07 March, 2010

Southend and Basildon

I've posted about Southend before and the place hasn't changed much since then, here is a picture of the Estuary front.

On the way back from Southend I stopped at Basildon, another new town. I’ve written elsewhere about Harlow and it is interesting to compare the two. Harlow dates from 1947 and Basildon from 1948 but they seem to be worlds apart, although this may be just familiarity. Basildon seems to bustle more than Harlow but has fewer artworks in the town. The oldest sculpture is on the side of ‘Freedom House’ (what a name) and is an abstract. Untitled, it is by A J Poole and was installed in 1957.

The sculpture of a mother and child in the fountain is interesting and is opposite the former co-operative store now occupied by Primark (as at Stevenage). The fountain was installed in 1962 and is black as coal. In the background is Brooke House also built in 1962, (did the council raid the housing account to pay for it one wonders?) a block of flats named after a Housing minister and designed by Sir Basil Spence. The only bit I could see was the lift lobby which was lined with marble and mosaic. A fitting setting for working class housing.

The Church of St Martin of Tours (Church of England of course) claims on its website that the church gardens make a pleasant place to sit, as well they might if they were not locked away behind 5 foot iron bars. The gardens have fountains playing round the side chapel of the church, although difficult to photograph. The church itself is attractive with a sculpture of Jesus over the door waiting in welcome and stained glass windows up to head height in the walls giving a floating impression.

The detatched modern campanile contains an 11cwt ring of 8 bells including the tenor cast in the 15th century and treble and second cast in 1997. The campanile was opened by the queen on my 32nd birthday

The library was quite well stocked with local history books although the books argued which shop had been the former co-op. I could not find out if it had been London Co-op Society, which was most likely, or Chelmsford Star Co-op which was the geographical best fit. There are a good few charity shops in Basildon and I bought a jug (£5 marked down from £15 although I even thought £5 was a little steep – cancer research are always pricey). It was dated 1943 and just as I got it home I dropped it and chipped it – blast! There were the usual pound shops but there was a Debenhams Department store.

There’s a very good train service from Basildon to Fenchurch Street.

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