Friday, 23 March 2007



Basildon was once part of the Kingdom of Essex. The names of Basildon, Laindon Nevendon and Pitsea are all of Saxon Origin. Basildon means 'Beorhtels Hill.'

Gipsies have been coming to Basildon for hundreds of years. Church registers mention them in 1690.

In 1566, a man was found guilty of a misdeed but pleaded 'benefit of clergy.' This meant that if he was able to prove his ability to read, he had to be handed over to the Bishop for punishment. At that time, it was usual for only clergymen to be able to read and only the church could punish a criminal clergyman. However, such a criminal had only one chance and, instead of being hanged, he was branded so that it would be evident if he was ever caught committing another criminal act.

In the 17th Century beer was a normal drink for all the family since the water was often impure and tea and other beverages were unknown. In those times, most farm and large houses had brewhouses.

In the 1300's, wood was the only fuel used in Essex as most of the area was covered in forest. Trees were used to mark the parish boundaries until recent times, elms and wych elms being very popular.

According to the Domesday Survey, Vange had a fishery, also mill which survived until 1337.
In the 19th Century farm labourers generally had large families but their cottages were usually small with two bedrooms or one and a lean-to. Before 1900, most houses in the area were built of wood or lathe and plaster.

Capital punishment was frequently administered in the early days. The gruesome sight of a man hanging from the gallows was not uncommon in the Middle Ages. In 1615, there is a record of Nevendon man who was hanged for stealing a horse: also of a woman being whipped for a misdeed.

Disease and death came quite often 200 - 300 years ago especially to women and young chidren, owing to ignorance, insanitary conditions and lack of medical care. On the undrained marshes of Vange and Pitsea, ague, fever and rheumatism were very common; men married several times during their lives lives owing to the high death rate of women.

Census of 1881 gives number of residents in each parish which now forms Basildon New Town as:
Basildon 157, Laindon 320, Langdon Hills 286, Lee Chapel 12, Nevendon 136, Pitsea 203, Vange 158.

In front of the Unigate Dairies, Cranes Farm Road, can be seen the remains of a moat which once surrounded Cranes Farm. Moats were a means of protecting important houses from enemies and wild animals.

The names of many farms, which were once to be found within the New Town boundaries, dated from the Middle Ages. For example, the Gobions, a knightly family, gave their name to an estate in Laindon and were one of the greatest landowners here in the 13th and 14th centuries. One of the family was a Member of Parliament at the time of the Peasants' Revolt (1381).

In the latter part of the Iron Age, Britain was occupied by many tribes each with its own king, capital and territory, and the native tribe of Essex were the Trinovantes. Julius Caesar in the latter of his two landings in 55 and 54 BC probably came across the Thames into this area.

The Canti tribe from what is now Kent extended their power across the Thames and Dubnovellaunus ruled in Trinovantian territory from AD 1 - 10 and a fine gold coin bearing this king's name has been found in Wickford.

Basildon's original village pub was a small cottage alehouse called 'The Bull', sited on Bull Road, now re-named Clay Hill Road. It was rebuilt in the early 1900's and the present Bull Pub was built in 1961.

Between Domesday and the 18th century there were many spellings for Basildon:
1176 - Berdlesdon 1200 - Bretlesden 1240 - Batlesdon 1510 - Bastelden
1594 - Basseldon 1602 - Basildon 1650 - Bassendon

Origins of the names of some roads in Basildon

Audley Way - The manorial name of Audley commemorates the gift to Sir Thomas Audley byHenry VIII of the lands of the Abbey of Walden in 1538.

Chester Hall Lane - Chester M. Hall (1703 to 1771) was the inventor of the Achromatic Telescope and was born at Leigh-on-Sea and lived at Sutton.

Crompton Close - Rookes E.B. Crompton (1845 to 1940). Electrical Engineer pioneer motorist and founded the Chelmsford firm around 1875.

Christopher Martin Road - Named after the Billericay miller who ground flour for the voyage of the first 'Mayflower.'

The Frame - There are two farms so named in the County, one in Tolleshunt D'Arcy which once belonged to Beeleigh Abbey and the other near Feering, in which parish land was owned by St Johns's Abbey in 1400. Both farms were evidently farmed by friars as they appear in the records as 'ffreres' and 'frere.'

