The Imagined Village


Perhaps it's like Brigadoon and we haven't yet been patient enough. Photo of the demonstration of the Merrie England model, scanned by Steve Hames and taken from the book, 'Cannock Chase (Images of England)' by Sherry Belcher and Mary Mills.

Further to my recent post about the early seventies phenomena that was the failed Merrie England project, I received a very welcome contribution from reader Steve Hames, of SJH Computing, who kindly scanned this remarkable image from the book ‘Cannock Chase (images of England)’ by Sherry Belcher and Mary Mills. I must confess that this is a title I wasn’t previously aware of, and I just ordered myself a copy.

Is it me, or does that model, and the description, sound like an absolutely dreadful idea? Is it just my modern expectations, or was the concept duff, even then?

Thanks are due to Steve for his fascinating addition to a very left-field bit of local Staffordshire folklore. Together, bit by bit, we’re assembling a historical record. Keep ’em coming, chaps…

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3 Responses to The Imagined Village

  1. Graham Evans says:

    The Merrie England project brings back many memories as I was doing a study of the Norton Canes and Chasewater areas for my college work at the time. My dad was a county councillor and was invited to the presentation by Mecca so I tagged along and remember having far too much free wine! I must dig out my project from the loft to discover the details but I do remember them spending £3M on landscaping the site and creating the lake which became quite a magnet for lots of wildlife seeking refuge from the greatly disturbed Chasewater. The scheme failed and the lake became literally a mountain of rubbish. The Kingswood open-cast mine followed and the only remnant of the Merrie England project is the wood bordered by the Cannock Road and Newlands Lane which was a plantation of young trees intended to be transplanted across the whole site. The Baron’s Court Hotel in Walsall Wood was developed from the old ‘Watersplash’ by an independent company attempting to take advantage of the massive visitor numbers expected to flock to Merrie England.

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  3. Gordon Higham says:

    For a while, I was appointed as Chief Engineer for Merrie England as they were dealing with the Coal Board’s reinstatement of the site. My Company was BSP Industries and we made the model seen in some of the photographs. In addition to an over-all site model, we made specific models of the old London Bridge and the original Crystal Palace. The models were used at the Project Launch held in The Dining Room at the House of Lords. I also recall, taking the London Bridge model onto the site to have it photographed with the then ‘Miss World’ by Lord Litchfield.

    The client Merrie England, were a strange bunch. Whilst I was more concerned about where to move millions of tons of mining waste, they would be arguing about what the carrier bags should look like once they opened the shops.

    I recall that their Architect was Brendan Alimo – not a name one forgets.

    It was all going swimmingly until OPEC quadrupled the price of oil and the financial world fell off its perch. End of a scheme that would have involved hundreds of millions of pounds for several years before a penny was earned.

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