Assignment 1 – overview

Overview of the area

The area comprising the “Square Mile” of the project includes three distinct neighbourhoods. To the north and northwest is Downham. To the south west is Plaistow and to the east and southeast is Sundridge. In the middle of these are separate urban developments that grew out of Burn Ash Lane / Barings Road, connecting Grove Park to Bromley.

Just 100 years ago, most of this are was quite rural. Sundridge was part of a large private state that was sold off in parts at the end of the 19th century. A relativelly small golf club of 9 holes opened in 1903 but has since expanded to now cover two full 18-hole courses, as well as various other amenities including tennis courts. The area around the golf club has developed into very large properties, with expansive gardens both front and back of generously sized detached houses.

To the west of Sundridge is Plaistow, characterised by long, wide avenues flanked by detached and semi-detached properties. Plaistow started to develop in the later half of the 19th century.

Just to the north of Plaistow is Downham, a estate developed by the London County Council in the 1920s to reduce overcrowding in London’s inner boroughs. Downham was built on a former shooting range and farmland, mostly in what was at that time the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham, with some of the development being in the Municipal Borough of Bromley (part of the county of Kent at that time). Over 5,000¬†homes of different sizes were built, as well as some 400¬†four-storeys flat blocks. The houses all had back gardens and were generally considered to be of a better standard than social housing then available in London’s inner boroughs. However, better off neighbours from the south of Downham were not particularly pleased with the estate development and successfully lobbied for the construction of a 7-foot wall cutting off access to the Alexandra Crescent road development. Such wall stood in place for about 25 years, only being removed in the 1950s.

Map of Downham – 1934

Alexandra Crescent wall – link

The centre of the Square Mile, where I currently live, was developed in the 1930s, after the Downham estate was completed. In the picture below from 1929 it can be seen as the large farmland area just to the east of the middle.

The London County Council Downham Estate, Downham, 1929 - Britain from Above

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Sources:

Downham (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downham (Accessed: 4 July 2016).

Britain from above (no date) Available at: http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/download/EPW028491 (Accessed: 4 July 2016).

2016 (2005) Sundridge park – hidden London. Available at: http://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/sundridge-park/ (Accessed: 4 July 2016).

Matador (2016) Gated communities: Class walls. Available at: http://www.historytoday.com/michael-nelson/gated-communities-class-walls (Accessed: 4 July 2016).

Plaistow, Bromley (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaistow,_Bromley (Accessed: 4 July 2016).

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The Square mile

When I first read about this assignment, what came to my mind was to do it around the place where I work in central London. After all, this is a place I am most familiar with, having taken pictures of it during lunchtime almost every day for most of the past 10 years. But, on second thoughts, I feel it was more appropriate to use this opportunity to try something else, as photographing places around my office was likely to draw me into doing more of the same I had been doing until now, and would have limited my chances of pushing my ideas into different directions.

The brief does mention about the need to “push yourself out of your comfort zone in terms of subject matter” and this would be quite difficult to do in an area where most of the subject matters were familiar to me. It would either have forced me to photograph stuff I am not comfortable with, or otherwise led to subtle variations of themes and subjects I already had explored, none of which was appealing to me.

Having recently moved to a new neighbourhood that is distinctly different from the place I used to live, I decided this was a great opportunity to both explore my new surroundings and try a new approach to my photography.

In keeping with the title of the assignment, I decided to limit the area of exploration to a square mile centred on my road. The map of this area can be see in the link below.

Area map