Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Phoscos

The Phosco P107 lampposts that sprung up across the estate as it was being completed in 1964 are all now slowly disappearing, being replaced by some skinny interlopers, one of which you can see lurking at the back of this photo: 

Altogether, there are twelve Phoscos left, and these photographs are intended to document them before they are completely lost.

In a post-right to buy estate-scape, where residents have been allowed to put up their own fences, this one has ended up inside a back garden:

This one has suffered the fate of being hybridised:

CU Phosco Ltd are still going strong in that postwar county stronghold of the council estate and new town, Hertfordshire. They still make external lighting of all kinds, including the P107. It would be nice if they could be maintained on the Middlefield Lane estate as part of the original designed fabric of the estate. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The estate in early Autumn: A Tuesday morning, 4 October 2016

Autumnal blinds/The blinds of Autumn

Jess's den over a year later

Richard Long woz 'ere

Richard long gone

New fencing



The Genius of the Place: The English Landscape Garden 1620-1820-1964-2016

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Children of Middlefield

'... unburdened by worldly cares, unfettered by learning, free of ingrained habit, negligent of time, the child is open to the world.'

(Yi-Fu Tuan, Topophilia: a study of environmental perception : attitudes and values, Dept. of Geography, University of Minnesota, 1972, pp70-71)

'... lacking social awareness, his perception of the environment is not "tainted" by social considerations. He has not acquired that selective vision that distinguishes the beauty of the flowers from that of the weeds.'

(Colin Ward,  The Child in the City, Penguin Books, 1979, pp.23-24)

These images are details from photographs of the Middlefield Lane estate taken in the early 1970s. They are reproduced here courtesy of Paul Kemp.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

50 Years

The Middlefield Lane estate was finally completed on 27 November 1965, when the community centre on North Parade was officially opened. Sadly, and perhaps fatally for the estate in future years, the centre was never really intended for the whole community. It was to be primarily used instead by what the Gainsborough Evening News, on Tuesday 30 November, referred to as 'the old folk', who lived in the adjacent ground floor flats. This early 70s photograph shows the community centre as it was back then, situated at the end of the block of flats:

In its typically genteel but equally blunt style of provincial reporting, the Evening News went on to state that the centre had an ‘L-Shaped sitting room', which was ‘tastefully furnished with easy chairs in grey and green leather cloth', that could nevertheless be ‘easily sponged’.

So what happened on the estate after then, 50 years ago? Throughout 1966, the Evening News gives Middlefield just four mentions, the first being on 4 January when it was reported that a library book service was to be introduced to the ‘new’ community centre, where a selection of books would be available to borrow on Wednesday afternoons in the communal lounge.

A week later, it was reported that the last of the six shops on the Precinct had been let as a ‘sales shop of ladies and children’s wear’. As someone who hung around the Precinct almost on a daily basis, I don’t especially remember that shop at all, but then at five years old I might not have been taking much notice – although I seem to think it might have been in the unit that later became the ‘Washeteria’:

The biggest news of the year as far as the estate was concerned came in May, when a bedroom fire was reported on Priory Close: ‘The first ever fire in one of the houses on Gainsborough’s new uphill estate’ stated the Evening News, as if it cheerfully expected many more to come. And finally, on 7 June, ‘concern’ had been expressed to the Gainsborough Urban District Council Housing Committee about the dangers of planting new trees on the estate too close to the houses (a year previously, in May 1965, the Finance Committee had approved a spend of £510 to Crowders of Horncastle to supply, plant and stake 340 trees on the estate). The architects of the estate, Fisher, Hollingsworth and Partners, were consulted and they responded with their usual single-minded determination to maintain the aesthetic purity of the environment they’d designed, stating that any removal of trees would ‘upset the balance and layout of the estate’. As a consequence, ‘no action was taken’, and the trees remain as an important facet of the estate today:

And that was it for 1966, and for the Middlefield Lane estate 50 years ago. On 8 November however, the Evening News reported that a ceremony celebrating the completion of the nearby Pasture Road development of 500 new council houses had taken place. The postwar, local authority housing boom was pressing on, at a scale both unprecedented in Gainsborough back then, and completely unimaginable anywhere today. Pointedly, the Evening News article set out to ‘meet the housewives of Newtown’, with their centrally heated homes, each complete with a ‘sun porch’. This, it seemed, was the new 'Newtown'. In the ‘White Heat’ of the 1960s, and within just two years of it being completed, Middlefield's moment of modernity had already been eclipsed; it was already of the past.    

(Archive photos courtesy of Paul Kemp)