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The concept of this BBC series – in partnership with the Open University – is taken from Charles Booth’s ambitious plan to visit every street in London and document the social conditions of people who lived there. Featuring compelling accounts from residents, including one family which has been trading on the High Street for 250 years, the film tells the story of transformation and endurance as the people themselves tell the history of their own past and the street they lived in. What makes Deptford High Street a place I want to live near is the fact that there aren’t mainstream shops running down its whole length, and that independent businesses are at its heart.
In conversations about the show on Twitter, the industrious folk at Deptford Film Club have organised a screening, with hopefully an introduction or Q&A to the programme from the film-maker Jaime Taylor (via Skype). If you can’t make it to the pub, then you can watch it when it broadcasts on BBC Two at 9pm on Wednesday 6th June. I know what you mean and I know that a lot of people agree with you, but the independent businesses are there because the mainstream shops moved out in the 1970s. We use cookies to enhance your visit to our site and to bring you advertisements that might interest you. Simon Ford is the Executive Producer of The Secret History of our StreetsThe Secret History of Our Streets will do battle in the best documentary series category on March 14 at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards. When he was finished, he'd produced a series of stunning social maps, which colour-code each of London's streets according to the class of its residents - from yellow for the Servant Keepers, all the way down to black, for Vicious and Semi-Criminal.
I remember sitting in a greasy spoon near Borough Market in London, and putting the idea for The Secret History Of Our Streets to my friend the director Brian Hill. I told him we should go back to Booth's original study, to find out what had happened to the streets he'd visited 130 years earlier. We were determined that the people of each street would tell their own story, collectively, for themselves. But handing over the story to the residents was a challenge, because most knew only fragments of the street's story. There were no 'experts' in Deptford High Street and historians don't specialise in single streets. When our young cub researcher walked in to John Price's Bent Can discount shop on the high street, John right away told him to "F*** off!" What did he know about Deptford High Street?!
But experience taught me that the best documentary characters can often seem that way, so I asked my assistant producer Jaime Taylor to go in again, this time wearing a crash helmet. His family had spent two years living in their house, surrounded by rubble, because they didn't want to go. Nearly all the Victorian terraces that had once fed into the high street had been pulled down in the 60s and 70s and there was no official account of the mass demolition. Jaime spent weeks in the London Metropolitan Archives, going through thousands of uncatalogued papers, thrown in boxes, half a century earlier. To our astonishment, these hand-written notes seemed to confirm what John and the Deptford people had told us. And through the series, every time we drilled down into the history of a single street, our researchers kept coming up with stories which seemed to re-write the history of London. On Portland Road, Notting Hill we found multi-million pound houses once occupied by a family of eight in each room.
On Reverdy Road, Bermondsey we found the aristocratic landowning family that built the street more than a century earlier. Joseph Bullman is the co-producer of the series The Secret History Of Our Streets and the director of episodes one and four. BBC Four has launched The London Collection, a selection of archive BBC programmes which you can watch in full on BBC iPlayer.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
Portland Road has seen many changes since, in the 1850s, speculative developers built properties near the piggeries and potteries of Notting Hill.

