Friday, August 17, 2007

Hanham's Hobbit Habitation

I knew it would happen! The minute we left Hanham - the not-especially-interesting, fairly innocuous, inoffensive little far-out suburb of Bristol where I lived throughout my childhood and my teens, and where my parents still lived up until 2 years - I knew as soon as I turned my back for a moment - something interesting would happen there!!! It turns out Hanham Hall - what used to be some sort of old people's home/mental hospital - where the residents of which used to trundle down to the not-especially-interesting or particularly attractive Anglican church my family and I frequented, until we saw the light and stopped - until the residents were dispersed, in whatever manner seen fit, and the hall closed down - has grand designs in mind. It's all boarded up and waiting for something to happen. And apparently that something is to be a test development for a township of eco-villages!!! Which, along with a similar project in Peterborough, will be the first in the UK!!! These homes will be entirely solar and wind powered. They will have zero-carbon emissions.





Suddenly the memories of the 45-minute chav-populated bus journey into school in town, the dull-as-dishwater 'High Street' with its transport cafes, travel agents, and the 60s inspired 'Folk Centre' plastered in garishly luminous posters advertising the next series of line-dancing classes and the local Christmas panto, have been replaced by the warmer recollections of dusky summers spent at the cricket ground where my dad and granddad played, while I built dens and fell in nettles, and winters spent tobogganing down Hanham Hills and smack into the dry-stone Hanham Walls... Suddenly Hanham conjures up, not the giant plastic fish outside the 'Hanham Friars' (pun intended - I hope - unless the owners had been to Hanham High School, in which case they most likely couldn't spell!!), but the gorgeous, poky little St George's chapel tucked out of sight down by the river, and just down from the spooky Sally-on-the-Barn farm estate, named after its supposedly resident ghost.





Aaah, those were the days, back in Hanham - Progressive Village of the Future - Ultra-Modern Community Forerunner - had I just been able to see it at the time...



I am reminded of the time of the local petition to get the Blue Bowl pub and its assigned bus-stop changed back when the new management at the pub tried to insist upon both the pub AND the bus stop being referred to as the Millhouse. But oh no, us Hanham residents weren't having any of it. We carried on calling it the Blue Bowl even when the bus drivers pretended not to know where we were talking about!! I should have known then to expect great, progressive, people-powered initiatives to be just around the corner!! Oh me of little faith...



Now I'm stuck in Leeds, where the recycling box is threatening to overwhelm us in our kitchen because they only collect the recycling twice a month! They could learn a thing or two from Hanham...!!

Some thoughts of designs for the eco-villages: Are they going to be gleaming, dynamic, Sci-Fi, Enterprises...



Or a bit of a throwback to 50s-style utopianism... like a provincial Barbican



Or something a bit more hobbitty...



Or something not so far from what we already have...



...which is the pretty dull, and probably most likely route... but, hey, I'm not going to underestimate Hanham's potential for pushing the boundaries and exploring architectural controversy!! I'm not going to make that mistake again!!

Oh, and how could I forget Hanham's tourist attraction?? The memorial for John Wesley that brings thousands... or hundreds... or tens... of Wesleyan fans to the replica pulpit said to be a point to which persecuted Baptists fled back in... whenever it was that Baptists were last persecuted...



It's a mystery indeed why such an attraction has not already placed Hanham more in the limelight...

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2 comments:

lou said...

Hi, I came across your article whilst searching for the Hanham Fair start time, which is, to be honest is just an opportunity to meet up with ex-school mates, and I had a chuckle at the sarcasm in your piece. I currently live in Hanham and have done for all 15 years of my life and wondered is it true that the Hanham Hall will be eco-houses? How far along are the plans? I appreciate that you may not know the full extent of the development but I would like to know where I can find out more about this. Good Luck in Leeds. ps. Thanks for the Hanham High jibe as this is my brother's school and, although its true, made him irate :)

jennifletzet said...

Hi, thanks for your comment. I hope you know that my sarcasm is meant purely affectionately!! And as for Hanham High--my opinions are somewhat tainted by the fact that my mum was a teacher there in the early 80s and she HATED it...
I don't know what the latest developments on the eco-village are, but I am keeping my eyes and ears open, and I will definitely post something on my blog if I come across further news. As it is, there's surprisingly little on-line about it... perhaps because it's all very much still in the planning stages... but when they do get round to building it, it will definitely warrant a nostalgic return visit to Hanham!