The Secret History of Our Streets

Deptford High Street

Series 1 - Episode 1 Deptford High Street



An elderly resident of Deptford in south London rails at the camera: “Tell them the truth! How they f****d everything up!” The furious interloper is referring to the destruction of a beloved area, a place where families were sundered when their homes were destroyed on the whims of planners.

Of course, Deptford isn’t alone; working-class people throughout Britain were forced to be hapless bystanders as councils issued compulsory purchase orders for houses deemed to be “slums”.

As this new social-history series reveals, when the bulldozers moved into Deptford during the 60s, families who had lived in the area for years were moved into sterile estates and monstrous high-rise flats. Though there is some sentimentality, there’s no escaping the poignancy of what happened.

“All the streets were spotless,” says one resident, still nettled by council accusations of “mean, hideous slums”. Steps were cleaned daily and curtains were neat. “[We were] proud.”


The fortunes of six London streets since the Victorian era, recalling a series of maps started by `social explorer' Charles Booth in 1886, recording the social class and lifestyles of the capital's inhabitants by a system of colour-coding. First up is Deptford High Street, which in Booth's time was dubbed the Oxford Street of south London but is now one of the city's poorest shopping areas. Narrated by Steven Mackintosh.

Cast & Crew

Narrator Steven Mackintosh
Director Joseph Bullman
Executive Producer Simon Ford
Producer Joseph Bullman
Series Producer Katie Bailiff