Sunday, August 09, 2015

Woolwich Rent Protest 1939

'A photograph showing residents creating a road blockade as part of a rent protest in Woolwich, south London, taken in July 1939 by John Topham for the Daily Herald'.  Great photo, unfortunately I don't know any more about the context. The placard reads 'we the tenants of these flats do not intend to pay  any rent till something is done'. But about what?


dimps said...

Alliance Road, Plumstead, 1939. Residents protest at the time it is taking the Council to deal with subsidence that has closed the road. There was also the question of compensation for residents who had lost their homes. I am just writing this up for FB group, Plumstead People.


dimps said...

Chalk Workings, Alliance Road Area

In the Spring of 1938, a huge hole appeared in Alliance Road, measuring 35 ft deep and 10 ft wide. This followed a similar occurrence in Rockliffe Gardens in the previous September, where some children had a lucky escape. The same trouble was being experienced at the bus garage on the corner of King’s Highway and Wickham Lane. Six families in Alliance Road had to be moved into Council houses in Eltham. The houses in Alliance Road were later demolished.

Since the Rockliffe Gardens incidence, the Borough Surveyor had inspected the area and concluded that, whereas at the garage earth and sand had gradually been washed away from the chalk workings 80 ft underground, in Rockliffe Gardens a denehole had caused the problem. Residents were naturally perturbed and formed the Alliance Road and District Residents’ Association and demanded an immediate inquiry as to the danger of further subsidence and the legal position of householders whose property had suffered damage.
200 residents were told st a meeting at Wickham Lane School that the Council was making an immediate inquiry but that electrical resistivity tests indicated that there was no further danger and that the Gardens would be re-opened, although the recreation ground in Alliance Road would remain closed for the time being, whilst an exhaustive exploration was made.

In May, the LCC joined in the survey and bore holes were drilled in an attempt to locate the subterranean workings. In June, whilst one of these holes was being filled in at Rockliffe Gardens, the earth suddenly caved in and one of the workman, Mr Samuel Gardner, was swallowed up. Frantic efforts were made to reach him, back it took over 24 hours of constant toil before his body was recovered. It was found 35 feet below the surface.

The Residents’ Association widened its membership and became the East Plumstead Residents’ Association. With three subsidences in nine months and a terrible fatality, criticism was widespread: the Council should have known that the former brickworks were honeycombed with workings and should have prohibited housebuilding. The LCC decided to extend the survey and share the cost with the Council. Machines were brought in and the holes filled with a sludge which set hard.

However, work dragged on and, in 1939, residents held a demonstration with the threat of not paying rent until the problem was sorted. Indeed, the road was still blocked off.

In 1940, three miles of tunnelling were found and an inspection shaft was sunk to enable permanent watch. But, by 1950, the problem had still not been resolved. There were still a few families in houses considered unsafe. They had been offered alternative accommodation by the LCC, but the question of compensation had not been settled. The case went to a House of Lords committee which decided they had no rights in the matter. Upon further inspection of the tunnels, the families were advised of the possibility of further subsidence and they agreed to move out.

The situation was not resolved until 1955, when a bill was promoted in Parliament to enable the LCC to supplement work done by Woolwich Borough, as this had not covered the whole area. Experts quarrelled as to the efficiency of the water and pulverised fuel ash treatment. Finally, the Residents’ Association agreed to its adoption, so long as no charge fell to the householders.

Abridged from The Woolwich Story, E F E Jefferson, 1965 and a chance find of some contemporary photographs by John Topham.


Transpontine said...

Thanks Deborah, very interesting