Hither Green Archibald Corbett Society aims to preserve estate heritage

News Shopper: The Archibald Corbett Society steering group The Archibald Corbett Society steering group

PEOPLE on an estate once dubbed the "new Garden of Eden" are hopeful that a community group will save its unique character and heritage for future generations.

The 3,000-home Corbett Estate in Hither Green was built from 1897 to 1913 across 278 acres of farmland by Liberal MP Archibald Cameron Corbett.

A pioneer of social housing, his aim was to produce a balanced, healthily living community - demonstrated by an embargo on liquor selling throughout the estate and the reason why there is still no pub today.

Renowned social historian Charles Booth wrote of the estate as a "new Garden of Eden", but, 100 years later, a group of residents have become concerned that the place's identity is being eroded.

Peter Ranken, who has lived on the estate for 38 years, said: "What we've been very concerned with is the way, just gradually, without any warning, the council keep granting conversions into flays. Front gardens are being concreted over and the estate is losing its identity.

"There's so much social housing going up in the borough now, which is great for single people and young married couples but what's being lost are the true family homes."

Mr Ranken has helped set up the Archibald Corbett Society which officially launched this month, with special guests Heidi Alexander MP and Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock at a packed public meeting.

In the future, they aim to add unique street signs, an exhibition at Torridon Road Library and create specific identities for the shopping parades with incentives encouraging people to buy locally.

Community gardens, the restoration of the estates signature keystones - featuring stone faces of different men and women - along with local history projects in nearby schools complete the picture.

Mr Ranken said: "Plenty of people are supporting what we're trying to do. What we're saying to Lewisham Council is we want to work with them."

Everyone is invited to the AGM at  the Catford Assemblies of God Church, Glenfarg Road, on November 4 at 7.30pm. Email pjranken@gmail.com for details.

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