Gernons - After the family of Gernons who held a Manor in Essex for 300 years.

Gobions - This name has been given to both areas and farms here in Essex and in the Midlands. Here in Essex the farm in Mucking is associated with the family of Thomas Gubyun in 1306.

Great Leighs as also called Gobions in 1376.

The Gore - A farm in Rochford Hundred. This farm was mentioned in the Court Rolls in 1374.

Luckyn Lane - Lionel Luckyn (1742 - 1834) son of William Luckyn of Dunmow. Lionel Luckyn was the inventor of life boats.

The Lynge - The Lynge was the name of a river since lost in the development of Laindon.The river rose in the hill behind Laindon and flowed to the Crouch.

Rickling - Ricolax was the wife of Sledda, the sixth century King of Essex and she was of the Rikelinges, the people who lived where the village of Rickling stands today in the Uttlesford Hundred.

Wetherland - A wether is male sheep. Again this is a field name. Wethersfield. Wethercote.It is necessary to keep the wether or tup as we call him in the north, separate from the ewes except in the tupping season and the field where he lives is the wetherland, or wethersfield and in the north where the upland winds blow he has a cote or hut to keep him war. Wether is anglo-saxon.

Burnt Mills Industrial Area - originsCourtauld Road - George Courtauld was the founder of the Essex silk industry in the 18th C.Josselin Road - Ralph Josselin of Earls Colne was a diarist who wrote an accurate history of Essex during the Civil War.

Recent History: For centuries there were just small villages in the area with farmhouses and cottages. Until the farmers faced a big problem -cheap wheat began to be imported from America. Farmers in South East Essex found their wheat was too expensive and of poor quality. Many of them decided to sell their land. Some land agents moved in and bought the farms so they could resell the land in small plots.

People who wanted to get away from London came down to the Plotlands and bought these plots. They couldn't afford to build houses, instead they put tents and wooden huts up, even a ships cabin. Some old buses became homes and there was even a railway carriage on one plot of land. During the 2nd World War life in London became very difficult. Some people who used their plots just at weekends moved down and settled in their Basildon homes even though most of them didn't have running water, electricity, gas or proper toilets.
However, some bombs did fall on the area. Four cottages in Gardeners Lane were the first to be destroyed in 1940 and a V2 rocket was the last one to fall in the same road in 1945.The real big change to Basildon happened in 1949, many houses in London had been destroyed during the war. The government decided to build some new towns and Basildon was one of the places chosen. Many of the plotland cottages were demolished as bulldozers moved in making the land ready for the new houses, shops and factories to be built. Then the builders started work and in June 1951 the first tenants moved in.
This is when Basildon Development Corporation strove to transform the area into a modern town.

A large group of Plotland residents went up to Whitehall to protest about the level of compensation paid to those losing their homes because of the New Town.

Barstable Cottage stood in the town I believe very near to where the Towngate is now, a slat-board, white-painted house, mentioned in the Domesday Book. It was set in miles of sleepy countryside, and was compulsorily purchased in the early 50s to make way for the new town.

Barstable Cottage deeply touched the lives of Peggy James and Tony Moss, leaving them a legacy of memories never to be forgotten. Both knew the cottage as a home and both were closely related to the James family who set down roots in the early 1920's.The cottage stood along an unmade track known as Hot Water Lane.Even this name has an extraordinary history, going back to medieval times when a nearby monastery used convicts to farm the land. The locals referred to the convicts as" Those men that got into hot water."And so Hot Water Lane was born.It was a place of country idyll, but this was not to last.The fate of Barstable Cottage was sealed when the government decided to build on the sprawling rural area of land that was Basildon. In 1951 the Development Corporation moved in with a master plan to transform miles of countryside into a concrete city for the 21st century.The James family got their orders from the Development Corporation that the cottage was to be compulsorily purchased. They were paid £150 to move out, but after their removal expenses they had nothing left. They moved to one of the first pensioners homes in Whitmore Way, but the rest of their lives were devastated at losing Barstable Cottage and they never got over their loss. It is also ironic that after the cottage had been bought up and Mr and Mrs James moved out, it stood derelict for quite a few years just waiting for the Development Corporation to give the go-ahead to build.