Local history Monday Tuesday

Whalebone Lane, bit of an odd name for a main road in a town not exactly famed for its whaling fleets, isn’t it? Well, the name derives from Whalebone House, that stood close to the junction of the modern-day High Road and Whalebone Lane. The house taking its name from the large whalebone arch that formed the main gate.

Whalebone House c1935

The house was destroyed in bombing in April 1941, not much survived, although the whalebones did, being transfered to Valance House, where they were recently rediscovered.

There had been a house on the site since at least 1667, the house shown in the photograph above dated from around 1747. What follows is a somewhat incomplete history of the house and owners:

  • c1667 Owned by a Mr. Bell (no further details)
  • c1747 Daniel Pilon constructed the house shown in the photograph.
  • 1783 Nicholas Peter Pilon
  • 1823 to 1846, used as a school by John Peacock
  • 1846 to 1855, owned by the Mull family. Sold off on August 10th 1885 by auction.
  • 1887 Alexander Anderson
  • 1889 to 1917 Philip Savill and Mrs M. Savill
  • 1920 Reginald Wood
  • 1922 Walter Hayter
  • before 1941, owned by Mrs Lester.

When exactly and why the whalebones made their appearance, I’ve not yet been able to discover – anyone know?

Lost Dagenham

Another image from the archives this week: Clay Cottages of Marston Avenue. You won’t find them there now though, these last two were demolished in 1962, razed to make room for garages.

Clay Cottages - Dagenham ~1960

These particular cottages were around 500 years old – some of the oldest dwelling places in Essex. They originally had no first floor, this being added fairly recently. In our enlightened times there would probably be a cry to save them from destruction. In the 1960s however, the low ceilings and lack of modern facilities condemned them.

I’ve reason to believe even the garages that replaced them are now gone.

The Oldest Road

The road to London

High Road follows the path of an old Roman road from Colchester in Essex to London and is one of the oldest in the UK. It has been in use for at least two thousand years. The junction is where Whalebone Lane South and North meet the High Road. The areas of fields and allotments along side the roads are all houses and shop now. The pond visible on the left of the image is now covered by industrial areas along Selina’s Lane.

The difference a decade makes…

Continuing from last week’s theme of the construction of Dagenham, we move to the area around Dagenham parish church and see how it changes over a period of ten years.

Dagenham Village & Leys Field c1950

This first image shows the Leys Field and Church Elm Lane as they were c.1950. Leys in an old name for this area, dated to at least the mid 1600s from archive documents.

Snaking down the photograph to the right of the church is the Wantz stream, not culverted until later in the 1960s and at this point still prone to summer flooding. In the early 1950s there were plans to develop the Leys field into another large park similar to Central Park or Parsloes.

Dagenham Village & Leys Field c1959

Just ten years later (c.1960) and the need for housing has lead to development of the portion of Leys field close to the church. The ambitious park plans of the 1950s have found fruit in the form of Old Dagenham park, constructed from the remainder of the Leys, and just outside the field of view of the second photograph.

Dagenham – 11th July 1921 & June 1931

By mid 1921, the construction of the Becontree Estate and the enlargement of Dagenham was gathering pace. The photograph below shows an aerial view of the west of the estate looking north to Chadwell Heath. The two prominent roads running parallel to the bottom of the photograph and diagonally to the right are Longbridge Road and Beacontree Avenue respectively.

Dagenham - 11th July 1921

In the middle distance some of the housing is beginning to take shape, although large areas of land are still open fields. It took a further ten years before some of the more recognisable features of Dagenham were constructed. The second photograph has the Heathway running diagonally down, left to right. Just visible before the great sweep of Downing Road, and towards the top of the photo is a partially constructed Heathway Hill. Heathway station still being a year or so away from opening at this point.

Dagenham - June 1931

Another random dip into the past next week…