Ever since we began DIY Porter’s Lodge in September 2012 we have been amazed by the rich history of the area and the strength of connection local residents have to this. It is very inspiring and a great way to start conversations and bring people together to celebrate the past as well as look forward to the future of the neighbourhood and the possibilities this holds.
After meeting with staff at Valence House Museum and Archives we were able to grasp the basics of the Becontree Estate and ‘Homes for Hero’s’ but we don’t want to stop there. Local history is something that does exist in family and ward records but there’s also all the other stuff. The anecdotes, the tales, the nicknames – the hundreds of stories that live in all of us about the places we live and have lived which are constantly evolving and ever changing. It’s all these stories that make up our shared history of a place born from the community and communities that live and have lived there.
We invited community members in Becontree to join us and share some of their memories of the area with us to help draw inspiration for our new piece of public art work/seating which will soon be developed for the space in front of the Roundhouse. It was fascinating listening to stories from playing in the gravel pits and Matchy Island to remembering Vera Lynn (!!) playing at the Roundhouse! It really is an area with a very rich history and we want to carry on listening to your stories both to inspire the art work and also add to ongoing conversations in the borough about the history of the Becontree estate and beyond. Have you discovered the fantastic shared history project ‘This used to be fields?’ By following this link you can explore, contribute and share your memories of the neighbourhood and enjoy other peoples. I’ll be posting up before and after photos of the changes we’ve made to the neighbourhood as part of DIY Porter’s Lodge so we can make sure we’ve documented the community’s part in this innovative street design scheme!
I’ll be posting some of the memories we’ve collected throughout the project here and on our Facebook page here so do contribute and feel free to add your memories to the conversation too. I’ll share plans for the seating and art work shortly, when I have them and hopefully you’ll find a new and inspiring place to sit and enjoy the improved junction at Porters Avenue very soon.
“I remember when I learnt to drive putting my arms out for the hand signals that means when I started to learn to ride a bike it came easy to me, I grew up in Stepney in the war and there were bombs going off all over the place. After the army and time in Norfolk I moved to Dagenham and been here ever since. Young people today say they’re bored..we had youth clubs to go to and I was a leader – it’s up to the Parents to organise activities for them.” Jim, 86.
“We got bombed out of Poplar and moved to this house in 1941 when I was 6 – I didn’t go to school til I was 8, was tricky to catch up so I struggled a bit with reading and writing. I used to bike everywhere and used to cycle down to work everyday at the brewery in Whitechapel. All the roads were cobbled so it were very tricky in the wet, a bumpy ride! But it was safe as not many cars around. All the boys were in gangs and we used to play in Matchy Island. All up behind Lodge Avenue used to be a forest with swamps. We’d sit on the fence and watch the doodlebugs come over – one of them hit the football pitches and made a massive crater which soon collected water in for swimming” George, 79.
What are your memories, reflections and hopes for the area? Let’s carry on the conversation and ensure that the rich history of the area is recorded, remembered and celebrated moving forward.