ESSAY Tim Cooke (Photography by Ben Absalom)

NWR Issue 122

Views of the Wildmill Estate

Equipped only with a black iPhone, he enters the estate via a tunnel below a Victorian railway bridge. The road along which he is walking is called Cemetery Road, on account of the enormous graveyard hidden behind a thick tangle of bushes and trees currently looming over his right shoulder. He pauses for a moment, to consider the curve and brickwork of the arch before him: time mapped in stone; history divided into sections of colour and texture, pattern and degrees of precision. For some reason, he cannot bring himself to record it. He thinks of the dead in the adjacent field.

Wikipedia: Wildmill has often been associated with the working class.

The estate was built in the 1960s according to the Radburn principle and was considered, during that period of experimental social housing, to be an architectural beacon of hope. The idea was to refine the physical environment, through positioning and linkage, to facilitate community. Houses face one another, often across plots of shared green space, and are connected by a complex web of lanes and alleyways. Porches are generally accessed through cul-de-sacs at the rear of properties, to get to which residents must descend rows of steps, or traverse one of the many flanked paths. What appear to be the fronts of buildings – but for the disorientating absence of doors – look out over the main roads...

Tim Cooke is a teacher, freelance writer and creative writing PhD student. His work has been published by the Guardian, Little White Lies, The Quietus, 3:AM Magazine, New Welsh Review and Ernest. His creative work has appeared in various literary journals and magazines, including The Shadow Booth, Black Static, Foxhole Magazine, Prole, Porridge, The Nightwatchman, Storgy, Litro Magazine and MIR Online. He has work forthcoming in a Dunlin Press anthology on the theme of ports and is currently working on his first book. He is on Twitter at @cooketim2

The photographic artist, Ben Absalom, was born in Bridgend, south Wales. He now lives and works between London and Stroud. As part of the artistic duo, Absalom & Bardsley, he has exhibited at galleries including Ffotogallery, Brickhouse, Städtische Galerie KUBUS, Kunstraum D21. His work has also appeared in numerous publications. His practice explores how architecture affects the individual within built environments, and the notion of multiple histories of place.

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previous essay: Unpicking the Locks


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