Basildon – Ancient Times to the Sixties
From a combination of Memories of Basildon – Jim Reeve and talking to Maud Sargeant, copies of papers kept in the back of Basildon Library and what was already written about the trail.
There is evidence of ancient man having living in Basildon and surrounding area, proof of this is the stone hammer of Neolithic man or Bronze Age man found in Timberlog Lane.
There is also proof of Celts, Saxons and Romans living in the area. The name of Basildon has Saxon origins in Beorhtel Hill.
When Swan Mead school was built (not far from Puck Lane) sixty bronze pieces were discovered which were thought to date back to 1000 BC and
Vange Hall which is near where Puck Lane meets Clay Hill Road – Fragments of Celtic Spear heads and sword blades have been found and Roman tiles and bricks.
In the latter part of the Iron Age, Britain was occupied by many tribes each with it's own King, capital and territory. The native tribe of the Kingdom of Essex were Trinovantes.Julius Caesar in the latter of his two landings in 55 and 54BC probably came across the Thames into this area.
(Basildon Library - photocopied anonymous -The Cantii tribe from what is now Kent extended their power across the Thames and Dubnovellaunus ruled in Trinovantian territory from AD 10 and extended his control over a large area of south east England from his capital at Camuldonum (Colchester). The Romans called him "King of the Britons". Two of his coins were found at Billericay at Roman Way. Cunobolin died in AD 42 and the following year saw the invasion of Britain by the Emperor Claudius. His army of some 40,000 men crossed the Thames and probably marched through this area on their way to capture Colchester from where the conquest of the remainder of Britain was planned.
The Saxons, the Danes, the Vikings (who tried to loot Basildon area via Canvey) and William the Conqueror, to name only a few of the invaders, have all left their mark. The name of Basildon means "Beorhtels Hill", is of Saxon origin.
In William's Domesday Book Basildon appears under the name of "The Hundred of Barstable". A Hundred being a division of pre-Conquest land.
Though the Black Death in 1388 brought a decline in population and a change in occupation from agriculture to sheep farming for the men left, there was still the desire to enjoy life. Basildon had its own fair each year until 1848, the site possibly being whre Fairhouse Farm originally stood and where Fairhouse School stands now.
Many from Basildon, incidentally, joined the Ironsides in the 17th Centurey (??).
The railway from Fenchurch Steet reached Pitsea in 1854, Liverpool to Southend (Wickford) in in 1889. Until then Basildon had changed little.
In 1916 during the First World War, Basildon was to see the destruction of the L32 German Zeppelin and the killing of its crew of 22. In the last war air raiders, more often than not, were intercepted over the area by Hurricanes and Spitfires andthe district was splattered with its fair share of bombs. V2 Rockets and the dreaded Flying Bombs - aimed at London but very often falling short of thier target.
In 1690 floods in Vange were so disastrous that assistance was sought of Cornelius Vandenanker, as distinguished Dutch engineer who reclaimed marshes from Dagenham to Canvey.
Many local clergymen were turned out of their livings by Cromwell and te Parochial Inquisition of 1650 showed that a William Heywood, incumbent of Laindon cum Basildon (or Bassendon as it was called at this time) had been replaced by Mr Morrre and his assistant, Mr Gale.
One eighteenth-century history says of Basildon "It may be conjectured that this quiet scene was at one period the metropolis of the district," illustrating the full circle Basildon has turned - from town to remote vilage and back to town - in the course of about 1,000 years. Where was the Hall, which must have been near the focal point of the hundred's activities? Another authority says it lay "about half a mile from Basildon church towards Vange. In a pasture field near the church, called Town Field, foundations or buildings have been ploughed up, whence the country people infer that the town stood there."
The Church referred to was Holy Cross, which stands quiet and secluded on rising ground at the top of Church Road. Here is the centre of old Basildon village itself.
It derived its name from a Saxon, Beorhtel, who owned land in the area. The hilly nature of the land to the north of the church made it known as Beorhtel's Hill (dun was Saxon word for hill) and so Beorhtel's dun slowly become Basildon over the centuries.
Hereabouts must surely have stood a thriving community when Basildon or Barstable Hall stood at the centre of Barstable hundred. Now the church serves to remind of a long-vanished town centre, hidden away from town centre of today and forgotten.)
