The Weather Clock – Ditchingham
The top half of The Weather Clock album cover contains an image originally published in a Ministry of Housing and Local Government guide in 1953.
The publication was produced to show good examples of new rural housing and estate layout to architects and town planners. The image was used as it captured the concept of the album - the beauty in the newly constructed housing estates of post war Britain, especially those located close to a rural context.
The photo depicts a section of the newly completed Windmill Green housing estate, Ditchingham, Norfolk (close to the Suffolk border). Windmill Green is largely comprised by a runs of terraced houses that form a composition around a green. The estate was built by the former Loddon Rural District Council between 1947-49.
In the summer of 2009, intrigue got the better of me and I visited Ditchingham to see if the exact position of the album cover could be found. A long drive ensued through Norfolk’s meandering lanes steeped with Cow Parsley until the village of Ditchingham was sighted.
After a few wrongs turns within the village, the site where the image was passed unnoticed due to the maturity of trees screening the view of the housing. But there it was! Face to face with the cover of The Weather Clock.
For a few seconds I could swear grainy black and white clouds billowed above the estate, that the nearby chatter of voices talking over the garden fence could be heard, that the distant sound of children playing in the fields was apparent and that the lazy warmth of a summer long ago cast over me. Only to be awakened back to reality by light rain against my face, a gun metal grey sky and the dreary colour of the modern day view.
There was disappointment in realising that the original residents who graced the estate would have long since disappeared and that the trees in the background of the photo had been lost to more housing. This was now a vista largely dominated by white vans, pick ups and cars.
Beyond all this though, lay the estate and houses preserved in aspic as depicted in the original photograph.
On closer inspection, much of the detail of the estate remained, but something had been added. On the wall of the house shown closest on the album cover, was a plaque.
The plaque records that the estate was awarded a Ministry of Health Housing Medal in 1950. I am sure that this made the architects, town planners, parish council and original residents very proud in 1950!
As curtains started to twitch and realising I was being watched, it was time to move on.
On leaving Ditchingham, realisation dawned that I should have not dabbled with the past. Instead, it would have been best to leave the Windmill Estate forever frozen in a perfect moment of time.
The Windmill Estate can be accessed from Thwaite Road, Ditchingham, Norfolk….except on Wednesday afternoons or when the sun is out.