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Happy Birthday Basildon - 1949 - 1989


In 1989 to celebrate 40 years since the creation of the new town Basildon Council produced a small 10 page souvenir programme entitled 'Happy Birthday Basildon'. It contained a brief history of the town, a message from the then council chairman Frank Tomlin, comments from some of the early pioneers and a programme of celebratory events between March and November to mark 'Basildon 40'. The programme is fully illustrated with ten black and white photographs.

The text below is a transcript of the booklet as it originally appeared.


A New Beginning

They came from dark cobblestone streets, living in back-to-back houses with hardly a patch of green or a tree in sight.

And during the war many of their homes in east London's streets had been torn apart by the colossal bomb devastation.

One building in every four was destroyed, making thousands of people homeless and causing overcrowded, appalling conditions.

Often there would be three families to one house and some were forced to live in temporary accommodation like Nissan huts.

Backwater

Only 34 miles away was Basildon, a sleepy backwater flanked by two rural communities - Laindon and Pitsea.

Roads were unmade and in winter the heavy Essex clay turned them into an impassable quagmire.

There was no main drainage and most of the homes built on plotlands by the very early pioneers sporadic concoctions of timber and brick.

Strategy

It was here that Clement Attlee's post war Government turned to renew the waning hopes of the war-torn people from the capital city.

The Government, recognising swift action was needed, set about developing a strategy to create new towns around London and other bomb-damaged cities across the country.

Quiet rural backwaters like Basildon would be transformed into places where people could start afresh.

Not only would it be good for the city people, life would also be improved for those already living in the district.

It was on a cheerless night in October 1948 that the wheels were set in motion to turn Basildon into a new town.

The Rt. Hon. Lewis Silkin, Minister for Town and Country Planning came to address a packed meeting at Laindon High Road School.

He wanted everyone to know about the Government's plan.

"Basildon will become a city which people from all over the world will want to visit ... a place where all classes of the community can meet freely together." said the Minister. "It will be the best possible town that modern knowledge, commerce, science and civilisation can produce."

Planning

Under the chairmanship of Sir Lancelot Keay, KBE, a Development Corporation was formed to begin work on a Master Plan, and the technical report they drew up to accompany the first plan in 1951 is now an historical document

Though detailed amendments were made over the years, this first plan formed the basis for Basildon's development during the next 35 years.

If Basildon was to succeed, the Development Corporation knew that the two main existing towns - Laindon and Pitsea - had to welded together. There had to be a central core, a main town centre as the focus of town life.

Housing development had to be carefully planned to include primary schools, shops and playing fields.

And industry, too, had to have its base, sighted not too far from the main centre, but away from the residential areas.

Originally the master plan accounted for 80,000 people, but in 1960 the Government recognised this original target would be far exceeded and set a new one of 106,000.

Mod Cons

In 1965 this was again amended as a Development Corporation technical study revealed a population of 140,000 could be accommodated in Basildon district without changing the actual area size.

The first homes built in Basildon were in Redgrave Road in Vange.

They were houses with "good sized family rooms," complete with all mod cons - running water, gas and a bath (a luxury then!), a kitchen and gardens in the front and back for children to play in.

For young families waiting to escape the East End of London they were the homes of their dreams.

On Friday, June 22, 1951, the first house was opened by Lady Whitmore, wife of the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, and the first family, Betty and Jack Walker, helped to cut the ceremonial ribbon.

Today, the Basildon district population stands as almost 160,000 and still growing. The rest is history.

The Pioneers of ...

     "We lived in a Nissan hut and hated every minute of it. Coming to Basildon New Town was like moving to paradise".

     On returning home from the war, Stan Martin, a skilled carpenter and joiner got a job with West Ham Council, and they provided him and his family with one of the dome shaped Nissan huts in the run-down area called Custom House.

     Recalls his wife Phyllis today: "It was a place of our own, I suppose, but we hated every minute of it. We longed for a proper home where we could settle down and bring up the children in a nicer, cleaner environment."

