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Spion Kop (2011-2013)

Installation; film projections, found objects, printed material. Dimension of shoe: L 220 mm x W 80 mm x D 70 mm, bowl: D 100 mm.

The 1970s marketing campaign for the shoe company Bata’s “Wayfinders” range was an effective way of encouraging children to wear plain, black, lace-up shoes. The ‘Animal Tracks’ model had a secret compass embedded in the heel of the right foot and 10 footprints of British animals embossed along the sole, which children could use to identify the tracks of foxes, badgers, otters and other creatures.

Sold with a list of road signs, a spare compass, animal-shaped Letraset transfers and free sports posters, the Wayfinders became known as ‘the adventure shoe, that was perfect for school’.


Engulfed in moss, this single, right-footed child’s shoe was found amongst the ruins of an empty plot at the Dunton Plotlands in Essex; a site of rural, affordable homes from the 1930s to 1980s. Originally a location for holiday homes and weekend cottages, Dunton Plotlands’ small holdings became permanent housing for Londoners during the outbreak of the Second World War. Auctioned off to the highest bidder, in 1928 a plot cost £8, rising as the population grew. With war imminent, families decided the Plotlands would be safer than their London homes and began to re-settle away from the inner city.


Tenants had free rein at the Plotlands. Each house was individually built and developed its own characteristics, some incorporating tram carriages and porches reflecting the tastes and trades of the occupiers. In the late 1950s, the government appointed Basildon Council Corporation to build a post-war “new town” on the site, forcing residents to consider relocation.


By 1980, Compulsory Purchase Orders had been issued and bulldozers began to remove housing. Some land owners cooperated and sold to the Corporation, however many were forced to leave their country retreats, which had become home.


The flattened area was never built upon. Remnants of these lost dwellings – including foundations, toys, bikes and clothing – gradually became encompassed by wildlife. In the late 1980s the land was sold to the Wildlife Trust and now operates as a nature reserve. Today, remains of Dunton’s bygone era are still visible; steps lead to invisible porches and chimneys are lodged into the earth. Much like this Wayfinders shoe, a 1970s statement of adventurous intent, the Plotlands was a site of exploration and escape that has been swallowed by nature, now overgrown and preserved as a memorial to the local history of Basildon, Essex.

This project uses an extended map of all plots, found objects from the site and video footage to document an area once home to hundreds, now a nature reserve. 

Barry walk 069.jpg
Barry walk 065.jpg
Plotlands Timeline Print JPEG.jpg
Spion Kop, taken from the hay field coopers field.jpg

Audio recording (compressed version), slide projection & scale model of the plot; MDF, card, plastic. 

Dimensions of model: 95 x 58 x 55cm.


'Spion Kop' was the name of a family home at the Dunton Plotlands, Essex. It was home to Nina Humphrey and her family from 1946 until 1970. Her parents and brother continued to live there until 1975 when it was compulsory purchased.


Interview with Nina, 2nd February 2013: "Take one of the interview with Nina Humphrey on the 2nd of February 2013 regarding her childhood home ‘Spion Kop’ at Dunton Plotlands." Acquired by Essex Record Office.

T I M E L I N E of 'Spion Kop'


Thomas Helmore the Estate Agent. The acre of ground was situated at the most northern part of Helmore’s Manor House Estate.

1904: Bought by Mr E. Wood.

1907: Bought by James Burling.

1915: Left to Amy Burton in the will of James Burling.

1920: The bungalow was originally called Honeysuckle Hall, the name was changed to Spion Kop, after the horse that won the 1920 Derby.

1930: George, Amy’s youngest son marries Jessica from ‘Pendennis’ and Dennis is born.

1938: Death of Amy Burton. Spion Kop becomes the permanent home of George, Jessica and Dennis.

1939: Anne Burton is born.

1946: Nina Burton is born.

1949: Council survey, condition of building: poor. Condition of plot: fair.

1951: Alan Burton is born.

1975: Plot compulsory purchased and vacant for five years.

1980s: The garden built over with housing.

Spion Kop aerial photograph circa 1960.jpg
side of tram.jpg
Tram picture 1.1.jpg
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