YouTube clip also available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-jNMS0hVVc
Who remembers Mary, Mungo and Midge? I’d always thought it was in black and white, and this YouTube is the first time I have ever seen it in colour! Richard Baker narrated the stories in his very deep voice, about Mary, who lived with her dog and pet mouse, in a large sunny room in flat right at the top of the building. As far as I know, it’s the first children’s programme was set in an urban tower block. Every episode starts the same way, and always has flute paying Midge the mouse standing on Mungo’s nose to press the button to call the lift to descend from top to ground floor. Living in flats was presented as healthy; airy with lots of space and good amenities.
Mary and Mungo and Midge was produced by he BBC in 1969, the year after of the Ronan Point gas explosion. Living in flats as a new utopia of urban living was already starting to be questioned. Park Hill at Sheffield– England’s first large scale concrete high rise flats estate completed in 1961 – had re-engineered ideals of Le Corbusier’s vision of Unités d’Habitation alongside the Smithsons’ Streets in the Sky. This English Heritage film about Park Hill helps us understand what the planners were trying to achieve in these vast new estates.
Many more high rise estates were to follow to replace areas of older housing (including at Stonebridge Park, see previous blog). In 1969, Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower was still under construction. Even by the early 1970s some early problems were emerging with some of these new estates. It was then a long time into the future until Alice Coleman’s Utopia on Trial (1990) was to coin the idea of ‘design disadvantagement’ across a range of built environments.
This week I have been promoted to blog on a variety of flats (as new build/conversion/affordable/luxury apartment/penthouses etc), by – of all things – a trip to the Emirates Stadium as well as a walk around to corner to the old Highbury stadium. I hadn’t been expecting to see a block of flats immediately opposite the ‘new’ stadium, and was told that they had been built for Key Workers, required as part of the overall stadium redevelopment by Islington Council.
At the Emirates museum, I was particularly interested in the history of the Woolwich Arsenal, having spent many years on and off living, studying and working around the area. The Woolwich munitions workers founded the football club in 1886, moving to Highbury in 1913. It’s hard to imagine the scale of the Royal Arsenal in the past and the continuing change in the area. Close by is the Well Hall / Progress Estate, started during WW1 to house the munitions workers, each house being different, before flats (and uniformity?) were commonplace. Click here and here.
Anyway, back to Highbury and the old Arsenal Stadium stands opening in 1932, now Grade II listed, and in beautiful art deco style. Current use? Highbury Stadium Square N5 is being converted into luxury apartments, apparently, the old football pitch as the centre piece communal garden. I searched sales prices and the first one popped up being a 2 bedroom apartment in April 2017 offered at £745,000. Clearly neither affordable for most of us, and certainly not for Key Workers.
During our visit, the frontage was covered in scaffolding, so it was hard to see the Gunners symbol and much of the deco structure, but for now to glimpse the fabulous entrance door in elegant deco style, see my gallery.
Retaining heritage is an important element in regeneration, but so is ensuring a supply of secure and affordable places for people to live and thrive. There is always a balance between investment and outcomes and I for one continue to learn about creative ways in which people are – and could be – housed and with what enormous variety of buildings.