Newly uncovered photographs show London's disappearing working class housing

An east London arts project has uncovered a wealth of historic images that show life in what is widely thought of as the country’s most successful privately-built-and-owned ‘social housing’.

WE: The Ex-Warner Estate in Waltham Forest looks at a disappearing community and the distinctive Warner homes in Walthamstow and Leyton from the start of the 20th century, using a combination of photographs from residents, new photography, archive images and oral histories.

These evocative unseen photographs and archive materials will be on show in an exhibition at London’s Vestry House Museum from 29 October 2016 –19 February 2017, illustrating how radically working class family life has changed in London.

The Warner homes saw generations of families renting and living close to each other. But the newest generations of these families have been forced out of the area or of London altogether, as homes are sold off and London gentrifies. A two-bedroom Warner flat currently sells for around £450,000.

Artists Lucy Harrison and photographer Katherine Green have collected hundreds of images from as far afield as America and Australia, as well as oral histories from those who have lived in these distinctive properties for 20 years or more, to create an exhibition that shows how resident lived in the properties throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

“At a time when east London is becoming rapidly gentrified and a lack of affordable housing is a huge issue for many, the project looks at one example of how a private company developed large amounts of good quality housing stock and its legacy for the area today,” says Harrison. “These outstanding photographs show an era where working class families could live comfortably in stable accommodation, enjoying their homes and community life. The images provide a stark contrast with the conditions in the rented sector for families like this today.”

A Heritage Lottery Fund grant will mean that a smartphone app and new book will map the findings and images for those unfamiliar with the area. Find out more at

Via Creative Boom submission | All images courtesy of WE: The Ex-Warner Estate in Waltham Forest arts project


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