Barking and Dagenham

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham was formed in 1965 when the two old municipal boroughs were amalgamated. The borough is situated to the east of London in South West Essex, and its southern border is the River Thames. It stretches to the River Rom in the west and the River Roding to the east.

Population change

1966:171,000 people
1998:153,800 people

Barking and Dagenham were important medieval centres, thanks to the presence of a large Cistercian abbey at Barking. Until the 19th century, when much of the borough was developed, the most important industry was fishing. This changed when the railway line from the city of London was extended to Barking and the riverfront at Dagenham was turned into important docks.

The most important 20th century housing development was the Becontree estate, the largest out-county cottage estate built by the London County Council and the largest council estate in the world at the time. Begun in 1914 and completed in 1940 the LCC built nearly 30,000 houses on marshland at Dagenham. The new houses had gas, electricity and inside toilets and there were strict rules about house and garden maintenance.

The 20th industry also saw heavy industry develop in the district. In 1909 Britain's first aircraft factory was opened at Barking by Handley Page. In the late 1920s the Ford motor company developed a mammoth car plant at Dagenham. In 1924 Ford bought some 55 acres of land from Samuel Williams & Sons and between 1929 and 1931 the factory was built in Dagenham. During the Second World War the Ford factory met the demand for 360,000 military vehicles, this included vans, army trucks, mobile canteens and Bren gun carriers. During the 1950s the factory was enlarged and employee numbers rose from 14,000 to an incredible 40,000.

Despite the industrial growth of the 20th century, parts of the Borough have been preserved as open space. The largest of these is Eastbrook Country Park and Nature Reserve. The reserve has 125 acres of wetlands, reedbeds and woodland.

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