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A Basildon Chronology
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1995   1996   1997   1998   1999
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1995

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The Old Market Retail Park at Pitsea Broadway opened. Built on the site of the second Pitsea market the new retail park was a further addition to the gradual regeneration of Pitsea, a process ongoing since the 1970s. Among the attractions are a McDonald's and K.F.C., both with drive-thru option, a Lidl supermarket and 3 retail units under a single roof housing a Petsmart, B'wise fashion and bridal store and Farm Foods store. These units were later destroyed and rebuilt on the same site following a major fire on June 14th, 2006.

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John Robb is appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Basildon District Council. He succeeds John Rosser who held the post of Town Manager.

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6th April

The Fortune of War roundabout at Laindon is closed off to right turns. The roundabout on the A127 had become a blackspot despite the earlier introduction of traffic lights. However, it continued to be a danger to vehicles prompting a 20 Mph speed limit on its approaches. The traffic Order is experimental and for a period not exceeding 18 months. At its expiry a permanent Order with the same conditions came into effect. As of 2013 the former roundabout, which opened in the 1940s, is still in place - awaiting a decision on its future.

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16th April

BT (British Telecom) introduce changes to all United Kingdom geographic STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing) codes. One of the changes, introduced on PhONEday, was the addition of an extra digit '1' after the opening '0' on all geographic area codes resulting in a change to the Basildon code (BN8) from 0268 to 01268.

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16th May

HRH The Princess Royal visited Basildon to officially open two new business headquarters. The two businesses; electrical components manufacturer MK Electric and PMS International, importer and distributor of high volume products, had both relocated to Basildon to new purpose built accommodation in the Nevendon area. Mk Electric, whose headquarters were previously based at their Progress Road factory site in Southend before relocating to the Arnold Centre at Paycocke Road, and PMS, who moved into new headquarters called International House on a nine acre site with 500,000 sq ft of warehouse facilities at Cricketers Way. Princess Anne, making her second visit to Basildon, was accompanied throughout by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Robin Neville, 10th Baron Braybrooke.

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20th July

The Old Parsonage (Rectory) Old Church Hill, Thurrock is designated a Grade II listed building.

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20th July

St Mary's and All Saints Church in High Road, Langdon Hills is designated a Grade II listed building.

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1996

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Phase 1 of the Five Links regeneration programme in Laindon begins with the demolition and redevelopment of flats, maisonettes and underground garages at Laindon Link.

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11th January

The Moon on the Square public house in Market Square, Basildon opened. The new J.D. Wetherspoon run public house was created from four former shop units merged into one.

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7th June

Basildon Crown and County Courts opened at The Gore in Basildon. The purpose built building has 5 criminal courtrooms and 2 Civil District Judge chambers. It was opened by The Right Honourable Lord Justice Auld, the then Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales.

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July

General goods retailer Argos open a new purpose built distribution centre in Miles Gray Road on the Pipps Hill industrial estate. The centre was built on a large site previously occupied by STC (Standard Telephones & Cables Ltd) which had closed some years earlier.

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July

Chowdhary Primary School at Markhams Chase, Lee Chapel North closes. Opened in the 1960s, the school acquired its name from a well respected local Doctor who kept surgery in High Road, Laindon until the late 1950s. The school had been hit by a fire in June 1996 that destroyed the kitchen and swimming pool. Pupil numbers had dropped to just 60 by the time of closure. Final headteacher was Mrs. Enid Firman. The site of the school was demolished soon after and the site remained unused and overgrown up to early 2005 when it was cleared and then absorbed into the existing James Hornsby playing fields in a land deal that saw a portion of the latters playing field developed into a small extension of the Church View housing estate.

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27th/28th July

The first Basildon Festival is held at Wat Tyler Country Park in Pitsea. The free Basildon Council run two day event brought together local charities, businesses, voluntary organisations and homegrown talent from performing arts to bands. The July festival, which attracted around 4,000 visitors, became an annual event at the park until 2001 when it moved to Basildon's Gloucester Park on a site behind the swimming pool before being resited for 2004, deeper into the park on playing fields beyond the fishing lake. It ran continuously there to 2010 when in February 2011 the event, now promoted as Basfest, was cancelled by the conservative run council in a cost cutting measure aimed at saving £80,000. As of March 2017 no announcement has yet to be made regarding a possible return.

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1st September

St. Anselms Catholic Secondary School is renamed De La Salle Catholic Secondary School.

