard Avenue

London SW11 5HD

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Historic listed Pump House to be demolished

English Heritage have given their blessing for the Victorian Battersea Water Pumping House, on the site of Battersea Power Station and which once housed a 112 inch Cornish engine, one of the largest steam engines ever built, to be demolished.

Neglected and scheduled for demolition the listed Battersea Water Pump Station

Neglected and scheduled for demolition the listed Battersea Water Pump Station

The current planning application submitted by Real Estate Opportunities ( Opportunities for them no doubt) includes plans to delist and demolish Battersea Water Pumping House. In fact in all their models and plans the building has been swept away- pre-empting the permission. It is outrageous that English Heritage have swallowed, hook line and sinker, REO’s argument that one listed building ( The Pump House) needs to be demolished in order to save another ( The Power Station). English Heritage know nothing of business and should be a little bit savvy about the tricks of property developers who nearly always want to rid themselves of any listed buildings that interfere with maximising profits.

Listed building consent for the demolition of the building was previously given in 1997 and renewed in 2002.  Battersea Power Station Community Group made objections on both occasions and also 1n 2002 opposed the demolition (on spurious “health & safety” grounds) of the boiler house of the pumping station.

Since 2002, Parkview’s scheme has collapsed and there is a different developer, with a new scheme.  The justifications given in 1997 and 2002 that the loss of the pumping station as a necessary sacrifice in order to achieve the greater good of saving Battersea Power Station has therefore been proved to be false.

The pumping station is of great interest, in particular in terms of its industrial archaeology.   It is quite clear therefore that the pumping station should be incorporated within the current masterplan for the site. The Historic Building Record prepared by CgMs consulting on behalf of Parkview, the then developers of the whole Battersea Power Station site (Document JL/3184) show there is a “void” beneath the Pump station up to 20 feet deep. CgMs suggested that this need not be be further investigated and it was back filled, however research by members of the Battersea Power Station Community Group of drawings held at the London Metropolitan Archives suggest the giant 112 inch Cornish engine (or remnants of the smaller engines) may still be in this void.

If REO/Treasury no longer requires the building, then it should be transferred to a trust.   PPG 15 requires trust ownership be considered before an application for listed building consent to demolish can be given.

The Battersea Power Station Community Group will be very happy to take on ownership of the building if REO/Treasury no longer requires it.  We would be able to raise funds to repair the building, using the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources.  There are any number of socially useful purposes to which the building could be put, such as a boating club or an annex for the Kew Bridge Steam Museum?

If you would like to object to the Battersea Power Station plans you have until January 31st 2010 click here for more details.

For more information about Spectacle’s Battersea Power Station project including video interviews.

To read more blogs about Battersea Power Station

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