Silver End Modernist 1920s Village, Witham, Essex

Made a chilly January trip to a very unique place recently – Silver End in Essex, an enclave of Modernist housing with some supreme examples of Art Deco.  Sadly pics have a slight grey January tone! But their wonder still shone through despite the weather.

In 1925 businessman and philanthropist Frances Crittall – who produced Crittall window frames that can be seen on many buildings from that era – came to the Silver End area with a vision to build not just a new factory but an entire community for his workers.

Between 1936 and 1932, 500 houses, a school, village hall and Co-Operative department store.  Of those houses, 153 were designed in the popular ‘modern movement‘ theme of the time.

As well as the signature Art Deco straight lines and angular shapes, there were other interesting flourishes like these gates

Some of the distinctive flat topped houses on Silver Street were the work of Scottish architect Thomas S. Tait well known for his Art Deco designs, particularly St Andrews House in Edinburgh, headquarters of the Scottish Parliament.

I loved the elegant pointed windows on these, typical of that era

Three other houses were built in the ‘modern movement style’ for factory managers.  This included the stunning Wolverton below, which is now Grade II listed and has some sensational Art Deco motifs and unique features.  I especially liked the Deco glass panes in the door, which the other two manager’s houses also had. 

Lovely Deco shapes on the garden gate too

One of the others sadly looked like it was now in a state of disrepair but was still a magnificent example of Art Deco design nonetheless – hard not to want to give it a lick of paint

The church there was also very intriguing, like something from Eastern Europe – apparently it was converted from a barn at the same time the village was built, fitted with Crittall windows and then gifted to the Church of England.  I’m not sure it’s a coincidence it’s called the Church of St Frances!

Thanks to my Modernist building stroking companion Alex for some of these pictures!

With the factory closing it’s doors in 2006, the area has now lost some of the sense of community I’m sure it had in previous eras and when we went it was almost eerily quiet.  However, it’s definitely worth a visit for fans of Modernist 1930s architecture, if just to see the sheer number of houses in that style, as well as the impressive and singular Art Dec splendour of Wolverton.

Silver End, Witham, Essex

Nearest station: Witham.  Free shuttle buses run to Silver End as well as public buses to Braintree.


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Beachlands Modernist Bungalow estate – Pevensey Bay

Happy new year! In the post Christmas pre new year no man’s land I went in search of sea air to blast away the cheeseboard cobwebs and ended up in Norman’s Bay, a slightly bleak yet atmospheric looking East Sussex coastal outpost I’d often seen from the train and been intrigued by.

A small collection of houses and a Martello tower was all it seemed to offer, but after meandering along the coastal road towards Pevensey Bay with my architecture obsessed companion Alex, to our joy we stumbled upon a hidden wonder – a beautiful estate of charming modernist bungalows from the 1930’s named Beachlands.

Most the the bungalows were built between 1937 – 1939 with plans for a cinema, shops and a whole modernist seaside ‘village’ before work was abandoned in the face of the Second World War.  There were some very clear Art Deco motifs whilst the bright colours and kitsch unusual decor on some of them reminded felt like we might be somewhere like California or Florida.  Some of the grand street names “Marine Drive” and “The Boulevard” somehow evoked ideas of these places too.

Designer and Architect T Cecil Howitt was responsible for the initial designs, sketches and layout of the first fifty houses in Beachlands  and is well known for his Council House in Nottingham and buildings in the interwar years and some iconic Odeon cinema buildings of the time.  The estate also had some two storey properties with distinctive 1930’s balconies and long windows.

Some later bungalows were added on to the edge of the estate in the 1950’s – also pleasing in their simple design

Interesting wood cladding on these 1950’s ones

We were particularly taken with these amazing ‘oyster bungalows’ that looked like little boats.  Apparently there are no examples elsewhere of this sort of design

Here’s a photo of the distinctive oyster bungalows from 1950

Image credit

Aside from a handful of blogs,  surprisingly little information was available about Beachlands online when looked it up after our chance visit.

I found here that local residents have now crowdfunded a book shortly to be released in an attempt to get the estate wider recognition in the field of modernist seaside architecture – clearly it is loved by the local population and residents on the estate certainly seemed keen to put their own stamp on their homes with their colourful and cheery facades and quirky garden ornaments.  For now, it remains an overlooked coastal gem.

Beachlands Estate, Pevensey Bay, East Sussex, BN24 

Nearest stations: Pevensey Bay, Norman’s Bay

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Romanian 1970s Christmas postcards

Picked up these superb and wonderfully Eastern Bloc Christmas postcards in Romania a while back, all dating back to the 1970s.

This festive Brutalist block one is particularly spectacular

A sweet 70s look to these characters below, quite like this 1970’s Czech collage I found a while back.  I like the slightly flared trousers and big heels.


