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Becontree Housing Estate 

Background to the estate 

The Becontree Estate was begun in 1921 by the London County Council as part of the 'Homes for Heroes' scheme after World War One (the Housing Act of 1919 promised to provide 'Homes fit for heroes to live in'). Over 300 acres of land were compulsorily purchased, mainly in Dagenham, but also in the boroughs of Ilford and Barking. Manor houses, farms and cottages were then cleared to make way for the new development.

The building of the estate took over a decade to complete. A 500-foot jetty was built on the Thames for building materials to be transferred from barges to rail trucks. The materials were carried by a new railway that joined the Great Eastern Railway at Chadwell Heath. Here they were transferred onto a network of temporary rail lines into the heart of the building site.

  • On completion, the Becontree Estate was the largest in the world. Its 27,000 houses provided new homes for over 100,000 people. With gas and electricity, inside toilets, fitted baths and front and back gardens, they were originally intended for the better-off working class Londoner.

    You can see displays of a typical Becontree living room and kitchen in the People and communities gallery at Valence House Museum.

    Becontree was designed as a cottage garden estate, where parks, gardens and green spaces were as important as houses. Several Parks were incorporated in the estate: Parsloes, Valence, Goresbrook, Mayesbrook and Pondfield. Amenity greens and shrubberies were placed at the ends of many terraces. Street design included cul-de-sacs known locally as 'banjos', which lent variety to the neighbourhood layout.
     
  • Hundreds of new streets were created when the Becontree Estate was built. Many of them were given names drawn from local history. LBBD Archives and Local Studies volunteers are researching the names, and the results are being published as booklets covering individual areas of the estate.

    There are currently three booklets available. Click below for the cover images:

    Part 1: the area around Valence House
    Part 2: the north-west section of the Estate 
    Part 3: the south-east section of the Estate

    They are on sale in the Valence House shop, price £1 each. More are in preparation.
     
Refurbishing estate paintwork, 1953
Aerial view of Valence Circus, late 1920s

Archives and Local Studies Centre

Valence House Museum

Becontree Avenue

Dagenham

RM8 3HT

 

Phone: 020 8227 2033

Email: localstudies@lbbd.gov.uk