Basildon Borough History
Basildon Borough History
Basildon Borough History
Basildon, Essex, England
When first featured in the Domesday book, Vange's population hadn't even reached 30, somewhat different to the large population this once small village now occupying the land neighbouring Basildon, Pitsea and Langdon Hills.
Also previously known as 'Phenge' and 'Vane', its occupation dates back many, many years, proven in the Bronze Age hoard that was discovered in the grounds of Swan Mead School in 1953 and a coin marked AD 375-378 at Merricks Farm.
Vange first began to really grow at the start of the 20th century when plots of land were divided into sections and sold off at around £5 a piece, many to Londoners looking for a weekend retreat in the country. As with the plotland areas around Laindon, bungalows were built on these plots and eventually many inhabitants moved in permanently.
These dwellings remained for many years prior to the plans for Basildon new town being drawn up. Bungalows, many of which were prefabricated structures, lined the rural lanes, some even built on makeshift stilts.
My father, a long standing Basildon resident, first moved to the area from Loughton in 1967. Having seen first hand how areas such as Vange have grown into full-scale housing estates, its safe to say he's seen some changes. Unfortunately the bungalows around the Vange Hill Drive area were compulsory purchased due to structural problems. These prefabricated buildings arrived on site in kit form and were pieced together. However, they suffered from rusting metal supports within their concrete walls, causing the walls to crumble, known locally as 'concrete cancer'.
He recalls that despite the bungalows being vacated, they remained empty for months before finally being reduced to rubble by Basildon Development Corporation's bulldozers and describes them much akin to the Mary Celeste, ghost houses that were simply abandoned - furniture in the living rooms; cutlery and crockery on the kitchen side ready for the next meal; newspapers and photos strewn on tables and pictures of long-gone former residents still adorned the walls... all as if the tenants had simply vanished one day.
A strange and somewhat sad tale, that peoples pasts were left behind, seemingly without regard for their worldly possessions. Whether or not they had a choice is another matter.
A look around the various scrubland in Vange can provide some evidence of former dwellings, though admittedly there is not much. As there are today, all be them modern houses now, homes climbed Clay Hill Road, though were of course a lot less in numbers. There are several hints to these in the woodland near the top of Clayhill Road - the remains of what appears to be a garden wall in the bushes in front of Puck Lane and various patches of concrete floor in the woods there. Without knowing there was anything here prior, you could be forgiven for wondering what on earth these seemingly random folly's are doing there.
The High Road used to house many stores selling a variety of goods long before the days of supermarkets including electrical equipment for rent and sale, greengrocers and drapers as well as hardware stores selling timber, ironmongery and farming supplies.
This array of businesses slowly began to decline in the 1960's with the opening of units in Basildon town centre, creating a central hub of shops. Coupled with the re-routing of the A13 in the seventies, the already commenced beginnings of development to create the modern Vange we now know altered the face of the High Road into a sprawl of housing rather than economy, making way for a huge growth in the villages' population.
With so much of Timberlog Lane now gone this view could no longer exist.
One of the main focuses of supplies for locals later on in the history of pre-new town Vange was the Paynters Hill stores, situated on London Road. This off licence store remained for many years before finally succumbing to development in the late 1980's. Southview Park Surgery now stands in its place.
Despite losing many of these shops to development, the corporate were keen to ensure retail units were not solely restricted to the town centre. The trio of shops on Church Road for example were built to supply neighbouring homes, with other shopping parades built on Timberlog Lane and later Clay Hill Road.
Vange was once the location of a very large timber operation, certainly the largest in the area. Originally Churchill Johnsons and later changing to first Fargusons then WC Wares, the wholesalers were situated on Wharf Lane, a road of slight incline down hill towards the creek. Once upon a time wood was shipped direct to the yard via barges ambling up stream, incidentally giving name to The Barge public house on the corner of Clay Hill Road that was frequented by barge men. Latterly, with the creek having dried up around the 1920's and 30's, the timber was brought as far as the larger docks in London before being unloaded and brought up to the mill on lorries.
Having moved to Basildon in 1967, a job as a Tally Clerk at the timber yard was my fathers first job and he remembers vividly hitching a ride on the lorries heading down Wharf Lane. Later jobs at the yard saw him sharpening planes and cutting timber for building merchants. The yard proved to be of great importance, acting as one of the lead suppliers for builders who were creating Basildon new town.
The original route to Wharf Lane lay around 10 yards or so from Clay Hill Road's junction with the High Road/London Road (also known as the original A13) though only a small section now remains on the creek side of the new A13. Streets such as Rydene and Clover Way now cover the rough proximity of Wharf Lanes' former site.