The Myths of Heygate Estate

A HUMBLE selection of the common myths about the Elephant and Castle area and, in particular, the Heygate as written up in the papers

Seemingly throwaway, these references to infamous sink estates and crime reinforce the Councils and developers regeneration agenda and erase the real history and desires of local people. None of these articles ever mentions the dis-investment from the Council that accounted for a lot of the bad conditions in the infrastructure of The Heygate. Such a dis-investment over time was always useful for the Council in giving local tenants very little real choice about regeneration possibilities. These kind of newspaper articles always seem to suggest that the 70′s architecture itself creates poverty and deprivation but they never say that the inequality and suffering comes from the society with live in and not as a result of large public housing, regardless of the building poor design.

• ‘Harry Brown was shot on the Heygate estate in Elephant and Castle, south London, not far from where Caine grew up…A few months before the film came out, in the summer of last year, a real-life gang – led by Callum Hall and Deniz Ozdil – was terrorising the nearby Aylesbury estate’.


• ‘Heygate was only built in 1968-69 and quickly became a sort of human dustbin. It exemplified the notion that if you give people sties to live in, they will live like pigs’.


• ‘The Heygate Estate, which housed 700 people in what looks like a medieval blockhouse, and the Aylesbury Estate, with its 2,700 homes stretching south for more than a mile parallel to the Walworth Road, became sink estates plagued by crime, drugs and prostitution’.


• ‘The Heygate’s generously sized flats were initially popular with council tenants, but the estate gradually struggled with a reputation for violence and deprivation.’


• ‘…dilapidated and crime-ridden Heygate Estate’.


• ‘Sir Michael Caine has spoken of his horror at returning to the ‘sink estates’ in the area he once called home. ‘


• ‘The infamous Heygate estate in Elephant & Castle, south London…


• ‘…that vision has largely ended in crime and deprivation, as the fate of the Heygate estate shows’.


• ‘The area is characterised by its council estates and high- rise blocks …­negotiating the subways ­frequented by meths-drinking weirdos can be scary…’

http://www.thelondonpaper.com/life-style/property/features/so-you-want-to-live-in-elephant-castle (LINK NOW DEAD!)

The above is our favourite total myth about the area comes from Ravneet Ahluwalia’s article for The London paper from 2006. Does this ring true to you? – “The area is characterised by its council estates and high- rise blocks…negotiating the subways ­frequented by meths-drinking weirdos can be scary.“  Have you ever seen a meths-drinking weirdo in the subways? Are you perhaps a meths-drinking weirdo?

We asked Ravneet Ahluwalia if she had ever seen any meths-drinking weirdos in The Elephant and she kindly replied: “The feature was published in 2006 and at the time I felt it was a fair apprasel of the verbal harassment (often just for money, but occasionally threatening) that I and many other women and men experienced while walking the subways, from people that had serious alcohol problems… I have lived in London for 28 years, in many different areas and research all my property features with care, so I am slightly struck by your remark questioning my single line about meths drinkers“. So, although she points out that the subways could at times not be very nice, she didn’t really answer the key question about whether she had actually seen ‘meths-drinking weirdos‘ in the end. Meths as myths too?