LAINDON MEMORIES

Oct/Nov 1999 Jan 2000

By John Bathurst

INTRODUCTION.

It must be fairly safe to claim that there are probably very few people who do not have an interest in the meaning of their "given "name. That Elizabeth is corrupted from the Hebrew way of saying God is satisfied; that Peter means The Rock or Rock-like or that Mark was a corruption of Mars the Roman God of War; and so on. Many books have been published on the subject.

When it comes to understanding Surnames and their origination, there is also a lot of interest. Names like Carpenter or Smith, derived from an early ancestor's trade: like Brown or Long which were nick names that became family name: like Robinson or Johnson where forenames got turned into Surnames etc. Elaborate dictionaries on the subject have been published and this is an important area of study

When it comes to the origins of Place Names, learned societies have been studying this subject for years, searching through old documents to establish the antiquity of the names of places. So that while it is known and generally accepted that Langdon Hills means the Long Hill which to most people seems very apt, the name Laindon still eludes a full understanding. It is, apparently, a very ancient name, derived, it is thought from the name of a "lost" river that ran through the district.

One area of study which, however, has not had quite enough attention paid to it as yet is that of why roads or thoroughfares are called what they are. We do know why in some cases, because the reasons are obvious. Pudding Lane,  for instance, the street in which The Great Fire of London started in 1666 was so called because of the many baker's shops in it. Pound Lane in Laindon and many other places owes its name to the fact that there was a compound there in the past where straying cattle were impounded awaiting collection by their owners.

Some research has been done. We now know, for instance, that odd names like Honeypot Lane or Dry Street in Basildon have nothing to do with bees or a lack of water but derive their names from that long standing problem that faced farmers in the past and still plagues gardeners to this day: the heavy clay of the district.

We also know that in the early part of the 20th century, the rapid expansion of street names in the Laindon, Dunton, Lee Chapel area where a great many roads were marked out over what had been open fields in a short space of time in a locality where previously there had been few roads, meant a great deal of imagination had to be used very quickly in order to think up new names. How were the road names chosen?

If, as is clear with many of the older street names there is some hidden local history to be teased out might there not equally be some important facts about the past which are concealed within the names which have graced the Street Maps of the Laindon and Langdon Hills in the past one hundred years? It does seem fairly important, since a great many of these names are no longer being used, to make sure that historical facts do not get forgotten.

One general thing is known. From a study of the way in which many London Street names were chosen in the 18th and 19th Centuries it has been deduced that a lot of people who had a financial interest in developing new housing estates, (perhaps as land owners, perhaps as builders), chose to perpetuate their personal involvement by naming roads either after themselves or after other members of their family. Could this practice have been adopted in Laindon and district in the early 20th century?

One thing is certain. A great number of the road names chosen, many of which have been replaced since the 1950s, were chosen in a very haphazard way. A recently prepared list reveals that some names chosen were not even always accepted universally. Others have been "lost", that is to say, they were certainly used and accepted, but never got recorded on any map that can now be traced. For a time, the whole issue of what to call a newly established road or intended road seems to have been very much in keeping with the rather ad hoc way in which the whole district expanded. A kind of free for all existed.

A map of proposed street names which came to light recently, reveals that, in 1901, practically all the land to the west of Laindon High Road between Laindon Station and what later became the "New" Fortune of War was to be known as the "Manor House" Estate. Roads were marked out and were indicated as all being 24 feet wide with 6 foot wide pathways on each side. The plots lining these roads were all designated as 20 feet wide. What happened?

It seems that what was intended, sound idea that it seemed, did not meet with general acceptance, and plots were sold off in an extremely random manner and developed on a very free for all basis. Very few of the roads ever got set out with paths conforming with the original intent and even fewer were ever provided with a hard surface until after 1945.

As has been stated, a list of the road names in use in Laindon and District has recently been prepared.  This list, which is still subject to some verification, shows the names being used in the late 1940s and early 1950s just prior to the massive demolition and rebuilding period started. The redevelopment since that time has resulted in a great number of road names which previously applied disappearing for ever from the Street Atlas.

An examination of this now defunct list does not reveal with any degree of clarity any specific patterning of the way in which names were chosen. However, further facts may yet emerge and, it is hoped, find their way into the records for future students of the subject.

THE STATION RISE ESTATE

There did exist in Laindon at least one area where something akin to a pattern in the way which the roads were named did occur and is explainable. Furthermore, part of it has survived the vagaries of redevelopment and remains a lasting memorial to those who enacted the original events. The account that follows gives something of its history.

In 1926, Albert Tyler, a builder from East Ham, started his first speculation in property development in Laindon.   Born in 1879, Albert was in fact an Essex man of East Anglian stock, his parents and grandparents being from Suffolk. As the youngest son, Albert had been born at Wivenhoe, but such was the patterning of the birth places of his older brothers and his one (known) sister that it was clear the family had been forced into mobility by the need to seek employment based on the declining demand for manual labour in agriculture. After a spell in his youth with the Merchant Fleet, the young Albert had gravitated to the east side of London. Here there were better employment prospects than in the rural East Anglian area for a young man of versatile talents as Albert was to prove to be. The demand for labour in the East London area with the expansion of the London Docks system further down river from the Pool was accompanied by a rapid expansion in the need for housing the operatives. It was this that presented far better prospects for so many.

Albert's early links with the Building Trade came about in an extremely oblique manner. His first job was as a collector of rents. But, mundane though this may be, it presented opportunities upon which Albert was not slow to capitalize. The tenants from whom he collected rents, frequently drew his attention to the need for decoration or redecoration to be done on the properties they tenanted. Starting off by undertaking the various necessary tasks on the landlord's behalf himself, the work, additional to the task of collecting rents, slowly expanded to being in the status of Property Maintenance. From this time forward, Albert consistently registered his trade, profession or calling as "House Painter". However, Albert's willingness to undertake a whole variety of tasks over and above the mere application of paint meant he rapidly became a "jack of all trades" and this demonstrated the need to acquire a yard from which to operate. This was established at East Ham. After this it was but a short step to entering the highly speculative world of the fully fledged Builder. The ambition was to develop an estate of his very own.

Hand in hand with Albert Tyler's speculative ventures went the dreams and desires of many who lived in the East End of London. In those areas which were dependent on the economics generated by Docklands and its associated industries, places like East and West Ham, Barking and Poplar, there persisted the idea of owning "something" in the country, that rural area which as late as 1920 still lay within easy reach by rail to the east. The war with Germany of 1914 to 1918 had created the very circumstances which would encourage and foster the latent ambitions of both parties.

The area to the east of Laindon High Road had seen some development since the beginning of the century. Roads like Sandringham Road had already established a foothold of potential new development along a line parallel with the High Road. This had been established prior to the First World War on the fields at the periphery of Blue House Farm, Blue House Farm was the name of the agricultural undertaking that had supplanted the now defunct Little Gubbins Manor estate.   The adjacent estate of Great Gubbins had fallen victim to the advance of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway in the 1880s when its lands had been bisected by the new tracks linking Barking with Pitsea. The close proximity of the railway station at Laindon had led to the speculative purchase of the Great Gubbins lands following the value of the land being greatly cheapened and the new owners saw the area as the site for a new Race Course which, once established, would serve the east side of London.

Blue House farm itself had been acquired by W.T.Warrilow and was being exploited mainly for its dairy produce by members of the Markham family. Warrilow, who had well established butchery businesses in East London and had made use of Albert Tyler's services in that area, saw the obvious financial advantages to be gained in the further exploitation of his purchase. There was little or no advantage in continuing to farm land which was on the margins of Blue House. Three large fields totaling an area of some thirty-six acres to the west of the farm were marked off for sale in building plots. The proximity of these plots to Laindon Station was obviously to be regarded as a good selling point.

