Celebrating 50 years of the Meriden Estate
“Another excellent estate is that at Meriden. Here, houses of several designs and types have been built in a setting where open spaces have been created and many fine trees left standing to add a natural touch to the scene. It is on this estate that the council has built the town’s first multi-storey blocks of flats. These well-designed blocks have become landmarks on the town’s northern side and, of course, they give tenants not only every amenity of modern living but also a superb view out into the countryside around the town.”
– Watford Local Directory 1967
Abbey View and Munden View towers as they are today
October 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Abbey View and Munden View tower blocks on the Meriden Estate, so we celebrated a half-century of these iconic Watford landmarks.
Visitors to the our office, Gateway House on Clarendon Road, were able to view information on the history of the towers and the surrounding area, ‘then’ and ‘now’ comparisons, and a display showcasing some of the press coverage given to the blocks over the years – particularly around their initial design and construction in the 1960s. They also enjoyed themed activities such as wordsearches and discovered more about the our plans to breathe new life into the Meriden with new homes and other improvements to the surrounding area currently in the pipeline.
The Meriden has a rich and vibrant history, and was first purchased by the Acquisition of Land Housing Committee on 12th June 1952, for a sum of £7,291, with a view to developing new homes.
It wasn’t until 1953 that the area took its current moniker. It was originally known as the Munden Estate, but was changed at the request of Lord Knutsford, as this was also the name of his own estate and lands. After a consultation with the Borough Librarian, it was agreed that the new estate would be known as Meriden, reverting back to the name the area had formerly been known by in centuries past.
The very next year saw the appointment of the first contractors to work on the Meriden – Messrs A. E. Islip were contracted to build 60 new homes, with construction beginning in December 1954.
It wasn’t until 10 years later in 1964, however, that construction began on the Abbey View and Munden View tower blocks, and although they now dominate the Watford skyline, and are instantly recognisable to locals, they were originally going to be quite different, with early plans calling for four 12-storey towers to be built. These plans went through a number of changes in the years between the initial planning and construction, with 11-, 12- and 15-storey blocks being proposed before the final decision was taken to have 17 storeys.
The proprosed design for four tower blocks. Construction almost complete on the first tower
It was Truscon Ltd. of London SE1 that were awarded the contract, having submitted the lowest tender in the amount of £729,849 3s 8d. To put this figure into context, it is equivalent to just under £14 million in today’s money, which gives a sense of just how ambitious and remarkable the project would have been at the time.
It wasn’t until 28th February 1966, just a few short months before completion and the first residents moving in, that the towers were given the names Munden View and Abbey View in homage to Lord Knutsford’s original Munden Estate, and due to the spectacular view of St. Albans Abbey to the east.
The construction was not all plain-sailing though, with the project costing more than the initial estimate and overrunning by several months. Munden View and Abbey View were officially opened on October 10th and 31st respectively, and the first residents were welcomed into their new homes.
Fast-forward 50 years and the Meriden is still going strong, having been a home and community for thousands of people over that time, and Watford Community Housing is proud to continue to develop and make improvements to the Meriden Estate, to ensure the next 50 years are just as prosperous and rewarding for our residents.
Our staff and distinguished guests abseiling down the Munden View tower block for charity in September 2012