diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 27, 2018

This is a post about new town architecture and 80s synthpop.

The group Depeche Mode was formed in Basildon in 1980.

The lead singer Dave Gahan grew up in this house.

This is 54 Bonnygate.

It's unusual for this corner of Basildon in that it's an actual semi-detached house. What's more normal is several of these pushed together, but these are the last houses on the road so they get to be separate. The house flanks a backroad down to some garages, with shrubbery up the side behind a wooden fence. The front garden currently boasts a bright yellow bush on the gravel, and some splendid lilac above the hedge. The old Gahan house still has a gated garden, although nextdoor's has been fully paved to park the family's Ford Kuga 4×4. Their porch faces the front, whereas Dave would have nipped out the side on his way to school or that first Top Of The Pops. The nearest chip shop is about five minutes away at the sub-centre on Church Road.

Songwriter Vince Clarke grew up in this house.

This is 59 Mynchens.

This is more like it, new-town-wise. Mynchens is a cul-de-sac of mostly three-storey flats, all flat-roofed, dating back to circa 1961. This east-facing block incorporates up and over garages on the ground floor with the main rooms on the first and second floors. A thin strip of grass runs up to the front door on the non-car-dominated side. The dominant feature at number 59 is the balcony on top of the garage, still with what looks like its original wooden surround, ideal for stepping onto from the living room for a smoke or a sun-dappled breakfast. The fledgling band once used to meet here for synth practice... for Vince's neighbours' benefit, thankfully with headphones on. Today one of the neighbouring residents owns a Rossi's ice cream van.

Keyboard player Andy Fletcher grew up in this house.

This is 101 Woolmergreen.

It's about five minutes north of Vince's house, which must have been convenient at the time. Andy's house is sandwiched into a long terrace up a pedestrianised walkway, with all the necessary vehicle access hidden along service roads behind. Three such walkways fan out from a bleak paved piazza, where the corner shop is, and deducing which one contains number 101 isn't especially intuitive. The front garden is unfenced, and verging on communal, with council mowers responsible for keeping the central strip of grass in check. The front of the house is a mix of brick and timber, with a slight bay window to distinguish it from its neighbours.

I did not visit Martin Gore's house.

It didn't crop up in my pre-visit Googling, and only later did I discover Martin lived a few hundred metres away from Vince at 16 Shepeshall. Also, apparently Vince lived at 44 Shepeshall for a while, and Andy started out at 69 Woolmergreen before moving to 101, and Vince may actually have lived at number 55 not number 59. Meanwhile Alison Moyet grew up at 14 Butneys. I have photos of none of these. Always do your research properly before you make a new town synthpop pilgrimage.

Also you may have noticed that Basildon has a thing about one word street names.

Bonnygate, Mynchens, Woolmergreen, Shepeshall and Butneys is only the start of it.

Other streets include Alcotes, Byfletts, Craylands, Dengayne, Edgecotts, Furrowfelde, Gibcracks, Havengore, Jermaynes, Kibcaps, Lynstede, Malyons, Oldwyk, Paprills, Rokells, Sturrocks, Teagles and Wendene, to name but a few.

If you Just Can't Get Enough, look on a map.

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