Everything in its right place

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Once upon a time, Deptford (the original Greater Brockley) had parity with Chelsea and St John's Wood in the mental map of London. These 19th Century maps, via Reddit, show London as the postal service viewed it (left) and London as an attempt to regulate taxi fares demarcated the city (right).

What they show is how different London looks if you treat The City of London as the natural centre of the capital. Over the course of the 20th century, London's centre of gravity shifted towards the West End. This century, the pendulum has begun to swing back east, pulled by the rise of Canary Wharf and the development of Shoreditch, Hoxton, Borough and Bermondsey as centres of business, culture and nightlife. As Stratford, the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula take shape and Canary Wharf doubles in size again, our mental maps will begin to look like these once more.

"London as it is" is a flexible concept.

26 comments:

Monkeyboy said...

*release the trolls*

Oli said...

Great map!

Hugh said...

In the City there's a thousand things I wanna say to you.

Paul Gadd said...

You only have to look at the quality of the houses to know the area was once wealthy. It can't always have been a dump, when did the rot start?

Headhunter said...

If you read up on the history of Brockley in particular, it was a steady decline after the end of WW1. At the end of the 19th century, wealthy people wanted to live out of the smog and pollution of Central London, up on high ground. This is why areas like Brockley, Blackheath and Telegraph Hill were inhabited by the wealthy and Deptford, down by the river, where the smog was at its worst and where all the manure and horse p!ss from the streets above went on its way down to the river, was where the poor lived (although on the 18th century Deptford had been a wealthy area thanks to its maritime links).


If you look at Booth's maps of London, Brockley was inhabited by a mix of the most wealthy people in London included some titled peeps (apparently). After WW1, London had grown to subsume Brockley and other areas and the rich moved away, probably further out. Also the cost of maintaining big houses and gardens was high and after WW1 the cost of domestic servants went up considerably and so "the rot" set in.... Eventually the large houses were broken into flats and a lot were bought by local authorities as no one wanted them.....

Headhunter said...

Interesting to see all the small boroughs of London which in the 60s were absorbed into mega boroughs like Lewisham and Southwark...

Brockley Nick said...

The arrival of the railway lines. People started moving out to the outer boroughs and Kent. Unlike the tube, which encourages urban density, the railway lines (less frequent, greater distance between stops, longer rail lines) encouraged people to live further away. And as Headhunter says, air and river pollution was a big issue - something those who romanticise London's industrial past would do well to remember.

townplanner said...

I suspect the house building boom of the 1930s had something to do with it. If you look around Brockley you will see mock tudor houses built on the gardens of some of the large Victorian houses. Tastes had changed. No servants, electricity for domestic appliances and the nuclear family.

The bomb damage of WW2 and reconstruction the 1960s went further and people moved to tower blocks and estates. Lots of big bombsites in Brockley.

These days we build one or two person apartments the size of shoe box for the big telly, takeaway, suited and booted commuter lifestyle next to a station.

What progress we have made!

Headhunter said...

I think the railway lines were a reason for initial success in areas like Brockley. Prior to the rail link, Brockley would've been a horse or bumpy carriage ride from Central London on rough untarmacked roads. When the rail link to Brockley opened, suddenly wealthy City workers could reach the City (London Bridge) very quickly. They could also reach West London from Brockley Lane station on the high level rail.


I read somewhere that this is 1 of the reasons that the mews were never properly developed in Brockley. When the big houses in the conservation were built, it would have been intended that they have stables and accommodation for servants and stable hands at the ends of the gardens. These weren't built because with the rail link, people had less need for carriages and multiple horses to get around - they could take the train to London and jump in a Hansom cab...


However at the time Brockley was built it was considered to be Kent rather than London I believe...

terrencetrentderby said...

Deptford still smells bad. Good place to go if you want yams and dodgy batteries though.

Headhunter said...

I don't think things have changed that much. When Brockley was initially built up it was considered a rural, Kentish location on the edge of London. It's only now that it's considered an Inner London area in travel zone 2. Back in Victorian times Brockley and surrounding areas would have been considered in the same way as we consider wealthy rural areas on the borders with Kent nowadays... Most developers don't consider building small 1 bed and studio flats for "suited and booted commuters" in those locations or at least if they do they are also building family homes....


It's very difficult to compare our attitudes to our homes these days to those over 100 years ago. In Victorian times, middle class 20 somethings would be getting married and setting up home, having kids etc. They wouldn't be finishing university, starting their careers and living as an individual in a small flat - they simply didn't live that way...

Newby said...

And it sort of comes full circle, larger families moving to the area due to its stock of relatively cheap large family houses and short journey times to the City

townplanner said...

Their life expectancy would also have been much shorter given in the dire sanitary standards of the time.



London also used to have a lot of industry and it was a big port, most of that has gone east now leaving behind brown field sites sitting between railway lines. Lots of opportunities of enterprising developers for their shoe box flats.



For many Brockley is, for merely a staging post before their move to the suburbs in pursuit of houses and gardens. When people do that, they tend not to invest much energy in their local community. If, indeed they have time. They live their life to work and party in town. Though Brockley still has a huge population of transients, there seem to be more people settling here.

Brockley Nick said...

Spot on. The narcissism of small differences

Brockley Nick said...

"When people do that, they tend not to invest much energy in their local community. If, indeed they have time. They live their life to work and party in town."


There are plenty of long-time residents who don't care a fig for community. And there are plenty of people who are actively involved in local initiatives, but don't have the money or inclination to party locally. Likewise, many of our bars, cafes and restaurants are stuffed with the people you discount.


Once upon a time, local venues complained how few local customers there were. That all the old hippies who moved in in the 70s and 80s were fond of hosting dinner parties, but wouldn't set foot in local cafes. Then the new generation arrived, bought small flats and started spending locally.

townplanner said...

Ooops, I seemed to have dislodged a loose chip from someones shoulder.

Newcomers have lately had a positive influence by spending money restoring some of these large Victorian properties.

I put this down to the Overground, which seems to have put many once moribund areas of London back on the map. We could do with a bit more of that.

townplanner said...

Sounds like Deptford. What a place that must have been in Victorian times, with its slaughterhouse and tanneries, swathed in pea souper fogs.

Brockley Nick said...

I was just pointing out that your original comment was an oversimplification. And a chippy one at that.


Some old-timers are great citizens. Some are not. Some newcomers are great citizens. Some are not.

credible said...

and there's always someone who comes along who feel they have the right to judge upon that matter because they happen to be middle class

Brockley Nick said...

What does class have to do with it? Why do you hate the working class?

Broca said...

Looking at the bigger and longer term perspective, the centre of gravity in London shifted after 1666 and accelerated in the C19th & C20th. It's interesting that things are now shifting back. However, take a walk around Kensington and Chelsea and many points further west, and you will see that the process has hardly begun.

Lep Recorn said...

" . . . old hippies who moved in to big houses in the 80s and 90s . . . "



I wondered when my precise demographic would get dissed. Everyone else has been already.

NAT said...

You understand that it's only because you didn't go out to the caff though, don't you?

Brockley Nick said...

I was also describing my own parents. Old hippies are great. But big spenders at local bars they ain't.

Lep Recorn said...

Paahh! I have been known to have the occasional half of 'Old Bodger's' in the weatherspoons.

JosephJohnODonnell said...

The left map I think shows London as it was divided into borough councils (not just as the post office saw it) Lewisham at this time was part of Kent.

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