The Redriff Estate

The Redriff Estate lies on the River Thames, between Bermondsey and Deptford.  The area had a long history as port, and a key part of London’s docks, up until the Second World War, when it was heavily bombed during the blitz – large parts of the district were almost entirely levelled.

At the end of the War, the government embarked on an ambitious programme of redevelopment works, building one of the largest council estates in the world on the site, incorporating as many of the surviving historical features of the area as possible – just not the houses.  Residents whose homes had survived the German bombs found themselves moved out to other areas, and their homes demolished to make way for the new estate.

The first of the area’s new residents moved in on the 7th of April 1952, although construction of the estate officially continued until the 12th of October 1953.  Both dates are celebrated by small local festivals (The Horn Fair and The Lantern Parade, respectively).

Parts of the estate have been significantly redeveloped since the original construction – in the late 1960s, a number of tower blocks – the Red Rose Towers – were built, and large parts of the estate were demolished and rebuilt in the 1980s, removing gardens in that part of Redriff, building smaller, more modern houses to increase number of people that could live in the area.

The residential parts of the estate are largely around the edges, following the line of the river, and then to the south, while the centre is taken up with a business and shopping district, schools, and parkland.

The area has always had a strong immigrant history, and today, the area is one of London’s most racially diverse, with only around half the residents giving their ethnicity as White on the 2011 census.  Roughly 25% residents listed themselves as Black/Black British, 15% percent as Asian/Asian British 7% mixed and 3% Other.

A major point of contention in the area is the lack of public transport – plans to include 2 stops on the Jubilee Line extension, which passes under parts of the estate, were scrapped in the late 90s, owing to difficulties in obtaining the land to build the stations.  The redevelopment of the London Overground, however, has given the area it’s first major transport link, with Redriff Overground station opening in 2010.

Historically, the area was remarkably self contained by London standards – at one point 70% of residents in full time employment worked within the bounds of the estate, although that number has dropped off substantially in the last decade, something local campaigners lament.

The area has 3 primary and 2 secondary schools (1 CofE linked with St Olav’s), a hospital with an A&E department, 4 churches, a mosque, a number of pubs, and a high street that has survived surprisingly well.  There are 2 different residents associations covering various parts of the estate, an Ecological Park and a number of other areas of parkland.

The area has it’s own local newspaper, the Redriff Evening Herald, printed in the what remains of the old printworks in the Surrey Docks.

More information about the people and the places of the estate can be found here.