IN November 1966, when there were only three channels on flickery black-and-white television, a quarter of the British population watched a Wednesday evening play called Cathy Come Home.

It was a kitchen sink drama, grittily realistic, and had a profound effect on the nation in the way that Mr Bates Vs the Post Office opened an outraged nation’s eyes to the appalling injustices of the Horizon subpostmasters scandal.

The Northern Echo: The 1966 play Cathy Come Home highlighted the plight of a homeless family led to a public outcry about the issue.The 1966 play Cathy Come Home highlighted the plight of a homeless family led to a public outcry about the issue.

The scandal in the 1960s was the lack of housing. Twelve million viewers watched as Cathy and her partner, Reg, through bad luck, injury and pregnancy, are evicted from their home, burned out of their camp, turned out of their squat and then, as the local council does not have enough houses to help, they slip into homelessness and poverty.

They agree to separate simply so Cathy and their children can take shelter in a refuge, but that is only a temporary solution and when her time runs out, Cathy, with nowhere to go, has to leave and her children are taken into care.

Directed by Ken Loach, the film opened viewer’s eyes to the predicament of people around them. They’d heard about David Lloyd George’s “homes fit for heroes” pledge after the end of the First World War which led to the first council houses being built; they’d seen the post-Second World War boom in social housing in the 1950s, and now they knew that people were still living on the brink.

Soon after broadcast, two charities, Shelter and Crisis, were formed and, slowly, government policy began to react: the 1974 Housing Act allowed housing associations to receive significant public money to make existing houses habitable or to build new ones.


The Northern Echo: North StarTeesside was ahead of the Act. In 1973, local churches had come together to see how they could address the problems all around them, which led to the Endeavour Housing Association being officially registered on August 16, 1974 – 50 years ago this year.

It was chaired by the Bishop of Whitby, and all 10 board members had church connections – although from the start, the association promised to address needs irrespective of religion, nationality or colour.

Housing associations could raise money, both public and private, in a way local councils could not – ICI gave an early donation of £2,500 to get Endeavour afloat.

With associations springing up across the country, the Housing Corporation, which looked after such matters for the government, tried to attract new managerial talent, promising to train up applicants in a “hot house” and then transplant into an association to run it.

The Northern Echo: EMBARGOED TO 0001 MONDAY APRIL 2
BBC handout photo of  Bill and Ben and Weed. The first merchandise of new-look children's favourites Bill & Ben will be launched Monday April 2 2001, as they gear up to storm the world with their flowerpot antics.Bill and Ben and Weed star in the Flowerpot Men

The applicants became known as “the flowerpot men” – another TV reference, this time to Bill and Ben who, along with Weed, starred in a children’s programme made in the early 1950s.

The Northern Echo: Christmas copy bank picture. Interview with members of the Endeavour Housing Association board. Pictured are (left to right) Brian Wake, Kit Bartram and Angela Lockwood. Picture by Tom Banks. Words by Danni Webb.Brian Wake, Kit Bartram and Angela Lockwood, of Endeavour in 2009

Potted out into Endeavour was Kit Bartram who, after his training, became the first chief executive. He came from a long line of Sunderland shipbuilders and he really shaped the association.

In August 1975, it bought its first properties: 60 houses in Granville Road, Middlesbrough, from the council and 73 houses in Kent Avenue, Hartlepool, from a private landlord, and it began to modernise them. Right from the beginning, though, it was about more than just putting a roof over people’s heads: Endeavour also provided accommodation for Hartlepool Women’s Aid and those with mental health issues.

A line in a 1970s annual report says: “Housing is not just bricks and mortar. It has social effects – it impinges on the environment and the community.”

And so as well as helping the elderly, those with learning disabilities and people leaving the care system with their bricks and mortar, Endeavour also looked after bricks and mortar, giving new life to old buildings – a bank on Hartlepool Headland, a police station in Loftus, an industrialists’ headquarters in Middlesbrough – that no one else wanted.

The Northern Echo: Copeland Row in Evenoowd in 1999, being refurbished as Endeavour's first properties in TeesdaleCopeland Row, Evenwood, being restored in 1999

In 1998, the association was approached by Teesdale District Council, which owned Copeland Row, a Victorian terrace of miners’ homes in sore need of renovation. The council, though, had no money, so it gave the 11 properties – five occupied, six empty – to Endeavour in return for a £564,000 refurbishment. When they were reopened by Housing Minister Hilary Armstrong, one resident told The Northern Echo that they had transformed "hovels into castles".

This was the start of Endeavour’s move into Teesdale, and in 2005 88 per cent of the council’s residents voted for their properties to be transferred to the association.