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4th October

Oaklands Care Home in Forest Glade, Langdon Hills officially opened. The new purpose built privately owned residential care home has accommodation for 55 senior citizens on two levels. The Rt. Hon. David Amess, MP for Basildon, performed the opening ceremony.

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1997

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Office World open a superstore in Great Oaks. The site was first used in 1963 when Southend based car dealers Holmes & Smith opened a service station complete with car showroom and Rootes Group (later Chrysler) dealership. Years later the BP petrol station closed, and until redevelopment its final business offered second hand car sales.

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St. Martin's Square in Basildon Town Centre completed and formally named. The new square was officially opened by Local Government & Housing Minister, Hilary Armstrong, MP, and "name the square" local competition winners Lee Clary, 11, & Laura Anderson, 12. Work undertaken to replace the former turfed green included new paving, piers, seating and an ornate base for the wooden carved statue. Previously called Pagel Mead and linking Great Oaks with Fodderwick, through traffic access had ceased some years earlier.

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The Basildon Cricket Club and Pitsea Cricket Club merge to form the Basildon and Pitsea Cricket Club. The club, who play their home fixtures at Mopsies Park in Timberlog Close, are members of the Shepherd Neame Essex League. The Basildon side of the club has a long history having first formed in 1948 though its origins can be traced back to the early 1930s. A Pitsea Cricket Club is also known to have existed around the same time. The present ground has been in use since the 1960s and remains the clubs' headquarters today.

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Festival Leisure Park in Cranes Farm Road, Basildon opens. Built at a cost of £35 million on a large 100 acre site of mainly undeveloped land that included a large car park used for boot sales, the Festival Leisure Hall and former Aquatels Zoo grounds, the retail entertainment complex very soon became a top Essex attraction. TGI Friday's american bar and restaurant become the first attraction to open followed by Icon night club, Hollywood Bowl, Special Reserve, The Honeypot, Fatty Arbuckle's American Diner, Chuckle City, UCI cinema complex and many more. The park is owned by insurance providers Aviva (formerly Norwich Union) and affectionately known locally as "Bas Vegas".

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6th April

Labour party leader Tony Blair visits Basildon on the campaign trail in the run up to the May general election. His visit, in support of local candidate Angela Smith, took place at the Towngate Theatre where he addressed a group of Labour supporters for about an hour.

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1st May

Angela Smith (later Baroness Smith of Basildon) (29,646) elected member of parliament for the new parliamentary constituency of Basildon and East Thurrock. In doing so she becomes the 4th Labour elected candidate and the first woman of any party to represent a constituency with Basildon in its title. Mrs. Smith, who in 1987 had stood unsuccessfully in the safe conservative Southend West seat, beat her conservative opponent John Baron by 13,280 votes. She is also the first locally elected M.P. having been schooled at Pitsea Junior and Chalvedon Comprehensive.

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1st May

Teresa Gorman (22,033) re-elected Conservative MP for the Billericay constituency which includes Pitsea and areas of Laindon. This would be Mrs Gorman's third and final election victory since taking over the seat from Harvey Proctor in 1987. She won with a heavily reduced majority of 1,356 over her nearest rival, labour's Paul Richards. Labour win General Election.

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27th June

Local artist Dave Chapple's sculpture carving "The Woodsman" is lowered into position on top of an ornamental rounded stone plinth in the newly completed St. Martin's Square, in Basildon town centre. The statue, carved from an ancient oak tree felled during the 1987 hurricane in Langdon Hills, was completed on a specially adapted platform on the turfed green in front of the Basildon Centre. It remained in the square until 18th January, 2010 when it was removed by Basildon Council to Wat Tyler Park, Pitsea to await erection at a new site within the park. The artist, who died in 2009, undertook various other works including tree carvings at both Westley Heights and One Tree Hill country parks.

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5th July

Basildon Retro 97 held. This event, featuring modern and vintage motorsport vehicles, was held to raise funds for the Bell Tower planned for St. Martin's Square. Vehicles from all avenues of motorsport took part on a 3.4 mile circuit of roads specially closed off for the occasion. Former 16 times formula one grand prix winner Sir Stirling Moss was among the celebrity drivers.

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1998

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St. Michael's Church in Church Path, Pitsea is dismantled. The redundant church, which dates from 1871, had been fenced off from the public due to its deteriorating condition. The last service was held in 1982 and although tentative plans for an alternative use occasionally made the local headlines, in the event nothing materialised and the building fell into a ruinous state. The 16th century tower however, was saved and restored by the communications company Orange as a location for a mobile phone mast.

