In 1848 Slade green was a village of just 66 people.
What is now Slade Green consisted of two isolated agricultural communities of Slade Green (formerly Slades Green or Slads Green) and Northend, with most land belonging to either the Howbury Manor or Newbery Manor, and was referred to locally as ‘Cabbage Island’ because of the market gardens that lay between the part of Whitehall Lane that is now Moat Lane and Slade Green Lane (now Slade Green Road).
Slade Green is situated on the South Bank of the Thames; Slade Green is now mainly a residential area with a mixture of social housing and privately owned properties, many in the private rent sector. It is geographically isolated from the rest of the London Borough of Bexley by road, rail and large derelict industrial sites. Practical amenities are poor; there is high unemployment, a low skills base and a high incidence of anti-social behaviour. Despite this, community activity is vigorous and the Howbury Centre (formerly a secondary school) currently acts as the hub for charities and a library. There are three primary schools, Slade Green Infants, Slade Green Juniors and Pearswood School. There are two churches, one pub, an old community centre, a pop in parlour, Sure Start and two social clubs.
There are few shopping facilities with Londis, a pharmacy, newsagents, a Chinese takeaway and a café sitting in the heart of the community. With 8 other shops and 3 takeaways scattered in Lincoln Road, Bridge Road, Manor Road and Northend Road. Most residents travel to Erith, Dartford or Bexleyheath to get their weekly shopping as there are no large supermarkets in Slade Green.
There is one dentist and one doctor’s surgery which are both overstretched but when asked if they would like any more facilities placed in the area by the NHS when regeneration started, they both stated that they can cope with new residents. Original residents doubt this as they struggle to get appointments with some residents travelling outside of the area for treatment.
Slade Green has a village feel, with strong community groups working well together to provide a hub of activities that draw in local people of all ages and ethnicities, it is one of the most deprived areas in London (Index of Multiple Deprivation 2011).The demographic is mainly white British, with a high increase of other ethnicities, especially Black African and Eastern European, over the past five years. There are a high proportion of single parent families on low incomes and many residents have low literacy and qualification levels. There are pockets of older residents who are unusually active in community life. Residents feel the area “isn’t what it used to be”, and are suspicious of change and there is a rift between Bexley Council and residents who feel they are forgotten and neglected by the Council. Low land values akin to northern England rather than London and poor transport infrastructure deter private sector investment.
In February 1924 The Slade Green Filling Factory, situated midway between Erith and Dartford on Crayford Marshes, was the scene of a terrible disaster in which eleven girls and a foreman lost their lives. Between 8.45 and 9 o’clock the girls were working at breaking open Verey light cartridges and extracting powder, there was a sudden flash and in a moment the building of brick and corrugated iron was an inferno of smoke and fire. As the fire reached the unopened cartridges they exploded, appearing like stars among the smoke.
Eleven of the 18 girls were trapped by the fire. Miss Charlotte Coshall, the forewoman and seven of the remaining girls managed to get out of the building, some with their clothes alight. The awful suddenness of the catastrophe and the smoke and fumes prevented any possible chance of rescue.
The Slade Green Filling Factory was originally munition works under Government control but more recently has been used by Messrs WB.Gilbert Ltd for the breaking down of munitions. The factory consists of a number of buildings, all separate from each other and reached from Slade Green by a narrow winding road over the marshes. Close to it on the Erith side are the Thames Ammunition works.
Questions were asked in parliament regarding the accident, put to the first ever labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Viscount Phillip Snowden under Ramsay McDonald.
When help eventually arrived only one girl was alive, Miss Edna Allen, and she was terribly burned. She was taken to Erith Cottage Hospital but died during the night. Below is a picture of the mass grave provided for the victims.
The manor belonged to the Bishop of Bayeux, a half-brother to William the Conqueror, at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086. By the 12th century a moated manor house stood on the location of the ruins we see today. In the 15th century, the manor was held by an official in the courts of
Henry V and Henry VI. The house was rebuilt a number of times but the site was abandoned in the 1930s. The adjacent 17th century Howbury Tithe Barn is a listed building.