Council Estates Hoxton Mini Press

A new photo book captures the hidden beauty of council estates

Jack Young’s images of London’s historic council estates look to illustrate the value of places and communities that are too often dismissed, undermined and underfunded

Council estates in Britain were born in response to the slums of the Victorian era. The country’s first was the Boundary Estate in Shoreditch, which was built in 1900 by London County Council and provided as many as a thousand homes.

Now often in the hands of private owners or housing associations, historic council estates can be found all over the capital and come in an array of shapes and sizes – from tall towers to concrete crescents.

The Council House Hoxton Mini Press
Top: Trellick Tower; Above: Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate
The Council House Hoxton Mini Press
Trellick Tower

A digital product designer by day, Jack Young’s fascination with London’s council estates began with the multicoloured Modernist architecture of Golden Lane Estate, which he started exploring during his lunch breaks in 2018. Before long, his weekends were spent seeking out and documenting council buildings all over the city.

“Sometimes I would have a destination in mind, but more often I would simply set out from my own home on Camberwell’s Lettsom Estate, camera slung over my shoulder, hoping to discover something exciting; it was very rare that I didn’t. In my search I got to know London more intimately than ever, navigating its streets by the now familiar tower blocks on the skyline,” says Young.

The Council House Hoxton Mini Press
Holmefield House
The Council House Hoxton Mini Press
Dawson’s Heights

Shot over the course of three years, his striking photos formed the basis of Instagram account @thecouncilhouse and, most recently, a book of the same name, published by Hoxton Mini Press.

Celebrating over 60 of the capital’s most iconic council buildings, the book features original images, personal interviews and design details, along with architectural insights in an introduction by writer John Grindrod.

The Council House Hoxton Mini Press
Golden Lane Estate
The Council House Hoxton Mini Press
Cranbrook Estate

As he’s pursued his passion project over the last few years, Young has become increasingly aware that his enthusiasm for council housing isn’t universally shared, and says he is now well used to the confused stares of onlookers as he takes his photographs.

“That is really what has inspired this book. It is my hope that in showcasing and championing the beauty and intelligence in these buildings, I can help to restore some of the rightful pride that was once felt in them,” he explains.

“Many of the residents I met while taking these pictures invited me into their lives and their homes. The tales of community they told me often restored my faith in what can feel like a rather isolating city. As we bonded over our shared appreciation for their home (or they laughed at me as I obsessed over their ribbed-concrete staircase), their pride in these estates was joyfully clear.”

The Council House is published by Hoxton Mini Press; @thecouncilhouse