The tower was designed by the Owen Luder Partnership on behalf of Whickham Council who at the time controlled the Dunston area of Gateshead. The original brief was to design three high-rise blocks of at least 22 storeys, but due to adverse ground conditions on site, the decision was made to build one tower, with the rest of the properties being low-rise blocks of 2 to 5 storeys. Despite the architect's advice against construction of a high-rise building on the site, the council were strongly in favour. Following many consultations and explanatory models of the foundations with specialists, construction of the foundation began in February 1968, and the tower was completed in March 1971.
The construction of the tower was complex because of the very poor ground conditions on the site. The foundations were based on a sunken concrete cassion that was built above ground then sunk over a period of time. Cassion foundations are often found in harbour construction; to find this foundation being used in the 1960s for a local authority tower block was a first, the cassion below the tower was put to use as an underground garage area for residents. The tower itself has a very bold and striking appearance, unlike any other tower block or high rise building in the UK. Derwent Tower is of a Brutalist design and retains lots of design similarities with the Gatesheads "Get Carter car park" also a product of the Owen Luder Partnership. The building houses two-bedroom flats up to the 10th floor, 1 bedroom flats from floor 11 to 29.
The unusual features of Derwent Tower are:
- Height (280 feet)
- Unusual construction methods
- Plan form change between 10th and 11th floor to accommodate building services including two 10,000-gallon water tanks
- Flying butresses from the ground, to 5th floor assisting the foundations
- Unusual foundations including an underground spiral carpark (closed to residents for many years)
- Brutalist Form
- Exposed elments of the buildings structure and servics, i.e flying butresses from floor level and exposed water tanks.
Derwent Tower has been in desperate need of refurbishment for many years, making it unpopular with residents and locals alike. The tower has been allowed to fall into its current run-down state by neglect and lack of maintenance. Reports of services breakdowns, lift failures, water supply faults are all common but are unlikley to be a result of the buildings design or construction methods. In 2007 Gateshead Council decided to relocate residents of the Derwent Tower amid health and safety concerns over the already poor and deteriorating services. The block now stands empty and a demolition notice has been served and work on demolishing the tower is expected to begin in early 2010.
Text harvested from Derwent Tower From Wikipedia
The Dunston Rocket is probably best known through its starring role in a Tudor Crisps advert from the 1970's and 1980's in which a paperboy managed to bribe his mate to deliver papers up the tower, even though the lift was broken, with the promise of a 'canny bag o' Tudor'.