Heritage first as Lottery funds St Helier community project - 31.07.09
The history of a Sutton estate built to re-home families from the slums of inner London will be recorded in an online community project.
Around 40,000 people moved to the St Helier estate between 1926 and 1936, straight into a brand new community including 18 schools, seven churches, two large pubs, and even a 2,000-seat cinema at Rosehill.
An innovative Sutton Council project now aims to create the first dedicated online archive for the area thanks to a £37,800 lottery grant.
The estate stretches from Sutton into neighbouring Merton and Morden. Despite being nearly three miles across, it was planned as a garden suburb with mature trees and recreations grounds to create a village atmosphere.
Based at the Middleton Circle Library, The Memory Bank will contain documents and media as well as oral histories from the community. Local volunteers will research the construction of the estate and record the memories of its oldest residents, many of whom moved to the area when it was newly built.
Council staff at Middleton Library will run the project, with a new website allowing users to view the archive or make their own contributions. Four themes of Home, Work, Transport and Childhood will structure the project, with a series of events and exhibitions planned for the coming year.
Edna Smith moved from Vauxhall in 1934, midway through the construction work, she said,
"It really was a huge building site when we first moved in, with more houses finished everyday. As a child we used to play amongst the building sites, running in and out of the empty houses all the time.
"At first there were no paths, no roads and mud heaps everywhere. The shops came pretty quick but at first there was no transport and we had to walk everywhere."
Ivy Lee moved from near the Old Kent Road in 1936 when she was just seven years old, she said,
"We used to play outside all the time, down in the woods by Tweeddale and in the buttercup fields. Of course it's all just houses now, there's nothing left of the countryside I knew when we first arrived."
Cllr Graham Tope, Executive Member for Libraries and Leisure on Sutton Council said,
"There has never before been a dedicated archive for St Helier and I would really encourage local residents to get involved and make it the success it deserves to be.
"The Memory Bank is all about focusing on the lives and memories of ordinary people over the last eighty years. If you or someone you know, has any photos, documents or memories from the early years, we'd love to hear from you."
If you have something to contribute to the project or would like to volunteer, contact Margaret Thomas at Middleton Circle Library on 020 8648 6608
Last updated: Wednesday, 05 August 2009