Gypsies have been coming to this area for hundreds of years. Church registers mention them in 1690.In the 17C beer was a normal drink for all the family since water was often impure and Tea and other beverages were unknown. In those times most farm and large houses had brew houses.In the 1300's, wood was the only fuel used in Essex as most of this area was covered in forest.
Modern Basildon has its roots in the decision of The Land Company in 1891 to buy up land from cash strapped farmers and sell it on in plots.
The farmers had more or less lost the fight with the cheaper imported grain from America and Canada.
The Land Companies idea coincided with the expansion of the railway and they teamed up together to organise specially priced trips to Laindon, Pitsea and Wickford.
Posters went up in London advertising the benefits of living in the country, it sounded like heaven! The plots were priced as little as £10.
People came in droves and were met at the stations by horse and carts, which took them out to the farms. They were entertained in marquees with meals and drinks which cost 2s 6d. Once buyers were in the right frame of mind the sale began. Plots nearest to the station went first.
On the plots they first lived in bell tents, old railway carriage coaches, ships cabin – anything to give shelter.
Although at first there were more weekend homes, in 1939 when the war was declared the weekend plotlanders came down to live to escape the bombings.
In Essex over 20 lives were lost and over 6,000 homes were damaged.
Twenty-six planes were shot down in the area, unfortunately more allied than German. The enemy planes were following the River Thames and jettisoned their bombs on the Essex countryside before heading out over the North Sea.
The idealistic plot land life was brought to a dramatic end by the 1946 New Towns Act, introduced by the Labour Govt of the day, (it was an answer to unmade roads, housing shortage and unemployment).
Many of the electorate strongly contested the proposal forming opposition groups. Despite opposition ‘The Basildon Development Corporation was established – the first Chairman – Sir Lancelot Keay.
Basildon became the dominant partner and took over Billericay council.
In the past Laindon and Pitsea were more dominant than Basildon.
1801 population Laindon – 304
Basildon - 62
Pitsea – 211
In 2001 the whole area of Basildon plus Wickford and Billericay – 165,668
When some of the Plotlanders found out that the land was going to be developed they sold up to Basildon Development Corporation and moved to different parts of the country. Many were frightened of the future. Some of the owners were pleased to sell to the corporation and move into a brand new house.
Gradually all the Plotlanders sold up as when there were few remaining they felt lonely. Some emigrated to Australia and Canada.
In the 1950’s they started building Basildon, and the construction of the Laindon Link (nr the Armillary Sundial). Giant earthmovers moved in, tearing down trees and cutting the roadway.
When the Basildon Corporation started taking over there was not enough resistance. People did not realize what was happening.
Once owners were served with a compulsory purchase order they started getting indignant but it was too late. It felt quite unfair to the Plotlanders.
Basildon Development Corporation brought in new people, they offered jobs and cheap places to live.
In 1956 John Radley went to work for them and was offered a 3 bed roomed house for £2s, 1 shilling and 8 pence, or a 2 bed roomed house for £1, 18 shillings and 9 pence.
For a television they had to go to Radio Rentals in Westcliff as there were no television shops in the Basildon area.
2 bad things – Corporal punishment in schools, and in Carreras a factory in Basildon if a woman got married she got sacked!!
Keay House (Keay comes from the name of the name of Sir Lancelot Keay
‘The Basildon Development Corporation’s’ first Chairman.
Keay House was opposite where WH Smiths is now.
Rumours of Basildon
Brooke House was starting to lean and everyone had to move out was one, and a Chinese restaurant was caught serving Kit-E- Kat.
It was very safe in the ‘50’s hardly any crime.
Basildon Development Corporation was based in Pitsea then moved to Cherrydown.
Slightly unrelated information
Timberlog Lane is thus called because the old timber carts used to come round there from the river, they would make with wide swerving tracks with their cart.
Another story about Timberlog lane is that the Romans dragged timber down it to Vange Wharf (these logs and timber were probably shipped down to shipyards, notably Brightlinsea, who were responsible for providing much of the fleet from the 13th century to the 16th C) and the reason the lane was windy isn't that the carters were drunk though they might well have been but that when land was enclosed lanes often had to wind around the newly enclosed fields rather than go straight across as they had previously before the enclosure.
