Following the death of my grandmother, I have been spending some time back in New Malden. The old house, the focal point for my Dad’s family for as long as I can remember, now sits quieter than it has in decades. No aunties turn up for afternoon cups of tea; no Irish cousins appear, unannounced, for story and song.
Unsettled by the silence, I went out for a late night walk between the rains, and ended up at Blagdon Road multi-storey car park. The concrete behemoth is a symbol of another age; of postwar prosperity, individualism, and the freedom of the open road. New Malden High Street is behind the times, and sits clogged and choked by the traffic infrastructure such as the car park was built to encourage.
When I was younger, the car park was kept open all night, and I would take the occasional insomniac wander up its ramps to its open roofed view over the suburban night. But now the ramps are closed at dusk, and any cars parked within are trapped til morning.
I liked this little office, built into the entrance ramp. I imagine it once housed an employee, a kettle, a heater, and a transistor radio. But now it looks distinctly unloved.
I headed around the back of the car park, which was an industrial, faintly dreamlike area when I was a kid. There was once a tv studio there, where one could watch daytime staples like Ready Steady Cook being recorded.
Going further back, the studio was also once the base for Jeremy Beadle’s “Beadle’s About”, a candid camera show in which the longtime You’ve Been Framed host would mastermind gentle pranks on the Great British Public. One was filmed on Blagdon Road itself: an early memory is of a car with a double yellow line painted all the way over its room and bonnet.
But perhaps I imagined the whole thing.
The studio is gone, and is now flats, and yet more car parking – this time underground. In 1973, I can understand how a place to store oodles of cars would get planning permission. In 2021 it seems bafflingly archaic.
As for the Blagdon Road Car Park, it has a certain beauty still, if you’re a fan of concrete and modernism, which I most certainly am. It would be lovely if it became a community space, with cafes and bars, rehearsal spaces and workshops, public libraries and performance areas.
But instead, I would guess that its inevitable fate will be the same as the office tower next to it: conversion to more housing that barely anyone can afford, few cousins or aunties visiting, and no stories told or songs sung in its empty deposit boxes in the sky.