There is a point here which is worthy of special note. Nearly a half century later and in justification of the actions shortly to be taken by planners and Government a particular view of earlier events had to be established. Subsequent to the establishment of the New Town Act and the designation of Dunton, Laindon, Langdon Hills, Vange, parts of Fobbing, Basildon, Pitsea and portions of Bowers Gifford as falling within the jurisdiction of a specially created Basildon New Town Development Corporation, (BDC), much was stated about the ramshackle and  PAGE 4 haphazard nature of the development of the area in the first half of the twentieth century. In the propaganda the BDC issued as justification of its intended actions which many established residents rapidly came to view as draconian, a great deal was made of the fact that only redevelopment would possibly clean up an area so severely blighted.

Without the efforts and backing of the BDC, it has been argued, those who had chosen to take up permanent residence in an area which was predominately one used for recreation and generally casual and occasional visits stood little chance of being provided with necessities such as hard surfaced roads and main drainage unless they acceded to the planners1 wishes. The force and frequency with which this suggestion has been reiterated might lead a less biased commentator to the conclusion that there was perhaps some social, even pecuniary advantage to be gained by doing so,   Even in the last decade of the twentieth century, the fictional representation on Television which sought to portray the social movement which had created the "mess" in the area of the first half of the century and which engendered a great deal of fresh interest in the phenomenon, did little to allay this calumny.

In the popular mind, Laindon and Langdon Hills was full of "Weekend" bungalows. This ignores the more reasoned intent of people like Warrilow and other speculators and many of their customers.. It is quite plain to see from what little of their efforts has been left standing in the district   that "sporadic eruptions" of development as the seemingly haphazard in-filling of building plots has been described was not their intention. Logic alone points to the fact that it was far more in their long term interests, speculator and customer alike, to see full scale and extensive permanent development on those plots. What ultimately destroyed the nascent community's ambitions for itself were events over which it had no control. Time has shown that the error in the thinking of the speculators and others who went along with them was simply one of being over ambitious. The fact that the building plots being offered were so comparatively cheap at the time of sale (this despite the fact that many purchasers with severely limited resources considered things very differently) would attract buyers who, themselves were over ambitious. While it is true that many might recognize an immediate advantage in owning a plot which could be used solely for week end recreation, there were equally as many of them who visualized the time when full time occupation was a possibility.

Speculators like Warrilow and his counterparts like Helmore and Bebbington etc. elsewhere in the area, set out with the intent of seeing the plots they offered occupied with buildings of a standard which would readily sell. When Albert Tyler arrived on the scene in 1926 with ambitions of his own similar to those of the speculators then cooperation became inevitable. Backed by Warrilow, Tyler launched into speculative building on a virgin site, the designated fields of Blue House farm. Such methods of development were largely controlled on the basis that what was to be built in the future was determined by what had already been built and sold. Only a limited capital outlay was involved and the proceeds of each property sale went towards settling the initial loan and contributing towards the running costs of building the next potential sale.

Such methods were fairly standard practice at the time. Unfortunately, they are also very dependent on a steady flow of customers with comparatively even volumes of capital. As time progressed, the changing economic fortunes of customers forced changes, some quite drastic, to the initial intentions of the builder.

The first speculation led to the construction of a pair of semi detached "town" houses towards the western end of a newly marked out road, which in deference to the prime mover in new venture was to be named "Tyler Avenue". This name over time has been consistently misrepresented as "Tyler's" Avenue, but the apostrophe V was and remains superfluous. Even officialdom could not always avoid this error. The Voter's list prepared for 1949, for example repeats the error.

In acknowledgment of other factors in the intended development, this time in recognition of the part both Warrilow and his Farm agent, Markham, were playing in the venture, adjacent roads running parallel to the west and northern margins of the area which was to be developed were given the names "Basil Drive" and "Cecil Drive". The first of these new names was chosen by Warrilow, the second by Markham. The fourth road on the proposed estate which was which was already being advertised as "Station Rise" (at its closest it took just five minutes at a normal walking pace to reach Laindon Railway Station), was marked up as "Albert Drive". It is not altogether clear if this was named thus "for" Albert Tyler himself or otherwise. Tyler's eldest son had also been named Albert and as a yet further intended road had been laid out and called "Rosalind Avenue" after Albert Tyler (Snr.)'s only daughter, adopting the name of "Albert Drive" was most probably acknowledging the son rather than himself- Albert Drive was close to the eastern fringe of the Station Rise Estate towards the end of Tyler Avenue. However, it did not set the limits of possible development within the bounds of the initial farm meadows. Sufficient room had been left for a future turning running south to north off Tyler Avenue and the limits of the area still being farmed at Blue House. This possible road was never marked out, appeared on no draft map and was never granted a name.

After running at a right angle to Tyler Avenue for a distance capable of accommodating four building plots on each side of the road, Albert Drive's route swung round, first in a north westerly direction, then due west to link up with Basil Drive close to the north end of that road. Rosalind Avenue was designed to run at a completely different angle from the other roads on the estate. It commenced close to but not at the junction with Tyler Avenue and Basil Drive and ran diagonally south west to north east, bisecting Albert Drive at right angles at a mid point between Tyler Avenue and Basil Drive.

In a way, the choice of the name "Basil" for one of the roads on Station Rise was a little unfortunate, The presence in the Laindon area of both a "Basildon Drive" and a "Basildon Road" as well as Basil Drive led to confusion. In an area, pre Postal Coding, where few roads enjoyed the benefits of house numbering, mistakes were frequent and at times amusing if not frustrating. Persons were often observed wandering up and down Basil Drive looking vainly for a particular house name when the property they sought was actually in Basildon Drive. The two roads being as much as a mile apart and reached on foot only via unmade roads, correcting the fault could be both difficult to explain and to achieve.

The fortunes of the speculative venture in the Station Rise estate conditioned the progress and style of the dwellings it contained. As already stated, the initial effort of Albert Tyler resulted in the semi detached "town" houses built in 1926. In design and appearance these followed very much the pattern of countless houses built in East Ham and the other London Boroughs adjacent. This similarity of design and style is a reflection of the willingness of so many Master Builders and their building operatives to play safe, and follow slavishly the instructions which existed and were contained in manuals produced for their benefit. These guide books were often so detailed in every respect that even the chore of estimating the quantities of materials that would be required for a house of a particular style and size could be dispensed with. There were obviously clear advantages for the less experienced speculative builder in such methods, since the whole process of construction was akin to the process of painting by numbers.

Unfortunately, the lack of the opportunity for introducing stylistic innovation was lacking and such "rubber stamping" methods fell into disfavour. After all, if the potential customer was seeking to move away from an area were all houses seemed to have come from the same mold, he or she wants something that looks different from the old. Potential customers in the Laindon area didn't take to houses that spoke of "Town" in the brochure, To them Laindon was "Country". Country meant cottage or, if not cottage, better still, bungalow, that style of habitation with relaxed connotations in its very name. Did not such places have verandahs upon which the town weary could relax and absorb the country air at the end of their labours? As a result of changes in fashion, the initial "town" houses never found buyers and remained as rent paying properties.

