Heritage England funding announced for hidden working class histories

Heritage England has announced funding across 56 new projects to celebrate working class histories.

The untold stories of the Rastafari community at London’s longest running squat in Kennington and people’s experiences of homelessness in Waterloo’s Cardboard City are among the projects that will receive funding over the next two years.

Historic England chose 56 community-led projects – eight in London and three in South London- from a selection of more than 380 applications.

The House of Dread’s project will explore and document the untold histories of St Agnes Place in Kennington.

Thought to be London’s longest running squat, the street hosted people who existed on the margins of society and resisted eviction for more than 30 years, until 2007, when it was demolished. 

Detail of a bench created by Southbank Mosaics with people with lived experience of homelessness, as one of the very few memorials to homeless people in London (Picture: Eleanor Bentall)

St Agnes Place became a central meeting point for the Rastafari community in Britain, and by the 1980s became locally known as House of Dread. 

Public historian and curator Dr Aleema Gray and a group of community producers will work in consultation with Rastafari Movement UK to examine and document how and why St Agnes Place evolved as a thriving hub of Rastafari activity. 

Another project, The Lost City of Cardboard: A Homelessness Heritage Project will explore Cardboard City – a makeshift encampment made from hundreds of cardboard boxes in the underpasses between Waterloo railway station and the South Bank.

Cardboard City sheltered thousands of rough sleepers between the 1980s and 1990s. Many of those who lived there are in poor health or have since died. 

Kingswood House in use as the Massey-Harris Convalescent Home for Canadian Soldiers (Picture: Historic England Archive))

Now, St John’s Waterloo and The Bridge At Waterloo are working to remember and memorialise this history and the neglected heritage of homeless people in the area. 

Led by artists and people who have experienced homelessness, this project will engage with individuals who lived in Cardboard City and those who provided support to its inhabitants.

In Dulwich, the Seasons of Kingswood Life project will look into the history of Kingswood House, a Grade II listed Victorian ‘castle’ in the middle of a council estate near Sydenham Hill station. 

Kingswood Arts will work with people living in the area across 12 months to create a permanent exhibition exploring the history of the grand building and estate from 1811 to the present day. 

Kingswood House, a Grade II listed Victorian ‘castle’ in the middle of a council estate near Sydenham Hill station (Picture: Mitzi de Margary / Historic England Archive)

Working-class life at Kingswood will be recorded through its history as a private house to a wartime hospital, and later as a library and community centre. 

The total amount of funding awarded by Historic England will be £875,000 ranging from £6,800 to £25,000 for each project. More than £180,000 has been pledged towards projects in London.  

Tom Foxall, Historic England regional director, said: “There are so many hidden histories to uncover here in London. Every community has a story to tell and we want to hear them. 

“This is the strength of our Everyday Heritage grant programme, which funds projects that are community-led and really engage with local people by empowering them to research and tell their own stories.”

Pictured top: A group of participants from the Art School for the Homeless on a walk around St John’s and the former site of Cardboard City (Picture: Eleanor Bentall)

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