The only way is Essex…..

As part of ongoing research at the university and his practice, Professor Charles Holland has contributed a chapter to a forthcoming book on the cultural history of twentieth century Essex. The book will be published by Focal Point Gallery in Southend as part of their Radical Essex programme – The chapter details key examples of modern architecture in the county with a specific interest in the development of new settlements and village-scale developments. These include Silver End, a factory village built in 1926 for the Crittall Window Company, Frinton Village, a holiday village on the north sea coast and East Hanningfield, a village extension designed by James Gowan in the late 1970s. Here Charles tells us a little more about his research.

“These various experiments offer important historic examples of designed villages and purpose-built settlements. Essex is in fact rich in examples of modernist architecture – Frinton is the largest collection of modernist houses in the UK – as well as alternative social organisations dating back to the socialist and philanthropic models set up in the very early twentieth century. This lineage can be traced forward to the New Towns of Basildon and Harlow – which in Basildon’s case replaced former ‘plotland’ communties of self-built working class housing – and the civic modernism of the welfare state.

The chapter also includes isolated examples of modernistand design including Joseph Emberton’s Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham and Crouch, the Labworth Café on Canvey Island (the only building designed in its entirety by Ove Arup) and the Spender House designed by Richard and Sue Rogers in Ulting, near Maldon.

Having grown up in Essex, I was familiar with some of these places and buildings but as part of my research I have undertaken a series of road trips to visit them in more detail. The visits have thus combined research with a more personal sense of archaeology, revisiting familiar places but with a new eye. In the process I have discovered new things about places I thought I knew well and realised how rich in architecture the county really is. Places visited include Dedham, Braintree, Silver End, Frinton-On-Sea, East Hanningfield, South Woodham Ferrers, Romford and Gidea Park over the course of two trips. And I nipped over the border into Suffolk to visit Rushbrook, the village designed by Llewelyn Davies Weeks for the Rothschild family in the mid-1950s.”