The desire on the part of potential purchasers for completed properties of a more rural appearance brought about the first changes in design to Tyler Avenue,   From this time forward, only bungalows were ever built. Even the first of these produced and offered on approval, (a pair of semi detached properties immediately adjacent to the "town houses"), did not altogether satisfy changing taste. The general demand was for detached property and the remainder of the bungalows built in Tyler Avenue and Albert Drive were designed to satisfy this demand.

At some stage (at which precise date is uncertain) another builder, George Robinson, also from the East Ham area and of past acquaintance with the Tylers, engaged in similar speculative building in the already designated Basil Drive. The objective appears to have been to speed the process of consolidation. If the general appearance of Station Rise could be improved by ensuring that the properties being offered for sale presented an aspect of permanence, then sales might go ahead at a faster pace. At the extremities of the estate, particularly in Basil and Cecil Drives, plots which had been marked down as less favourably situated, had already seen some development, but the buildings on these had been constructed of timber framing with either a close boarded or asbestos sheeted external cladding.

One of the many problems any speculative builder working on small margins experienced almost anywhere when trying to recoup his initial outlay on each property built was the strength of his selling points. The location of the Station Rise Estate and its proximity to Laindon station and to the facilities offered in Laindon High Road had been exploited as its major advantages from the outset. To many, however, these proved to be insufficient. When the Station Rise roads had first been set out and divided into plots, the Southend Water Company had installed a standpipe supply in what had become  standard feature of the Laindon area; a brick and concrete capped box, sealed with a strong door. Access to the tap could be gained only by holders of a "Yale" pattern key, which was obtained and retained only on payment of the quarterly charge. Users were instructed to ensure that the box's door was always firmly closed after use and to prevent any abuse the Company arranged frequent visits to standpipes by its Inspectorate. The standpipe for use by the residents of Station Rise was situated at the south end of Sandringham Road, on the very edge of the Estate.[i]

Such an arrangement had drawbacks. Legitimate users wearied of trudging backwards and forwards at frequent intervals for so basic a commodity as water. At times they experienced the annoying frustration that came with finding that the need for a key to gain access to the tap had been overlooked. Then, as always, attitudes towards the concept of so restricted an access to this essential item varied. There were those who would cheerfully open up the tap for use by others who displayed an inability to pay the charge for a key of their own, while others would resent in the strongest of terms such abuse on the basis that as they had paid why should others get their water for nothing?

As the properties being built on the estate took on a more permanent appearance and buyers took them up for permanent occupation, the water company felt able to extend their piped supply along, firstly Tyler Avenue and Albert Drive. The construction of three brick bungalows by George Robinson along the west side of Basil Drive close to the junction with Tyler Avenue encouraged an extension to these and, eventually, along to the other, less substantially built properties in that road. The availability of a piped water supply thus became a stronger selling point when it came to disposing of properties to be built in the future.

But the expectations of potential buyers, particularly of those whose purchasing power was a little more assured than others, was rising. Against the background of what is still at the end of the twentieth century considered to be the worst financial crises in the one hundred year period, people of limited means expected value for the little money they were able to pay. Even, as was long displayed on the bill board erected on a slip of unusable land at the very west end of Tyler Avenue (it blew down sometime in 1940), for a deposit of only £5 and a small weekly payment, there were those who found purchase beyond their means. Some completed properties were, therefore, offered for rent. But it remained the principle intention that completed bungalows should be sold. The fact that the "roads " of Tyler and Rosalind Avenues, Albert, Basil and Cecil Drives remained, in reality only imaginary lines across once arable fields which had been under the plough not all that long previously was plain for all to see. With potential buyers expecting that one day they might own cars of their own and who, in the meantime, would much prefer that various traders could call upon them on a daily basis rather than only when the weather conditions permitted the safe passage of the motor or horse drawn vehicles, the general state of the roads remained a drawback.

Potential buyers could get an insight into what virgin, un-reinforced road surfaces across former arable fields might lead to.  With time, Sandringham Road just to the western edge of Station Rise had become extremely rutted by passing vehicles, and at times the properties along that road were virtually isolated in what appeared to be a marshy morass. As a selling point, a grass surfaced thoroughfare was not a good selling point in the newly designated roads of Station Rise adjacent.

It fell to George Robinson to try and overcome this problem. The pattern for the way ahead had long been in existence. With the coming of the railway to Laindon, it had proved advantageous to make greater use of what had always been the back route into and out of Blue House Farm in order to reach the station. As this would often involve the transportation of produce on its way off the farm for forward transportation by rail, wheeled vehicles were frequently involved. The passage of these over the heavy clay fields that intervened between the farm and the station, had led to the reinforcement of the surface of the now more regularly used driveway. On a bed of, largely, brick rubble, a top dressing of black clinker ash had been spread, quite possibly obtained from the same source as that of a similar nature which had long been used in Laindon High Road. This track ran south from the farm for a short distance then west before dropping down the slope to Laindon High Road-joining it a hundred yards from the entrance to the station's approach road   With the passage of time and the selling off of plots of land fronting this drive, the Laindon High Road end had become "Windsor Road" ( or by common consent "Windsor Hill") while the more eastern section approaching Blue House Farm was "Buckingham Road". The inference must be that these chosen names reflect that re-awakened interest in matters Royal that intensified towards the end of Victoria's reign.

This cheaper method of improving road surfaces provided a pattern for Tyler and Rosalind Avenues and for Albert, Basil and, Cecil Drives, It was the approach to the pattern adopted by George Robinson. Plot owners were requested to make contribution towards the cost but, despite a general enthusiasm for the improvement, raising the cash was not easy. There was, however, a small bonus. Mr C.A. Clark to whom it would be a considerable advantage to see this improvement was particularly enthusiastic. Because of the general state of adjacent Sandringham Road in which road "Lavender", his residence, stood, he had purchased the land fronting Basil Drive which backed on to the rear of his grounds. On this had been erected a garage for the motor car in which he traveled, via Windsor Hill, Northumberland Avenue and Elizabeth Drive to the small Ebenezer Chapel to which he administered. This stood close to the junction of Elizabeth Drive with Lee Wooten's Lane. Similarly, Mr Washington whose property ("Kia Ora") was at the west end of Leicester Road, a road with similar difficulties for wheeled vehicles as those existing in Sandringham Road, found it an advantage to purchase the ground at the rear of his property. This provided a link with Cecil Drive. Like Mr Clark, Mr Washington ran a motor vehicle and exit via Basil Drive and Tyler Avenue was the best for the welfare of both vehicle and passenger.

The finished dressing of the improved roads did not quite match that of the prototype. As a final finish, the crushed brick and concrete rubble laid atop the soil of the road, rolled ballast or hoggin was laid. To consolidate the surface, George Robinson had, somehow, secured a small sit upon diesel operated road roller. When this was not in use it was stored in a wooden garage at the south end of Rosalind Avenue, the only structure ever raised on or in this part of Station Rise.

Before this road surface finish had been applied, on each side of the intended carriage way a shallow ditch, one spit wide and one spit deep had been dug along the road's length. This was far enough away from property front boundaries to allow for hard surfaced paths to be laid between them and the ditch. The intent of these ditches, which were some four feet away from the road surface and thus far enough away to avoid car wheels getting trapped in them, was to carry the surface water away from the top dressing.

These ditches proved to be particularly advantageous only in Tyler Avenue. Here there is a natural fall in the slope towards the east. The western end of Tyler Avenue is thirty five feet higher than the eastern end, a drop which greatly favours natural surface water drainage and, later, of soiled water via the sewer system. This natural slope together with the more extensive and concentrated development in Tyler Avenue was to stand the road and the properties it contained in good stead when it came for it to be considered for integration into the Basildon New Town scheme.