The Northern Echo: Ian Austin MP (with glasses) hands over the key to the 2000th Endeavour Housing house to Anita Carling at Embleton Close, Stockton. Also pictured are (l-r) Stockton Mayor Paul Kirton; Endevour Chief Executive, Angela Lockwood; Angela's son StuartIan Austin MP (with glasses) hands over the key to the 2000th Endeavour Housing house in 2009 to Anita Carling at Embleton Close, Stockton. Also pictured are (l-r) Stockton Mayor Paul Kirton; Endeavour Chief Executive, Angela Lockwood; Angela's son Stuart Carling; Frank Cook MP and Pat Buckley from Endeavour housing

Suddenly, it had properties from Skinningrove on the east coast right up to Middleton-in-Teesdale in the north Pennines, as well as Shildon and Sedgefield, plus Darlington, Hambleton and Richmond. In the wider world, it began to use the name “North Star” – a guiding light for lost people – while Endeavour was confined to its work on Teesside.

It took on 263 homes from the Darlington Housing Association in 2011, and today has more than 4,000 houses, plus five women’s refuges and schemes for people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, recovering from addictions, rough sleepers, and young people leaving the care system.

The Northern Echo: Before and after the "retrofit" scheme in MiddlesbroughBefore and after the "retrofit" scheme in Middlesbrough

Plus it is rolling out its “retrofit” programme to terraced houses in Darlington and Middleton-in-Teesdale which it trialled in Middlesbrough last year, in which a Victorian property is stripped back to its bare bones and redesigned using smart energy-efficient technologies, low-energy lighting, full insulation and proper ventilation, and advanced solar panels.

In 50 years, from catering for basic housing needs to employing the latest green-minded technology, North Star has come a very long way.

The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak at the launch of the scheme to convert a chapel into flats in BainbridgePrime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier this year at the launch of the North Star scheme to convert a chapel into flats in Bainbridge in his constituency


The Northern Echo: George Bartram

FOR 17 years, Kit Bartram was the chief executive of North Star because he had seen that his family’s shipbuilding firm was holed beneath the water.

His great-great-grandfather, George Bartram, was an orphan in Sunderland when he joined a riverside yard at the age of 11. He went to sea as a ship’s carpenter for several years, and returned to start his own yard, launching his first small wooden vessel, the Crown, on July 7, 1838.

His son, Sir Robert Appleby Bartram, took over the yard in 1871 and immediately moved it into building iron-hulled steamships – the last sailing ship was launched in 1876.

During the First World War, the yard, which employed 600 people, built ships for the Merchant Navy, as it did in the Second when it also refitted ships as icebreakers so they could take part in the Russian convoys.

By the early 1960s, a fourth generation, Colonel Robert, was at the helm, and the firm had 1,200 employees in its South Dock Yard, making vessels for 12 countries, including Portugal, for which it built a couple of passenger liners.

However, the fifth generation was right. In 1968, Bartram & Sons merged with other Sunderland shipbuilders to form Austin & Pickersgill, which in 1977 was nationalised as British Shipbuilders. In 1978, a decision was made to close the former Bartram’s yard of South Dock and rationalise all work at the Southwick Yard, so while the last vestiges of the family firm were being dismantled, Kit was steering a new course in housing.

The Northern Echo: Residents and employees of Endeavour Housing on board the HMS Bark Endeavour in Stockton to launch a month-long series of events to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Endeavour Housing, which operates across the Tees Valley. Picture by Tom Banks 23-10-09Residents and employees of Endeavour Housing on board the HMS Bark Endeavour in Stockton to launch a month-long series of events in 2009 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Endeavour Housing

The Northern Echo:  Captain Cook's ship Endeavour laid on the shoreline of New Holland (now Queensland, Australia) for hull repairs during Cook's first voyage to the South Pacific (1768-1771)Captain Cook's ship Endeavour laid on the shoreline of New Holland (now Queensland, Australia) for hull repairs during Cook's first voyage to the South Pacific (1768-1771)

THE housing association took its original name from Captain James Cook’s famous ship, Endeavour. The name captures the spirit of hopeful adventure, but is also rooted in Cleveland as the ship was built in Whitby in 1764.

Whitby then was the third largest shipbuilder in the country, after London and Newcastle, and Thomas Fishburn’s yard was the largest in the port. He built the ship to his “Whitby Cat” design, with a flat bottom to enable beaching. It was first called the Earl of Pembroke and it carried coals from Newcastle to London, but it was chosen – and renamed – by the Royal Society for the voyage to the Pacific to observe the 1769 transit of Venus across the face of the sun.

Cook chose two other Fishburn ships, Resolution and Adventure, for later expeditions and so Whitby of the 1770s has been to compared to Cape Canaveral in Florida in the 1970s as the launching pad of explorations to new worlds.