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
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 (Frances Crittall being the funder of it all)!
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 Deco splendour of Wolverton – a perfect architectural day excursion from London.
Silver End, Witham, Essex
Nearest station: Witham. Free shuttle buses run to Silver End as well as public buses to Braintree.