All picked up at an antique market in Cluj-Napoca, an attractive university town in Transylvania.  A few more posts on my travels in Romania and Hungary on oddball vintage Romanian ceramics and here on Hungarian book covers and Romanian rural interiors

More curious vintage festive posts in our archive – Christmas postcards from the Soviet Union, surreal baby fishing Christmas postcards from 1905 and New Year pig riding postcards from Czech republic in 1915.

Seasons Greetings from Kuriosas! Thanks for reading and see you in 2019!

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Pispala, Tampere and Porvoo – travels and Finnish interiors

Am (almost) final installment about my travels around Finland.  After my time in Helsinki and at Haihatus art residency featured earlier on Kuriosas, I spent the last part of my trip in Tampere, Finland’s second largest city around 100 miles north of Helsinki, visiting a Finnish artist I’d met called Leena

Despite only meeting her once at the art residency, Leena kindly offered me a place to stay with her partner and two blonde tots in a leafy suburb of Tampere, and I found myself with amazingly warm, generous, creative and like minded tour guides for a couple of days.

Upon my arrival, I was given ‘arctic circle mushroom tea’ which apparently was just a health tonic and wasn’t going to make me see elves.  I loved some of the vintage Finnish ceramics on offer and enjoyed the relaxed bohemian feel to their airy apartment, with impossibly good design everywhere I looked.

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Alvar Aalto Muuratsalo Experimental House, Finland

On a mission to find the Perala museum full of Finnish product design in my recent post, I accidentally but happily stumbled upon the 1952 ‘summer cottage’ of seminal Finnish architect Alvar Aalto called the Experimental House, on the sleepy island of Muuratsalo nestled in forest next to the epic and dreamy Lake Päijänne, the second biggest lake in Finland.

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Vintage Finnish book illustration – Outi Markkanen

During my time in Finland, scouring charity shops or ‘kirpiis’ I was hoping to find some odd publications to blog about so was thrilled to come across this beautiful children’s book ‘Kurnau ja Kamaluu.’  Typing that into a translation tool expecting to find a gentle children’s title I was alarmed / tickled to find it means ‘Crouching and Screaming.’  Sounds like a lovely soothing tale for bedtime.  Anyway, something was surely lost in translation there as the illustrations contained within it are so sweet and charmingly psychedelic.

Printed in 1978 by Sanoma Osakeythio, Helsinki and written by Jaana Lappo, I love the work of it’s illustrator Outi Markkanen (b.1951).

Eye catching retro colour palettes, with bright pinks and yellows – this far out image below is my favourite

I was really bewitched by some of these scenes, especially the friendship with the giant cat which reminded me a bit of the seminal and wonderful Studio Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro (1988) where a huge rabbit spirit creature befriends a small girl – I am still fixated on a Totoro type creature coming to see me in my dreams one day.

It seems Outi has worked on a number of children’s publications and is still creating. Her grandfather was a well known Finnish painter Urti Lehtinen (1887-1982)

Finnish is so damn weird that staring at the words on the pages is also like looking at a work of art – I find it quite mesmerising to look at

Nice effects with dots here

Endearingly, a small person called Mika had previously owned this book and had scribed their name in it

These magical end pages showing an inky blue night sky are surely the perfect way to end a bedtime story

Funnily, I was looking through some postcards by local artists at the rural arts residency I was staying at and was really drawn to this one, buying it immediately.

It reminded me a lot of the work of Estonian illustrator Juri Arrak who I had interviewed earlier on in my trip for my post here, in particular his amazing 1975 tome the Swamp Ladies of Estonia 

It was only later on that I noticed on the back of the card that this work was also by Outi, from 1983.  To me it perfectly captures the intriguing world of Scandinavian folklore, and the tales of trolls and elves that permeate Finland.

Link to (Finnish) wiki about Outi here

Kurnau ja Kamaluu, Jaana Lappo. Published by Sanoma Osakeyhtio, Helsinki 1978


Finnish Vintage Product Design Museum – Perälä | Interview with Marjukka Perälä

After over two weeks cooped up at our creative hideout in rural Finland we were itching for a daytrip before we headed back to Helsinki. The one feasible daytrip, beyond the miles of forest and lakes that engulfed us, was the unpronounceable city of Jyväskylä.  Finnish travel can be super expensive and on a shoestring artist budget, we decided this was the one trip we would do, and could justify it right at the end of our stay.  Well timed as by then our cabin fever levels in our tiny town had reached feverish heights.

The day before we planned to go, I happened to glance in the recycling box at our arts residency – and saw a particularly beguiling woman half obscured in a newspaper supplement.  Pulling it out I was even more intrigued by this individual, perched by a lake in a dazzling get-up.

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