By comparison and in particular in Basil Drive, the other roads on Station Rise were less well placed. The natural slope of the terrain to the east ran across the road rather than with it Any fall which might have been advantageous to the flow of surplus water on the road surface went away to the north and being only slight, (little more than 10 feet in 200 yards), water had to find a way beneath the surface of the road. This led to a steady erosion of the road surface in Basil Drive in particular. Here wheeled traffic tended be more regular because of the car owners at the northern end of the road and wheels with pneumatic tyres do little to consolidate the sort of surface that had been installed. As the top dressing leached away into the soil of the properties on the east, (lower), side, so puddles gathered in the depressions. These puddles were inevitably deep after heavy rain as the rainwater could only seep slowly into the lower strata. In common with a great deal of Laindon, heavy London clay lay only inches below the top soil. On the Blue House farm the fields chosen to accommodate Station Rise been worked fairly recently as arable. To aid drainage clay pot mole drains had been buried and although badly silted up, these did assist the slow percolation off the surface, but wear and tear meant that in Basil Drive, redressing of the surface of the "hard" road had to be done at fairly frequent intervals.

The buried mole drains (with only a three inch bore) could prove a trap for the unwary. Following the fall or slope of the original fields, they acted in much the same way as natural springs. Digging out the clay for the foundations or footings of a building or the cavity for a cess pool could result in the bisecting of any one of these drains. As such excavation in the days before the widespread use of mechanical building aids became the norm was done entirely by hand, those who had done the hard work all the previous day, would often return the next morning and find their carefully aligned trenches or holes full of water. This could happen even on what might seem a dry spell. The excavation would have to be baled dry and free of water before any concrete in fill could close the cavity.   Such is the nature of clay that even the slightest excess of water content could cause slippage, and excavations frequently needed shoring up very carefully to avoid the dangers of this. When, in 1938, a main trunk sewer was laid, (constructed entirely using manual labour only) across the lower fields adjacent to Blue House Farm, the channel dug out to accommodate the pipes went to over ten feet in depth and was a mass of timber struts to retain the clay sides. The deep trench attracted the attention of small boys from Markhams Chase School. Little did the boys who took to scrambling up and down these temporary timbers which may easily have dislodged realise how they were playing dice with their young lives. In similar excavations elsewhere in the district inadequate shoring up had cost the lives of several labourers in fatal clay cave-ins.

The supply of piped town gas to Station Rise had never attracted a great deal of a problem. Presumably under the threat of competition, the Gas Light & Coke Company (GL & C. Co.) had connected Laindon to its main trunk grid sometime in the early part of the century. In the 1890's there had been much speculative talk, resulting from the opening of the railway extension from Barking to Pitsea which had suggested that Laindon and Langdon Hills was ripe for the construction of its own town gas production plant. Schemes had been cast which resulted in the setting aside of land on the south of the railway to the London side of Laindon Station. On this land "Gas Works'' sidings had already been laid ready to accept the wagons of coal for the projected retorts. Even to this day, the alignment of the railway's perimeter fence betrays the location of this thwarted attempt at independence. In the face of the threat being posed locally, the London based firm had thwarted the ambitions of the would be pioneer competitors and began supplying the areas from its huge coke making plant at Beckton.

As an inducement to future custom, a rash of cast iron street light columns had appeared all across the district and as projected roads were set out so appeared one of these sentinels of civilisation to cast its wan light across the as yet undeveloped plots. In the freshly set out "Station Rise Estate", the gas powered street lights were placed adjacent to the junctions of Albert Drive with both Tyler Avenue and Basil Drive.

Gas employed for lighting (whether for lighting domestic interiors or streets) was something of an anachronism when it came to the hard sell. By the early 1930's it was the alleged superior "cleanliness" of the house that was equipped with electricity that sold homes. Potential customers from areas like East and West Ham who had had long experience of the chores associated with the cleaning of houses, where gas mantle changes and begrimed ceiling roses had long been the norm had decided views on what they would prefer Even in those areas long used to the advantages of "all gas", many house holders were quite prepared to sacrifice the "friendliness" of the warmth and the "cheerfulness" of the hiss of the centrally placed gas lamp (the G. L. & C.Co.'s counter blast sales pitch!) for the "versatility" of the electric light. Even the Gas Company's efforts to match the Electric Co.'s wall mounted "instant" light switch cut no ice However, matters between the two utility companies became more even when housewives made it abundantly clear that gas was preferable for cooking.

As the sales battle between the commercial giants of the gas and electricity industries settled down to the uneasy truce based on the acceptance by most users that each had its "best" function, so the sales pitch for the newly constructed properties in Tyler Avenue was that while gas was already available. Electric Light would "soon" be here. By 1934 it was. The brief interlude between non availability and arrival led to a few properties being ducted for gas lighting, a situation which added complications years later when the switch was being made from "town" to "natural" or North Sea gas.

The process of providing electric light to Station Rise seemed remarkably rapid. The movement towards a complete electrification of Britain had been gathering momentum since the end of the First World War. By the early 1930s it was concentrating more and more on the rural and semi rural areas. Laindon welcomed its approach as evidence that the community had a modern outlook. Ironically, as time would show, there was a concealed disadvantage to the district contained in the process.

Electrification was, to most, an advance towards a more civilized way of life. It certainly was an advantage. To the thousand of local residents who had struggled to negotiate the unmade roads, particularly in the adverse weather conditions of winter burdened with full paraffin cans in order subsequently to struggle with badly trimmed wicks for both lighting and heating in their residences. The actions of the Electric Light Company was a boon. Yet, in retrospect, it was their actions in bringing electricity to the district this which perhaps did more than anything else to bring the neighbourhood into disrepute and help burden it with the title of being a "shabby rural slum”.[ii]

The many miles of unmade road became clearly delineated not by kerbs and pavements ready for future road building, nor by neat garden walls or picket fences with neatly trimmed privet hedges although there were plenty of these as many residents attempted to emulate the neater new suburbs of London but something more arresting in appearance. Tyler Avenue had its fair share of privet hedges and of brick garden walls. Nor was it any proliferation of available street lighting which elsewhere having been introduced was (incredible, as it may seem) chosen as the criterion by which local authorities could impose a 30mile per hour speed limit on motor vehicles. Introduced in 1934, this safety measure still fought over, more than sixty years later could only be introduced and compulsory restriction signs erected with the approval of a Minister of Transport if street lamps were spaced at two hundred feet or less along the road to which the measure was to be introduced. It was a short sighted cost saving measure which in the long term has cost considerably more in street furniture than it ever saved. If street lighting in the modern age is erected as it so often is along roads at that interval or less when the restriction is above 30mph up to the national maximum, intermediate miniature warning or advisory signs have to placed on lighting poles at intervals to keep drivers informed.

As far as Tyler Avenue and the other roads of the Station Rise Estate was concerned, such matters as the speed of road vehicles was purely academic. Anyone attempting to motor much above ten to fifteen miles an hour, stood a good chance of being bumped off the driving seat, particularly in Basil Drive where the dips in the road due to water erosion were a severe strain upon a car's suspension. Although "sleeping policemen " or speed humps were a thing of the future Basil Drive had long anticipated the trend. In dry weather, the nature of the finish of the road surface meant any movement of any great speed would throw up a dust cloud. It is these factor alone, perhaps, which encourages the widely held view that in the Laindon of Old kids were much more safe than ever they are in today's Basildon. In any case, travel by motor vehicle on Station Rise, funereal pace though it may have been made by prudence, was a lot faster than was possible elsewhere in the majority of district roads.

