COMMONLY thought of as the “most attractive of Oxford’s council-built estates”, Northway in Headington marks its golden anniversary today.
Residents past and present will gather for a two-day festival celebrating its past, and looking forward to an even better future.
Building of the Northway estate started 50 years ago, to provide homes for the county’s growing number of families.
Five hundred and seventy homes, shops, a church and community centre all sprang up along with Oxford’s first tower block, Plowman Tower.
This weekend, many of those early settlers, along with their later generations who have moved into Northway since, will gather to celebrate the estate, with a special reminiscences exhibition, a concert, a barbecue and a family sports day.
One of the event’s organisers, Nick Jackson, 38, explained: “The main thing you notice about Northway, is it seems to have a sense of community.
“People know each other and say hello on the street. There is a sense of peace and contentment here.
“Indeed, when I went door-to-door collecting people’s thoughts on the estate, the most common terms people came up with were, ‘quiet’, ‘friendly’ and ‘a lovely place to live’.
“We also collected some anecdotes, photos and memorabilia, particularly from those who have lived here since the estate was built. They told us about the Silver Jubilee parties, the building of the shops and of children playing on the grass.”
Former Oxford United footballer Cyril Beavon, now 73, has lived in Plowman Tower with his wife Jean for 40 years.
He said: “Back in the 60s and 70s footballers didn’t get the kind of money they do today, so when I finished playing for Oxford United – after 11 seasons – my wife and I put our names on the council waiting list.
“When we got the flat here they were about three years old and the place was like a hotel. In fact, people were giving up three bed houses for a flat here.
“Most of the families were about our age and had young children – we had two boys, including Stuart who went on to play for Tottenham Hotspur.
“It was lovely place to live. We would have drinks with our neighbours on the roof each week and even when I got an offer to manage Telford in the Midlands, we decided to stay here because we liked it so much.”
The idea of celebrating the Northway’s Golden Anniversary came about when people from Headington Baptist Church got together with people from Northway Evangelical Church.
Mr Jackson explained: “There is such a sense of belonging and history here, it should be celebrated, and in doing that, we could strengthen the sense of community even more.
“We hope this celebration will lead to an annual festival.”
As well as old photos, people have given their images of the Plowman Tower, their Silver jubilee photos and video diaries have also been filmed of people from the estate.
And children from New Marston Primary School in Copse Lane have given their thoughts to the exhibition – and will be taking part in the Old School Sports Day on Northway Sports Field on Sunday and the weekend’s concert and talent show.
Mr Jackson said: “There’s a lot to celebrate about life in Northway and we are looking forward to a great weekend followed by more celebrations in the future.”
“I love Northway and will live here until they carry me out in a box!”
Malcolm Baughan, 57, still lives in the same house in Gouldlands Gardens that his parents moved into when he was a newborn. Mr Baughan, right, who is Oxford City Council’s abandoned vehicles officer, said: “Our house had no heating except a fire in the front room and a boiler in the kitchen, but we loved it. “Growing up we had fields all around us, it was a like a giant playground. “I was the middle of five children and some of us would sneak into Plowman Tower when it was going up, to see what it was like.” Mr Baughan met his childhood sweetheart Jennifer Horwood at Northway Secondary Modern. They married and had three children and, while they are divorced, they are still friends and live close to each other. He said: “I love Northway and will live here until they carry me out in a box!”
"I will always feel attached to Northway, it is that kind of place"
PETER Dean, now 72 and a grandfather of 10, opened the estate’s first pharmacy ‘proper’ in ‘the parade’ in 1962. He said: “I came fresh out of university and took over from my parents, who had been running a drug store in the shop. I worked in conjunction with the surgery, which was only part-time in Northway, so I was relied on quite a lot by local people for help on medical matters.” Mr Dean, pictured above with current pharmacist Kate Lillee, added: “When I started I served young mums with their babies in prams and by the time I left, I was serving some of those babies with their babies! “In the early days people were still using products like Fynnon’s Salts, which were said to keep your system clean and prevent rheumatism. A little later came the oral contraceptive pill and an increase in childhood inoculations and people always wanted my advice. Looking back it was lovely to be part of such a close community and I remember the doughnuts from Berry’s Baker with particular fondness! I’m also very pleased to be part of the group organising the golden anniversary celebrations. “My family and I moved out to Holton near Wheatley in my later years, but I will always feel attached to Northway. It is that kind of place.”