Hightown Housing Association will be 50 years old later this year and to mark its landmark birthday, it has been asking local people for their memories of the work it has been doing to provide affordable homes since it was founded.

The original Hightown, then called Hightown Housing Society, was first registered on 19th July 1967 and began with a working capital of just £10 and a loan of £50.

Its founders were a group of businesspeople working on the High Street in Hemel Hempstead Old Town. They were all committed to providing decent and affordable homes in the community they served. They included:

  • Peter Benton, a local architect and his wife Laura. He came up with the Hightown name from ‘High Street’ & ‘Old Town’
  • Eric Foster, a quantity surveyor
  • Philip Mayo, a lawyer and Hightown’s Chair from 1968-1993
  • Tony Wainwright, who also worked in law
  • Henry Philp, an interior designer.
  • Mrs Gwen Marshall
  • Alastair Melhuish

They were among groups of people across Britain who had been shocked by the BBC television screening of the seminal ‘Cathy Come Home’ drama in 1966. Up and down the country, people came together in their own communities to provide homes for homeless people.

The first estate they developed was The Cornfields in Hemel Hempstead, which opened in 1972. Estates to follow on from that included:

  • Bohemia, Hemel Hempstead
  • Howard Agne Close / The Bourne, Bovingdon
  • Little Hayes, Kings Langley
  • Fishery Cottages, Hemel Hempstead.

Hightown has since developed into an organisation which manages more than 5,300 homes, mainly in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. It’s also still growing - in the Dacorum Borough Council area alone, Hightown is building 225 properties in the next five years at a cost of £45m, a far cry from its original £10 working capital.

Now it plans to hold a special event in July to celebrate the value of its work in housing local people in need for the past 50 years. It hopes to feature original memorabilia, photographs and stories from residents who lived on its first estates and more information about its founders.

Chief Executive David Bogle said: “We’re proud to have served the Hemel Hempstead community for nearly 50 years and our work is as relevant now as it was in 1967.

“To help us learn more about our history in our landmark year we’re hoping local people will get in touch with their memories of our first estates. I’m sure there are some fascinating stories waiting to be heard.”