It was the rapid movement to electrification that altered the appearance of  the district so drastically. The most remarkable feature of the change was  that it took place at a time when the economic conditions were to all intents  and purposes the most adverse, and in an area which would, on the surface,  seem least viable. Almost overnight, or so it appeared to the casual  observer, a forest of poles sprouted all over the district, set up at 30 foot  intervals. Twenty feet high, these masts lined each designated "road,"  regardless of the number of habitations it might contain , and, therefore,  potential customers. It was as if some petulant infant, irritated by constant  badgering, had responded in an extreme manner. A sort of response which  implied "So.... they want electrification, so ..... they shall have it!"

Because the policy was welcomed the lasting effect of the Electric Company's methodology met little opposition. A veritable forest of poles from which were suspended the four cables of the three phase supply was made readily available to all and sundry and spread over a wide area. Right across the whole district from Dunton in the west to Bowers Gifford in the east, the line of poles and wires marked out every available road almost without exception. Only some of the most remote locations seemed to have escaped this particular aspect of the relentless march of progress.

The concentration of development that had taken place in Tyler Avenue and at the south end of Albert Drive made supplying electricity to these streets a reasonably economic proposition. Not withstanding this, the supply was also extended to embrace Basil and Cecil Drives, despite the fact that the intervals between undeveloped plots was far more extensive. Every completed habitation in Tyler Avenue took advantage and was rapidly connected to the supply. Connection took the form of running a pair of wires from the nearest pole at which the supply could be tapped to the highest point on the bungalow or house. The highest point was invariably the apex of a pitched roof although in some cases, a subsidiary pole had to be installed close to the dwelling to ensure the live supply wires were well out of reach. Once installed, even if use of the new technology was kept to an absolute minimum, (because of the cost of internal wiring, some households confined illumination to the main or living room), it was deemed a mark of an householder's affluence to have the "electric" on. There was no doubting the evidence presented by the sight of the twin supply cables spanning the gap from the edge of the road and clearly bridging the road itself when the main feed was strung along the opposite perimeter of the street.

It was the visual impact of this rash of poles or masts festooned with wires which contributed so much, in time, to bringing the appearance of Laindon and Langdon Hills into disrepute To accommodate the cables, in many instances mature and well established trees had had to be ruthlessly trimmed back to avoid the cables. It was the trees of the district which helped to give the area a very rural appearance. The main masts supporting the cables were set straight into the ground which, being clay, meant that settlement, erosion, and the effects of wind and weather, all contributed over time to the ragged and irregular appearance many poles adopted. Displacement was to some extent offset by installing straining wires to correct the tension of the suspended cables. Unfortunately, the overall effect on the appearance of the district was to introduce the suspicion that someone had failed in an attempt to introduce regimentation to a squad of ragged and unkempt recruits.

Because the Electricity Supply was in this ruthless highly visible form, visitors from locations like London where all the necessary cabling for a similar electrification process had been buried underground, made the mistake, understandable in the circumstances, that the overhead wires meant something entirely different. In an era when to be connected to the telephone system was regarded as the true mark of affluence, the fact that so many people in Laindon "had the 'phone on" drew exclamations of surprise from the uninitiated. It all looked too good to be true and, of course, it was. The fact that "telegraph" poles, and their attendant un-insulated wires looked completely different had rapidly to be explained.

If there was a saving grace from the proliferation of road side poles throughout the district, resulting from electrification, it was that street lighting could be increased at a comparatively moderate cost. At extensive intervals a rudimentary swan-necked fitting equipped with a bare 60 watt lamp was suspended 10 feet above the ground from selected poles. On the Station Rise street lamps thus increased in number from two (the gas fueled lamp standards) to seven fixtures. This did not exactly make the Estate match Crystal Palace, but it was in improvement.[iii] It should be noted, however, that the imposition of "blackout" from 1939 to 1945 as a precaution against air attack, meant that no street illumination was available for over five years.

The replacement of the original roads and much property by the redevelopment enacted by the Basildon Development Corporation has left one badge of distinction. The electricity supply to all BDC properties and to a great number of new buildings constructed in the area by either Basildon Council or private developers since the 1960s has been from buried cables. However, along Tyler Avenue and other original roads which survived the period of demolition and rebuilding, the supply remains as it was initially installed. Their badge of distinction is the overhead masts and cables lining the roads. Even where in-filling or, as in many cases, demolition of original buildings and replacement by others to increase land use density has occurred, this remains the method of supply. By this means it is possible to identify those roads which are of pre "New Town" construction from those which were created as the result of following the Basildon New Town Master Plan.

By 1938 just a year before the outbreak of the second world war which forced a stop on any form of domestic building work the development on Station Rise stood as follows.

  • Albert Drive contained six detached bungalows all brick built and all built to a common building line thus presenting a uniform appearance. This development had all taken place at the south end of the road and the bulk of the road remained un-developed.
  • Basil Drive contained five detached bungalows brick built and sixteen which had timber frames. Of the latter five still displayed attributes which revealed their origins as of the "Week End" bungalow type. Three of the brick built properties all aligned at the south end of the road presented a uniform appearance and were built to a common building line. These were the work of George Robinson who had also been involved in the construction of several of the more permanent appearing timber framed cottages along the road. On the east side of the road, a common building line had been followed but on the west side, a number of properties had been set back to either a central position on the plots they occupied or at the very rear. One such bungalow which did not conform to this otherwise common building line was the work of a self build enthusiast. Stanley Bathurst had in 1934 acquired two adjacent 30 foot frontage plots and constructed a bungalow of brick in a centralized position. It was given the name of "Cranford". In common with the many others in the Laindon and Langdon Hills area the original design (which had been devised by Bebbington, the speculator and land agent who advertised a Plan Preparation Service and had convinced the proposed builder that use of his services was a 100% guarantee of speedy planning approval) had been subjected to variation. The widespread trend, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, of expanding properties and providing more living space by the addition of Conservatories had long been anticipated by the addition to properties of a Lean-to which had much the same effect. Bathurst's first addition had the external appearance of such an effect, although, on the internal plan there was no intermediate intervening or party wall as was the case in so many additions. Over time it had been intended to change the roof pitch to correct this appearance.
  • Cecil Drive contained just four habitations only one of which stood on the building line. All were of timber frame construction and all occupied the plots on the north side and at the west end of the road. Rosalind Avenue. Apart from the one garage situated at the south end of this road which as has been explained housed the road roller owned by Robinson, no development had taken place and no potential building plots had ever been pegged out. During the course of twenty of so years after George Robinson's death the rubble and ballast road he had constructed became overgrown and the intended road was left off maps and gazetteers of the area.
  • Tyler Avenue. So much of the development on the estate from 1926 to 1938 had been concentrated in Tyler Avenue by Albert Tyler and George Robinson that the road contained thirty nine properties in 1938. These were all of brick construct and all were built to a common building line. Following the initial build of the pair of semi-detached town houses, all other habitations were bungalows, six being in semi-detached pairs on the south side of the road adjacent to the houses. The west end of the road had seven smaller bungalows, built to a pattern suggesting suitability for couples considering retirement, but, such was the economic nature o the times, younger couples with families occupied several. The conditions of wartime, which caused the numbers of permanent residents in the Laindon and Langdon Hills areas to expand meant that in many cases the accepted norms of building occupancy, such as they were in any way enforceable, were often exceeded. Generally, the uniform appearance of Tyler Avenue and intensity of building meant that the road had a largely "finished" appearance by 1938.