     Two years later, that chance came. The couple heard about plans for the new town of Basildon and the need for carpenters, bricklayers and other skilled tradesman. Those taken on would be given a tenancy in one of the Development Corporation's new homes.

     They moved to Basildon New Town in August 1951. "I can remember like yesterday", says Phyllis. "There in the middle of the countryside was Redgrave Road and the very first half dozen new town houses to be built. They were lovely. We were the fourth family to move in".

     Albert and Rose Smith along with the eldest of their three daughters Carol moved into Redgrave Road on 5th November, 1951. But before leaving their East Ham home they off fireworks to celebrate their new adventure. Their second daughter Linda was born in February 1952. She was the first baby girl to be born in the New Town.

     The Hailstones, one of the first families in Redgrave Road, never regretted the move. Ivy's children, David, John, Pauline and Lawrence, spent happy days there.

     There was a mountain of clay and rubble to greet Harry and Mabel Timckea when they arrived at their newly-built home in Redgrave Road. Said Mabel: "It was hard work, but after twice being bombed out of our home in West Ham, we had no complaints".

A word from Cllr. Frank Tomlin (Chairman of Basildon Council)

     This year we will celebrate Basildon New Town's 40th Birthday in style. I believe that the achievements of the past four decades are something to be proud of, something to shout about. To create an urban community of more than 160,000 people starting from scratch, is no mean achievement. I stress the word "community". The New Town is not just houses and shops, roads and factories, hospitals and parks. The New Town is people.

     It is the people of Basildon, represented by their elected councillors, who have made the town what it is today. On January 4th (40 years to the day since Basildon was designated a New Town) I was honoured to host a birthday party attended by some of the men and women who among the pioneers who moved into the New Town in the first few years. It was particularly pleasing to find that so many still live here, and were able to attend. Their reminiscences of life in those early days are fascinating - history in the making. I hope that as many of their stories as possible will be recorded for posterity, and that the "Basildon 40" events programmed for the rest of the year will open up their memories further.

     Looking to the future, there are difficult times ahead: but life has never been easy, and past difficulties have always been overcome. I am confident that we will cope successfully with anything which lies ahead. The spirit and determination of the people will make sure of that.

     So let us celebrate "Basildon 40" with pride. Let's give a resounding cheer for Basildon, forty years old and growing in strength and confidence.

Frank Tomlin
Chairman of Basildon District Council
Council Offices
Fodderwick. Basildon


