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Notes on Frinton-on-Sea

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Pre-war Modernism

Frinton was planned and built in the late 19th/early 20th century as a genteel, select seaside town. The plan was for a different kind of resort. No common pleasures such as pubs, amusement arcades, ice cream kiosks and fish 'n' chips were allowed. Instead there was a golf course, a lawn tennis club, and a huge green overlooking the sea where the gentry could stroll, take the air and enjoy the view.

The idea of an elite resort took off and by the 1930s Frinton was extremely fashionable. Edward, Prince of Wales was a frequent visitor, as was Winston Churchill, Douglas Fairbanks and Gladys Cooper.

The Round House, Frinton-on-Sea
The Round House

Art Deco Modernism

In 1934 the Frinton Park project began. This was a ground breaking development aiming to make modernist style mainstream. It started with the building of a completely circular Art Deco house. The Round House was intended as a show home and information centre for the project, and contains a mosaic on the dining room floor illustrating the whole plan. Initially, 1,000 Art Deco houses were planned together with a shopping complex, a hotel, and a town hall. All were to be built in the then experimental material, concrete. Oliver Hill was the principal architect and he brought in several young, idealistic and progressive architects to assist. But there were problems.

Building societies refused to fund concrete buildings, meaning that some were instead built out of bricks and mortar, and this discouraged many of the purist modern architects. Then the public were not an enthusiastic about the modernist designs as the planners. Of the first 20 plots sold, 18 buyers withdrew when they found out that only flat roofs would be permitted. The Art Deco houses proved more expensive to build than anticipated, and in the end, only 40 homes were built, and the company behind the scheme collapsed in 1936.

Of the 40 houses built, only 15 remain. However, this is still the largest group of modernist houses in the UK. And several new buildings in the area have been built in a similar style enhancing the classy look and feel of this part of Frinton.

Gunfleet Sands

Strolling along the greensward in Frinton you can see a huge windfarm out at sea. This is on Gunfleet Sands, a treacherous sandbank just off the Clacton coast. In the 17th and 18th century there were 211 shipwrecks off the Essex coast, of which 133 (nearly two thirds) were on Gunfleet Sands. On one occasion in 1849, 6 boats were stranded there in a single night. Although one boat was subsequently re-floated, the other 5 were lost. Luckily, the crews were all rescued but needed medical help. Local people generously gave money for their care and the sailors were transported to London for treatment, possibly aboard the Dreadnaught, an old warship which had been converted into a floating hospital for 'all distressed seamen'.

Following this calamitous night, a lighthouse was constructed on Gunfleet Sands in 1850 to warn shipping of the hazards. It had a 2-man crew who lived on board, four and a half miles off the coast: living accommodation consisted of a living room, bedroom, kitchen and storeroom. They maintained a revolving light visible for 10 miles, and a fog-warning bell. The lighthouse was decommissioned in the 1920's.

The Gunfleet Sands Windfarm consists of 3 separate arrays constructed between 2008 and 2013. The first two arrays contain 48 turbines and have a capacity of 172 MW. Between 2010 and 2012 they produced 450 – 520 GWh, operating at about one third of their capacity. The third array consists of just 2 turbines and is a demonstration site for testing new windfarm equipment.