Deptford bomb damage to houses, 1944

In 1939 there were approximately 56,000 dwellings in Lewisham, by the end of the war in 1945 3,585 had been demolished or were awaiting demolition, 6,718 were seriously damaged and uninhabitable and 6,956 were seriously damaged but habitable. In addition other houses had suffered minor damage on 74,000 occasions. This meant that almost 1/3 of Lewisham homes were uninhabitable or damaged after the war. In Deptford 2,132 houses were utterly destroyed and thousands more suffered damage. It was said that not one home escaped damage.

Many families were made homeless and by 1948 Lewisham Council had received 13,630 applications to register as in need of housing, while Deptford Council had received over 9,000 applications.

Both Councils implemented a programme of replacing the housing stock through the use of 'temporary bungalows' or prefabs, new build and requisitioning existing housing stock. By 1948 Lewisham had built some 1,610 prefabs, rebuilt 759 houses and requisitioned 2,859 houses to provide emergency accommodation. Housing schemes under construction included Dowson Court, Belmont Grove, Daneswood Avenue and Perry Vale. By 1947 Deptford had finished 2 new constructions - Larch House and Beech House on the south side of Clyde Street.

Lewisham civic exhibition, 1950, showing housing need

In 1949 Deptford had 89 acres of land that was either vacant, war damaged or had temporary buildings. Lewisham had 373 acres. This was approximately 9% of the available building land. In 1945 Deptford Council had 276 properties for Council tenants and Lewisham 2,456. By 1955 Deptford had built another 838 and Lewisham 3,252. Of these 1,088 were prefab bungalows.

At the time of the London Olympics, the local papers were carrying adverts for properties in the boroughs. A freehold house in Lewisham with 7 rooms, kitchen and bath was on sale for £1,800. While in Sydenham you could rent a maisonette with 4 rooms, kitchen and bath for £65 per annum.

Even allowing for war damage, the standard of housing available in the borough was poor. Figures from the 1951 Census show that 30% of Deptford households and 21% of Lewisham ones shared or had no piped water. 42% of Deptford households shared or had no 'water closet' and 75% shared or had no bath. Only 21% of Deptford households had piped water, a cooking stove, kitchen sink, water closet and fitted bath. Things that we take for granted today. Lewisham was better off with 56% of households having all 5.

Interior of new Council flat in Deptford

It was estimated in the slum clearance proposals of the 1954 Housing Act that Deptford had 614 unfit houses and Lewisham 418.

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