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Turnips Triumph in Tower Hamlets - Good Life Express, Episode 20

Turnips Triumph in Tower Hamlets - Good Life Express, Episode 20

Issue 62 November 2009

The scars of war left the East End with run down council estates. Sarah Joseph finds out how a garden project restored the community spirit.

Photography by Nazrul Islam


 During the Second World War the Nazi’s attempted to break British morale by bombing London in the Blitz. The German Luftwaffe ran nightly raids raining down bombs on London. The Luftwaffe following the route of the Thames to London were led directly to the East End of the city where the docks, railways and a then booming industry provided them with many targets.

 The Germans launched their first raid on the 7th of September, 1940 at 4.30pm in the Silvertown and Canning Town areas. 170 bombs were dropped, killing a total of 430 civilians and wounding 1600. The whole of Tower Hamlets suffered a civilian loss of over 2000, with a further 7,500 residents injured and over 45,000 houses completely destroyed. It is reported that the damage the East End suffered was so severe that when Buckingham Palace was hit during the height of the bombing, the Queen (later to be Queen Mother) retorted, “It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face”.



 By the end of the Second World War, the East End had been left completely devastated by the bombings suffered and was largely derelict.

 The devastation caused by the Blitz led to the building on large high rise tower blocks in the post war rebuild. Massive concrete structures were put up to house the population. Although these estates were functional, they were not particularly conducive to the building of communities.

 Decades later, on a run-down council estate, Dillon Toyne looked out onto a disused playground. With the very sense of community and togetherness that the East End became notorious for during the Second World War he envisioned a community garden to promote a sense of togetherness in an environment of isolation and poverty.

 Six months later, with a budget of just £450, The Cranbrook Community Garden project was established. Since its launch, the project has rejuvenated not just a sense of community among neighbours of the Cranbrook Estate, but brought to the forefront wider issues, “People have become more interested in eating healthy and leading eco-friendly lifestyles”, says Taj Uddin, community development and engagement officer for Tower Hamlet Homes.


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