In total, with the exception of the area set aside for Rosalind Avenue, on the "Station Rise Estate" some 20 plots of what had initially been set out by the speculators in the early 1920s remained undeveloped. By 1945, in some instances, the undeveloped plots had changed ownership, as had some of the habitations. To what extent the changes of occupation of dwellings had changed would involve considerably more research than has so far been possible. As for ownership of some undeveloped plots, a full record might never be established. It is known that throughout the whole of the Basildon area which became subjected to Compulsory Purchase Orders, some fifty years after land was compulsorily acquired, redeveloped and even in some instances, re developed again, the owners or their descendants have never been traced, such is the magnitude of the task. The legacy of the rush to buy cheap land in the first quarter of the twentieth century, a rush, which displayed many of the characteristics of the "Gold Rush, left a lasting headache.

Post 1945, despite extreme difficulties in the supply of materials for building, a further substantial addition was made at the rear of the bungalow in Basil Drive named "Cranford" (see above) The design of this addition was fully in keeping with the original overall appearance. This improvement in size and increase in accommodation was to raise the hopes of Bathurst later that further development could become possible in Basil Drive which could increase the density in land occupation.

In 1948, under the New Towns Act, the Basildon Development Corporation was set up and Station Rise, as part of Laindon was embraced into the Basildon New Town Area. With the publication of the Master Plan for Basildon, there seemed, at first, that Station Rise could remain intact, since it fell within an area designated "Housing". There seemed little or no reason why in-filling to improve the density of occupation by making use of as yet undeveloped plots should not take place.

When, in 1952, the general restrictions on obtaining building materials having eased, self builder Bathurst introduced the idea of making use of two adjacent plots in his possession on the west side of Basil Drive. This proposal was put to the Billericay Urban District Council. It was then established, as others elsewhere also found, that the Basildon Development Corporation had arbitrarily been granted special powers which while they were expected to act in cooperation with the elected authorities as the planning authority much more importantly they had an arbitrary overriding power of veto. Bathurst was to discover that the rules in respect of both density of land occupation and of overall design had been changed in such a way that meant drastic alteration to the original submission none of which changes had been reflected in the published bye-laws. The whole scene vis a vis Basildon New Town had become draconian.

Despite these problems, in 1954, a further brick built bungalow was added to the head count of properties in Basil Drive. In many ways, in terms of construction, it was superior to all the previously constructed brick built properties in the area, it having abided by construction regulations which had arisen from improved thinking in environmental considerations. While in the 1920's and 30's most brick work of external load bearing walls was acceptable at a 9" integrated bond, by 1950 the minimum requirement was for a 12" wall with ties and an internal cavity designed to conserve heat. This bungalow which complied in every way with what the Basildon Development Corporation had specified stood just ten years before being acquired by that organisation and demolished.

But even while construction was taking place in Basil Drive, the writing was on the wall. The early indications which had led to the idea that Station Rise could survive in Basildon New Town were already being whittled down. Had the early signs not been so obfuscated then the warning they contained might have been heeded. The New Town's development, which had gone ahead apace in the Vange area of Basildon and had led to an influx of new residents. Understandably, the expectations of these newcomers had led to growing feelings among them of frustration at the slowness of the progress that was constantly being promised and not met. This gave rise to the concept of an affliction called "New Town Blues". To the Development Corporation the solution was simple. They pressed ahead with construction of the wonderful New Town Centre the plans for which had lain dormant on the stocks for some time.

Everything was in their favour. The area chosen to the new centre of the town was, geographically, ideal. So sparse had been the previous development in the chosen area at the northern end of Fobbing parish that Basildon Town Centre was going to be constructed on what amounted to a Green Field site. Furthermore, the adjacent area to the north and within a stone's throw of the projected centre, being the farmlands of Brewitts and Hunts Farms provided what would be an a unique experiment in any New Town. They would provide a Central Park which was precisely what it said. It would be central to the whole development.

From the point of view of the existing residents at the western end of the town, the location chosen for these new much vaunted improvements, these proposals meant little. The facilities of Laindon and Langdon Hills had up to this point been little affected. But it was no good saying these new facilities would be available to tall residents if the means of reaching them was so torturous that nobody was encouraged to attempt the journey. The need from the Corporation's point of view was that the whole area must be rapidly integrated.

A study of the old street map of Laindon would indicate that no adequate link with Basildon and certainly not with area proposed as the New Town Centre had ever existed. There were however at least two possible routes by which, with improvement, the western communities could have been most easily integrated with the proposed site selected. Northumberland Avenue, then Elizabeth Drive ran to Lee Wootens Lane which was already being widened to form the western fringe road to the central complex. It was to become what is now Nether Mayne. Alternatively, from Laindon High Road, St. Nicholas Lane ran in an easterly direction towards the centre of Basildon. If this road was extended it would make a useful approach from the north west a possibility.

Neither of these seemingly logical routes were chosen. Instead a totally new route was selected which commenced at a central point on Laindon High Road and cut through and largely bisected existing roads at right angles. There can be little doubt that it was a costly publicity exercise designed to impress the natives. Given the imaginative name of "Laindon Link" two large excavating earth movers worked continuously for eighteen hours a day. Manned by two tractor drivers from Norfolk for whom a "good" weekly wage at the time was £4/10/- (£4.50p) they were earning £120 per week by working from 6a.m. to 10p.m. with virtually no breaks the early and latter parts of the day by use of headlights. The task they had been given was to provide a cutting into the sharply rising ground east of the High Road where the clay sub soil had built up so that the elevation rose by 120 feet within a distance of less than a quarter of a mile.

The clay from this undertaking at the Laindon High Road end was taken across the fields of Blue House Farm and used to build up an embankment for the future link road across the low lying grounds of Green Lane. In order to establish this route which was to be constructed as a main thoroughfare, the intervening properties had been compulsorily acquired and demolished. Where the route bisected "Station Rise Estate", it effectively separated the whole of Cecil Drive and the north end of Basil Drive from the remainder. The first notes of the death knell for the bulk of the old estate had being sounded.

The fate that befell the original properties on the "Station Rise Estate" under the Basildon Development Corporation's Master Plan became, or seemed to become, a matter of luck. The criteria which decided that fate have become increasingly difficult to fathom. It was as it says a " Master Plan" and this had been painted with a broad brush which often failed to take into account factors which only became apparent as the demolition and new development advanced. In any case the Master Plan itself was subject to many variations overtime, not least as the consequences of political decisions reached as central agencies of Government changed hands.

The costly publicity stunt of constructing the Laindon Link had had its effect[iv]. Any potential speculative builders who might have seen that private development was still a possibility in areas designated for future housing were frightened away. No more in filling of empty plots was undertaken and eventually the bulldozers moved in on Station Rise. Having been divided from the remainder of the community the few remaining habitations at the north end of Basil Drive and in Cecil Drive sold up and the inhabitants were re-housed.

Eventually all the remaining properties in Basil Drive were acquired and demolished. Even the proximity of the Robinson brick built bungalows to Tyler Avenue did not save them. Rosalind Avenue was really "lost" even before it had ever begun. No plots in the designated area were ever taken up and only the garage erected by George Robinson to house his road roller ever marred is surface. In post war street maps produced and showing the roads "old" Laindon, it gets no mention and no lines mark its delineation.

After being bisected by the road name "Laindon Link", what was Basil Drive is now buried mainly under Mellow Purgess on the Five Links Estate. The road and land Cecil Drive was lost when the "Siporex" estate of "Spurriers", "Danacre," "Northey," "The Lynge" and "Rising Grove" was constructed This short lived and largely disastrous experiment in high speed construction of social housing, means that after further demolition what was originally Cecil Drive is now built over for a second time. It now lies under roads with the unlikely ecclesiastical names of "Parsonage Lane" and "Minster Road" which have replaced those names applied in the late unlamented Siporex estate.

