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Basildon Stories
The story of Basildon & District as they were 1937 - 1947
by Thomas Edwards


     I now begin to write this story of Basildon and District, as I knew it in the period of the nineteen-thirties and the nineteen-forties. It is a history which now has no history as the present new town of Basildon has almost destroyed it. I have lived all my life in and around Basildon and am now sixty years old so I deemed it proper to try and write the story of the old Basildon and the surrounding districts as they once were, by following the old roads and country lanes of this part of Essex where once were green fields.


     If one took an old road map or flew in an aeroplane over Basildon today he would never discover the old roads except the A127 Arterial Road which of course has been altered by roundabouts or flyovers. He would naturally make out a few landmarks such as Churches and Schools but not much more for the present day Basildon is densely populated and houses have covered the green fields. But my focus is now on the past not the present Basildon so I begin my tour by focusing on the old parish of Basildon, its Church of the Holy Cross which once dominated old Basildon village.

     Holy Cross Church may have been a priory or chapter house in the middle ages inhabited by either monks or nuns. The older part is the area of the grey perpendicular windows, not the tower which was added later. Also the rear part of red brick was perhaps added in Elizabethan times. Henry VIII may have dissolved it, and not far away, just a field away in fact on its South side stood Moat House farm which has now gone. The farm house stood in the middle with a moat surrounding it; perhaps it was a Saxon fort. Fish were in the moat and it was on the South side where the barns and other farm buildings stood. We return and pass through the Churchyard and now stand in Church Road where we begin our walking tour Northwards along this road, towards Basildon village.

     Just a field away from the Church we came to a poultry farm. Basildon was dotted with these farms or smallholdings as they were called. This was called "The Bryn" where I used to work in 1947. Across the road opposite stood an old Victorian house a private residence. We continue on our walk along the road which is a steep drop for the Church stands on a hill. We pass on our right another poultry farm and opposite on our left an open field. Soon we come to a junction at the foot of Church Road. On our left the road runs into Pipps Hill and on our right the road runs into Rectory Road. We will take Rectory Road but before we do so we must look in front of us where stands old Basildon Rectory an old Victorian mansion in yellow brickwork and very large windows and a flat roof. One thing which always had fascinated me was its chimneys built to copy the old Tudor style. It had its own small farm at the rear. Whether Basildon's squire lived there I would not know, but it stood empty since the Second World War. Nothing now remains.

     So we continue our walk now into Basildon village. We pass two open fields on either side of the road as we enter the village. We pass on our left two old cottages and a driveway leading to the new Rectory which was bombed and finally destroyed by a V2 rocket in World War Two. The village hall was on our left side built in the thirties, then onwards along Rectory Road we pass on either side different Victorian houses and bungalows with their orchards and smallholding poultry farms with the tall elm trees arching overhead lending a gloomy shade from above. This was Basildon village...all around a land of poultry farms and orchards. Just ahead of us is another junction. We have now walked along Rectory Road going Eastwards; now on our right just before we reach the junction is an open space where the first bombs fell on Basildon in 1940. It destroyed two Victorian houses but the occupiers were out.

     Now we come to the junction and the end of Rectory Road. On our left the road runs into Gardiners Lane which is broader and has many houses and bungalows and comes to the A127 Arterial Road. The other road runs into Cranes Farm Road which was a country lane before it was tarmacked over in the early thirties, leading to the village of Nevendon.

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Page added: July 2003
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