Valence House Museum
Close Encounters: The Becontree Estate
2.00pm - 3.00pm
FREE - More information
After the First World War, a national housing programme, Homes fit for Heroes, was regarded as a vital reward for returning veterans as well as for post-war social stability. The London County Council (LCC), the largest local authority, was the flagship council for this programme. The Becontree Estate was its largest housing project.
On 18 June 1919 the LCC’s Standing Committee on the Housing of the Working Classes made a resolution to build 29,000 dwellings to accommodate 145,000 people within five years. Three thousand acres were identified at Dagenham, Barking, and Ilford where 24,000 houses were to be provided. Most land was compulsorily acquired and consisted of market gardens, with occasional groups of cottages and some country lanes. By 1921, 4000 houses had been completed in the northern part of the estate, near Chadwell Heath Station. Early residents were able to pick rhubarb, peas and cabbages from the abandoned market gardens still awaiting development.
The LCC achieved its planned target of houses by 1934, which was marked by the ceremonial opening of Parsloes Park on 13 July 1935. Another 800 dwellings were added in 1937. The LCC built a further 600 houses after 1945 (the Heath Park extension), and later Dagenham Borough Council built 4000 houses, mostly for the children of LCC estate tenants.
The residents of Becontree originated mainly from London's East End, although a good many came from districts near the LCC’s County Hall, in Southwark. The LCC's cottage estate programme was about much more than just the building of houses. It sought to create new habits among its tenants, shaping the behaviour of an emerging nation of suburban house-dwellers. The LCC's purported aim as a landlord was that ‘Tenants shall be as free as possible to order their lives in their own way, so that they may preserve their originality and that self-reliance shall not be weakened’.
The LCC’s Tenants Handbook 1933, stated ‘Becontree is the largest municipal housing estate in the world’. The estate is still considered to be the biggest in Europe.
This event will give you the change to see original objects and documents from the early days of the becontree estate.