Pembroke Street runs west to east in the Mount Wise area of Devonport; intersecting
it, running southward, is George Street. To find Pembroke Street you would travel
south down George Street heading toward Mount Wise parkland, and stop when you reached
The Kings Arms pub. At that point the turning on your left is the eastern section
of Pembroke Street; this skirts around the back of Piquet Barracks and emerges in
Cumberland Road. The turning to your right is the west side - which is the subject
of this article.
The west side of Pembroke Street is a pedestrianised avenue, with blocks of flats
running along either side of the avenue; each block is four stories high, with three
flats on each level. The avenue continues west until it meets Mount Wise Primary
School. Walking along this avenue you would notice well-kept green areas and shrubbery,
brightly coloured artwork on the railings, and nicely painted flats. You would think
how clean it all looked. And you would feel safe. But it wasn't always this way.
Above: Entrance into Pembroke Street Estate, looking west.
Below: The same avenue, viewed from the opposite direction.
When built in the 1950s the new council-owned flats were sought after, tenants who
moved in considered themselves fortunate. But by the late 1980s residents were suffering
severely from crime and vandalism to the area, such as burglary and cars being set
alight. The flats stopped being sought after. Pembroke Street had degenerated, it
had become an inner-city crime-ridden area that nobody wanted to live in. The situation had
become so bad tenants decided to stand up for themselves and make changes, thus, in 1987,
they formed a resident group to address the problems.
Their big opportunity came in 1991 when the group applied to take part in the Government's
'Estate Action' programme. They successfully secured £5.1 million of funding, using
it to upgrade both the homes and the environment of the estate. Community meetings
were carried out, reports were written, and plans devised. The photos on this page
show the result, the flats not only look good nowadays, they are also pleasant to
live in, and safe, with security at the entrance to each block. In 1994 residents
took over management of the flats themselves - by forming an Estate Management Board
(EMB).The entire site is maintained regularly by the tenants, via their EMB, from
an office at 102 Pembroke Street.
During consultations for the site upgrade residents, together with the metal-artists,
designed their own artwork for the whole area. Each block (House) has its own name-plate,
individually designed railings in the stairwells, and external gates in the garden
areas. House names were chosen based on historical features of Pembroke street, whether
that be the name of a popular pub (Himalya), name of nearby church (St Stephens)
- one block even named themselves Chinatown, after the nickname once held by Pembroke
Street in the early 1900s. Here are some images of the artwork ...
Royal Oak House
St Stephens House
This mosaic, also designed during the regeneration period, lists the name of every house/block at Pembroke Street. Holding the scroll is King Billy, based on the model in the nearby naval base. This lovely mosaic is located inside the estate office at number 102 - a perfect way for site visitors to identify the flat numbers within each block.
The next few images are of various railings dotted around the estate, these also were designed by residents, each panel having a meaning that was important to them.
Following their regeneration in the 1990s, and formation of the EMB, Pembroke Street's
self-management method achieved national acclaim as a model of good practice. Over
the years there have been many achievements; the Estate won a British Urban Regeneration
Award, became a case study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the 1990’s, was
one of the founder members of the Guide Neighbourhood Programme, and gained
'Investor in People' status. Building on these experiences the Board regularly make
themselves and the site available for study visits, and is always delighted to help
other community groups who are considering managing their own areas.
Facilities and Community Life
There is one feature of life at Pembroke Street that is the key to their continuing
success. Upgrading the flats internally and improving the environment externally
was desirable yes, and that certainly changed life for residents, but what made
Pembroke Street into a 'community', a successful community, was their actions in
going beyond the physical upgrade. They don't just cut the grass and sweep the road,
what they do is carry out a range of community-based activities focusing on community
wellbeing - basically they look after each other, everyone plays the good neighbour.
If someone is ill and they live alone, the EMB team ensures their shopping is done,
if an elderly person cannot walk to the chemist the team ensures their prescription
is obtained. If someone requres household maintence of some sort, there is a maintenance
team on hand to help. The aim, and it's been very successful, was to reduce isolation
and enhance the quality of life for tenants. The values held at Pembroke Street
are all about about caring, about social inclusion, being morally accountable and
holding high ethical standards. These are the things that have made it a community.
Quite simply, residents at Pembroke Street do not live isolated lives, they are
all a part of something, a community, where their voices are heard.
The general services provided by Pembroke Street EMB are ...
- Young People services and development
- Housing Management, Repairs and Maintenance Services
- Training Services
- Support for elderly and vulnerable people
- Guiding other Neighbourhoods - study visits
A feasibility study has been carried out on the viability of the Neighbourhood Centre - a community building in nearby Clowance Street that the EMB oversees. Pembroke Street EMB are currently working with Plymouth Community Homes and other agencies on plans to upgrade the centre, thereby enabling a wider range of services to be provided, to both residents and visitors.
The team at Pembroke Street are committed to working in partnerships and sharing their experiences of community regeneration and local service delivery. So if your community could benefit from this experience, whether you are located elsewhere in Devonport, across the city, or somewhere else in the UK, do get in touch - you will be warmly received.
Contact Details ...
Pembroke Estate Management Board Ltd,
102 Pembroke Street,
Pembroke Street People
In due course there will be a separate page on the lovely people at Pembroke Street - this will be placed under our 'People' pages.