Elephant and Castle - Local History

Draper Together is not only based in a significant geographical place with a valuable heritage - the Draper Estate but also represents a thriving, diverse community at the heart of Elephant and Castle which is an inner-city area of London undergoing Europe’s largest regeneration and building development programme, estimated at £1.3 billion.
 

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History

The Draper Estate has an interesting heritage as one of the last surviving, post-war, 1960’s Brutalist housing schemes, within an area undergoing a new £1.3 billion regeneration called ‘Elephant Park’.

 
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Community

Although Draper Together is a new charity our work was born from addressing the needs of the people of the Draper Estate and the surrounding neighbourhood and we have benefitted from the powerful legacy of the Draper Residents Association (DRA) – a voluntary committee who came together in 2013, during a disruptive period of building works and anti-social behaviour.

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Regeneration

The Draper housing Estate is in Elephant and Castle, an area very much defined by post Second World War re-development where Victorian slums were destroyed during the Blitz and governments were compelled to replace them with modern and desperately needed, affordable public housing.

History

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Draper is a 50 year old, social housing estate completed in 1964, now with mixed residency: council tenants, private tenants, leaseholders, owned properties and shops.

The on-going property regeneration scheme in Elephant and Castle, is being built on the site of the demolished Heygate Estate whose 1,200 residents were ‘decanted’ outside of London and the estate is also next to the Elephant and Castle Town Centre Regeneration project.

It is a relatively large estate of around 300 homes; the 24 storey tower block of Draper House has 141 maisonettes and flats alongside the lower rise blocks, Sherston Court, Wollaston Close, Newington Butts and houses in Howell Walk.

When the tower block, Draper House was first built it was the tallest structure in London. The design was by Hubert Bennett of the London City Council’s (LCC’s) Architects Department and inspired by Le Corbusier. The Estate was part of the post-WWII comprehensive redevelopment of the E&C. Part of the Brutalist trend of the time, characterized by bulky blocks of abstract concrete forms like sculpture, Draper House and the estate are a great example of this modernist heritage.

Bennett went beyond the standard materials, however and used storey-height slabs of white, Italian marble creating white vertical bands running up the block as if to say, ‘nothing is too good for the ordinary man and woman’. Well regarded at the time, the building was featured in Architecture Review which said it, ‘sets a standard of clarity and vigour’.

 
 

Regeneration

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The Draper housing Estate is in Elephant and Castle, an area very much defined by post Second World War re-development where Victorian slums were destroyed during the Blitz and governments were compelled to replace them with modern and desperately needed, affordable public housing.

The area has been subject to many shifts in urban policy initiatives and Draper itself is one of the few remaining results of the ‘experimental’ 1960s urban improvement plans. Elephant has been a travel hub for central London for a century and the Draper Estate’s geographical position is convenient as it is so well served by public transport nearby (train, underground and multiple bus routes) but this means it is also hyper-urbanised with a large roundabout right in front of the Estate.

Now, yet again, the area is undergoing rapid change due to a large and ambitious regeneration scheme; a master-planned redevelopment, budgeted at £1.3 billion called Elephant Park. This is a public/private enterprise between the London borough of Southwark and several property development partnerships.

The most significant change to the Draper Estate was the demolition of the largest housing estate in Elephant and Castle, the Heygate Estate, from 2011 to 2014. This has galvanised the decision to become a charity with the possibility that the Draper Estate could be next and so the safeguarding of our space and the people of this embedded community has become one of the central motivations for our work.

During a time of great upheaval and change for many established residents in the Elephant and Castle, Draper Together aims to act as a bridge to help them cope with these changes as well as welcoming the newer residents of the area to meet and discover the older communities local to them. Draper Together aims to support community cohesion on the Draper Estate and in the Elephant and Castle neighbourhood during this period, by creating opportunities for residents to learn, share and experience together, for a brighter future.