Saturday, October 12, 2019

Dagenham East

This is the fifth station on the District Line that I have visited as part of my 'Above the Underground' challenge. From the outside the station looked similar to the previous ones visited. Although this one has been painted in green and cream rather than the red of the others.

There is no disabled access from this station.

I turned right as I left the station as I was keen to find the old Dagenham Village. From the early 1970s the village was replaced by new buildings. In the 1950s it was still a small village with housing was needed to cater for more East End families moving out of London. The only structures to avoid demolition were the village church, the vicarage and the Cross Keys pub. This small Essex village was founded by Saxon settlers in the 7th century with the parish church of St Peter and Paul dating back to the 13th century. As with many ancient churches, parts have been rebuilt and remodelled over the centuries. All that remains of the medieval church is the 13th cent chancel and the 15rh cent north chapel. After the collapse of the tower in 1800 the church was largely rebuilt in 1800-1805.

I was looking forward to seeing one of the few historical buildings left in the village but sadly it was shrouded in scaffolding.
Image result for St Peter and Paul's dagenham image
(Photo from Wikipedia)

The graveyard has been in use for about 800 years with an estimated 11,000 burials taking place here.

Originally the churchyard covered one acre of land and was known as 'God's Acre'. During Victorian times it was extended to two acres. It closed to burials in the 1950s after which it was decided that the churchyard should become a nature reserve and since 1997 it has been maintained by the London Wildlife Trust. The area nearest the church is formally kept with the rest left to grow wild.

Walking through the churchyard I came across this memorial to a policeman.

His murderers were never brought to justice despite the investigations lasting for almost ten years.

The vicarage, across the road from the church, was built in 1665 and survived the redevelopment of the village. It looks as though it has recently been renovated.

The 15th cent Cross Keys Inn is the oldest surviving village building. The history of the building is well documented in a series of conveyances, leases and mortgages beginning in 1670 until 1799. The pub was originally a house owned by the Comyns family who were tanners by trade.  An Inn sign first appeared outside the building in 1708 'All that messuage called or knowne by the name or signe of the Queen's Head....' The name of the Queen's Head changed to the Cross Keys in about 1785.  The sign of the Cross Keys commemorates the Papal See and the crossed keys of St Peter. It is often associated with pubs close to churches.

 Buildings dating from the 17th - 19th century were gradually demolished during the late 1960s and early 70s. The Borough needed new housing and it was decided that the cost of modernising the old village buildings would cost too much and the decision was taken  to knock them down and build modern housing. By 1982 the Borough Council did not have the financial resources to buy the rest of the properties so they could be demolished. The plan to demolish buildings and pedestrianise the area around the church was put on hold. The old cottages alongside the Cross Keys had already been knocked down by then and a small green created by the church but the shops further along Church Street were saved.

In the middle of the green is the Dagenham Village War Memorial, a common feature of most villages. What struck me about this one was the number of names engraved on the memorial.

Village greens are usually quite pretty with attractive flower beds and decent looking grass. This one, which is less than 30 years old, was anything but, with its discarded cans and bottles under the hedges.

Even the village sign looked very dull and uninviting.   I have never been to Dagenham before but the name is a very familiar one with its association with Ford motors. In 1924 Ford purchased land in the Dagenham marshes which border the River Thames on its way out to the estuary. In the 1920s bulk deliveries of coal and steel were delivered by water making good water access necessary. The car plant opened in 1931 and covered about 475 acres. In 1953 employment reached 40,000. Vehicle assembly ceased in 2002 but the site still produces engines but with a hugely reduced working population of 2000. Loss of jobs had a devastating effect on the area being such a major employer. You made also have heard of the film Made in Dagenham (screenplay by William Ivory). The film was based on the true story of the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968. The women made covers for car seats and the cause of the strike was unequal pay. Ford had reclassified their job as unskilled which meant they would be paid 15% less than that received by men in the same classification. The dispute led to the passing of the Equal Pay Act 1970. I thought it would be a good idea to walk through the industrial area to the River Thames. So although it would be a long walk, I knew it was unlikely that I would visit this area again. With hindsight some research would have proved very useful.

Walking South towards the river I passed a number of green areas. This is the Beam Parkway.

The Leys

Old Dagenham Park

I crossed over another road knowing I was close to the industrial area. It looked very run down here.
I walked down Kent Avenue alongside this now isolated building with the name The Beacon. The name must be relatively new as I could find no information about it on the internet.

 I kept on walking towards the river. There was a large number of lorries carrying rubble rumbling past me leaving a lot of dust in their wake. It was then I realised this wasn't an industrial site but a demolition site. 

A security man came out of the office to speak to me and told me I couldn't go any further down this road as it was private land with no public access. When I asked what they were doing he said this was the old Ford factory which was being developed into a housing estate. He advised me to go back to the main road and try the next road down.

The only views I got were  through the fencing.

I walked for ages before I came to the next road. This demolition site is enormous.

The next road looked much more likely with a brand new small housing estate by the Beam River, a tributary of The Thames.

All I had to do was follow the river to the Thames.

