Blighted legacy of industrial past;Local authorities

Ruth Brown

HACKNEY is trying to shake off its 1980s reputation as the most impoverished area in Europe, but the borough's association with deprivation goes back much further than that.

The gentrified, largely rural area of the late 1700s was transformed a century later into an over-populated, industrial maelstrom.

Distress committees were set up in 1905 to fight the "widespread" joblessness and the Shoreditch health committee noted in 1910 that temporary and chronic cases of poverty were numerous and "without official remedy".

In contrast, the relatively wealthy suburbs of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill flourished as domestic suburbs for middle-class clerks who worked in the city.

Hackney has long been a magnet for immigrants. In the Victorian era a large German quarter existed and a community of Orthodox Jews settled early on in Stamford Hill.

More recent arrivals includethose from the Caribbean and Africa along with Bangladeshi, Indian, Chinese and Turkish communities. There are now more than 100 languages spoken in the borough's schools, many brought by the thousandss of refugee children, including Kurds and Somalis, who arrive each year.

Stamford Hill and Stoke Newington have lost much of their former gentility but still house middle-class Londoners, particularly young professionals.

The London borough of Hackney was created in 1965 when its population had already fallen sharply. In 1911 central Hackney was home to 222,500 people but by 1951 the whole borough's population was only 265,349. It continued to decline and by 1996 was 193,843.

In the mid-1980s Hackney won the bleak distinction of being the most impoverished area in Europe for several years running, taking into account various indicators of deprivation.

Hackney's first OFSTED report two years ago noted that in 1993 a third of all Hackney households lived on a gross income of under pound;5,000. The average national income was then pound;11,900, while the average for inner-cities was pound;19,700.

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Ruth Brown

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