The Guinness Building Trust

The Guinness Building Trust  – Bermondsey

Bermondsey properties have such a rich architectural history. Yet, with busy lives, we walk past buildings every day – never thinking of the stories behind the walls. Two such places would be the original Page’s Walk and Snowfields in Bermondsey. Page’s Walk and Snowsfields started as two of the largest housing estates built by the Guinness Building Trust to help house many people in the 1890s. Both have since experienced war, demolition, and revitalization.

You don’t have to go far to hear fond memories of growing up in Page’s Walk or Snowsfields. So, let’s wander through history and explore one of our treasures. 

The Man Behind the Guinness Building Trust

Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, the great-grandson of Arthur Guinness (founder of the Guinness Brewery), formed the Trust. Sir Edward had a keen sense for business, becoming the richest man in Ireland and retiring by 40. He, like his father, contributed much wealth to his philanthropic efforts. Edward Cecil was known for contributing to medical and scientific research as well as social causes. His passion for revitalizing “slum” areas and creating affordable housing is what he is best known for.

Guinness' Trust Buildings - Snowsfields - Bermondsey

Guinness’ Trust Buildings – Snowsfields – Bermondsey


The Guinness Building Trust Project

In the mid to late 1900s, housing for the poor was unsafe, cramped, and dirty. Population growth and the need for a better alternative became a public concern. Edward Cecil recognized the situation could lead to crisis. So, he set plans in motion to create a trust to solve the problem of the lack of affordable housing. However, he wanted to create affordable housing that was safe, clean and gave hard-working people a sense of dignity.

The Trust eventually built eight estates with the largest in Bermondsey called Page’s Walk. The original structure of Page’s Walk had 457 tenements. The Trustees took steps to ensure the buildings were visually pleasing as well as safe and clean.

The Trust succeeded in providing more than a roof. It provided families with homes as well as a sense of community. Residents enjoyed the community spaces indoors and out to gather and play. They had access to books and hot water. Many male residents or husbands even offered jobs working for the Trust in building maintenance. In return, tenants had to follow a strict code of hygiene and moral principles.

Throughout the years, families came and went. The walls became shelter from air raids during WWII and a beacon of hope during desperate times. Many of the original structures are gone either through destruction, demolition, or ongoing revitalization. Such is the case for Page’s Walk. However, you can still visit Guinness Square at Page’s Walk and feel the sense of community that was born so many years before.

Snowsfields estate is more intact and currently marked for restoration and redevelopment.

Modern Day Page’s Walk in Bermondsey

Today, Page’s Walk and Snowsfields are still desirable places to live. While you may not find affordable communal living from the past, you will find modern flats with community spaces for gathering in a place like The School House. The old school supported families of Page’s Walk. Now, it serves as a coveted place to call home. The exterior remains with the red brick of the Guinness Building Trust’s past. However, the interiors are nothing but luxury.

The Guinness Partnership is working with Snowsfields residents to add 30 additional flats and homes to the estate and replace two missing storeys that were demolished in the 70s.

If you are interested in Page’s Walk or Snowsfields properties in Bermondsey, let Alex and Matteo be your guides! Alex and Matteo are experts in Bermondsey properties and never too busy to answer your inquiries. You can reach Alex or Matteo here.