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Basildon Stories
From Rising Grove to Rowenhall - Growing up in and around Laindon - 1966-1982
by Julie Cox (née Kicks)


     My story starts in the London Borough of Redbridge where I was born in the summer of 1966. My parents were married in the East Sussex town of Hailsham in 1964 where my mums family lived but they set up home in an upstairs flat at Ethelbert Gardens, Gants Hill near to where my dad came from. I was their first child but I was not to live at that address long as in the first month of autumn at around two months old my parents uplifted and moved to the Essex New Town of Basildon. Dad had got a job where his brother was employed working for Bonallack & Sons at their Paycocke Road factory on the Nevendon Industrial Estate, and they were given a house in Laindon at Rising Grove on the new Siporex estate, officially known as Laindon 1, 2 and 3.

     The New Town of Basildon, I was later to learn, in 1966 was a mere 17 years old since its designation in January 1949 and the first new residents had only moved in some 15 years before us. It was partly created along with seven other towns in South East England as a way to alleviate London's long waiting lists due to an acute housing shortage following the Second World War. The other reason was the then local Billericay Council's concerns over what they considered the 'so called' poor standard of many of the existing properties, some without basic services and often accessed off a network of unmade roads, that were scattered around a large area between Langdon Hills and Pitsea. It was one of those areas; Basildon, the most centrally located and least populated village within the designated area, that the town, and later the district and now borough, took its name.

     By the year we arrived much of its population was made up of families relocating from East London, some for job reasons like us, and others sadly displaced and rehoused, sometimes following a compulsory purchase order, from existing properties that were then demolished to create the areas to which the new housing estates like ours were built. The Government appointed Basildon Development Corporation, tasked with the job of building the town, were also our landlord.

     The new estate, comprising just over eight hundred and fifty homes was a major undertaking for the Development Corporation who so far had only penetrated the Lee Chapel North and South areas of Basildon to the west side of Basildon Town Centre. In anticipation of future development a new road, Laindon Link, had been purposely built in the late 1950s to 'connect' Laindon with Basildon, and other existing roads like St. Nicholas Lane and Leinster Road were upgraded in the early 1960s to improve access to the new developments currently underway.

     The houses were not conventional as one would expect but 'system built' from Siporex, a precast aerated concrete formula developed in Sweden. The sections were manufactured 'off site' and transported by road to Laindon where they were then assembled 'on site'. In 1962 a small 'pilot scheme' of 18 homes at Knights in Lee Chapel North was completed using this method which presumably gave the Corporation the confidence to proceed with the Laindon 1, 2 and 3 estate.

Rising Grove

     We were given number 115 Rising Grove, an end terrace property being the last in a short row of six, two and three bedroomed houses.

     To the front of the house was a small garden with a short incline of three steps up to the front path, off of which was a tall wooden bin shed attached to the house. You then entered the hallway through the front door which was on the left side of the house. Off the hallway to the left was a toilet and sink and another door to take you into an inner open-plan hallway. Off the hallway were doors to the kitchen, which was at the front of the house, the indoor shed, which itself had a door to the back garden, and the front room, which was built without a door but had barn doors to the garden and of course the stairs leading up to the top floor. Off this area we had the main bedroom and a smaller bedroom, both overlooking the back garden and at the front of the house; bathroom and a second big bedroom. When you looked out of either back bedroom window to the left was the Rising Grove deck maisonettes and upper floor flats. How I am able to recall the house layout will become apparent a bit later in my story.

     In front of our row was a green area with trees and opposite was a row of three-storey houses. There was another green with three small man made hills behind the three-storey houses. We used to ride our bikes up and down these.

     Whilst at this house mum had two more children. My sister Marilyn, in 1967 and my brother Colin in 1969. They were both born at St. Andrew's Hospital in Billericay as the hospital in Basildon had not yet been built.

     I don't know how many years we were at Rising Grove when unfortunately we were forced to move out due to a serious structual issue affecting a downstairs ceiling making the house unsafe. This was probably sometime in 1970 or early 1971. Given my age at the time I don't remember very much about that house but I later learnt we were the first family to move in after the house was built. They were still constructing other parts of the estate and my mum would often recall having to trudge through the mud and building debris with me in the pram, to get to the shops in the High Road, as this was some years before the Laindon Shopping Centre was opened.

     I do have a few memories of my time at playgroup though which I think started while we were still at Rising Grove. My mum would take me and we would walk through Laindon Shopping Centre up to the Laindon Link bus stop where we crossed the road to make our way to Laindon Community Centre in Aston Road. This was the original centre that years later was burnt down and rebuilt on a different site nearby. On one occasion I scared mum due to not stopping at the road and running straight across. Luckily no cars were approaching!

     The playgroup was big with a garden area which had some swings. I made a friend there called Nicky A., which was a good thing as I didn't like being there until she came along. She lived on the same estate and our friendship lasted beyond playgroup to the early senior years when she moved away from Laindon.

     Anyway, the Corporation rehoused us to a three-storey town house on the same estate in nearby Spurriers.

Spurriers and Bluehouse Infants

     Our second house on the estate was at 121 Spurriers and probably no more than a two minute walk from Rising Grove.

     The house was close to the middle in a very long terrace of seventeen houses; this being the longest row of three-storey houses on the whole estate.

     As a young child the house felt enormous. When you walked in the front door you had a toilet to the left of you and opposite that was a big room which my mum did her ironing etc. in. Then at the back of the house was the very big kitchen/diner, which had a back door leading to the garden, which was quite small. At the end of the garden was a garage and the Spurriers road. The middle of the ground floor had the stairs leading to the middle floor, which had a front room and middle doors which were on runners and could be slid open. We often had them open to make the front room bigger. This overlooked the garden area. There was a small bedroom on this floor overlooking the front of the house. Then up more stairs to the top floor where you had two big bedrooms; one overlooking the back garden, and the other over the front of the house with the bathroom next to it. Me and my sister shared this room.


     Whilst at this house I started Bluehouse Infants School. This would have been in September 1971. The school, which bordered the estate on two of its sides, was built at the same time as the estate so had been open about 6 years when I started. It took its name from a local farm that was still standing within sight of the school fence on some land that bordered Markhams Chase and Laindon Link. My class was in a temporary demountable and my teacher was called Miss Bell. I never discovered why we had demountable classrooms but later presumed it was because of all the extra children arriving following the completion of the neighbouring Five Links (Alcatraz) housing estate. They were all still there when I left in 1977!

     Sometimes I would take dinner money to school, 15p, and other times walk home for lunch.

     From the windows of the demountables I could see the infant school hall, and behind and to the left side were more demountables for the junior school. Although I was completely unaware at the time, my future husband was a pupil at the junior school in one of the classrooms that I would later be in. I would mostly walk home from school by myself stopping at the park in front of Bluehouse junior school, before carrying on to my house in Spurriers where mum would be waiting at the door.

     I would play out the front of the house as it was a safe area with a long pathway. A few doors away lived a family with loads of children, one of them was called Douglas. Sometimes his mum would look after us in their house when mum had to pop out for something or sometimes when she was working at the Yardley cosmetics factory and my dad would collect us after he got home from work.

     We had our first pet; a dog, at this address. His name was Prince and he was a beagle.

     Although it didn't bother us children my parents found the house to have too many stairs so around 1973 they approached the Corporation to consider them for a move to a house on the estate being vacated by some friends of theirs. The Corporation agreed and we then moved back to Rising Grove right next door to the house we had previously lived in!

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Page added: 02/05/2023
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