Silver End village near Braintree was developed in the mid-1920s by the Crittall family to accommodate a new factory (the eponymous steel windows, which, as I recall from Grandad’s flat in Willesden, were very cold to the touch) plus housing and amenities for employees. The designers were the Crittalls and Thomas Tait. Although little of the deserted factory survives, many of the homes and public buildings have plenty of life in them. Silver Street is a long row of white or cream flat-roofed houses with large windows (originally Crittall, of course!) in varying states of preservation. Many of them are simply painted brick, and the triangular oriel windows with finials look very New Ways. Sadly some of the most forlorn houses are the larger ones at the main crossroads.
Further along there is a magnificent former village hall (now library and children’s centre), which looks into a large playing field (all sporting facilities provided by the factory). It gives some sense of the magnificence of the village and the munificence of the Crittalls. In a more individualistic, less paternalistic age like ours, this generosity can appear infantilising or dreadfully conformist . . . but with the notion of a steady job and a well-designed home receding for so many, I’m not knocking it.
I decided to cycle to Colchester along National Cycle Network route 1 to pick up my train there. It mostly small country roads (many hedgerowless) and a few bridlepaths, and my favourite find was this Art Deco waterworks building outside Tiptree:
Isn’t it wonderful – a temple to Hygieia! Judging from the hum emanating from it, it’s still in use.
Colchester is definitely built on a hill and is linked to the sea via the River Colne. Once I found the centre, I rather liked it. The town hall is ridiculously grand; the Victorian water tower behind even tries to rival it.
I had a quick look at what remains of the enormous castle, and zig-zagged through quaint streets to the less quaint railway station. (I also discovered that there are in fact two railway stations.)
So, a pleasant day exploring by Brompton. I often regret how unattractive British roads are for cycling: I would like to explore my own country more. I wish I could pedal around as easily and in as relaxed a fashion as I do in Germany or the Netherlands, for there is so much to see and learn here.