What might have been, but never became, Rosalind Avenue is now buried at the south west end under Mellow Purgess Close. The other end went to the Laindon Link carriage way and the playing fields of Blue House School together with the car park of the Church of the Latter Day Saints!

Of the roads set out on Station Rise, only a shortened Tyler Avenue and the south end of Albert Drive has survived the advance of Basildon New Town. These roads and the bungalows they contained survived, chiefly because its density of land use was close to the Basildon Development Corporation's requirements and landfall guaranteed that the properties were easily connected to the main drainage network.

The bungalows at the west end of Tyler Avenue, together with the initial "Town Houses" built by Albert Tyler were demolished, and the road was shortened. The appearance of the houses legislated against their survival as they were out of keeping with what was adjudged aesthetically acceptable. What had been the traditional entrance to Tyler Avenue from the west is now only possible on foot and wheeled traffic enters from the east end direct from the aforesaid Laindon Link. To the initiated who recall the early years of the road, the approach to Tyler Avenue and what remains of Albert Drive seems to give the impression that it was all a bit of an after thought on the part of the planners. However, once inside these two roads, there is the impression of it being an oasis of individuality lost among a sea of relentless regimentation.

The years since the demise of the dream of the Station Rise Estate have seen at considerable change overtake the buildings that survived the change. Many have been modified extensively. Others have been demolished and replaced and it is not easy to visualise how the road must have once looked.

In preparing this record the author is especially grateful to Peter Tyler, the son of Albert Tyler whose name is enshrined in this collection of bricks and mortar which survives. He has contributed to this article with his extensive reminiscences of the Station Rise Estate but the views expressed are those of the author and not his. Peter lives in one of the bungalows which was constructed by his late father. The address has been changed several times because the density of building in Tyler Avenue permitted the previous administrations to introduce numbering. With alteration these have had to be revised more than once. But one thing has remained constant, however.. Albert Tyler named the bungalow "Ellenholme" as a mark of respect for Ellenor Elizabeth Holmes whom he had married in 1901 at Plaistow. Together they had five children. The choice of house names, and this was a necessity in much of the area, is another area of fascination. But that is another story.

Peter Tyler, the youngest son, went to the other end of England for his marriage partner But as Josie Tyler (nee Huntington) whose delightful Cumbrian accent has survived the years, suggests, fifty three years in Laindon, many of them spent serving the locals from behind the counter at Blackwell's News-agency in the old High Street, surely entitles her to be called a native of Laindon as do many of those others who came from elsewhere to settle on the Station Rise Estate and the other areas of Laindon and Langdon Hills.

APPENDIX

[The appendix is subject to expansion further information comes to hand.]  

According to the Electoral Roll prepared in 1949, the habitations on the Laindon Rise Estate were identifiable as follows:

TYLER AVENUE

On one side of the road, (south) nine buildings were adjudged to be sufficiently close together enough to warrant that they be numbered. The numbers allocated were 2, 4, 6. 8, 10, 12. 14, 16 and 18. The numbering had clearly commenced at the junction of Windsor Road and Tyler Avenue at the west end. It must have been assumed that the plot on the very corner, which had never seen anything more glamorous built upon it than a shed, would never be developed with a building wishing a Tyler Avenue frontage. Had it done so, all the house numbers allocated would have to be changed. Ironically, with the post New Town Development, the small quantity of numbers already allocated did have to be changed. It was decided house numbering would be started from the east end of the road!

The remainder of the road bore only house names:

"Adaville" - "Claremont" - "Evenley" - "Fairwinds" - "Glencroft" - "Hawley" - "Heronbrook" - "Lilian" - "Mantis" - "Oakhurst" - "Roberta" - "Shirleydene" - "Sunneyside" - "Sunneyview" - "The Token" -  "Treetops" - "Windemere" - "Windsor" - "Wingfield"

Tyler Avenue was home to the following families with the following surnames:

Bassett, Baylis, Bedwell, Cordery, Dorey, Ellis, Eradley, Fossett, Gibbs, Gray, Hale, Hardwick, Hoggan, Hope, Hough, Huett, Johnsone, Ledgerton, Lowe, Mayers, Millard, Nnelson, O'Callaghan, Packard, Perry, Pidgeon, Rasnussen, Saunders, Seaman, Sheppard, Thomas, Thompson, Tourle, Townsend, Trudgett, Trusram, Tyler, Webb, Webster, Williams, Willis and Wright

ALBERT DRIVE

In Albert Drive no house numbering ever occurred and all dwellings were named:

"Kendrith" - "Milborne" - "Norton Lodge" - "Palawa"

The family surnames of the residents in Albert Drive were:

Golds, Lampard, Lane, Orton, Pyner and Woodley

BASIL DRIVE

Like the other side roads, only house names prevailed in Basil Drive:

"Allwood" - "Austin" - "Beechcroft" - "Cranford" - "Crowthorne" - "Eastview" - "Ellendale" - "Emberley" - "Finchampstead" - "Glenwood" - "Irene" - "Kia Ora" - "Manderley" - "Maryville" - "Rose Cottage" - "Springfield" - "St Hillier" - "The Ridges" - "Verica" - "Walkern" - "West View"

The residents of Basil Drive had the following family surnames:

Bathurst, Cowell, Cowliong, Duck, Ferrier, Frankland, Franklin, Gifford, Hardes, Harris, Head, Mudd, Nichols, Pearson, Piper, Prentice, Pyner, Strowgler, Thomas, Tice, Trott, Vickery, Walker, Wheeler and Young

CECIL DRIVE

Here the house names were:

"Fairview" - "Glen Ochil” -  "Jeanette" - "Willett"

And the family surnames of the residents were;

Atkins, Benson, Chapman, Hanson, Reynolds


[i] It was extremely unfortunate from a hygienic stand point that in the same location as that chosen for the water standpipe there had also been placed a large steel sheeted container of bin designed to accommodate household rubbish. There was no house to house refuse collection. The location of "The Bin" had been chosen by Billericay Council as the most advantageous for their "Dust Carts” to reach. It was emptied at very infrequent intervals.  While it is generally true that the 1930s household produced considerably less refuse than its modern counterpart, nevertheless, the site was not a particularly pleasant point to pass. Indiscriminately deposited food waste attracted animals and, in warm weather, flies. The box was emptied by hand and, it was not surprising to find, that operatives performing this noisome task were frequently indifferent to the securing the bin afterwards.   The bin remained in this location long after the water stand pipe was dispensed with. It was the subject of frequent complaint.

