Researching the Kenton Bar Estate

Alexandra Blaylock discusses her findings on the Ryder and Yeats Kenton Bar Estate, which features in Newcastle City Council's 100 years of council housing celebrations.

Ryder Architecture newsTo celebrate 100 years of council housing, Newcastle City Council has launched a national campaign looking at examples of council housing throughout the country, with activities including an exhibition, virtual exhibition, programme of films and series of talks. The Council approached Ryder to put some exhibition boards together as part of the wider north east exhibition.

I was delighted to be asked to research the Kenton Bar Estate for these exhibition boards, although I had little knowledge of the Ryder and Yates housing scheme. As a starting point, there was a series of high quality black and white images within Ryder’s digital archives. However, information was limited and research was needed to source further material.

Peter Buchan kindly provided a collection of 120mm film negatives which contained some of the plans, sections and elevations for the house types.  At a cost of £17 per negative, having them developed was going to be costly.  A trial with the lightbox, an iPhone and extensive use of Photoshop provided our own rudimental developing process.  Given the age and quality of the record images, it can only be expected that there would be a degree of graininess across the boards.

Kenton Bar
Kenton Bar

A visit to the local studies section of Newcastle City Library provided additional material.  One particularly keen staff member aiding my search was eager to tell me how awful the estate is.  He then informed me that his friend, a surveyor, had told him that not one flat roof on the estate had failed during surveying… perhaps a testament to early Ryder and Yates detailing?  The most successful find at the library was the original marketing material used to advertise the estate and list the weekly prices.

Kenton Bar
Kenton Bar
Kenton Bar
Kenton Bar original collage

A collage of the estate found in the local archives is a very different interpretation of the high resolution realistic visuals we produce today.  This is shown to the right.

To complement the images, a series of quotes were taken from Rutter Carroll’s Ryder and Yates book.  A personal favourite was the quote about the creation of a new kind of pub, which has potentially resonated to today’s ethos with a positive attitude towards families (and, of course, pubs):

“We are hoping to carry out an experiment for an absolutely new type of public house, which will really live up to its name, providing amenities for the whole family and not just for people who want to drink.”

The contemporary early Ryder and Yates style for housing, with flat roofs and repetitive street lines, can be seen throughout the industry today.  A clear example is a recent project from Proctor and Matthews which bears an undeniable resemblance to the Kenton Bar estate, albeit half a century later.

Gordon Yates described the Kenton Bar estate as being designed to appeal to a more professional class, looking for contemporary, considered housing designed around the 1960s way of life.  This ethos clearly continues today, with similar attitudes and thoughts about social and affordable housing being designed within Ryder.  Examples include Sembly and Future Homes.

Kenton Bar
Kenton Bar

Please look out for the upcoming celebrations across the region for 100 Years of Council Housing in the north east.  The Ryder boards will be up at the Kenton Bar Library until the end of September and there are various events happening across the city until the end of the year.

Find out more: Newcastle City Council

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