This was the road I walked down with the River Beam on my left. The building on the right had Ford's name on it. Beside the building was a barrier with more security guards who told me there was absolutely no public access to the river from here!  I decided it was time to return to the tube station. I didn't bother walking back but jumped on a bus which fortunately was going in the right direction. When I got home and did  some research I noticed that the only photos of Ford Motors were from the other side of the river.

Once back at the tube station I turned left walking in the opposite direction to the river. A police station.

I am used to seeing lots of garden ornaments but this was a first for me. There were six dogs made from various materials from stone to fabric. I can only assume they have been brought out to enjoy the good weather!

The next turn off took me to the Dagenham and Redbridge football club. A well known club that has had mixed fortunes from being in League 1 to relegation out of the football league.

I finished my visit with lunch at this pub 'The Pipers'. The name is a reference to the Dagenham Girl Pipers Band. This is an all female marching bagpipe band based not too far from here. The band was formed in 1930 and have performed throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Everyone in the pub was very friendly and I enjoyed a light lunch there. The station was just a five minute walk away so a perfect place to end my visit to Dagenham East.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Elm Park

This is the fourth station I have visited on the District Line, the longest line on the tube network. It is a small station with just two platforms and a sloped exit rather than steps. The station is painted in its original red and cream.
As I left the station there were a couple of men, one on either side of the entrance/exit asking for money. I am used to seeing people begging near the stations in Central London but was surprised to see it happening here in the suburbs. I must admit I felt a little uneasy but did engage in conversation with one of the young men. He gave me a 'cock and bull' story about needing money to get to a hospital as he had been mugged and had broken his cheek bone. His face looked remarkably free of bruising or swelling. On my walks I never dress to impress as I like to blend into the background, nor do I carry much in the way of valuables. So, as I get free travel, I was able to say quite truthfully that I had no spare money but wished him well. He didn't query my answer and was polite to me. However, he was foul mouthed to a gentleman who walked past and ignored him. I gladly support homeless charities but refuse to give to people begging on the streets, nevertheless I always acknowledge their requests and engage in conversation if they want.

It was therefore interesting to read an article in the Elm Park library that in 2003 the station  was selected as a test site in London to have classical music played in the station as a measure to combat anti-social behaviour and calm crowds. This initiative was such a success that over 40 other London underground stations have now introduced the system.

The Elm Park garden city and the new District line station were officially opened in 1935. The building of 7000 new homes was to be  built on 600 acres of land at a cost of £3,500,000 by Richard Costain Ltd after the purchase of Elm Farm in 1933.
With the coming of the railway these new villages and towns were easily accessible from London. Costain knew this and realised he needed a station on the new housing estate. He negotiated a deal with the railway company to build a station at Elm Park and have trains stop here. It was the last station to open on this line.

The garden city movement is a method of urban planning founded on a series of principles developed by  Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928).
His ideas included:
Mixed types of housing that are affordable for ordinary people.
Homes with gardens in healthy communities.
Opportunities for residents to grow their own food, including allotments.
Generous green space with surrounding belt of protected countryside to prevent sprawling developments.
Local job opportunities.
Public parks and tree lined streets
Recreational and shopping facilities in walkable neighbourhoods.
Accessible transport system.

There were lots of flowers around and tree lined streets with well kept gardens

The station was very close to all the shops.

St Nicholas church was built in 1955-6 close to a temporary church that had been erected in 1936 to serve the new housing development. That was demolished in 1934.

In June 2009 a brand new library opened its doors. The roof is fitted with solar panels. The sedum roof improves insulation, absorbs some co2 and other pollutants and is also a wildlife habitat.

There is a lot of green space around Elm Park

To the North of Elm Park  is Harold Lodge Park. The River Ravensbourne cuts through the park into the first of two large lakes, one of which is used for boating. The park has a number of facilities including children's playgrounds, hockey and cricket pitches and tennis courts. To the West of Elm Park is The Chase Local Nature Reserve.

So after a couple of hours walking around I made my way back to the tube station and home. There wasn't much more to see other than rows of houses. The tube was quite empty and quiet. As usual on the way home I write a few notes about my walk. After a short time I  was aware that   I was surrounded by a group of teenage boys sitting either side of me and across the aisle from me. I hadn't noticed that the train had filled up at the last couple of stations. Fair enough, I could have done with a bit more elbow room but not to worry. I smiled at the boy on my right who was drinking an energy drink. He grinned at me so I asked if he was going anywhere special. A music festival and then onto the after party he replied. I then noticed that they all had bottles of energy drinks. On close inspection I noticed they were filling them from small bottles of spirits!  It is illegal to drink  alcohol on the tube but I wasn't going to be the one to challenge them. I engaged in small talk with the lads opposite mainly about which one of them would remain sober enough to make sure they all got home safely in the morning. Although I was the only white female at  this end of the train I felt at ease, which was just as well as there was an older man a little further down the carriage drinking from a bottle in a brown paper bag. Another man who was obviously drunk was leaning against one of the doors. It was 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. Is this typical of the District Line, I wondered. Hopefully not as I still have another 37 stations to visit.