Skip to content
Society, Politics & Law
  • Activity
  • 15 mins

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

Updated Wednesday, 6th 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.

This page was published over five years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy

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.

Arnold Circus, London

Click each image to find maps, pictures and stories from Arnold Circus, London.

From the dilapidation and squalor of the Old Nichol slums to the ‘fairly comfortable’ residents of England’s first ‘council estate’. Copyright London School of Economics Arnold Circus residents come and go, reflecting the waves of migration into London. Copyright London Metropolitan Archives There’s a flourishing community of people living in Arnold Circus today. Creative-Commons Rodney Burton via geograph under Creative Commons license Explore the Arnold Circus, London area on Google map streetview. Copyright Rochelle School, Arnold Circus
Copyright Background: London School of Economics




Related content (tags)

Copyright information

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?