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Arnold Circus, London: social housing for the 'deserving poor'

Updated Wednesday, 6 June 2012

From the tenants of the first council housing estate, built on the Old Nichol in the 19th century, we trace the stories of Arnold Circus residents today.

  • Change and continuity as communities come and go

The Boundary Estate housing development, which has Arnold Circus at its heart, was designed to remedy the desperate poverty of slums that were cleared to provide the space for it. But the rents of this first council housing estate were too high for the displaced residents. The slum dwellers of the Old Nichol were pushed eastwards, making way for the ‘deserving poor’ who could afford the rents of Arnold Circus.

Today, it’s still a battle to keep Arnold Circus as social housing for the ‘deserving poor’. Residents, fearing a rise in rents and ultimately gentrification, have twice seen off attempts by Tower Hamlets Council, which currently owns 60% of the flats, to sell Arnold Circus to a local housing company.


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