Retro: Turbulent history of Corby’s Canada Square

The kingswood estate in corby when it was just built
The kingswood estate in corby when it was just built

It was the type of urban estate that everyone wanted to live on.

Modern and clean with public squares and open spaces – the Kingswood estate in Corby was designed with families in mind.

the kingswood estate in corby when it was first built

the kingswood estate in corby when it was first built

As it grew through the 1960s into the early 1970s, it became the most desirable area of the town.

But this week Canada Square, at the heart of the estate, will be demolished to make way for new housing.

Built by the Corby New Town Development Corporation, Kingswood encompassed the best in urban design and architecture and at that time would have been an example of the finest public sector housing.

The estate won many awards for its impressive Radburn-type housing.

canada square, corby, on the kingswood estate when it was first built

canada square, corby, on the kingswood estate when it was first built

The style was developed in New Jersey during the 1920s and meant that residents could benefit from large areas of communal open space and living areas separated from traffic.

Homes were constructed to generous space standards in close proximity to one another in an attempt to build strong communities.

Canada Square opened in the early 1970s. Former Kensington Walk resident Thom Stitt was there at the official opening.

He said: “It was officially opened by the Canadian High Commissioner. There were flags with the Canadian Flag and Union Jack on them and a plaque to commemorate the occasion.

“It was all very grand.”

Thom was about 12 at the time when Canada Square was opened in the 1970s. He has fond memories of growing up in the area.

He said: “It was beautiful.

“In the middle of the square was a pond with a huge ornamental fountain.”

Thom, who now works for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, was a paperboy working for Forbouys in Canada Square. He said: “I did it until they sacked me for being late!

“It was hard work being a paperboy in Corby because on a Sunday you had to do two rounds.

“The first was for the English papers and then later on the Scottish papers arrived on the train so you had to go back out and deliver them.”

Canada Square was the hub of estate life, which was exactly what the planners had envisaged.

It had several shops on its lower level and a pub, which was known by several names over its lifetime including The Leaf and The Square Peg.

Flats on its upper floors had balconies so children could shout across the square to one another.

For a time, the estate was a place where people were proud to call home.

But no sooner than the paint had begun to peel, than the cracks began to show in the flawed design.

The Corby of the 1980s was a different place to that of the previous two decades. After the steelworks closed drugs, anti-social behaviour and violent crime became a real problem on the Kingswood estate.

In April 1997, 13-year-old Louise Allen was kicked to death at Corby funfair.

Her killers – two girls aged just 12 and 13 – were members of the notorious Canada Square Girls, a gang of about 20 local teenagers who hung around the square.

They were jailed for two years but only served half of their sentence.

In the early 1990s Corby Council began a scheme to block up the estate’s alleyways to make it more difficult for criminals to run away from the police.

But the drug dealers had already moved in, driving away the respectable families who had once lived there.

Then in 2006, factory worker Raymond Hayes was brutally killed by Mark Inglis on playing fields just 100 yards from Canada Square. His girlfriend Danielle Bolton was also slashed with a knife.

Parts of the estate became a no-go area. Firemen were regularly called out and when they arrived their vehicles were pelted with missiles.

One house belonging to local drug dealers became known as Osama Bin Laden’s cave.

Corby Council then took decisive action. It drew up a plan for the estate, planning to demolish the worst areas and rebuild.

Canda Square residents were shipped out and the flats were boarded up.

In 2007 most of the notorious Lincoln Way was demolished to make way for new housing. Colyers Gardens was completed in 2011 and new families moved in.

The area was one of the first in Corby to employ neighbourhood wardens, community support officers and PCs to work together to tackle crime. CCTV was installed and motorcycle nuisance was tackled.

Earlier this year, Corby Council was given planning permission to demolish Canada Square to breathe new life into the area.

That demolition started earlier this week. The project is being run by Corby Council in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency, Lodge Park Partnership Homes Ltd and ASRA Housing Group.

There will be 36 homes built including 18 council houses scheduled to be completed in spring 2015.

Leader of Corby Council Cllr Tom Beattie said: “Canada Square was in desperate need of regeneration and we are very pleased to see the tired buildings begin to come down and make way for a new beginning.

“A lot of hard work and community involvement has been put in place to get us to this point so it is fantastic to start the ball rolling and begin providing the residents of Kingswood with another area which they can be proud of and which complements the regeneration that has already been completed in the community.”

Ground-breaking estate

The Kingswood estate was designed to be based in the ground-breaking Radburn community in New Jersey, USA.

Radburn was founded in 1929 as “a town for the motor age”.

Its planners, Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, and its landscape architect Marjorie Sewell Cautley aimed to incorporate modern planning principles, to separate traffic with a pedestrian path system that does not cross any major roads. Cul-de-sacs feature heavily.

Houses are built in ‘superblocks’ to make building them cheaper.