Didcot 1988: Disappearing Landmarks

Didcot 1988 Oxfordshire England UK Cow Lane Abingdon Road Express Dairies site

In 1988, a Didcot resident picked up his home video recorder and filmed parts of the local area about to change forever. It has turned into a remarkable and rare record of the Oxfordshire town’s rural boundaries before development.

This short film, lasting 8 minute and 15 seconds, was recorded in July 1988. YouTube Channel theMgtfman uploaded it to the video streaming platform back in December 2010. 

Since then thousands of viewers have enjoyed this footage.

Cow Lane In Didcot

The footage opens in Cow Lane, Didcot, on 12th July 1988. 

The camera records the peaceful summer scene of a country land surrounded by fields and hedges. A few birds sing in the background. The occasional car and a BOBS taxi pass by.

However, the narrator tells us this is all going to change in a couple of years. 

Then we see Cow Lane Farm, set alongside the lane.

Footage in nearby fields show white cows peacefully grazing.

Three and a half minutes later, we see the country lane at a different location. The fat three towers of Didcot Tower Station dominate the backdrop, contrasting with the rural scene.

As the camera now pans across the landscape, other industrial structures appear. One is a gas holder, also called a gasometer. These were widely used across the UK when power was under national control and before the expansion of North Sea gas provision. Cheaper summer prices were used to top up gas holders. Then their contents were released throughout the winter for domestic and commercial supply, with the intention of protecting consumers from peak winter prices.

Cow Lane ends with a T-Junction. An old fashioned signpost marks the directions to surrounding towns and villages. The small lane is used by large vans as well as cars, and there are ditches running alongside the road.

The narrator tells us this is the new Didcot link road.

Abingdon Road In Didcot

Four and a half minutes into the video, footage moves to Abingdon Road in Didcot. At the end of the road’s traditional ribbon development, construction on a new housing estate is well underway.

Over the road lay green and peaceful fields surrounded by tall trees and hedges.

Finally, at the end of the road is a roundabout. The road going to the right has a tunnel underneath.

Express Dairies Site

Five and a half minutes into the video, we see the Express Dairies site. Although the gates stand open, the vacant site awaits demolition.

At the roadside stands a large ‘prime development’ sign, advertising 4.2 acres of land for sale.

A very small airplane buzzes in the sky above. However, cheeping of the sparrows in the nearby vegetation dominate the sound.

Finally, in the distance sits a second hand car business.

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