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Houses on the Seaview estate at Vange completed. The new properties for private ownership comprising Downs Grove, Hillcrest View, Mountview Close and Seaview Avenue were built by Saxon Homes. They are all built around short cul-de-sacs accessed from from London Road. The street naming retains three former residential roads, Hillcrest, Seaview and Mountview, all long since cleared of properties, and brings Downs Grove whose original course was lost in the 1950s housing development in the Redgrave Road area of Vange.

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26th January

Laindon Police Station at Durham Road officially opened. The new permanent station, which became operational in September 1997, was built at a cost of £1.7 million and replaced a temporary one in use from 1991 at New Century Road. Performing the opening ceremony was Chief Constable of Essex Police, John Burrow and Basildon councillor and chairman of the local Police and Community Consultative Group, Bill Archibald. A permanent station in Laindon had previously existed at Victoria Road but this was closed in 1967 when operations were centralised at Great Oaks, Basildon.

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February

The Powerhouse public house in Clay Hill Road, Vange closes. Once called The Bull and a popular live music venue, it opened in the 1960s close to the site of the original Bull in what was then Bull Road. Flats were built on the site following demolition in 2002.

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30th April

Basildon Crematorium in Church Road, Bowers Gifford opened. Situated within the grounds of Pitsea Cemetery on an eight acre site the new crematorium has an air conditioned chapel furnished with natural woods and brick and overlooks the River Thames and the Kent hills.

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May

Hollywood Bowl tenpin bowling centre opened. The new leisure facility situated at the Festival Leisure Park, Cranes Farm Road has 26 lanes, a games arcade, cafe and a licensed bar.

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July

The Laindon Comprehensive School closes after 70 years.

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16th July

Nicholas County Comprehensive School in Leinster Road closes after 35 years. Mr. John Cooper is the last headteacher.

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16th July

UCI cinema multiplex opens on the new Festival Leisure Park off Cranes Farm Road. Featuring 12 screens and seating for nearly three thousand, the new multiplex is also equipped with Infa-red hearing systems on every screen. In November 2004 United Cinemas International became part of the Odeon cinema chain, itself owned by the company Terra Firma. New cinema chain Empire Cinemas acquired the cinema in 2006, which on 5th May was renamed Empire. This lasted to 12th August 2017, when the multiplex became a Cineworld following the company's acquisition of five cinemas from Empire.

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September

The official opening of the Festival Leisure Park off Cranes Farm Road, Basildon. MP for Basildon and East Thurrock Angela Smith performed the opening duties at the 100 acre site. Some attractions like TGI Friday's, Hollywood Bowl and the UCI cinema had already opened but the remainder of the site is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

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8th September

James Hornsby High School opens at the former Laindon comprehensive school site in High Road, Laindon. Mrs. Jacqueline White is the first appointed Headteacher. The new school, formed by amalgamating The Laindon with Nicholas, would remain there until July 2000, while work to refurbish the former Nicholas school site at Leinster Road was carried out. The schools name was suggested by Langdon Hills resident Danny Lovey following an appeal by the school governors.

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22nd December

Brooke House in North Gunnels and the Mother and Child water fountain sculpture amd raised pool in Town Square, Basildon given Grade II listed status. Brooke House was designed by Basildon Development Corporation's chief architect/planner Anthony B. Davies (consulting advisor: Sir Basil Spence) and completed in July 1962. The Mother and Child sculpture was unveiled in July 1962 and was the work of Maurice Lambert RA. Also given the same status is an area to the west of East Square forming steps, retaining walls, raised paving and a slope, as is the East Square bench and stairway.
Listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. Name: Raised pool and sculpture; List entry number: 1271562.

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1999

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The Quays public house in Pipps Hill Road South opened. The new pub is built on or very close to the site of another public house; The former Treble Chance, which opened around 1973 as part of the Pipps Hill Country Club complex. It closed in the 1990s and the entire site was later cleared of all buildings.

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The former Barstable Lower School at Timberlog Lane is demolished. The school, which originally opened in 1957 as Timberlog County Secondary, had been sold by Essex County Council to a property developer for a new housing development. It closed as Timberlog in 1968 following a reorganisation of local education and reopened as Barstable Comprehensive after merging with the former Barstable grammer school. The grammer school then became the 'middle' school while the Timberlog site was given over to 1st and 2nd year seniors (year 7 and 8). Following the demolition the new properties, built around Mopsies Road, were soon built and occupied by 2000.

