Revisiting Montagu Court – A Concrete Community

Back in the 1960s, when Waring & Netts were leading the design of many residential properties across the Newcastle area, and Rob Charlton, now Space’s Chief Executive, was a small boy, his granddad was a site agent overseeing the construction of one of those residential schemes. The scheme, on the edge of the city centre, looking down over the Town Moor, was Montagu Court. Little did he know then, that taking his grandson with him one day to see the block of new luxury flats being built, would become a pivotal moment for Rob growing up, inspiring his ambition to become an architect.

Because of this, Montagu Court has always held a special interest for Rob and so we decided to revisit the building in 2022, to see how it’s stood the test of time to remain one of the most iconic buildings in the Newcastle Gosforth region.

Ian, a resident of Montagu Court and active member of its Building Management Committee, kindly welcomed us into his home and agreed to show us around the property. The pride and passion Ian exudes for his home is compelling. Now retired, after enjoying a career in architecture and town planning, Ian describes Montagu as “the best flats in Newcastle.” He tells us too, how people love living there, and, whilst he has lived there for a comparatively short seven years, there are still people living there who bought their apartments ‘off plan’ before they were constructed.

Almost sixty years on from the days when Leonard Netts first sketched the building on his drawing board, Montagu Court, standing tall and proud, overlooking the Town Moor, still boasts some of the best views of any city residence, paired with enviably spacious interiors that – in our humble opinion - remain unrivalled by any twenty-first century-built apartments in the vicinity.

Ian’s apartment is located in the ‘Y’ shaped tower of the building. The first thing that strikes us, once inside the apartment, is the amazing amount of space and light inside all of the rooms. It was a bright sunny day when we visited Montagu, making the views from the apartment’s huge, floor to ceiling windows even more enjoyable. Then the peace and quiet registers. We’d never think we were in a block of flats with people above and below us. Everything feels solid.

A comparison of two typical Montagu apartments – both with identical footprints, demonstrates the timeless design of the concrete slab structure and how it’s enabled residents to personalise their homes to suit different lifestyles. One has had a secondary, interior lobby added. A study and dining space, benefiting from a huge picture window, has been cleverly created with a partition built between it and the living area. A new entrance to the kitchen leads off this room. The bedrooms retain their original position at the opposite side of the apartment - a purposeful design choice, placing them away from the lobby and lifts. In the other apartment, the vast, original, open plan design, merging living and dining spaces, remains. Glazed doors have been added to provide physical separation between the kitchen and living room but allowing light to still flood through. The bedrooms have been tweaked to repurpose one as a laundry room and enable addition of an extra ensuite to another. Both homes boast extensive balconies so the residents can enjoy the outdoors.

What’s also hugely evident from our visit – and arguably more important than the building fabric itself, is the sense of community that exists among Montagu residents. Ian tells us about the Montagu approach to decision-making, where every resident is given a vote on any proposals for future maintenance and improvements to communal areas of the development. He explains how the democratic approach has led to successful investments to renew the complex’s garage roofing, rejuvenate the shared lobbies, enhance external landscaping, and a structural strengthening programme to embed modern steel and neoprene wall ties to ensure Montagu remains safe and sturdy for at least another 250 years.

Although by then, we’re pretty confident we’ll not be around to revisit Montagu, we hope people go on taking inspiration from the older buildings around us and use this insight to continue creating communities where, in Ian’s words, “people love being”.

*Our thanks to Montagu Court residents Ian, Roger and Angela, who kindly showed us around their beautiful homes, which really helped us appreciate the property’s timeless design.

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