Located in the east of London, Dagenham is a large, predominantly residential suburb, with the southern part of the town being adjacent to the River Thames.The name Dagenham is thought to have originated with a small farm holding of a man named Daecca, as Daeccan hamm, or the “home of a man named Daecca” in Old English.
The geographical location of the borough puts it in close proximity to Charing Cross in Central London (approximately 11.5 miles east) and with the London Underground and National Rail offering services throughout Dagenham, accessibility and mobility both within and out of the town is efficient and reliable. Currently, three London Underground stations are in operation within the town, being Becontree, Dagenham East and Dagenham Heathway.
With the concept of urbanization becoming increasingly prevalent, an influx of Asian, Eastern European and African migrants has resulted in the population of Dagenham becoming highly diversified and consisting predominantly of working class citizens
Although now primarily residential, Dagenham was once a hub of industrial activity until the late 20th century, housing the largest European car plant in the form of the Ford Dagenham plant. Dominating the skyline of Southern Dagenham are the twin wind turbines standing at a towering 85m high on the Ford plant estate and occupying the title of being the first ‘wind farm’ built in London. The vast 500 acre site of the Ford plant housed its own blast furnaces and power stations and was involved in the business of importing iron ore and exporting completed vehicles. Unfortunately, due to the relative complexities in upgrading an older site, as opposed to some of the other more modern European plant sites, as well as overcapacity within Europe, full production at the Ford Dagenham plant was discontinued in the early 21st century. The decline in activity as a result of the limited operational capabilities of the plant led to a large deterioration in the already dwindling industrial concern of the town with many prominent manufacturers, such as Ever Ready and Sterling Ltd, following suit and seeking opportunities in other parts of Europe. A movie, “Made in Dagenham”, dramatizing the Ford sewing machinist strike in 1968 was created in 2010 to highlight the walking out of female workers at the plant in protest against unequal pay and sexual discrimination.
Situated in Becontree Avenue, Valence House is home to Dagenham’s local history museum. This sole surviving manor house, dating back to the 13th century, is partly surrounded by a moat and displays a remarkable collection of archives and artifacts that portray the lives of the residents of Dagenham and Barking. The collection also includes family papers, other mementoes and portraits of the Fanshawe family - a family with rich ties to the English monarchy having nine successive family members serving as Remembrancer to the Crown. According to the museum, the Fanshawe Collection is regarded as being of international importance due to it being one of the best assortments of gentry portraits in England. Another area of the suburb steeped in history is the adjoining fields situated at the former Marks Manor House site which was used during World War II as an anti-aircraft defense before being adapted into a German Prisoner of War camp. The town also served as a popular destination for established musicians between 1965 and 1975, with The Roundhouse public house being dubbed East London’s premier rock-music location. Noteworthy performers at the venue included Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Queen, Jethro Tull, Status Quo, Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton. Iconic English actor, musician and comedian Dudley Moore also calls Dagenham the place at which he was brought up. An upcoming attraction in the town is the redevelopment of a large, vacant site, formerly the May & Baker chemical firm plant, into a new shopping centre with a Sainsbury’s supermarket announced as one of the anchor stores. A view of the iconic River Thames is also accessible from the southern part of the suburb.
The town is home to a number of sport teams. Dagenham & Redbridge F.C currently play competitive football in the Football League Two, with their most notable achievements coming in the 2006/2007 season where they earned the title of Nationwide Conference Champions, as well as in the 2010/2011 season where they were promoted to the Football League One conference after winning the League Two play-offs. Goresbrook Cricket Club, based at the May & Baker Sports Club, is Dagenham’s foremost cricket club, having won the Essex County Cricket League in 2011 for the first time in the club’s history. The suburb also houses a female bagpipe marching band, the Dagenham Girl Pipers, which was founded in 1930 by a congregational minister and who have toured both within the United Kingdom and internationally. The first British Drum Corps originated in Dagenham and was aptly dubbed Dagenham Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, with their first international performance taking place in the United States of America in 1983.Deviating from the more traditional sports, the greyhound stadium in Ripple Road stagedmotorcycle speedway training sessions in the mid to late 1930s.A number of parks have been established within Dagenham, including the Valence, Parsloes and King George’s Field parks. King George’s Field has been an existing landmark of the town for over a century and was created in memorial to King George V. The park was renamed by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 to more fittingly pay homage to King George V.
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