Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Cunning Mums and Regeneration.

There are things for which you never quite forgive your parents, like my Mum chucking a half-brick through the store room door window and me ending up in Heatherwood Hospital having stitches in my eyebrow and chin, but worse than that, years after the event, finding out that your Mum has lied to you.

As a small boy the New Town I lived in was a great place; We played football all day in the park, (jumpers for goalposts) we dammed the Splash round the back of our house, by digging out the clay banks, building temporary dams so the main dam builders had time to work on the principal structure which held water up to our thighs, (The Green Man came round our house on his bike and told Mum & Dad about that one) and scrumping apples from the Old Manor’s orchard.

Our town was also popular with royalty. It was rumoured that the Shah of Persia was going to visit, to see how New Towns should be built as he was planning to build a clutch of them back in Persia. I was never too clear where Persia was, but it sounded far away and exotic.

However, Mum made it quite clear to me, repeatedly, that the Shah of Persia would not be coming if I didn’t eat my greens. I ate my horrid greens dutifully for months, not wanting to be blamed for the Shah’s non-appearance.

Indeed, he did come, and toured our town in an open-top Rolls-Royce. I seem to recall that he waved directly at me, obviously grateful that I’d done as I was told and had personally made his trip possible. He particularly liked our town centre, with it’s wonderful Broadway. It’s said that in that far away exotic land there are three or four Broadways modelled on our own.

Well if the old bugger were alive today he would be deeply saddened. They’ve flattened the Broadway. It’s going to be “regenerated.” So, Dyasons fish & chip shop, Woolies, Mac Fisheries, Fine Fare, Tescos, where Mum used to get book-fulls of Green Shield Stamps, and the Co-op department store with its pneumatic cash-tube that thundered around the building, have now all gone.

I had a last look around the place last summer before the demolition crews moved in. They had already smashed up the trees that had lined the way. Now it’s just a huge windswept dustbowl with towering piles of crushed concrete aggregate. I only had my very old phone with me with its ropey old camera but I’ve cobbled together a few images, just so the Shah can have one last look at the place. You can click on each picture to blow it up.












The tall slim building at the end of the Broadway is the 3M building. It had once sported a fabulous illuminated digital clock. We were dead impressed by that. The cows in the neighbouring village of Binfield weren’t that impressed though as their milk yield dropped dramatically after the 3M Building was put up. You could see it for miles around, especially at night.

But now, they’ve decided to tear that down too. Here’s one last longing look at the old girl. She’s very unloved these days:


I expect they’ll be after this leviathan next.



Here’s what the town centre looked like a few days ago: Notice that all is left is the security camera. Modern times…




  1. Like the last 2 pictures, particularly the last one.

  2. Thats progress. And as kids we thought concrete lasted forever. Maybe it had faulty sand from Persia and he came over to see why it still standing. The Shah probably wasn’t waving Alan he was probably warning you to move away from that building. Ha.

    1. He did wave at me! He did wave at me, Mister! Just me, Sir!

      I seem to remember he wore a funny hat and an admiral's uniform. But that might be my mind playing tricks with me. Was that Audrey Hepburn who was sitting next to him?

      Now, on the subject of concrete.... Good reinforced concrete (ie well mixed, decent aggregates, and good cover) will last just like a carpet from Cyril Lord - for years and years and years. You just need good supervision, and sadly most of the New Towns were chucked up in a dreadful hurry with little or none of it.

      I might do a post just on concrete structures. That'll have them bursting through the doors!

  3. That is one big redevelopment program. Catches my breath at how much money then has to be recovered from the businesses that move in, then, of course how much money these businesses have to recover from the man in the street, e.g. you, Alan. Capital cost must be a huge component of such projects. Have fun paying for it!

    Am behind you there re concrete - I've seen the good the bad and the ugly, what's good is very good and what's bad will fall down, like all these places in Bangladesh for God's sake.

    Good to see you managed the little walk up north, in fine fettle, I assume.

    1. Hi Adam. I'm not so sure: Coming out of a recession developers will be itching to pile in their dosh into a retail park in an affluent part of south east England.