[ii] It is not possible to establish exactly when the townships within the designated Basildon New Town area first acquired th e sobriquet "Rural Slum", The dictionary definition of a slum is "an overcrowded squalid neighbourhood".   In their work on the Plotlands Phenomenon , Arcadia for All, The Legacy of a Makeshift Landscape (Mansell, London 1984} Hardy and Ward show the extent which the movement, consequent on the downturn in Agricultural fortunes, affected areas. The Basildon area was far from being unique, Plotlands spread right across Southern Britain. They also affected other parts of Europe and other continents. So why was Basildon picked out as worthy of the special nomenclature? It is true that Basildon, Laindon, Langdon Hills, Pitsea and Vange was one of the areas with the largest acreage thus "blighted". But there was a good reason for this: it was an area in which the largest sized plots were sold off at the cheapest price. By comparison with many other Plotlands concentrations {Peacehaven (Sussex), Jaywick and Canvey Island for example} the Basildon area could hardly be described as overcrowded. The seaside locations, whose proximity to the coast was their main selling point, led to a concentration of occupation which would come much closer to meeting that description . If a distinct lack of facilities is an indication of the existence of a slum, then as far as the bulk of the area was concerned, the major shortage of facilities was lack of a hard road surface and absence of main drainage or sewerage. For the great majority of residents, the absence of these two facilities and roads in particular was a bone of contention for many years as is clear from old press reports. The fact that roads and sewers were not being provided in the area with quite the same rapidity as had been the provision of piped water, gas and electricity, was a reflection on the fact that virtually no profit could be derived from installing the former while the latter went on making a return on the initial cost of installation . Generally speaking, the costs of providing a hard road surface and main drainage fell upon what came to be known as the "frontager". The fact that these were spread thinly on the ground, and in some cases were either absent or untraceable, legislated very much against such a method being practicable. This was extremely frustrating for the keenest exponents of progress. The local administration, the BilIericay Rural (laterUrban) District Council upon whose shoulders the supervision of the provision of the facilities would have fallen. met with total opposition from among its own ranks at the merest hint that the costs should be under written from the local taxation system (The Rates). The resultant antagonism which grew up between the communities of the district rankled for many years. To many, however, particularly those of me community without main drainage who were keen agriculturists, there were still certain benefits. Regular disposal of human waste to the heavy clay soil of (he district has a distinctly improving quality. Such realities of existence may now be regarded by many as unworthy of serious discussion on the grounds of "good" taste, but to many thousands of rural cottages, farm houses, even schools throughout the British Isles in the 1930s such a system of waste disposal was quite common and did not prevail only in the Plotlands districts. Whether the fact that these methods did prevail justified the use of the term "squalid" to the Basildon area and not elsewhere must remain debatable. To be thought of as living in squalor was the wish of very, very few plotlanders. Like a great number of urban slum dwellers. There were far more householders who made valiant attempts to keep up standards than there were who had given in to the inevitable. There were, without a doubt, individual habitations in me district to which the word "slum" could be applied with a reasonable degree of accuracy. The saving grace for many of these was that, often, the true nature of the condition of the building was well hidden in the lush verdant undergrowth which neglect had encouraged. As is argu ed vis a vis the proliferation of masts installed for the distribution of electricity throughout the district the use of the term "slum" must have been adopted in consequence of some largely aesthetic reaction to the district's overall appearance. Such a reaction is obviously highly subjective. As the idiomatic phrase has it "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and apart from the electricity carrying masts, there was very little obvious uniformity in the district. Strangely, it is the complete lack of a uniformity of appearance in the English "Chocolate Box" village scene which appeals so much. Tyler Avenue itself did display a uniformity in bungalow design.  Is this why it survived? However, there were other roads in the district which also displayed a uniformity of design similar to that of Tyler Avenue. Strangely, many of these did not survive! So was there some reason why uniformity on the one hand clashed with individualism on the other and led to such a conflict of mind as to produce the concept that the only way in which the district could be described was as a "rural slum"?   The simpler answer to this question is that it was more likely to have been a political slur introduced with a particular purpose. In his book Sunshine and Showers (Ingoldesthorpe 1988). Sadler who was a District Officer with the Essex War Agricultural Executive Committee tells how in 1941 the then Minister of Agriculture, Robert Hudson, was taken to One Tree Hill, Laindon where he was said to have looked over nearly a thousand acres of derelict land and is alleged to have said "Get it cleared and cropped now; you may never get another chance." Out of this remark is said to have emerged a great deal of action which on the one hand led to much derelict land back into food production and on the other caused a great deal of ill feeling among both farmers and local residents alike. The Sadler story goes on to relate how in clearing scrub land isolated buildings were found occupied, it would seem, in one case with a serviceable motor car. Quite apart from the fact that One Tree Hill is not in Laindon, Hudson 'looking east, south, west" as is suggested would have seen nothing of Laindon. Yet the same story is repealed verbatim in Essex Farming 1900- 2000 (Colchester 1999) by Peter Wormall in connection with the run down nature of the Basildon New Town area prior to redevelopment and consequent on the agricultural depression of the first half of the century. In such manner are myths created and sustained! There was political capital to be gained in creating and spreading myths in 1941 for the first causality in War is always Truth. No doubt it stood in good stead at the time, although even that might be debatable. That the slur could be reactivated and revised in Billericay Urban District Council's approaches to the Labour Government in 1048 regarding the area's suitability as a site for a New Town is a natural corollary.

[iii] By comparison, the area of the original Station Rise which was illuminated by just seven street lights now has seventy-seven if not more! This increased number excludes any lights fitted by individual householders to the exterior of the properly.

[iv] The construction of the Laindon Link was as good an illustration as any of the sort of costiy mistakes made by the planners. The specifications to which this road was constructed clearly indicate that it was intended as a major road to link Laindon with the Town Centre and the remainder of the district. A major bus route was operated along its length, linking Laindon Station with the Town Centre and on to Pitsea Station. The buses operated with a high frequency, Within a short time of the road's opening, local indignation, particularly at the Laindon High Road end began to increase about the noise and pollution being generated by the volume of traffic, particularly commercial goods vehicles, that were following the route after leaving the A127 at the "Fortune of War" and High Road to reach the Town Centre. Where the Laindon Link joined the High Road, excavation of the comparatively steep hill side to make a more gradual slope had exposed a considerable depth of clay. Brick built retaining walls had been constructed at the foot of the embankments so created but, within the first year, a season of high rainfall led to slippage. A timber framed bungalow originally in Inverness Road on the top of the bank had the subsoil washed out from beneath its strip concrete foundations. In danger of slipping down to a new site adjacent to the High Road, it had to be hurriedly evacuated and demolished. When further development took place in later years, the bulk of this area, now occupied to the south by housing, to the north by the Laindon Shopping Centre, had to be further excavated. The construction of a Railway Station adjacent to Basildon Town Centre reduced the need for the initial frequency of bus service. And alternative routes were provided to link the A127 with the Town Centre. Changes in the initial planning led to the construction of several schools adjacent to the Laindon link. The road was down graded from a trunk route at the western end and was closed to through traffic. To Laindon, the Laindon Link is now but a feeder road to adjacent housing estates.

This page was added by John Bathurst on 23/02/2013.
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It may be of interest to readers to note that one of the original bungalows built by Albert Tyler in Tyler Avenue is still occupied by the widow of his son Peter. They moved into the house shortly after their marriage in around 1952/3. Peter sadly died a few years ago.

By Wendy Barnes
On 16/10/2013

This is truly a comprehensive detail of how the 'village' of Laindon increased in size and population after the arrival of the railway. 

It comments upopn the private entreprenueurs who led the way in building many dwellings. However there is no mention of the part that the Billericay Rural District Council of the 1920's aided the building of solid housing to the north of Laindon. 

The A.E.Palmer estate of Church Rd., Wash Rd., Royston Ave. and Martindale Ave., I believe only came into being as a result of a council guarantee that not only would they provide mortgages for prospective buyers, but would purchase any unsold properties for council housing. 

The mortgages were collected monthly by a council officer, a Mr.Baldwin, who would knock on the door in the course of his rent and rates collection. The vast majority of these houses are still standing today and might be considered a tribute to the Council of that period, unlike our present day councils who appear to devolve themselves as much as possible in providing houses.

By W.H.Diment
On 24/02/2013
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