Eighty years ago this September the Blitz began as the Luftwaffe targeted the capital’s industrial heartland and obliterated great swathes of the east.
With King George VI, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother visited to see the devastation and after Buckingham Palace was bombed on September 13, 1940, she said she felt she could “look the East End in the face”.
We will all reflect on this sombre period of heartbreak and destruction. But today we can also celebrate regeneration on a grand scale.
This building boom will bring the total of new homes delivered in the boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Havering, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, and Barking & Dagenham to about 400,000 since the end of the Second World War.
Since 1945 there has been wave upon wave of piecemeal change, a lot of it regrettable.
With the clearing of the rubble and the slums came housing estates that were poorly constructed, ill-considered and ugly.
But towards the end of the last century we began to learn lessons with the successful rise of City skyscrapers and the creation of Canary Wharf; the spread of Silicon Roundabout in Shoreditch and the Olympics-led regeneration of Stratford.
The 2020s will finally bring the arrival of Crossrail.
The high-speed railway will connect outlying suburbs with the City, Canary Wharf, Shoreditch and Stratford, bringing together disparate residential pockets and sparking a new wave of mainstream housebuilding to address a deepening affordability crisis.
New homes built since 1945 by east London boroughs
|East London borough||Number of new homes built since 1945|
|Barking & Dagenham||29,390|
The new regeneration
Poplar, formerly a Victorian slum, was all but levelled during the Blitz. More than 8,500 homes were destroyed and 96 per cent of today’s stock has been built since 1945, including the historic post-war Lansbury Estate, one of the largest in London. The average house price in Poplar today is £413,259.
“After the war new architectural and planning philosophies emerged, including increased access to sanitation and fresh air, and a love of towers,” says Sean McEntee of Savills. “This led to the new town movement and the development of 1960s housing estates, such as the Landsbury,” he says.
The surrounding neighbourhood is now undergoing 21st-century regeneration.
Aberfeldy Street is being revived, with retail space on offer to local businesses rent-free for a year. Interested start-ups should email email@example.com for more information.
Nearby Chrisp Street Market is in line for £280 million of funding, with live music, ice rinks, vintage fairs and open-air screenings planned.
There are new housing developments under construction, the closest being Oxbow by Ecoworld at East India Dock in E14, where 132 homes launched last month. Prices start from £351,000 for a studio apartment. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Unlike the Lansbury Estate, the brutalist concrete, dark and depressing Robin Hood Gardens housing estate is no longer standing. Just south of Poplar, it was troubled and it bred trouble. It was demolished and is being replaced by the £300 million Blackwall Reach scheme.
The 1,575 new homes will include one- and two-bedroom apartments from £475,000 and newly launched penthouses from £740,000 with stamp duty paid. Visit blackwallreach.co.uk for more.
West Ham is next in line
Almost 70 per cent of homes in West Ham were built since the war but the area around the combined Underground and Docklands Light Railway station is desolate and in need of more amenities.
This is set to change with the delivery of TwelveTrees Park, a mixed-use neighbourhood including 3,800 homes on the other side of the railway tracks. This 26.2-acre development by Berkeley Homes is launching today.
Over half the site will be green space with a wifi-enabled park, shops, restaurants, a gym, electric charging points, bike storage, maker studios and a new campus for the East London Science School.
Two new footbridges are being built to give easy access to the Tube and DLR. Based on the brownfield site of the former Imperial Soap factory, prices for new homes start from £385,000.
Meanwhile, local developer Thornbury has converted a former warehouse into The Dye Factory, 23 homes by Plaistow station. Prices start from £275,000. Contact Dexters estate agents on 020 7590 9585.
New industry moves in
Nowhere in the UK is the switch from a manufacturing-led economy to banking and tech more apparent than in the East End.
Although work began on Canary Wharf in the Eighties, it is only recently that the estate starting adding its own private residential component.
Wood Wharf will deliver 3,600 homes when completed but only a quarter will be classified as affordable. Apartments in One Park Drive start from £855,000 and in neighbouring tower 10 Park Drive from £900,000.
After 30 years the towering glass-and-steel banking island still divides opinion but it adds an extra dimension to the East End and continues to create thousands of jobs.
Where tech meets art
Shoreditch and Hoxton are magnets for techies and creatives. Bombed-out warehouses provided cheap studio accommodation after the war — artists moved in and designers followed.
After the global financial crisis, rents fell and tech start-ups moved to Old Street Roundabout, which evolved into East London Tech City. This fusion electrified the fashionable area, now the epicentre of the capital’s nightlife.
“The younger generation has a reason to look east. Hackney leads the way when it comes to the increase in culture and leisure services in the night-time economy,” a Savills report reads.
The average house price in Shoreditch is £977,038. Between Shoreditch and Victoria Park is the Watermark development, where prices start from a more reasonable £625,000 for a canalside apartment. Contact Savills on 020 7226 6611.
Crossrail will connect the trendy side of the tracks
Four of the seven cheapest boroughs are in east London due to a lack of connectivity, but when Crossrail is fully functioning, residents will no longer have to sacrifice convenient travel times to live on the trendy side of the tracks.
The new high-speed rail service will service 14 stations outside Zone 1 compared to eight in west London.
Travel times out to towns such as Ilford — where the average house price is just shy of £400,000 according to Rightmove — will be cut by 35 per cent.
Redevelopment driven by the Elizabeth line will converge with the regeneration around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. It is this interplay that will unlock further change for east London over the next several decades.
New flats at Lock No 19, in walking distance of the Crossrail hub at Stratford, start from £450,000. Call Savills on 020 7226 6611.
The appeal for young Londoners: East End still gets full marks for community spirit
Television producer James Emtage moved from Vauxhall to Hackney 10 years ago and fell in love with the street markets, Turkish stores and mixed architecture. He now lives in Broadway Market, in part of an old Victorian shop.
In a wartime-style effort, locals came together during the coronavirus lockdown, says James.
With his neighbours Kat and Caroline, he started Haggerston Plates, a free hot meals delivery service from his potting shed. Within a few days of setting up, they had 100 volunteers.
“The East End is dismissed as awash with hipsters and start-ups, but it has retained its community spirit,” says James.
Anna Robinson lives in an Art Deco flat in Clapton, overlooking Millfields Park. Her studio, where she runs her fake flower business Friend of Faux, is on the other side of Hackney Marshes.
“It’s next door to Lighthaus café which is a total gem of a place, a real home from home to all the makers and creatives on the estate,” she says.
A designer at Echlin architectural studio, Samuel Pye lives near the Olympic Park in a Victorian conversion flat.
“We recently discovered part of the rear of the building uses a repurposed air raid shelter to hold it up,” he says. “A lot of the area was bombed and there are gaps in the terraces. It’s a constant reminder of the reality of life at that time.”
What Crossrail will bring to the east
Crossrail will make it as quick to travel to the city and Canary Wharf from Romford (average house price £318k) as it is from West Drayton (£367k) in west London; from Streatham (£568k) in the south and from Southgate (£591k) in north London.