      There will be more on the little walk up north - I'm currently working my way through and weeding out piles of photos. Then I also need to chat about my Biom Hikes too.
      And yes, I'm in fine fettle now, but the "hurty knee" is still a bit of a problem.

  4. Green Shield Stamps. Wonderful. I vaguely recall my siblings and I, on one occasion at least, trying to cajole Mum into allocating the stamps to our competitive advantage. I have no recollection what it concerned....this toy, or that comic book, or something else, but we wanted the Stamps allocated accordingly. I don't really like high streets - shops, shops, shops, and all their corresponding consumer nonsense: click on Amazon = hassle free result. However, I do remember a time when Woolies etc was part of a childhood landscape which seems sadly replaced with excess: massive malls, a £4 comic book, a store tracing back to a billion dollar US chain. Well, yes, I probably need a damn good walk in the hills so ignore all of that, eh what.....

    1. It's said that these days you could stand in a High Street and from looking at the shops not have clue where you are in Britain. I sort of agree with that it's the McDonaldsisation of our shopping. We all want a known product at a standard cheap price.

      I blame the money grabbing local councils as much as the developers, as they shove the business rates so obscenely high only the large chains can guarantee paying them. Then the councillors all moan that their High Streets are full of charity shops.
      Kick out the know-nothing councillors for a start and abandon retail business rates full-stop. Then you'll have an interesting and varied High Street that'll be a pleasure to visit.

  5. I always find it interesting to see images of how our urban areas used to be, like Wayne above I particularly like the last one.

    Your comment to James is interesting regarding high business rates. In my home town there are a lot of shops which have closed down. High business rates and car parking charges have been cited as part of the problem. Now the neighbouring village is going to have parking limits and charges introduced and the council wonder why people are getting angry.

    1. The only way to stop these stupid charges is to campaign vociferously in the media and name the local politicians who support these charges. A carefully selected photo of the idiot does well, with a well-chosen quote of him/her supporting the charges.
      Local worthies *hate* seeing themselves portrayed in a bad light in the press.

  6. Much attention is paid to preserving wild land, but our urban landscapes are sadly undervalued.

    They knocked down my favourite too, the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth. This was a fine brutalist concrete structure that the city council shamefully failed to maintain. Prince Charles once described it as "a mildewed lump of elephant droppings" - so it must have had some architectural merit ;-)

    1. For us townies, most of our walking is done in urban environments and so I am always perplexed at how little we care for it. We let the councillors rail-road daft schemes through because they can see more business rates pouring into their coffers so they can spend it on daft "public projects" that no-one wants or needs.
      I took a look at the old Tricorn Centre on Google. They really went for it; I love the curved cantilevers and the stair-towers. I agree, it should have been looked after properly. Plain vandalism.

  7. Nice pictures, and strangley moving even for a self-confessed town-hater like me!

    It reminds me, though: back in the mists of times (sometime between now and the Shah's most excellent visit) I supplied some shelving to Bracknell Library - the one and only time I've ever really been acquainted with the place. It struck me that the town and others like it faced a future of imminent change, either that or continue to dwindle and struggle on in the face of death by a thousand (infrastructure) cuts.

    I hope the new Bracknell centre offers it's citizens shops and amenities for the 21st Century.

    On another note: hope you are doing well, and apologies for having been "off the radar" for a while.

    All the best


    1. Hello Jules!
      You may well have dealt with one of my Brother Dave's first girlfriends, then, as I believe she's been the Head Librarian for quite a while.
      At last, we now have a splendid new Waitrose and there are promises of some pretty good architecture and decent shops coming. Things are on the up.

    2. Ah, maybe so - I'm struggling to remember names now, it was about 12 years ago or so (and I've been to bed and had several beers since then!0.

      On the new shops front, we have a new-ish Waitrose opened right next door to our Aldi store. It's great: you can "spend a little, live a lot" and look like you're doing it at Waitrose. ;-)

  8. Great shot going back and getting the same perspective-
    Ah progress... just remember there is not future in the past...

    1. Quite right, Sir.
      I shall post pictures when they start building - but there seems no sign of that at the moment as they are now demolishing underpasses and altering the road netwrok around the town centre - which are all enabling works, so there is actual progress.

  9. Scary, I remember all that being built, they don't build things like us anymore


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