BASILDON 40 PROGRAMME
March 
12 MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE SERIES ROUND 4
The Essex Mountain Bike Race Series. Gloucester Park North. Start 2:30 pm earliest. Organised by Southend and County Wheelers.
  INDOOR BOWLS - PAIRS TOURNAMENT
Markhams Chase Centre. All day. Organised by Essex Short Mat Bowls Association.
15 CONFERENCE OF ELDERLY PEOPLE
Afflets Court, Church Road, Basildon. 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.
22 PLAYLEADERSHIP JUNIOR TALENT COMPETITION
Pitsea Leisure Centre. 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm. Entry forms available from all playcentres.
April 
1 CHAIRMAN'S CHARITY BALL
In aid of Hamelin House and Fryerns Adventure Playground for Handicapped Children. Towngate Theatre. 8.00 pm. Rainbow Dance Orchestra. Hot buffet. Raffles. Tombola. Formal Dress. Tickets £20. Available from Council Offices (0268) 294***.
2 CHARITY WALK
An opportunity to raise funds funds for your club and help local handicapped children too. The Bryn Centre. 10.00 am. Sponsored by Marks and Spencer. Telephone (0268) 288***/4.
3 LAUNCH OF SCHOOLS ART COMPETITION '40 YEARS ON'
Details and entry forms available from Council Offices/Area Offices/Libraries.
9 BIRDWATCH BONANZA
Wat Tyler Country Park, 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. Telephone (0268) 555***.
13 THANKSGIVING SERVICE
St Martin le Tour, Town Centre, Basildon. 7.30 pm.
16-19 ESSEX INDUSTRY AND BUSINESS
EXHIBITON
Festival Hall.
23 A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE
Concentrating on old Basildon Plotlands.
1. Lincewood - Laindon/Langdon Hills. (10.45 am)
2. Willow Park - Langdon Hills (2.45 pm).
26 BASILDON 40 CHARITY PRO-AM GOLF TOURNAMENT
In aid of the Chairman's Appeal. Basildon Golf Course. All day. Prize money £150. Telephone (0268) 353*.
28 HEILIGENHAUS YOUTH ORCHESTRA CONCERT
Celebrating a 25-year association with Basildon. Towngate Theatre. Tickets (0268) 5326**.
30 NEW TOWN BADMINGTON FESTIVAL
Terry Marsh Centre. 10.00 am to 6.00 pm. Telephone (0268) 2861**.
May 
1 GRAND 40'S DANCE
Pitsea Leisure Centre. Come in 40's gear. Tickets £1. Further information from Cllr Dave Marks. 7.30 pm to 11,00 pm. Telephone: (0268) 5524**.
7 PITSEA URBAN TRAIL
An introductory walk in the New Town. Meet at Pitsea free car park. 2.00 pm.
14 INVITATION TRIATHALON
Lake Meadows, Billericay. Organised by Billericay Striders. Telephone (0277) 6244**.
17 FRYERNS NEW TOWN PIONEERS TEA PARTY
The Bryn Centre. 6.00 pm.
29 FESTIVAL 40
A day of fun for all the family in the Town Square and Market Square from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. All day entertainment, bands, majorettes, clowns, street theatre, etc. Market stalls available for hire to charitable organisations for sale of fancy goods, tombola, etc.
June 
4 HERITAGE DAY AT WAT TYLER COUNTRY PARK
A day of fun and family entertainment. Archery display, Agricultural machinery on display, tractor procession, Sealed Knot Society Musketing display. Traditional rural crafts also on display including bee keeping, corn dolly making, spinning and weaving, etc. Telephone (0268) 5500**.
  MAYFLOWER MARCHING BAND CONTEST
Gloucester Park Stadium. From 10.00 am.
6-18 'BEORHTEL'S HILL' - THE BASILDON COMMUNITY PLAY
A play for Basildon written by Arnold Wesker. Towngate Theatre. Telephone (0268) 5326**.
17 GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
Basildon Golf Course. All day. Organised by the National Association of Public Golf Courses and Basildon Golf Club.
17 & 18 SOUTHERN WOMEN'S ATHLETIC CHAMPIONSHIPS
Gloucester Park Stadium. All day. Organised by Southern Women's Athletic Association and Basildon Athletic Club.
24 BASILDON LOCAL HISTORY DAY
Towngate Theatre - Mirren Studio. Start 10.30 am finish 4.00 pm approximately. Three speakers. Question and answer sessions. Tickets free. Telephone Betty Watts (0268) 5500**.
25 70 KM CYCLE RACE
Yardley's circuit. 10.00 am start. Organised by Basildon Cycling Club.
July 
3 WRITER OF THE YEAR COMPETITION LAUNCH
Sponsored by Basildon council and 'Evening Echo'. A special theme - '40 Years on'. Details and entry forms available from Council Offices, Area Offices and Libraries.
29 FRYERNS FAYRE
Holy Cross recreation Ground. 10.30 am to 4.30 pm.
30 BASILDON 40 BIRTHDAY SHOW JUMPING
Affiliated event. Crays Hill. All day. Organised by Billericay and District Riding Club.
August 
1-3 THE ANIMALS NEW TOWN
A three-day holiday for children aged 8 to 13 years at wat Tyler Country Park to see how the wildlife in the area has coped with the building of the New Town. Cost per child £30. Telephone (0268) 5500**.
12 BASILDON 40 CARNIVAL
Organised by Basildon Carnival Association. Telephone Fred Palmer (0268) 5599**.
19 OPEN AIR FESTIVAL
Organised by Basildon District Arts Association in Gloucester Park. All day fun. Pop, Folk, Country and Western live music. Morris Dancing. Stalls, etc. Telephone Olga Ruocco (0268) 2881**.
21-23 THE ANIMALS NEW TOWN
A three-day holiday for children aged 8 to 13 years at wat Tyler Country Park to see how the wildlife in the area has coped with the building of the New Town. Cost per child £30. Telephone (0268) 5500**.
27 & 28 11-A-SIDE JUNIOR FOOTBALL COMPETITION
Terry Marsh Centre. Organised by Chalvedon Football Club.
27 NATURAL HISTORY OPEN DAY
Wat Tyler Country Park. 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. Telephone (0268) 5500**.
28 BASILDON TOWN SHOW
Gloucester Park North. 12.00 noon start. Organised by Basildon Lions.
September 
11 CHAIRMAN'S RECEPTION FOR HEILIGENHAUS OAPS
Towngate Theatre.
23 BLUE EAGLES BAND CONTEST
Gloucester Park Stadium. 10.00 am.
29 CELEBRATION DINNER AND DANCE
Pitsea Leisure Centre. Organised by Pitsea Welcome Centre.
October 
6 & 7 FOCUS ON WOMEN
Two days of events for women. Mini exhibition. Telephone Jane Becker (0268) 2942**.
November 
1 VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION EVENING
Towngate Theatre. 7.30 pm.
14 OFFICIAL OPENING OF BASILDON CENTRE
16 OFFICIAL TWINNING CEREMONY WITH HEILIGENHAUS
Followed by Tree Planting Ceremony.
17-30 GRAND EXHIBITION OF BASILDON'S PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
Plus an exhibition on Heiligenhaus, Germany. In the foyer of the new Basildon Centre.
26 TREE PLANTING IN WAT TYLER COUNTRY PARK
Commemorating Basildon 40. Everybody welcome to participate. 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.
There will be more Basildon 40 events throughout the year. For details look in your monthly copy of 'Link' or phone the Public Relations Department at Basildon Council on Basildon 22881 Ext. 2157.

