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The current regeneration work started in Hardwick in 2005. However, Endeavour Housing Association, part of North Star Housing Group, has been working in Stockton on Tees since the early 1970s, producing high quality refurbished and new homes in partnership with Stockton Borough Council and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
Angela Lockwood, North Star’s chief executive, said: “The regeneration work at Hardwick is seeing the area developed for today’s lifestyle, with modern family homes available for rent and sale with good local amenities and links. These homes are great news for residents of Stockton, so when we decided to take a look back over Hardwick’s history, we thought who better to talk to than the experts – the local people who have lived, worked and grown up there.”
Having lived in Hardwick for over 50 years, local resident Edna Dixon now resides at North Star’s award winning Aspen Gardens. Now 89-years-old, Edna remembers what it was like when she first came to Stockton as a young newlywed. She said: “I met my first husband John Raby on the train. I was going to a factory in Scarborough to teach sewing. Within a year we were married and then we came back to Stockton to live in 1955. He got a little house, down on Bailey Street. It was strange at first. I’m originally from Leeds and I was broad Yorkshire, so local people couldn’t understand me.”
Now an active member of the community at Aspen, things were a lot different for Edna when she first came to Teesside: “It’s a big city, Leeds, with big factories where I worked. Stockton was like a little market town to me. It’s a lot different. I didn’t know anyone when I first moved, just my husband’s family, and I hardly knew them! I daren’t go very far because I didn’t know my way about. It wasn’t until I moved up here to Hardwick that I started to find myself going about and knowing more people.”
Edna, along with her family, has seen a lot of change in Hardwick over the decades: “When we first moved there was nothing. It was all fields. There was just one school, Harrow Gate, where my bairns used to go. A van used to come around with food a couple of times a week. We had to go to Roseworth for shopping, because we had no shops. I could climb over the fence in my back garden and walk across to the bus stop.”
She remembers the old Hardwick estate: “They gradually built more houses and we got new neighbours in. They built shops, and pubs and the hospital. There were two supermarkets – the Co-op and the Kwik Save – and the wool shop, the barbers, the paper shop, and the chemist. We used to meet everybody down the shops and you got to know everybody. I had a good street and good neighbours.”
The urban landscape of Hardwick has changed since Edna’s children were young and she can almost map her own changes along with it. She said: “Most of my family still live around Teesside, in Fairfield and spread about Stockton. I see them all the time. My daughter works at the hospital, and my oldest daughter works at the prison as a nurse. One of my granddaughters is getting married next year at St. Mary’s in Norton. I’ve got six grandchildren now and eight great grandchildren. The youngest one, Nancy, has just been born at 10lbs.”
Edna said: “My first husband passed away in 1975. And then, after about seven years, I met my second husband, John Dixon. He was a plasterer and tiler. He did a lot of work on our house. I’ve never moved from that house [in Hardwick]. I lived there until I moved here to Aspen in 2007. I thought I’d be there forever, but of course I couldn’t now, with the steps and everything. I’m 90 next birthday. But I keep going!”
Edna is proud of her home at Aspen Gardens: “They’re lovely apartments. Everybody’s said how nice they are. And they’re big. I moved over when it first opened. It was nice to see it all being built up. It’s taken a long time and there’s more to come.”
“John died just after we came in here. He had cancer. So I’ve been in myself all this time. But you’re not by yourself here, you’ve got friends and neighbours here with you.”
As a member of 4U, a group of residents who organise social trips and events for their fellow tenants, Edna is always kept on her toes. She said: “We have coffee mornings, we do knitting, and little activities like that. They keep me busy!”
North Star’s long term commitment to modernising the Hardwick area for local residents is now entering its final phase. Over the last decade, Endeavour has continued to work alongside the Council and housing developers including Keepmoat and Barratt Homes to deliver an overall investment of £100 million, including grant funding by the HCA. The regeneration of Hardwick has involved the purchase and demolition of around 675 properties, as part of a master plan drawn up to provide much needed modern affordable new homes to the area. The plan has also allowed for parks, landscaping, and footpaths to help provide a pleasant and safe environment for local people, and completion of a £4 million state of the art primary school.