The History of Dagenham in London

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Dagenham History

Historic Dagenham

History of Dagenham in London
Image Credit: joncruddas.org.uk

The area is home to a number of remaining historic buildings, once a rural village surrounded by farmland what remains here is a 12th C church, a grade II listed public house from the 1700’s, ‘The Cross Keys’, and a war memorial. A number of Dagenham’s historic buildings were bulldozed when the developers arrived post World Wars.

‘The Cross Keys’ is over five hundred years old, originally called ‘The Queens Head’ it is first documented as an Inn in 1708. St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church was built in the 12th C and by the 1920’s the church was the centre of village life. The nearby vicarage, opposite the church, is a substantial detached building with a spectacular garden; the villagers used the fields that lay next to the vicarage for their annual sports day.

History of Dagenham

Historically Dagenham was an agrarian village and a settlement for the Saxons, it remained very rural up until the 1920’s, the Becontree Estate was built after that. The population increased substantially in the 20th C and the village was transformed into an urban suburb. The main industry here has been that of the Ford Dagenham plant, which was one of the largest car plants in Europe.

The local history museum, Valence House, is situated in Becontree Avenue, it tells the stories of the lives in Dagenham over the centuries, and it is now the only remaining manor house in Dagenham of which there were five. 

Modern Day Dagenham

Today there is a large mix of residents in Dagenham, a number of the population are over retirement age and students are attracted here due to the relatively low rental rates and proximity to the centre. Since the London Olympics in 2012 the area has been rejuvenated, and current development is still underway. East Dagenham is full of family housing and there is a strong community-feel here. In 2010 the film ‘Made in Dagenham’ was released, which followed the story of the Ford Sewing Machinists who went on strike in 1968.