The Dunton Plotlands (2012)



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

Show More

The 1970s marketing campaign for the shoe company Bata’s “Wayfinders” range was an effective way of encouraging boys 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 abandoned family home at The Dunton Plotlands in Essex; a site of small, 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 reign 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 the 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 demolish the houses. Whilst most land owners cooperated and sold to the Corporation, not all were keen to leave their country retreats. Many fought to keep their homes, the final resident remaining barricaded away behind caravans and fencing until 2006.

 

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. 

​© 2012-2018 Dominique Russell. All rights reserved.