Case study: Dagenham

Dagenham forms part of London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. The area remained mostly undeveloped until 1921 when the London County Council began construction of the large Becontree estate. Significantly, in 1924 planning of the Ford Dagenham plant began. As a result the population of the area significantly increased during the 20th century, with the parish of Dagenham becoming an urban district in 1926 and a municipal borough in 1938. Notoriously known as Dagenham’s ‘heyday’ (Asthana, 2010), Ford Motors was significantly important for the culture and community of the area. The area was thriving in this industrial boom and at its peak in the 1950’s it employed more than 40,000. “Through seven decades, the Dagenham workers produced about 11 million vehicles and turned a corner of east London into a showpiece of British industrial culture” (Asthana, 2010).

But now, it is estimated to only employ a total of 4,000 workers (Zino, 2009) which has had a huge impact on the area culturally and economically. An expert in the transformation of the area Ian Vickers stated “the loss of manufacturing has hit hard and that was followed by the loss of some of  the borough’s focal points. The two working men’s clubs have both gone; the cinema closed; a vast number of pubs have closed or been demolished. Not many years ago the town had a number of long-established businesses and shops; these have also shut up, many replaced by fast food outlets, pawnbrokers and pound stores. The town has altered beyond recognition, both in its populace and its fabric. The borough in the 1991 census was 96% white British, in 2001 this had dropped to 81%. In a 2005 estimate, this was given as 73%, which extrapolated to 2010 is just around 65%. The white British have been replaced with a large influx of chiefly African and some Eastern European migrants. Most people who lived around the actual town centre in 1991 have ‘escaped’, as they see it, further out into Essex, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk, and some even abroad.” (Asthana, 2010) He concluded by stating “there is much hardship here, too.”

Evidently, Dagenham has witnessed major cultural and demographic changes showing that the area is constantly evolving through time. To categorically define Dagenham would be impossible, but through discourse it is evident that the area is diverse in ethnicity and for a period of time it was the “heartland” of the British industrial industry.

Reference List
Asthana, A. (2010). Dagenham’s heyday: ‘It was all just one big happy family then’. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/mar/21/dagenham-barking-ford-industrial-history (Accessed: 24 March 2015).

Zino, K. (2009). Milestones: Ford Dagenham Estate Celebrates 80 Years of Manufacturing. Available at: http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2009/05/milestones-ford-dagenham-estate-celebrates-80-years-of-manufacturing/ (Accessed: 24 March 2015).

Post by: Georgina Miles

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Case study: Dagenham

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