First decade: 1964-1974

A time for change

The 1960s was a decade of huge change. The “swinging ’60s” saw individuals throw off the shackles of post-war conformity and express their individuality.

The Beatles arrive at JFK Airport
The Beatles arrive at JFK Airport©

People’s aspirations and optimism were growing. The younger generation was swept up in the fervour fuelled by four mop-topped musicians from Liverpool as Beatlemania helped release the frustrations built up through the post-war austerity of the ’50s.

Focus on housing

With a change of Government - the Profumo scandal led to Harold Macmillan’s Conservatives losing the 1964 election to Harold Wilson’s Labour Party - came a new focus on housing provision.

Wilson was determined the provision of new housing stock should keep pace with individual demand. During his time in office he accelerated the building of new houses resulting in 1.3 million new homes being built, and council housing increased to 50% of the total.

Underpinning this was the Housing Act 1964 which was set up to help housing societies to provide housing, and the Housing Corporation that funded new, affordable housing and regulated England’s housing associations.

Derwent Housing Association is formed

It was against this backdrop of change, optimism and increasing individual freedom that, on May 22, 1964, The Derwent Housing Association was formed.

Through the newly established Housing Corporation, the 1964 Housing Act aimed to help housing societies to provide accommodation. It also reinforced the role of local authorities in using central funding to improve and expand their housing stock.

The Derwent Housing Association Ltd was registered with the Housing Corporation on May 22, 1964.

Founding figures

The organisation was founded by local building society manager Eric Naylor and solicitor Herbert Brewer. The original registration documents show them alongside other members of the committee who possessed a range of skills, knowledge and experience to help the association through its formative years.

Completing the committee were AS Bellinger, JR Clark and Colin Beardmore.

Affordable in a crisis

Derwent CourtNearly four years after its formation, Derwent (now called Derwent Housing Society Limited) delivered the first tangible results. In April 1968, Derwent Court - a development of 21 houses - was opened at Findern Lane in Willington. The significance of the project was emphasised by the presence of chairman of the Housing Corporation, Sir Casper John to officially open the scheme.

With its commitment to making the homes affordable to as many people as possible, the rents at Derwent Court ranged from £4 5s a week to £4 11s at a time when average wages were around £25 a week. The need to set affordable rents was all the more neccesary due to the worsening economic situation.

A huge national deficit and the strain of the Suez Crisis eventually contributed Harold Wilson to go against his own pledge and devalue the pound, immediately making imported foods and goods more expensive. Increased taxes and a wage freeze increased the pressure on people’s pockets and led to Wilson’s defeat in 1970.

But the Government commitment to housing policy and the Housing Corporation remained, providing a third of the capital for the Derwent Court project.  The other two thirds were borrowed from the Derbyshire Building Corporation, to be repaid over 40 years.

Paving the way

Thompson and Partners offices 24A Iron GateDespite the economic uncertainty Derwent Housing pressed ahead, delivering 350 homes at Alvaston and the same number at Spondon in the following years, followed quickly by Shrewsbury and Chatham.

Derwent Housing was also in the process of finding a new home for itself. Full-time headquarters weren't neccessary in the early years as it was focused on securing funding, but in 1969 Thompson and Partners made the move to a former draper’s premises at 24A Iron Gate.

Derwent Housing retained its close links with the estate agents by operating out of upstairs offices within the building – this wasn’t always so convenient as Society staff had to vacate their offices every six weeks when property auctions were staged there!

Foundations laid for a bright future

As the 1960s gave way to the ‘70s the country entered another period of change and challenges. Ted Heath’s Conservative administration was preparing to take the dramatic step of doing away with the old sterling denominations and replacing it with decimal currency as a stepping stone to forging stronger links with Europe and other economies.

But amid all this upheaval Derwent Housing had established its place as a provider of low-cost rented and co-ownership housing - and was about to spread its wings with a period of major expansion.