Fort Ardwick - Coverdale Crescent Flats

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Manchester Council embarked on the huge task of demolishing thousands of slum dwellings and replacing them with modern homes with the kind of facilities that suited the modern age.  Residents of areas like Longsight, Beswick and Hulme were anxious to leave their decaying terraced houses with outside toilets and no bathrooms and exchange them for new council houses or flats.  One solution to the rehousing of huge numbers of people was to create new housing estates on the fringes of the city.  Within the city the solution often required accommodating large numbers of people on very small sites and as quickly as possible.  One answer was tower blocks built of modular concrete systems.  In Beswick and Ardwick complexes of "deck access" homes were erected using the Bison Wall Frame system.  In Ardwick the estate was located on Coverdale Crescent close to Hyde Road.  It was completed in 1972 and provided 500 homes for people displaced by the slum clearance program.

The Bison system was used in nearly 6000 flats in over 100 tower blocks around the country and was the most widely used system.  However, all did not go well.  Within a very short period of time it became apparent that the system had serious faults.  Water was leaking into flats through the roof, the steel fixings that held the prefabricated concrete elements together were corroding and the concrete was breaking away.

Only a few years after the Coverdale Crescent Flats were built the Council had to employ a firm of consultants to address the faults and they spent £60,000 to make emergency measures to bolt the concrete panels securely.  The estate had become known a "Fort Ardwick" reflecting the beliguered feeling of its occupants and the brutalistic appearence it presented to passers by. 

The local MP, Gerald Kaufman, said this of Fort Ardwick in the House of Commons in 1974, "The scale of the buildings is often daunting. I have in mind Fort Beswick and Fort Ardwick in my own constituency. The design is frequently all too forbidding. That is why the two estates are called "Forts". "I am on the Fort", constituents tell me. Such developments are often unsightly. The approaches are not attractively landscaped and are often strewn with litter and debris.

Refuse disposal is too often haphazard and infrequent, and this can lead to the proliferation of insects and vermin which are already fostered by design defects. There was a penetrating article recently in The Guardian pointing this out. The caretaker service often is insufficient to meet the needs, where the service exists at all. Too many developments in my own constituency and that of my hon. Friend have no caretaker service."

"...The despair of some tenants can be summed up in a remark made to me by a lady who lives on Coverdale Crescent, more commonly known as "Fort Ardwick", which is now perhaps the best known deck access development in Britain. A few weeks ago, on one of my visits to see the estate, I had a long discussion with a number of the residents. One of them said to me, "If Labour wins the election, it ought to do two things: abolish the House of Lords, and demolish Fort Ardwick."

Unfortunately the lady would have to wait a long time for her wish to come true.  The estate wasn't demolished until the late 1980s.  A new estate of houses was built along Coverdale Crescent in 1994.