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Coordinates: 51°32′55″N 0°08′34″E / 51.5487°N 0.1427°E / 51.5487; 0.1427

Becontree (pronounced /ˈbɛkəntriː/) is a place in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, 11.4 miles (18.3 km) east north-east of Charing Cross.


Becontree estate

The area was developed as a large council estate of 27,000 homes between 1921 and 1932 by the London County Council intended as "homes for heroes" after World War I. With a population of over 100,000 it remains the largest public housing development in the world. It is named after the ancient Becontree hundred which historically covered the area. When built the development occupied parts of the parishes of Ilford, Dagenham and Barking with administration split between the three respective urban district councils.[1]

The very first house completed in Chittys Lane is recognisable by a blue council plate embedded in the wall. Parallel to Chittys Lane runs Valence Avenue which is wider than the rest of the streets in the district. This is because a temporary railway ran down the centre of the avenue during the construction of the estate. The estate was built by London County Council to rehouse people from London's East End, due to slum clearance. At its completion in the mid 1930s it was the largest council house scheme in Europe.

At the time everyone marvelled at having indoor toilets and a private garden although the sash windows were extremely draughty, there was no insulation in the attics, and during the winter months very few people could afford enough coal to heat the bedrooms. The toilet, bath tap and a tap in the kitchen over a copper boiler which was used for both washing clothes and heating bath water were all fed from a reservoir tank in the attic which invariably froze on winter mornings leaving the toilets unusable. One curious clause in the contract of tenancy stipulated that children born to parents living in Dagenham could not be housed on the estate themselves when the time came for them to establish their own homes.

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