Where is Loughton

March 16, 2011

As I go on more site visits on this project I become increasingly enveloped in the abstract thoughts and ideas that I spend my days pondering over.  I usually take the commuting time to ‘the field’ to ponder some of these thoughts and start to consider things to consider in ‘the field’.  No doubt this is not scientifically pure, admitting as I am that I come pre-loaded with academic goggles through which to see, but this is, is it not, the nature of experience?  I am not just a research student I am many other things, I’m a northerner from a 1960’s suburban estate of a declining satellite town of Manchester,  I’m a resident of Brixton, here I’m a 20 something bloke (before I was a teenager).  These aspects of me, amongst others, constitute to a ‘ways of seeing ‘ (see John Berger 1972) Loughton, they affect the things I notice and describe.  No doubt other contributors will pull out things relevant to them.  In this sense the location of Loughton rests, in the embodied sense, in the eyes of the beholder.   Further to this the perception of Loughton then affects the actions of such viewers.

So….again….Where is Loughton?

Central line, (a surprisingly short commute from London?) its 1940, (from the architecture of the tube station) its distinctly suburban (as I was greeted by large purpose built Sainsbury’s and car park on New station rd),  its Victorian house (old station road) its London, (Accents, commute, tube, the cirle and line symbol on the transport stops.  It on the edge of the major metropolis but also Essex? (insert your own stereotypes) its Zone 6 or Its on the edge of Epping forest?

Where is Loughton? 1940? 1490? Big houseville, Small houseville? Its mock tutor house with its ‘Englishness’ and suburban ‘cosy’ connotations

Or its clone town Britain with its homogeneity of shop selection (KFC, Travel agent, Card Shop) and dominant supermarkets


the 19(70’s? 80’s?90’s?) shopping centre led me to an imagining of a time lapse photography walk through the area.  What buildings would endure? What would shift and change, if the area could be seen as fluid.  Some buildings would persist, like the elegant tube station, some would come back to life, like the mock Tudor housing where ‘history repeats itself’ [see Emmett 2009] (or that perhaps invents itself) and some would vanish (like independent retailers? [see Mathiason 2006]). 

The commonly occurring suburban high street shop selection makes me think it could be anywhere, clone town perhaps.  But it is this, perhaps(?) which makes Loughton as a distinct and successful area endure as a sustainable suburb.  Perhaps it is its ability to be what it needs to be for now?  If we need a wimpy then the infrastructure can adopt one, if we need to be near London then its location can be, if it wants to be art Deco 1940s it will stay so and be so, if it want to be Essex it will be.  If it wants to be English ‘cosyness’ it will be, if it wants shops and services then it shall be so.  The people of Loughton are there for a reason, like I was (to me Loughton, on this day, was ‘the field’) but those reasons are as varied as they are many, yet all of them affirm and concretize or destabilize and make fluid the position of Loughton, further to this Loughton, with its history, its position, its shape and infrastructure acts on people to slow them to a sticky position of ‘in and around’ Loughton for however long for whatever reason (like for the days work) or perhaps losses its grip (when I go home or people seek something elsewhere).


Berger, John (1972). Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books

Nick Mathiason: On clone towns and supermarkets
High Street, Clone Town, 2015The Observer, Sunday 12 February 2006
Susan Emmett,  The Sunday Times, 05.03.2009 The revival of mock-Tudor homes History is repeating itself. In troubled times the half-timbered home has once more become a symbol of security:

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