Determined to alleviate the slums of Newcastle in the late 1950s, a progressive Labour council with Wilfred Burns and later T Dan Smith as Chairman of the Housing Committee commissioned eight point blocks (approximately 850 homes) in the West of Newcastle on a sloping site descending down towards the Tyne. Designed and built by Messrs. Leslie & Co ltd. using a Swedish modular pre-cast concrete frame design, work began on the towers in 1961. Favoured for their relative cheap pre-fabricated construction method the flats would come to show how ‘the planners ruled the city’ as residents where dispersed from the inner-city to its peripheries.
Yet by the early 1980s the buildings would become associated with anti-social problems eventually leading to the majority of them being redeveloped by the councils ‘arm’s length’ management company and a group of private housing developers. In return for the refurbishment some of the flats would be reprovided as affordable homes, whilst the remainder where sold off as private apartments.
In the mid-1990s Crudas Park towers would become fictionalised in Peter Flannerys multi-decade spanning (1964-1995) play Our Friends in the North. In the TV series Crudas Park was used to represent a high rise estate commissioned by the character Austin Donohue (a T Dan Smith-esque leader of the council) alongside shady investors and a Swedish construction company as the saviour of the citys housing problems. The towers reappears throughout the series, first as the luxurious first home of Tosker and Mary, and later as the deteriorating, damp high rise home of Nikki.
Watch the opening of the first housing ‘Sharp with the Flats’ (1963)
Image 1 copyright of the Tyne and Wear Archives
Image 2-3 copyright of Fintan Dawson
Image 4 copyright of Kay Williams through a Creative Commons licence