The early years:
1930s Heathview was built in 1938 (The same year that the neighbouring Parliament Hill Fields Lido opened). It was advertised as a “Luxury apartment block with central heating” - a new and rare feature in those days that caused a lot of extra work for the two porters as they had to 'coal' the boiler by hand once a day in the summer for hot water and twice daily during winter months when the heating was on. The original cast iron radiators still exist in most flats today.
There are currently 55 flats and one flat which is being used as an office. They were originally intended to be either one or two bedroom apartments, but original owner of Heathview changed his mind about the configurations of the block during construction, and converted a number of the one bedroom flats into studios. Thus creating some three bedroom flats for larger families and studio units for single people.
As part of the service provided the porter on duty went round the building with a bin early each weekday morning emptying the rubbish pails left outside the front door by the tenants. When not completing manual tasks, he was required when on duty, to wear a naval style uniform with a peak cap!
The front hall was lined with wood panelling. We have an entry system now but back then a phone box was situated near the front door. It was locked at 10pm each evening by the resident porter.
1950s In the 1950s Heathview was taken over by The Legal and General Assurance Society Ltd. who used it for their staff, while the top floor was mainly let to families attached to the Russian Trade Delegation on Highgate West Hill today. The children were bussed to and from a Russian school each day and once a year the resident porter received a visit from the British security services who asked all sorts of questions related to the activities of some of the top floor residents.
1970s Troubled Times: While Legal & General had initially provided their staff with long leases, they decided to sell Heathview to Stern Holdings in 1973. Stern Holdings was a property developer who specialised in asset stripping. Worried tenants realised they needed to organise themselves and formed the Heathview Tenant’s Association and one of the first chairs was Erwin Mehlem. The main concern of the Association was focused on dealing with the threat of selling off individual flats by the new landlord. Buying was not an option for many residents who were either retired or on modest fixed incomes. As the situation deteriorated with no resolution, maintenance of the building ground to a halt. Major works to the lift, boilers and windows plus tenant’s repairs were not carried out in the building which was sadly neglected. In 1975 Erwin stood down as chair and Terry Reynolds took over.
1976: Things continued to go from bad to worse. Stern Holdings went bust and Heathview with other properties fell into the hands of Slater Walker who were also only interested in selling the individual flats. However, their property empire also quickly collapsed and the liquidators Cork Gully were appointed to administer and sell off the Slater property portfolio. Cork Gully immediately declared their intention to sell off our flats as quickly as possible.
At this point two young solicitors living in the block [Stephen and Hilary Gerlis] put forward the idea of forming a Housing Co-operative. At the time both Camden and the Greater London Council [GLC] offered their support should the tenants decide they want to go ahead. Camden’s support was conditional on at least 75 per cent of the residents agreeing to the proposal. This was not immediately accepted as a way forward by a majority of tenants, especially those on long L&G leases! It took a lot of door knocking work by a hard core of Tenant Association Members to achieve this. Notably among the persuaders was one Cyril Barker a long term resident, former senior police officer and a staunch supporter of the Co-operative principles and values.
We got our 75 per cent, and following a deputation of members to the town hall in the autumn of 1976 Camden Council placed a Compulsory Purchase Order [CPO] on Heathview preventing the sale of individual flats and the building as a whole. Hilary Gerlis and Terry Reynolds plus representatives from Camden met with the liquidator and In August Heathview was able, with the help of Solon Housing Services [an established secondary Co-op], and a mortgage from Camden Council to purchase the block from Cork Gully for £166,000.
Shortly after the purchase of the block, Thames Television came to Heathview and filmed members in flat 13 [tenant Audrey Cole] planning the setting up of our Co-op. This was featured on the London programme a week later.
1977 Our Co-op was established in August of this year. The first management committee was elected and Alan Wheeler appointed as Housing Manager. Working parties were set up.
1978 The Housing Corporation agreed the first grant of £100,000 for general repairs and improvements to the block.
1980 Salcombe Lodge [opposite Heathview] was built on the site of the former Defoe Garage. Heathview lost its view of the Heath.
1983 Two terraced houses, No. 7 and 15 Gordon House Road were added to Heathview housing stock. Members built the garden shed located at the east end of the building.
1984 Peppercorn rent agreed with British Rail Estates for the Bin store Land, Bin area constructed.
1984 Co-op shop established. Manned by members, it originally opened on a Wednesday evening as well as Saturday and Sunday. It is now open on weekend mornings and tenant members are able to buy a wide range of household items at cost price.
1985 Community washing machine facility installed in the office of Flat 8.
1986 Patio and Terrace at east end of the building was built by members with help from friends and neighbours living in Gordon House Road.
1987 London Wildlife Trust with Co-op and Gordon House Road Residents help agree a licence with Mark Fitzpatrick Construction for the management of the land behind Heathview as a Nature Reserve. The nature reserve is protected by a covenant dating back to 1876.
2005 Scenes from the film Venus starring Peter O’Toole and Leslie Phillips were shot in Heathview and a large number of members enjoyed lunch at the Vine public house, Highgate Road on the strength of the proceeds.
2017 Heathview celebrates 40 years of being a housing co-operative!