EXACTLY half a century ago hundreds of Southampton people reached for the sky and found a new home for themselves in the city.

It was in January, 1963 when Redbridge Towers, then the tallest block of flats south of London, was about to welcome the first families to move into the high-rise structure which dominated the area.

At 187ft high, the towers were built, with a quarter of a million facing bricks, to house 450 residents, and was aimed at reducing the local council housing waiting list, which then stood at 3,000 people.

“From the top of this vast building the town is spread out below, giving the higher storey tenants a wonderful view of Southampton, the port, and far beyond,” said the Daily Echo at the time.

“There are 114 two-bedroom, four-people flats, six on a floor, while the ground floor is used for entrance foyers and storerooms.

“Each flat is compact, modern labour-saving, and warm.”

At this time there were about 18,000 council-owned homes in Southampton, and more than one-third were flats.

Redbridge Towers cost £227,000, something like almost £3m in today’s value, to construct, and building work had begun in April, 1961 using a labour force of 30 men. The tower block is founded on a three foot thick reinforced concrete raft, the bottom of which is four foot six inches below ground level.

Redbridge Towers was designed by a firm of architects from Newcastle in conjunction with the Civic Centre and the contractors came from Bournemouth.

Layout of the flats comprised a living room, two bedrooms, kitchen and hall with under-floor heating.

The Echo said: “Each kitchen has a generous sink unit, above which is a glass sliding-panelled cabinet, ventilated at one end for use as a larder.

“There is a free choice of electricity or gas for the cooker and wash boiler.

“Domestic hot water is supplied by a 30-gallon cylinder fitted with an immersion heater and there is a heated linen cupboard.

“Floor coverings are thermo- plastic tiles in all rooms except bedrooms, which have floorboards.

“There are fitted wardrobes in all bedrooms while windows are horizontally pivoted and reversible for cleaning.

Some 3,500 rolls of wallpaper were used for the block, the same neat modern design for each flat.”

The Southampton Corporation, as it was in those days, would not allow families with toddlers in the tower block, although parents with babies and children of school age were allocated flats.

“Rents? For the first six floors, that is up to and including the seventh storey, it is £3 1s 1d (£3.06) a week, including 10s 6d (52p) for the under-floor heating and a similar amount for rates,” said the Daily Echo.

“The eighth storey and above flats pay an extra 5d (2p) in rates, presumably for a better view.

“Rents are paid on a 50- week year, so that there is a two weeks ‘rent holiday’.”

Tenants would not have to walk to the top of the tower block as there was two “high speed” lifts which were claimed to travel at 200ft a minute.

“Soon the lights will go on in Redbridge Towers,”

reported the Daily Echo.

“Then it will be home.”