In Pictures: The Heygate Estate, SE17 – A Modern Secret Garden?

Local resident Zefrog takes a wander round the near abandoned Heygate Estate.

The bad reputation of the Heygate Estate, at the heart of the regeneration area of the Elephant and Castle, is partly what brought it to the sorry state it currently is in, waiting for the wrecking balls to strike.

As a neighbour with a direct view on Claydon, one of the big building blocks that surround the estate and cut it off from the rest of the area, I was curious to go and visit the fabled land of feral gangs and rampant gun crime (as the estate appears in the backdrop to many a film and TV series).

As expected, this collection of over 1200 homes built in the 1970s is mostly deserted, if one excepts the lone driving-school car circling the empty streets. Only about a dozen flats remain occupied and demolition has already begun in the further reaches of the estate near Rodney Place.

Rather than an urban jungle, I found an unexpectedly peaceful space reminiscent of a country estate park, if it wasn’t for the boarded-up buildings decaying in its midst; a sort of modern Secret Garden with spring in full bloom among the tall trees and birdsong the only sound.

Everywhere, of course, are the signs of abandon. Heaps of rubbish gather in some corners and many families seem to have left their furniture when vacating their flats, hoping for new beginnings.

Also present, though less obvious and already slowly fading are the marks of rebellion: the phantom letters of an incomplete “SAVE OUR ESTATE” linger on a series of garage doors; torn and twisted banners advertise Heygateplaza.com; bitterly sarcastic graffiti welcoming the visitor to Heygate Heaven or David Cameron’s Big Society, informing him or her that this is “where the scum come to die”, are scrolled angrily on the walls of a stairwell.

While the long slabs of flats that surround the estate are truly awful and forbidding and probably deserve to be demolished, the smaller blocks at the heart of the site seem much more benign and could possibly have been granted a stay of execution.

It is however clearly too late now and the sooner the warmth of new homes is kindled, the better. Hopefully the developers will manage to retain the mild sense of enchantment that exists there for now.

Pictures by zefrog. Browse more on Flickr.

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  • Anonymous

    This is where they filmed the excellent film “Harry Brown”

  • http://twitter.com/johnnyfoxlondon JohnnyFox

    Nice pics, but if we can’t demolish eyesores like this ourselves in a timely fashion it really is time to invite the Luftwaffe back.

  • ClairT

    The big block pictured above “Claydon” is where I was born and brought up in the very early 80s,I must admit it was alright back then,but by the time we left there in the about 1992 it was beggining to become a bit “rough”.I am in disbeleif that this estate is stil there,I thought it would be long gone.Does anyone know when it is due to be demolished as I would like to see it one more time before it disappears forever,I have alot of happy memories living and growing up here.

  • http://twitter.com/zefrog Nicolas Chinardet

    They’ve started to demolish some of it (in Rodney place (at the other end). There are not official date so far but mention was made of “within a year”. I think they are going to take it down bit by bit.

  • http://twitter.com/els76uk elliot herman

    I’ve just been wandering round the estate taking photos too – you can see mine here http://els.ec/o4QqyR

  • http://twitter.com/zefrog Nicolas Chinardet

    Actually, I went back recently and took more pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zefrog/sets/72157627262794582/

  • http://twitter.com/MaestraR Rebecca Bligh

    @JohnnyFox maybe so. the question is, is what they are going to build in its place going to be worse or better over all. Who will it benefit? What happens to all the people they are moving out…who will proft financially from this redevelopment? OK that’s more than one question. but they are all both pertinent and related.