Pointers to the future

Between the 1960’s and the end of 1990’s very little changed in Nelson Square and the immediate surroundings.

The Tory government’s Right to Buy scheme introduced in the 1980’s was however a remarkable pointer to the future.

Many council tenants in the Nelson Square Gardens estate took advantage of this scheme, and could buy their council homes often for relatively small amounts of money. The area was still quite run down and the market price for properties here was low.

Many of these early home buyers have since sold the flats on. The flats have thus reverted to the private sector. At the same time London housing prices have rocketed in the decades since the start of Right to Buy.

The garden itself will have been remodelled at some point in the 1960s or 1970s. The once unified park was divided into a separate play area and a smaller traditional garden.

Also one of the ancient plane trees has disappeared in this era. The play area had a new fence and a gardener’s hut was still standing in the Square, as seen in the below photos.

Nelson Square 1977. Southwark Local Studies Library.
Nelson Square 1977. Southwark Local Studies Library.

The end of last Millennium heralded a big change for the area. Plans for the Jubilee Line tube extension revealed that a new station would be built just across the junction of Blackfriars Road and Union Street.

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The old Bankside power station by the river would be converted into Tate Modern and a new pedestrian bridge would be built in front of it.

The area was transformed almost overnight: The previously almost forgotten and quiet area was suddenly right in the centre of a massive regeneration boom in Southwark.

Also an even bigger change was heralded by the demolition of Orbit House opposite Rowland Hill House. A much bigger and bulkier building Palestra would replace it. This new building has since been used as a precedent for even higher buildings.

See below a series of photos from the demolition of the old buildings and the changing view from Rowland Hill House as the neighbouring buildings appeared.

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The garden itself was redesigned in 2000. The traditional garden was left mostly alone, but the play area was now redesigned with a football pitch and new fencing.

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