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12th March

Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip officially open the new 95ft steel and glass belltower in St. Martin's Square, Basildon. The Queen, making her first visit to Basildon - Prince Philip had visited twice before - also unveiled a commemorative plaque within the Basildon Centre, celebrating 50 years of Basildon New Town. The tower, sited on the former Pagel Mead roadway, was the brainchild of Canon Lionel Webber, Rector of St. Martin's, and has six medieval and two newly commissioned bells and is the first of its kind in the world. The dedication service was performed by The Rt. Revd. John Perry, The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford. Douglas Galloway, RIBA, former general manager of Basildon Development Corporation and affectionately known as "Mr Basildon" was responsible for its design. The cost of the project was put at around £750,000 which included a grant from the Millenium Commission. Contractors John Mowlem carried out the work.

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24th March

Barstable Lower School art and craft block destroyed by fire. The single-storey detached art block in Timberlog Lane was completely destroyed after being deliberately set on fire in an arson attack. The building along with the rest of the school, which originally opened in 1957 as Timberlog County Secondary, had been sold to a developer and was set to be demolished for a private housing development.

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May

Basildon councillor Alf Dove retires after 43 years of service. The long serving labour councillor was first elected to Ward 4 (Basildon/Vange) in May 1956 following the creation of new polling districts and an increase to the number of elected councillors. From 1959 he represented Fryerns Ward (Fryerns East from 1967) from where he worked as a manager of the local Co-op. He was the first elected "new towner" having moved to Basildon in the early 1950s following its designation as a new town. During the 1960s he led the local labour group and in 1963 served a year as chairman of Basildon Council. He also served as deputy leader of the council from 1971-1979. Following his retirement he was awarded an M.B.E. for outstanding services to the local community. Another mark of recognition came from Basildon council who introduced the "Alf Dove" award, given to local individuals who make a significant contribution to the community. He died on 26th November, 2014, aged 95.

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10th May

English Partnerships founded. The UK government's national regeneration agency and successor to the Commission For The New Towns and the Urban Regeneration Agency. Some land acquired by the development corporation during construction of the new town is now under its ownership, though attemps at new development schemes in some areas has so far met with strong local opposition. It retains the powers of its predecessors.

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22nd July

Fairview School for children with special needs closes. The school, opened in September 1969 and located at Fairview Road, Barstable, was classed as a community special school but was seen as failing following falling numbers and a drop in standards. It was replaced with a pupil referral unit now known as Fairview Children's Support Service Centre.

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August

Hairdressing superbrand Toni&Guy open a salon in the new West Pavilion in Town Square, Basildon. The glass pavilion was erected as part of a town square regeneration project begun in 1996. A second East Pavilion was built at the same time and soon in use as a coffee shop.

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31st August

Fryerns Community School closes. Opened originally as Nevendon Craylands in 1935, the school merged with Fryerns in 1968, finally becoming Fryerns Community School in 1994 through to closure and the end of 64 years of education at the Craylands site.

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November

The Westgate Shopping Park, Fodderwick opened. Built at a cost of around £30 million, the 142,000 sq ft, 12 unit retail development was officially opened by Basildon Council chairman, Lynda Gordon. The shopping park, constructed on the west side of Fodderwick & Towngate, had since the 1960s been the site of a number of temporary designed Basildon Council and E.C.C. run buildings including an Arts Centre (later known as Towngate Theatre), central library and various single storey office blocks housing council services plus two small car parks. Argos, MVC, Shoe City, Wilkinson, Rosebys, Powerhouse and J.D. Sports are just some of the first shops to open in the new complex. Development of the seven acre site, which was originally to be called the Fodderwick Centre, began in 1998 after property developers Teesthorn Developments Ltd., part of Teesland Group plc acquired the land from owners Commission For The New Towns. Teesland Group then sold it to Commercial Union Life Assurance Co. for £29 million in August 1999.

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2nd December

Robins cinema in North Gunnels, Basildon town centre, closes. Opened in 1971 as the ABC, it became Cannon in 1986 through to 1994 when, following a brief closure, UK independent cinema chain Robins Cinemas took over for the final years. The three screen cinema's final ticket prices were £2.00. After remaining empty for many years part of the building was converted to flats and named Robins House and later from 01/11/2011 charity shop British Heart Foundation opened a furniture and electrical shop in a unit created where the cafe and 3rd screen auditorium used to be.

 
Text researched and written by William Cox, 2001 with revisions and additions 2002-2017.
Copyright © 2001-2017, B. Cox - Basildon History Online. All rights reserved.

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