Taking 17 years to complete (he began the project in 1886), it built a comprehensive snapshot of life in London; including Deptford High Street and the surrounding area. Through these deeply personal accounts, of  huge extended families living together in a single street, the bigger story of slum clearance and the unraveling of the old ways of life will emerge; a change which shaped the lives of tens of millions of British families all over the country. He was inspired to design the site because he was frustrated with missing the cool stuff which was going on, as well as having a slight addiction to registering web domains he thinks should be in use. The BBC2 show, which tells the story of six London streets from the time social researcher Charles Booth’s 19th-century maps were produced, is nominated alongside All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry (Channel 4) and Inside Claridge’s (BBC2). Starting in 1886, it took Booth 17 years to visit every one of its tens of thousands of streets. But when Charles Booth had arrived in the 1890s it was the Oxford Street of south London - so prosperous that many of its working class shopkeepers kept domestic servants.
This series revisits six of the streets, beginning with Deptford High Street, to see how they’ve fared in the time since. The kind of person who was so good at conjuring up a lost past that he ought to get paid just to stand in his shop and talk. The latest episode of The Secret History of Our Streets (BBC Two) mapped all this in fascinating detail. The Secret History explores how events of the past 125 years continue to shape the lives of those who now live on Deptford High Street, Camberwell Grove, Caledonian Road in King’s Cross, Notting Hill’s Portland Road, Reverdy Road in Bermondsey and Arnold Circus, Shoreditch.“Joe Bullman [a co-director and creator] has always been fascinated by the Booth maps,” says Ford. But we realised Booth was just the starting point and we had to plug into people’s stories.”Each episode intersperses conversations and interviews with historical context. We were keen that viewers got a flavour of what the roads are like now, so we filmed events, such as Diamond Jubilee street parties, that bring the community together.”Sense of communityFord was powerfully struck by the sense of community that still exists in London. The glorious old days of the East End, when everyone knew their neighbour, may have passed but there is still a sense of place there. People develop a really strong connection to an area that they make home.” Portland Road in Notting Hill went from being a slum to an affluent areaHe says communities come out fighting when they are under assault from councils or building schemes — you can join your neighbours in protest without having to know them intimately.
If we do another series I would like to explore that in more depth.”Despite his frequent irritation with councils and the damage done by their “ill thought-out” decisions, Ford’s research reinforced how much their power has diminished.
London: the greatest cityFord was one of those “really lucky” people who got on the housing ladder young enough to have the choice of trading down.
Sometimes people aren’t happy with it.” There were a few ructions in Caledonian Road after its episode first aired, including a minor local campaign against landlord Andrew Panayi, who is said to own more than 40 properties on the street.
Residents (“especially posher ones”) felt exposed so there were endless weeks of door-knocking. But if you say, “I have your genealogy here, I can tell you something about it”, then they will want to know more. The people I take there are always fascinated with this area's history so I was looking forward to watching this programme and adding to my knowledge of Deptford High Street . Whereas I agree with the sentiment that the old houses shouldn't have been demolished there are many positive things the film makers could have shown and chose not to. They selected a stall holder bemoaning the fact that his customers were no longer English but they didn't how how vibrant and busy the street market can be. There was no mention of the recent attempts at regeneration with a new school, individually owned shops and good cafes like the Deptford Project. Where was the beautiful baroque St Paul's Church, recently restored and one of the most attractive churches in London? Where was the Albany Arts Centre with its interesting programme of music, drama and arts projects? We had a glimpse of the restored Albury Street with its early 18th c houses at the end of the documentary but this was the only positive.
Deptford has had many problems over the years which cannot be denied but this was a totally unbalanced view of a street with a fascinating story to tell. The 'nervous breakdowns' and pill prescriptions painfully described in the film are only the very small part of an untold human catastrophe caused by these clearances that has been minimised and covered up by those responsible.

Although I didnt work in Deptford, I remember the GLC had large redevelopment schemes in the area. They often used the local authority eho's to try to declare streets unfit for habitation - probably so that when the house was declared unfit, it would be worth less and the cost of compulsory purchse was less. In Forest Hill there was a large area that was due for demolition and most of them were not unfit ( a GLC scheme) but there was a small area close by that was marginally unfit that I was involved with. By the early 70s councils had powers and resources to give grants for improvements on an individual or area basis; my head of section Bob Davis pioneered these improvement schemes in Lewisham and the first one was in Brookmill Rd Deptford. By the mid 70s slum clearance was over ; but the 'damage' had been done in more than one sense!The programme didnt make clear that the LCC and GLC after it sometimes tried to overrule what the local council wanted.
And there was a political dimension, when many Labour Councils wanted to maximise municipalisation of housing.
It was the same in Bristol ( where I worked after 1974)Two other comment abouts the programme i) I'd be interested in the archived documents re ehos reports. My parents grew up in the local area, and I remember walking under the bridge and into Deptford High Street with my Grandfather treating me to an ice cream from the Italian ice cream shop, which was a "foreign" luxury in those days, a few years after the finish of rationing.
My grandparents were one of the few in the road to own their own house, which the council made the subject of a compulsory purchase order for a fraction of the true price.
When my Uncle took on the council to fight the case for true compensation, they moved in problem families to neighbouring houses to drive them out. Eventually they had to admit defeat, and move out of London, which they loved, to Lincolnshire to be able to afford to buy another property. As your documentary shows, many people can be in the same earnings bracket due to circumstances out of their control (coming from many different backgrounds with different beliefs and viewpoints) involuntarily pushed together, could fracture our society in this class even further than has ever been seen before in our history.
I am young and new to London and have always been confused by the mix of old and new housing in the capital. I knew much was due to the bliz but this total disregard for period architecture is unexceptable. Paul 25 London Complain about this comment (Comment number 34) Comment number 35. I feel quite angry for the people who had the hearts ripped out of their communities by the faceless planners. It wasn't just Deptford this happened, it was all over London, and their replacements have led to many of the social problems we have today. The editing was excellent and the story all the more prevalent given the fact that London is firmly in the limelight at the moment given the recent Jubilee and the forthcoming Olympics. I congratulate the makers and the BBC for their bravery in commisioning and airing the programme. We got to see a personal and poignant side of an inner London working class enclave that is all too easily forgotten. I thought that it showed an enduring sense of community and cameraderie.For those who thought it biased against the Council and its post war planners, well unfortunately, it was, and i hope this is justified and borne out to be a fair reflection as the series continues. This wasn't just a community that was evicted but individual lives that were ireperably changed.
If you want a TV programme extolling the virtues of the current area either make one youself or watch an local council advert.
William Powell Griffiths was my great grandfather and this shop was one of six grocery shops he owned and ran in South London.

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