Saturday 14th April from 'Portrait of Essex - S.A Manning, published in 1977 - lent to me by Sue Randle.
After the 2nd World War the local authorities concerned were unable to undertake the vast task of clearing what had become a large rural slum divided into some 30,000 ownerships. Accordingly they petitioned the minister to designate the area as the site of a New Town, and this action was taken early in 1949.
Now, with a population of 85,000 (1977) more than 20,000 homes, and some 200 factories, Basildon stretches for about six miles, from Pitsea in the east to Laindon in the west, the whole set around a new town centre. This is intended to be the commercial, administrative and recreational centre and to act as a focal point not only for the surrounding residential neighbourhoods but for the whole district. Planned as a pedestrian precinct, it is the site of the principal shops (more than 200), an open market, and parking facilities for some 4,000 cars.
Maurice Lamberts Mother and child here, in Town Square, symbolizes the young and growing area of Basildon whose District Council uses an interpretation of the statue as its symbol.
The first housing areas were developed east of the town centre in Barstable and Fryern neighbourhoods. Short terraces of brick-built houses, some white-rendered, were built at relatively low densities.
In the later neighbourhoods one can also find abundant evidence of increases in housing density, the tendency towards an increasing close-knit character. More space is often available within homes. Smaller gardens but safe play areas are available.
In 1977 Basildon had an Amateur Operatic society, (shortly to celebrate it's 50th Anniversary (1977)) and YOBA Youth Opera Basildon Area, whose members have taken part in La Boheme, Orpheus in the Underworld, and other productions.
BASILDON - Birth of a City - Peter Lucas
Basildon Development Corporation planted a hundred thousand trees across Basildon, unfortunately they lost 6,000 Elms due to Dutch Elm Disease.
The Development Corporations landscape staff under Harry Bradley in particular made a brave effort to stem the disease and even imported 1,500 minute wasps from Vienna in 1971.
In addition to using a series of chemical injections on infected trees.
The wasps were said to be Dutch Elm bugs most deadly enemy. But to no avail, by Sept 1973 local newspapers reported the battle appeared to have been lost.
A College of Further Education was going to be sited in a central position north of the town i.e. Gloucester Park, which changed to the eventual site in Nethermayne.
Pool with Sculpture immediately to the West and Souith of the Piloti Underscoft of Brooke House:1962. London rectangular pool with raised granite clad sides and coping, within which is set at the East end, a bronze sculpture 'Mother and Child' and fountain, by Maurice Lambert. The pool was designed as a foreground to Brooke House and us Grade II listed.East Square: Sunken square designed to complement Brooke House. Broad flight od stairs to lower level along Westv side, curved ramp with cobble clad retaining walls, with painted steel railings and hardwood handrail above. Esat side has double row of shops at ground and first floor level (part of Freedon House and not included in listing), with projecting 'L' plan reinforced concrete beam and with painted steel railings with hardwood handrail above. At foot of staircase is a purpose-built bench with vertical slats of teak fixed to a tubular steel framework. All part of a group with Brooke House which it happens to complement. This is also a Grade II listed building
15 April 2007 13:54
BASILDON PLOTLANDSAt the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, agricultural depression meant that many Essex farms were semi-derelict or derelict and abandoned, particularly on the heavy London clay lands of south and east Essex. Enterprising entrepreneurs bought up these farms at rock bottom prices, splitting them up into individual plots to be sold separately. Advertised as an opportunity to live in an arcadian paradise, the sales were often promoted by means of cheap train excursions to view the sites, accompanied by free food and drink on arrival. These 'Plotlands' proved very attractive to people living in the cramped slum conditions of the east end. However, such rather anarchic development brought many problems. By 1898 plotland dwellers were being described as 'squatters' whose style of living 'might do in the Australian bush or the American backwoods, but it is hardly what one might expect in the highly civilised county of Essex'. The high point of plotland development came between the First and Second World Wars when there was a major concentration of plotland settlements in the Basildon area. In the 1950's and 60's Basildon New Town was designed and built to replace these rather ramshackle building.
I know that where Fairhouse school is, they used to have a fair held there every year. It was way before my time that they had the fairs.