I came across this amazing documentary about the Doddington Estate from 1971 in the BFI archives: “They’re building flats where the houses used to be”.
It features interviews with the first families to move into the Doddington Estate. Perhaps you recognise some faces?
The British Film Institute (BFI) says: “Refreshingly, the commentary comes entirely from the mouths of the residents themselves: young mothers, working fathers, elderly women, teenagers and children, who discuss their experiences, particularly the issue of loneliness and isolation.
“The film was made in 1971 when the estate was still being developed. Just one year later, the tenants’ association complained that Doddington was rapidly deteriorating. As one young female resident puts it: “I don’t think I’d give these places 20 or 30 years before they become slums. I think I’d give it two or three years, the way they’re going at the moment.”
Where the houses used to be is a sad film. Shows how Battersea’s tight-knit working class communities found it hard to switch to tower block life.
Comments, which still ring true today, include:
“Every flat they built is the same. I don’t like sameness – I don’t like to be exactly the same as my neighbours.”
“It’s very secluded, you can’t meet anyone, you can’t go out on the doorstep and have a chat.”
“Since we’ve moved in the flats I’ve noticed a great change in the children. They seem to have got a lot quieter. We had an old house with a yard and the children were out all day playing. Now I can’t get them out I think they’re afraid of the lifts”
“There’s nothing at all for the children. Children have either got to stay in and get complaints about noise from the neighbours or they can go downstairs to play and then I’m a bag of nerves…”
The documentary ends with an angry public meeting in the basement of Jay Court. Residents criticise how the estate was designed and built, and complain of poor services.
If you know what happened to the Doddington Estate over the next four decades, it’s upsetting to watch this lad ask in 1971: “Is it possible for us to have a football pitch”
This English Heritage essay brilliantly describes the history of the area south of Battersea Park Road which became the Doddington Estate.
PS While Where the houses used to be is generally downbeat, there are lots of fun 1970s period details. This man reminded me of a Vic Reeves character.