Other Edens

Other Edens

Journeys through the dark, mysterious and weird towns and villages in the British Isles. Each episode, a new place with new stories. Praise for The Town That Didn't Stare: "Arch and funny, but... deeply serious in trying to understand the peculiar history of the town" – Financial Times "Facinating... mysterious, it really hooks you in" – BBC "Brilliantly arch" – Sunday Times "Hilton is an engaging narrator, tip-toeing the lines between nostalgia, comedy and truth-telling" – The Big Issue


December 23, 2022 17 mins
Christmas Day, 2021. I stop at Reading motorway services and find graffiti on the wall of a toilet cubicle: two locals, Gavin and Chelsea, are hacking brains using their iPhones. This Christmas special episode of Other Edens is the story of Reading motorway services, toilet graffiti, and the strange native poetry that binds them together.

Written and presented by Nick Hilton.
Sound design by Ewan Cameron.
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What makes the quintessential English village? A church? A pub? A post office? A cricket pitch?

Everyone knows the English village, whether it's from real life or via The Vicar of Dibley or Midsomer Murders. But what is the real history – from archaeological ruins to the present day – of this settlement? On today's Other Edens, we speak to Dr Ben Robinson (aka The Flying Archaeologist) about his book England’s Village...
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In 1942, an engineer named Guy Maunsell constructed a series of audacious defensive towers out where the Thames estuary meets the North Sea. These structures – known now as the Maunsell Sea Forts – remain to this day, rusting and abandoned. But they also had a strange, eerie afterlife, from pirate radio to the micronation of Sealand.

On today's episode of Other Edens, we look at the history of the Maunsell Sea Forts, ...
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November 4, 2022 23 mins
Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.

Well, in the East Sussex town of Lewes, that 1605 assassination attempt on the Protestant head of state has not been forgot. Each year, the Lewesians swam out on the streets of their little town, clad in the garb of the different bonfire societies, firing cannons, shooting fireworks, bear...
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Nestled away in Kent is the small village of Pluckley. It looks charming and chocolate boxy: a pub, a butcher, a post office and a churchyard. But scratch that veneer and you find a place that has become famous over the past century as England's most haunted place. Ghosts and apparitions, strange sights and noises. Murder, mysteries and the macabre, all haunt this Kentish village.

What is it that makes Pluckley so sin...
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October 28, 2022 3 mins
All things must change. As surely as winter bursts into spring life, spring into bountiful summer, summer into the falling leaves of autumn and autumn back into the denuded branches of winter, so too does my podcast change. Since I started making documentaries about England’s towns and villages, we’ve had three cycles through these seasons, three spins around the sun, and three Prime Ministers. Everything changes.

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September 1, 2021 44 mins
The Doughnut. A giant circular low-rise office block in west Cheltenham; it is, jokingly I'm sure, said to look from above like a giant bullseye.

Here, the men and women of GCHQ go to work every day. Here they listen to the world. Here they keep tabs. And here, in 2013, their secrets spilled out to the world. This is the story of Edward Snowden and the GCHQ/NSA leaks, and how the secret world of surveillance was blown...
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Where do the dead go when they die? Do we file them away in obituaries? Or celebrate them at a memorial service and slowly forget their day-to-day existence?

This is a story of death. It is a story of spirits lingering on. It is a story of how lives become stories and how stories define places. From the ghosts of Prestbury to the dead GCHQ mathematician Gareth Williams – via, of course, the singing mice of the Tailor ...
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Geoffrey Prime, Soviet spy at GCHQ, has been arrested on sexual offences against children. But that was just the start of his world unravelling. And as the Prime affair came to a boil, the grubby compromises of espionage would also be aired.

This is the story of the Prime trial and the trials that all people must bear as their world disintegrates. From the calm of Cleeve Hill to the Mafia drama of the death of Roberto...
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There's a clock in Cheltenham that hangs above a shopping arcade. Below its face a magnificent golden fish rotates and, on the half hour spews bubbles. It is a singular work from a singular mind: that of Kit Williams.

Williams is most famous for the Masquerade puzzle hunt in the 1980s. This is the story of the man, the book and the quest he set in motion. And if you keep listening throughout the podcast, you might fi...
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This is the story of a man who had not one but two double lives. It is the story of the disorientating topsy-turvy world you'll find through the looking glass, where all is not what it seems. This is the story of GCHQ's mole...

From Lewis Carroll to Geoffrey Prime, this episode looks at the lies we tell to keep our worst secrets from the outside world. It is an episode that looks at how lies expand to fill the space t...
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July 28, 2021 31 mins
Enigmas. Things that cannot be understood; things that must be unravelled and unriddled. Things that are not what they seem.

This series is, in many ways, about enigmas, but here we're talking about a literal one: the Enigma machine. This is the story of the codebreakers of Bletchley Park, including Alan Turing, who broke the German cypher and helped to end the war. But it is also the story of what we can and cannot k...
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Tucked away in a scenic corner of the Cotswolds, you'll find the Regency spa town of Cheltenham. It could be more English: from royal visits to Jane Austen re-enactments, it has everything an outsider would want from a quaint British town. But scratch beneath the surface and you'll find something quite different...

In this episode we look at the history of Cheltenham and how burbling subterranean water springs set in ...
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Set in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, in a part of England known for its beautiful Regency architecture, famous public schools and sky-high house prices, is the idyllic town of Cheltenham. This is a town that was the height of fashion in the time of Jane Austen, and, to this very day, remains a favoured outpost of the rich and famous.

But behind that manicured facade lies a secret. This is a town that plays host ...
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East Grinstead, the home of Scientologists, Mormons, Rosicrucians and more; a nexus for ley lines, a perfect Prime Meridian settlement and Britain's most haunted town. But why?

Why is East Grinstead, this little town in Sussex, so strange? What happened to make East Grinstead this unstaring town? Is this a question that can ever be truly answered? And do we really want to know the answer?

The Town That Didn’t...
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In 1556, three martyrs are burned at the stake. In 1812, the Prime Minister is gunned down in the House of Commons. And in 1996 a businessman is shot returning to his mansion.

This is the story of East Grinstead, its violent history and its ghosts.

The Town That Didn’t Stare is written, produced and presented by Nick Hilton.
Intro and incidental music by George Jennings.
End credit...
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What is the Guinea Pig Club?

At the height of the Second World War, the sleepy Sussex town of East Grinstead played host to one of the most remarkable and revolutionary medical facilities of the 20th Century. The town's famous Guinea Pigs were severely burned airmen who had come to the Queen Victoria hospital for treatment under the scalpel of the great Archibald McIndoe. What happened from there has become the stuff ...
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There is something that makes East Grinstead special, and has drawn extraordinary people to what looks, on the surface, like a very ordinary town. Amongst those who read the land like a book – like a religious text – there are those who say that the town marks the confluence of ley lines, the invisible underground energy currents that, for millennia, have silently and secretly governed the fate of mankind. Could it be that the...
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In 1959, L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, one of the world's most controversial religions, bought a manor house in the sleepy Sussex town of East Grinstead. In doing so, he changed everything for that town. East Grinstead was now world famous, not as a middle class commuter town with a beautiful timber-clad high street, but as the focus point of global concerns about abuses and corruption in alternative religion. Ho...
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From the early humans of the Middle Pleistocene era through to the Norman conquest, the history of Sussex is a tale for the ages. East Grinstead, the town that didn't stare, is nestled in this landscape, but what do we know of the thousands of years before the bricks, houses and churches of the town sprang up? What do we know of this wild land where rhinoceros once roamed free? What emerged from the malaria filled marshland of...
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