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Broadwater Farm

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An ill-famed housing estate situated between Lordship recreation ground and Bruce Grove in west Tottenham. The original Broadwater Farm covered 119 acres of the huge Downhills estate, which Tottenham council bought and developed in 1902. Built between 1967 and 1973, the present Broadwater Farm estate consists of twelve concrete-panelled blocks, most of which have four to six storeys, originally with a deck access system of pedestrianised walkways. By 1976 the design faults, lack of amenities and fear of crime on the estate resulted in more than half of those on the housing waiting list refusing accommodation here and a long queue of transfer requests from existing tenants. In October 1985 the death of black woman Cynthia Jarrett in a police raid on her house led to the Broadwater Farm riot in which PC Keith Blakelock was hacked to death. During the ten years from 1993 comprehensive improvements were carried out to make the estate a more humane place to live in. Disused shops have been replaced by smart new homes and overhead walkways have been dismantled. The estate-based management programme designed to address the social problems in Broadwater Farm has been relatively successful, partly through the use of ‘super-caretakers’ and also because the neighbourhood is so well-defined; other projects have attempted to encompass ‘communities’ with which residents do not identify. Writing of the scheme in the New Statesman, Paul Barker has pessimistically commented that “you need only go there to see that it is a high-wire act. The smallest slip, and things will be back at the bottom.” However, very few of Broadwater Farm’s thousand-odd homes are empty nowadays and the estate also has some successful light industrial units.

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A depiction of the Broadwater Farm riot by the London-based artist Mike Hawthorne, whose work can be seen at the Lambeth Archives and the Museum of London

Postal district: N17
Further reading: Lord Gifford QC, The Broadwater Farm Inquiry, Karia Press, 1986

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