'Where slums stood - a small paradise', ran one headline in the local press in April 1969.

The newly opened St Cuthbert's Village in Gateshead, with its 'most up-to-date council houses' would provide folk in the town with accommodation fit for the late 20th century.

With worn-out Victorian terraced housing stock coming down across Tyneside, these new three-bedroom properties in covered streets were seen as the way forward.

The housing complex was built on the steep North-facing incline of Windmill Hills overlooking the Tyne.

Back in time, there had indeed been windmills here, the last one closing around 1890. And the area had also been a place for outdoors entertainment and leisure, with a Whitsuntide hoppings taking place in 1829.

St Cuthbert's Village replaced Victorian-era streets - with names like Hood Street, Robert Street and Mary Street - that straddled Askew Road, and by the 1960s were deemed as slums and earmarked for demolition.

Work began in July 1967. Gateshead Council's main contractor was Stanley Miller. The cost of the project was £3.5m, and it would provide homes for 3,500 Gateshead folk.

The new estate was a self-contained complex of 39 low and medium-rise concrete-built housing blocks linked by a maze of walkways and stairways around open communal areas. The focal point of the estate was a 17-storey tower block.

In the event, the well-intentioned, ambitious development would last little over quarter of a century.

The village was formally opened by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson on April 17, 1970. Mr Wilson was presented with an engraved silver Lindisfarne tankard, along with a bound copy of Scott Dobson’s ‘Larn Yersel Geordie’. There was also a reception held at Gateshead’s Shipley Art Gallery.

St Cuthbert's Village, Gateshead, 1979

But problems arose quickly.

A report by English Heritage (Historic England) later pointed out how “the houses were occupied long before any amenities were provided and residents said they felt marooned”.

It added that the close proximity of flats led to “squabbles and feuds while much of the estate became a haven for rats and vandals”.

The cheaply-built mass-produced homes were often “cold and damp”, while in some properties “there was no ventilation in the sculleries so food rapidly went bad”.

By the 1980s, St Cuthbert’s had a reputation as a location rife with anti-social behaviour and deprivation. In 1995, the last of the 470 flats was demolished, although the tower block, St Cuthbert’s Court, remains today.

Nostalgia factbox image

Sign up to receive our free Nostalgia emails from ChronicleLive. Three times a week you'll receive an email with some of our fantastic nostalgia content.

It takes just seconds to sign up, just click here, enter your email address and follow the instructions.

Don't worry if you change your mind. You can 'unsubscribe' using the link at the bottom of every newsletter we send out.

Ironically, other high-rise developments Stanley Miller built for both Gateshead and Newcastle councils would stand the test of time - including those at Harlow Green, Allerdene, Beacon Lough East, Regent Court in Gateshead – and Jesmond Vale and Shieldfield in Newcastle, albeit with modernisation and some re-cladding.

In Gateshead, where troubled St Cuthbert’s Village once stood, Modern Persimmon homes now occupy the land.

Check out our Memory Lane local history website that's packed with archive photographs and has an easy-to-use picture colourisation tool.