I can usually find offbeat and unusual beauty in almost every place I visit, but I have to admit that I found myself quite challenged during my recent visit to Brentwood in Essex.
Brentwood town is the principal settlement of the Borough of Brentwood, in the county of Essex in the east of England.
Located in the London commuter belt, the town is 20 miles (30 km) east north-east of Charing Cross, and near the M25 motorway. According to the 2011 Census, the town had a population of 49,463.
Despite arriving during the end of the evening rush hour, the town centre was pretty much deserted and the glum faces that accompanied me on the jam-packed train from Liverpool Street reminded me why I should count myself lucky not to have spend two hours every day commuting.
The High Street was lined with closed shops. Even the town’s McDonalds had packed up and moved away, closing down in March this year after trading in the town since 1991.
Use Ur Loft. In text so small you’d have to get on a step ladder to read it, there’s a list of glowing customer testimonies printed on the shop’s awnings.
Some kind of cylindrical sculpture showing off local landmarks. I quite liked it.
Unusually, bus service updates were hand written and Sellotaped on to the bus shelters.
There’s been a pub called The Swan at 125 High Street since the 15th century. Although the pub has been rebuilt several times since, there is supposed to be a ghost that haunts the place.
Located on Hart Street, the former Fire Station now serves as a Barbers and Computer Repair shop.
Another closed shop.
Ornate building at 67 High Street.,
Bit of an unpleasing mash up of old and new here.
The austere façade of Marks & Spencer, who mixed it up with Sainsbury’s during the Brentwood Trolley Row of 2013.
The sad sight of a closed Post Office.
It’s a pretty bleak High Street.
Some architectural relief was found on the corner of the High Street and Ingrave Road.
Further down Ingrave Road can be found Brentwood Cathedral.
Brentwood Cathedral began in 1861 as a parish church built in a Gothic style. This relatively small building was raised to Cathedral status in 1917. Between 1989 and 1991 the church was enlarged in an Italianate Classical style by Quinlan Terry. The original church building on the south (liturgical east) side was retained
The new Brentwood Cathedral was dedicated by Cardinal Basil Hume on 31 May 1991. [—]
Incongruous neon sign.
Located opposite the cathedral, Brentwood School is a coeducational independent day and boarding school founded in 1557. [—]
Just look at the ugliness of this ungainly modern building. Slapped right next to Brentwood School, its cheap and nasty façade stands out like a sore thumb.
Another closed shop.
Unmistakably one wanky name for a business.
Poor old William Hunter met a grisly end.
William Hunter was a Marian martyr burnt to death in Brentwood at the age of 19 on March 27, 1555 on Ingrave Road. He had lost his job in London as a silk-weaver because he refused to attend the Catholic mass, despite an order that everyone in the City of London had to attend, and had come to live with his parents in Brentwood, but got into a dispute when discovered reading the Bible for himself in Brentwood Chapel. He refused to accept the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation according to which the bread and wine of the communion become the body and blood of Jesus.
He was taken before Antony Browne, then the local Justice, but later Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, but refused to retract his position. Hunter was then sent to Bishop Bonner in London. He resisted both threats and bribes—Bonner offered to make him a Freeman of the City of London and give him £40—and was eventually returned to Brentwood to be burnt. He was the first Essex martyr of the reign of Mary Tudor. [—]
Empty period building on Shenfield Road.
Ongar Road scenes.
Yet more closed shops.
A law firm aligning themselves with the words of Albert Einstein. Er… OK.
Another of those hand written bus notices.
If you ever need a driveway Specialst then Parkstone are the specialsts you need.
Just about every street looked as depressing as this one, with all the gardens dug up and replaced with concrete to provide car parking space.
Let’s hear it for the Brentwood dog training facility!
The Rising Sun at 144 Ongar Road was a splendid pub. I passed it on my way the Brentwood vs Dulwich Hamlet football game and popped in for a pint on the way back.
A veh serious darts game was taking place inside.
Around the bar.
The landlord gets busy polishing the cup.
A fine ale.
Heading back into town I passed the majestic sight of the Brentwood Kebab.
Apparently playing a part in the dire The Only Way Is Essex TV series, the Sugar Hut is described as a “Huge nightclub with themed nights swathed in Baroque and Asian decor in a 15th-century coaching inn.”
Not for me, I think.
5 Comments on “Photos of Brentwood, Essex: closed shops, hand written bus notices and a fine pub”
There used to be an Unmistakeably Mark Wilkinson in Leamington. I wasn’t sorry to see it go when it closed down.
Mike – Dam make all the way to bottom hope you not menshion only way Essex.
What you missed a bit of a walk from town was Warley asylum still nice looking building, but made into posh flats. Fords HQ and about 20mins from train stashion Thorndon woods.
I’m sorry to post this but the extent that this article has so spectacularly missed the point is staggering. The point is in a different post code, perhaps county.
My conflict of interest: I grew up in Brentwood and have fond memories. I am more likely than most to be aggrieved by this article, so you should take this into consideration.
But still…travelling to a satellite town that’s struggling, taking photos of closed businesses with wry comments about how it’s struggling, poking fun at business names / the fact a notice is hand written(?!) / everything is run down / “lol how provincial they have a dog training facility” / I found a typo in a sign, then clearing back off to where you came from is a bit poor form. Not really sure how you find that enjoyable or what you’re trying to achieve (a feeling of superiority? Probably not ad revenue).
The point is that this could be any satellite town. Town centres boom and bust, we’re going through a drawn out and marked contraction in physical retail across the country causing many businesses/livelihoods to fail. Local business or multinationals that employ local people. There are empty shops everywhere we look- both when this was written and especially as I write today during the Covid-19 pandemic. Businesses and people in retail are struggling- Brentwood isn’t even the least affluent town, you’d have a field day if you went somewhere with greater deprivation.
Going to a town (any town), being a bit sniffy at it, stretching the sentence “well this place is shit” into a x00 word hatchet job, not even for laughs just because you can, then clearing off again is just a bit…odd.
You can do better than this?
(I live in Tulse Hill, I also get the comparison to Central/South London.)
I was born and raised in Brentwood and still go back regularly to visit friends and I’d say the photographer has done an excellent job of capturing the place.
I have lived in brentwood since 1979 then it was a nice place to be everyone new everyone now I will agree 👍 it has turned into a shithole