Simon Carruthers. Heygate Estate London.

Simon Carruthers has been investigating the Heygate Estate in London as part of our Degeneration project.

The Heygate Estate, Elephant & Castle, London

The London County Council initiated a major development of the Elephant and Castle area from the late 1950s. The last stage in this process was the Heygate Estate which was constructed between 1970 and 1974. The estate was once a popular place to live, the flats being thought spacious, but over time The Heygate became synonymous with crime and poverty and gradually fell into decay.

In March 2009 the BBC described the Heygate as having ”…a reputation as one of the capital’s worst sink estates, riddled by crime, poverty and dilapidated housing”

Unsurprisingly, the entire estate is now earmarked for regeneration. A small section has already been leveled but the vast majority remains intact but uninhabited. Most of the residents have been re-housed and their former properties welded shut to keep out squatters and trespassers.

Nowadays, the estate is almost completely deserted apart from a squad of street sweepers who maintain the area as if it were fully inhabited. I was told by one council official that around thirty of the three hundred properties are still occupied, although you would be forgiven for thinking it entirely unoccupied. These days you are almost more likely to stumble across a TV film crew than catch sight of one of the few remaining residents.

The estate is a favourite of filmmakers seeking a gritty, urban backdrop and has been the backdrop for the films Shank and Harry Brown as well as numerous TV series’.


Heygate under construction. 1972.

Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle, London, 2010. Simon Carruthers

Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle, London, 2010. Simon Carruthers

Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle, London, 2010. Simon Carruthers


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