Sunday, April 28th 2017
As it was Sunday and we had spent the morning shopping, we needed to find somewhere nearby, or at least, easy to get to, for our afternoon ramble. Tigger chose Basildon, mainly, I think, because we had never been there.
Basildon is in the county of Essex and is fairly near to Southend-on-Sea. It’s easy enough to find on the map if you want to do so. The name is about the most interesting feature of Basildon. It is thought to be composed of the Anglo-Saxon personal name Boerthal with the addition of dun, meaning a hill, thus Boerthal’s Hill. We can never be sure that this is the correct derivation but it seems plausible to me.
Basildon, I suppose, is neither better nor worse than hundreds of towns the length and breadth of Britain. The people who live there probably like it but I found in it nothing of interest. Possible we missed the best bits and I am being unjust but I doubt it. We took a few photos as we went about and a selection of mine appear below.
Basildon can be reached by a 30-minute train ride from Fenchurch Street. Basildon Station, as you can see, is rather small and of understated appearance.
We wandered hither and thither without any fixed plan though I subsequently discovered that the town publishes a Heritage Trail Map (PDF file). Would this have made a difference to our trip? No, I don’t think so.
One thing I can say in favour of Basildon is that a large part of the central area is pedestrianized. This is a policy I approve of and wish more towns would adopt. Vehicular traffic has been favoured for too long, to the detriment of our health and convenience, and it is time the balance was restored.
The Basildon Centre is Basildon Council’s main administrative building and also has rooms and conference facilities for hire. It forms part of the new town centre developed in the 1950s.
The bell tower of the Church of St Martin of Tours is adjacent to the church but separate from it. The tower was opened by the Queen on March 12th 1999. It contains a peal of eight bells (one dating from the 15th century) which originally belonged to the Church of St Nicholas in Coventry. (See here for more details.)
The Church of St Martin of Tours was built in the 1960s and its styling is perfectly consistent with that date.
Rendered even more eye-catching by the plainness of the walls, above the entrance hangs a fibreglass sculpture of Christ. It is by T.B. Huxley-Jones (1908-68) and when unveiled was expected to cause controversy. Some 50 years later, however, it no longer seems as avant-garde as once it might have done.
The church was quite busy with people milling around engaging in various activities but they were happy to let us in to look around and take photos.
The church is decorated with a set of modern-style stained-glass windows, of which the two above are samples, the upper in the main church and the lower in a side chapel. They were designed by Joseph Nuttgens.
Continuing on, we found this sculpture in a nearby street. I know neither the name of the sculptor nor the title of the work, if any. Was it always free-standing or did it once form part of a larger structure? I have no idea.
The Mother and Child, by Maurice Lambert, is a sculpture that forms part of a fountain but the fountain is not working at present. The poses of the figures seem to me rather awkward and unlikely but I hear that it is very popular with the townsfolk.
Superman in mufti paying a visit to East Square, possibly on his way to the nail bar.
This oh-so-1950s sculpture graces the side of Freedom House. It is by A.J.Poole (1926-2009). For a long time, the sculptor’s own title for the work was unknown and it was called the Treble Clef. More recently, the sculptor’s daughter has vouchsafed that the artist called it Man Aspires.
Sculptures with strings or wires stretching across them seem to have been a fad of the middle decades of the 20th century, now happily relegated to the past though not before some quite famous sculptors tried the genre. For example, see this work by no less an artist than Barbara Hepworth.
East Walk forms part of the Eastgate shopping centre that opened in 1985. Its launch was accompanied by all the usual superlatives and I suppose it is a good place to go either on a shopping spree or when trying to buy some special item. Unless you have some such special purpose in mind, though, it is a pretty dull haunt of the usual retail suspects. I left Basildon without any regrets and don’t expect to return.
While on the station platform waiting for the train back to London, we spied a squirrel running along the track. My reflex was to worry that he might be run over by the train. Having watched him for a while, though, I could see that he was perfectly familiar with the lie of the land and was in no danger. Animals are often cleverer and more competent than we give them credit for.