Title: Happy Birthday Basildon - 1949 - 1989 Souvenir Programme of Events

Author: No credited author. Information compiled on behalf of Basildon Council.

Comments: Programme measures (H) 197 x (W) 136mm in glossy finish. Front cover shows Mrs. Phyllis Martin one of the New Towns first residents cutting the celebration cake to mark Basildon's 40 years.

Page added: 08/12/2019
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Other points of interest:

1) Lewis Silkin, 1st Baron Silkin CH (14/11/1889 - 11/05/1972), Labour MP for Peckham, South London (1936-1950). Minister for Town and Country Planning (1945-1950).

2) The Minister for Town and Country Planning Lewis Silkin MP actually addressed the meeting at the High Road School in Laindon on Thursday September 30th 1948. The date may have been mixed up with that of a public inquiry into the proposed new town called by the Ministry of Housing & Local Government. The inquiry was held a week later on Thursday October 7th at the Memorial Hall in High Road, Laindon.

3) The Walker's and Martin families took residence at Nos. 61 and 59 respectively. These addresses were later renumbered in 1968 when houses in a new cul-de-sac off Redgrave Road were built in the late 1960s.

4) The Council's chairman, Conservative Cllr. Frank Tomlin, who represented the Billericay West Ward from 1982 - 1995, was succeeded in May 1989 by Dave Marks, Labour councillor for Pitsea East.

5) The Terry Marsh Centre at Crest Avenue, Pitsea later reverted back to its original name of Eversley Centre, which it remains today.

6) The Markhams Chase Centre in Laindon was later demolished in 2011 and replaced with the Hawks Park residential development.

7) The Bryn Centre was in the former Bryn Primary School at Church Road, Fryerns. That building and its playing fields were also later lost to a new housing development.
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