Monday, 18 August 2014

Tory Prime Minister opens Greenwich Housing Estate

Prentiss Court is now an estate of Council owned housing standing at the bottom of Charlton Lane, just south of the level crossing.  It was originally company housing built for the employees of Harveys, metal fabrication company, based in the Woolwich Road. 
Here is the report of its opening taken from Harvey's Company magazine December 1952

ON Friday 3rd October, Prentiss Court, an extension to our Harvey Gardens Housing Estate, was opened by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, The Rt. Hon. Harold Macmillan, M.P.
Mr. H. T. Eatwell, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, opened the proceedings by welcoming the guests, and mentioning the Company's appreciation of the fact that the Minister of Housing and Local Government had come to perform the opening ceremony.
“It has long been the policy of our Chairman, Mr. Sydney Harvey, and the Directors," said Mr. Eat well, "to take a practical interest in the well-being of our employees. We already have some hundreds of houses and this extension provides for another 32 employees and their families. This is an example of what private enterprise can do. It is, of course, paid for in full by the Company.
The project has only been made possible by the help and co-operation of the Minister's Department, the Local Authority, the Architects, the Surveyors, and the Contractors and their workers, and I wish to take this opportunity to thank them and congratulate them on the results of their united efforts. One of the most notable facts about this estate is that by the efficiency and enterprise of the Con- tractors and the willing production of the workers, these dwellings have been completed at an average rate of one every ten days.
You will all like to know why this Estate has been called Prentiss Court. During the war, Dr. Howard Prentiss came to us after a distinguished career, as our first Medical Officer. Not only did he give magnificent medical attention to our employees, but by his cheerful example and Christian charity, became a firm friend and mentor to us all. I am sorry to say that after a brief retirement, Dr. Prentiss passed on in 1951. All who knew him feel that these fine fiats and houses are a fitting memorial to such a wise counsellor and good friend."
 In concluding, Mr. Eatwell mentioned that in the piping days of peace and plenty it was the custom to present a gold key to the person officiating at a ceremony such as this. It was felt, however, that as the main material used in our Works is steel, it is fitting that this key is also made of Good British Steel. The Minister was then asked to accept the key for the purpose of opening Prentiss Court.
In his reply the Minister said-" This is a very unique occasion and one which it is a great honour to me to be asked to attend. It is unique because it represents a very special effort over a long period of years by the great and well-known firm who have built these flats and houses. G. A. Harvey are known the world over. They represent all the best of the old and the new; they are an old family business still conducted' by the family of the founder and they have all the new modern outlook that we connect with the most go ahead methods. Perhaps I may be allowed to share a little in the sense of honour that is done to a family business, because I have myself the honour of being the third generation of my own family business, founded by my grandfather and now carried on by my son. There is, I think, something that the special relationships of family business still have to give in the daily life of industry; they have a sense of comradeship and partners together in a great enterprise, and certainly Harvey's have shown that, not only now but for many years.
As you said, Mr Chairman, this new effort is only an extension of a long tradition of the Company of providing homes - for their employees, in addition to the several hundred homes which you have already provided his makes a new departure and a new effort.
I was interested to hear of the long traditions surrounding this site. I had been an ecclesiastical property, passed to a railway and then became a pumping station, but anyway it is, now revived and restored to a very fine purpose, and I do not think you can find anywhere anything more beautifully designed or better adapted than these buildings which we are to open today.
I am very glad that you have introduced the variation. I open a great number of flats, a certain number of houses, but I always like to have a mixture of houses, maisonettes and flats which breaks the rather tedious character when you get too much the same, and 1 am sure in our modern planning the more variation we can get the better it is. Here on this fine site you have provided in the most modern wav a very remarkable series of dwellings.
These 32 dwellings are the last addition to what you have already done. I am sure that everybody concerned, Mr. Chairman, shares in the thanks and gratitude which we owe to your great Company, and I am sure everybody concerned feels that it is this kind of development, closely associated with industry, which has a great part to play in the housing drive. Everyone has a part to play. There is a great work to be done. Much has to be done and perhaps the greater part must for a long time fall on the direct efforts of the local authority, but much has to be done also by private effort and private enterprise. There is in my view no conflict between these two conceptions. Hand in hand, each has a part to play in the fulfilment of this housing drive, with which we must press forward so long as we have the power and solvency to do it. In so doing we make by far the greatest contribution to the people as a whole.
There are many things we would like to have in our lives and many pleasures and benefits we hope to obtain. I think the home is always the first and most vital of all things. It is the very basis of life itself in any State; it is the basis of the family, just as the family itself is the basis of the nation, and it is by this joint effort by the local authority, by go ahead firms, by private enterprise, by individual effort by individual people that we shall in due course get on top of this great problem.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chairman, it is my privilege to take this key with which to open the dwelling which is to be the symbolic opening to-day, and to join with you and pray that all who live now and in the future in these 32 dwellings may have happy and useful lives; that all who live there may be happy themselves and spread happiness among all with whom they work, and may God's blessings rest upon Prentiss Court and upon all those who dwell therein."
After the Minister's speech Mr. Eatwell called upon the Vicar of the Parish, within which the Estate lays, The Reverend G. E. Saville, to offer a prayer.
The Mayor of Greenwich (Councillor Harry Ingle, J .P.), with whom was the Mayoress, expressed his pleasure at being associated with a scheme aimed at improving the housing schemes of the borough. The difficulty to-day was that there were too many housing applicants chasing too few dwellings, and a second difficulty was that the' council had to see that its energies were devoted to providing accommodation for those in urgent need, sometimes to the exclusion of those who by reason of their employment desired to live in close proximity to their work, and for that reason the council appreciated the efforts of Messrs. Harvey.
Following the opening of the front door or Flat No. 16, the Guests inspected the flat and made a tour of the rest of the Estate, paying particular attention to the Communal Laundry where a demonstrator was able to point out the facilities available.
The whole party then adjourned to the Works for tea.
Among the guests were: Mrs. Howard Prentiss ; Miss Marguerite Harvey; Mr. and Mrs. A. S. Charlton, Director of Housing-The Ministry of Housing and Local Government; Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Jennings, Borough Engineer and Surveyor for Greenwich; Mr. and Mrs. F. H. Dore, Housing Manager-Borough of Greenwich; Col. and Mrs. S. M. Roberts, Chairman, "Local Housing Association"; Chief Supt. H. N. Arber and Mrs. Arber, Chief Supt., "R" Division, Metropolitan Police; Mr. H. W. H. Icough, Leader of Greenwich Borough Council; Mr. and Mrs. Peter J ones; Mrs. Bushell ; Mr. H. B. Fergusson, Senior Director, G.A.H.; Mr. and Mrs. G. C. Harvey, Director, G.A.H.; Mr. and Mrs. H. E. Cooper, Director, G.A.H.; Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Howes, Architect; Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Jackman, Architect; Mr. W. T. Watson, London Manager-Sir Robert Me Alpine & Sons, Ltd.; Mr. and Mrs. Stewart W. Cox, Chief Engineer-Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons, Ltd.; Mr. and Mrs. W. Pitcher, Engineer Agent- Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons, Ltd.; Mr.A. E. J ones, Site Foreman-Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons, Ltd. Miss Morley and Mr. Garland, representing the Staff ; Mr. Robbins, representing the Foremen; and Mr. Heale and Mr. Stevens, Chairman and Secretary (respectively) of the Shop Stewards.

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