Community spirit and clean curtains: project captures the history of former Warner estate (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Two Waltham Forest artists have created 'WE: The Ex-Warner Estate' which reveals the history of a housing project in Waltham Forest and looks into the homes of current tenants
With a reputation for quality, affordable housing which fostered a strong sense of community, Warner properties are a distinctive feature on Waltham Forest’s landscape.
Now two artists have brought the past and present together to show people’s endearing affection for the homes, which heralded a new era in house-building.
An exhibition by artist Lucy Harrison and photographer Katherine Green combines archive and contemporary photographs with an oral history of the former Warner estate.
In the 1880s Thomas Warner owned around 300 acres of land in what is now Waltham Forest and decided to personally oversee the development of new homes.
He created the Land Building Company to develop distinctive homes with pointed roofs and an entrance arch framing two front doors.
The homes were of high quality and split into two flats. Green and cream paint was used on doors, windows and gates to create a uniformed appearance.
By 1900 there were Warner buildings across Waltham Forest and had became some of the most desired homes in the area.
Miss Harrison said the design of the homes created a civic pride and strong sense of community, which still exists today.
She said: “We met a few people who have lived here their whole lives. One 80-year-old woman still lives in the home that she was born in.
“A lot of people who grew up here are still renting here, they may have moved house, but they are still in the estate.
“There is an amazing sense of community spirit. People really do feel like it is part of the identity of Waltham Forest.
“The houses are built in a way that you have to meet your neighbours because of the shared doors and gardens, it makes people more talkative.”
The Warner family begun selling off the properties in the 1960s, with the remainder purchased by Circle Housing in 2001.
“Circle had a massive job to do,” Miss Harrison added.
“In some cases they had to move people out for three or four months to modernise the houses. A lot of people refused.
“There are a few people who are moving in now who want to restore them and get the old front doors back.
“One of the really interesting things was the rules for the residents. They had to prove that they could pay the rent but they also had to keep their curtains clean and their gardens tidy.”
Photographer Katherine Green said that the aim of the project was to show ensure an important piece of the area’s history was preserved and celebrated.
She said: “People are still really positive about where they live. There was a real mix of people to photograph.
“We want to make a record, not only of the past, but of how people live today.”
The exhibition can be viewed at the Warner Estate Rent office in Rushbrook Crescent, Walthamstow.
It is opens on Friday and runs until June 15. The public can visit between midday and 7pm on Thursday until Sunday each week.
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