You would have needed a crystal ball in 1952 to predict the extraordinary transformation that awaited the East End. In the year the Queen ascended to the throne, London's docklands was bombed out and clapped out, down on its uppers — even the legendary Cockney spirit of its inhabitants was stretched to its limit.
How things have changed. Today, the East End heartland is arguably London's most vibrant quarter and, still relatively low priced, a popular hunting ground for first-time buyers. Away from the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf, the arty lofts of Hoxton and gentrified pockets around Victoria Park, homes are still affordable enough to keep the property dreams of young Londoners alive, especially with shared-ownership options lowering the entry price.
New homes are sprouting up in Limehouse, Bethnal Green, Haggerston, Mile End and Bow — all rough-and-tumble inner-city areas but colourful and cool, too.
Canning Town used to be the sort of place outsiders described as "close knit" — a gritty, working class district famous for brawny dockers and boxing clubs. For years it languished outside the property market. Developers feared to tread, deterred by sprawling council estates and the bleak landscape. But council-backed regeneration is transforming the scene and the area is being touted as a new hotspot.
Sandwiched between Canary Wharf and Stratford, the location cannot be ignored. Transport-wise it is one of the most under-used hubs in London. On the Jubilee line, it also has a DLR station and a whacking great bus station.
Newham council's ambitious £3.7 billion masterplan includes bulldozing outdated local authority homes and collaborating with private developers and housing associations to build up to 10,000 new mixed-tenure ones, revitalising the town centre, providing a new school, public library and other community facilities.
Vermilion is the first housing project — 271 homes, part of a bigger 650-home scheme focused around revitalised Rathbone Market, one of the East End's oldest. Much is being made of its "sustainable" architecture, which includes green (planted) walls and roofs that drain rainwater into a high-tech watering system feeding fountains, ponds and multi-level communal eco gardens, and encouraging habitats for bird species that nest around the River Lea and the Thames.
Residents will have exclusive use of private allotments on site. Most of the homes are in a 21-storey tower with colourful cladding. Prices start at £199,950. Notting Hill Housing is managing 103 of the homes, 28 of which are for shared ownership. Call Hamptons International on 020 7758 8481 or visit vermilionlondon.co.uk.
East City Point is another Canning Town scheme making a difference. One-bedroom apartments are priced from £160,000. Call developer Countryside on 020 7437 1198. Affinity Sutton housing association is offering "Rent4Less" homes at the development. Rents, from £600 a month, are set at 20 per cent below market value to enable tenants to save a deposit in order to buy the home within a five-year period. Call 0300 100 0303.
Chrisp Street, in Poplar, also has a famous market square, created for the Festival of Britain in 1951. The square will be at the heart of another major regeneration scheme that aims to establish a new food shopping destination for east London as well as bringing a mix of private affordable homes.
Nearby, developer Bellways' New Festival Quarter seeks to pick up on the optimism and spirit of the 1951 exhibition, which promoted new thinking in design, science, technology and transport. At the time, a "Live Architecture" pavilion focusing on town planning and the built environment was erected at Poplar as part of the Festival. The development is in postcode E14, close to Canary Wharf. Prices from £239,950. Call 0845 459 5020.
Shared ownership flats are available through Family Mosaic housing association. "We're taking shared ownership to a new level of desirability and style," says Lauren Nicholson, head of marketing. Prices start at £76,125 for a 35 per cent share (full price, £217,500). Call 020 7089 1315.