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Dagenham village.jpg
The parish church at the heart of the old village
Grid reference: TQ485845
Location: 51°32’23"N, 0°8’32"E
Post town: Dagenham
Postcode: RM8, 9, 10
Dialling code: 020
Local Government
Council: Barking and Dagenham
Dagenham and Rainham

Dagenham is a large town in south-western Essex, contiguous with the towns of the metropolitan conurbation spread out from London. It is best known for industry, in particular the Ford car factory.

Dagenham was an agricultural village which remained mostly undeveloped until 1921 when the London County Council began construction of the large Becontree estate to reduce overpopulation in its own area. The population of the growing town significantly increased during the 20th century.

Dagenham today is a predominantly residential area, with some areas of declining industrial activity, including the Ford Dagenham plant. The town has been targeted for redevelopment as part of the "Thames Gateway" redevelopment scheme.

Lie of the land

River Beam in the south of Dagenham

Dagenham Dock, to the south of Dagenham and adjacent to the River Thames, was once a large coaling port. The area now forms part of the London Riverside section of the Thames Gateway redevelopment zone. Major brownfield housing developments are forecast to increase the population by tens of thousands of people. The Roundhouse public house on the junction of Porters Avenue and Lodge Avenue became the premier rock music venue in metropolitan Essex between 1969 and 1975.

Name of the town

Dagenham first appeared in a document (as Dæccanhamm) in a charter of Barking Abbey dating from 666 AD. The name almost certainly originated with a small farmstead, whose name meant "Daecca's meadow" (Dæccan hamm in Old English).[1]


Economic development

Ford Dagenham

In 1931 the Ford Motor Company relocated from Trafford Park in Stretford, to a plant in Dagenham, which was already the location of supplier Briggs Motor Bodies. A 500-acre riverside site was developed to become Europe's largest car plant, a vast vertically integrated site with its own blast furnaces and power station, importing iron ore and exporting finished vehicles. By the 1950s Ford had taken over Briggs at Dagenham and its other sites at Doncaster, Southampton, Croydon and Romford.

At its peak the Dagenham plant had 4 million square feet of floor space and employed 40,000.[2] On 20 February 2002, full production was discontinued due to overcapacity in Europe and the relative difficulty of upgrading the 60 year old site compared with other European sites such as Almussafes in Spain and Cologne. Other factors leading to the closure of the Auto-assembly line were the need of the site for the new Diesel Centre of Excellence, which produces half of Ford's Diesel Engines worldwide. In 2005 Cummins went into a joint venture and offered $15 million (US) to reinstate the factory. Ford and Cummins offered a good redundancy package, billed as one of the best in UK manufacturing. It is the location of the Dagenham wind turbines.[3] Some 4,000 people now work at the Ford plant.[4] The movie Made in Dagenham (2010) is a dramatisation of the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike at the plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination and the desire for equal pay.

Sterling Ltd who were famous for manufacturing British Army weapons and Jaguar car parts were also based in Dagenham until they went bankrupt in 1988. Other industrial names once known worldwide were Ever Ready, whose batteries could be found in shops throughout the Commonwealth, Bergers Paint and the chemical firm of May and Baker. The May & Baker plant, now owned and run by Sanofi-Aventis, occupies a 108-acre site in Rainham Road South, near Dagenham East station but will be abandoned in 2013 when the site closes. The council has not yet decided how to use the vacant site. Their sports and social club has large grounds between Eastbrookend Country Park and the railway.

Market gardens to suburban estate

Dagenham parish church

In 1205 Dagenham was large enough to have a chaplain and the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul was probably built at around that time.[5] In 1854, a station was opened on the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway in the south of Dagenham, near the Thames, at Dagenham Dock. In 1885 a new direct route from Barking to Pitsea, via Upminster, was built with a new station opened just north of the village.

Dagenham was still an undeveloped village, when building of the vast Becontree estate by the London County Council began in the early 1920s.[6] The building of the enormous council estate, which also spread into the neighbouring parishes of Ilford and Barking,[7] caused a rapid increase in population.[8] In 1932 the electrified District Line of the London Underground was extended to Upminster through Dagenham with stations opened as Dagenham and Heathway and today called Dagenham East and Dagenham Heathway.[9] Dagenham East was the location of the Dagenham East rail crash in 1958.[10] Services on the London Tilbury & Southend line at Dagenham East were withdrawn in 1962.


  • Football: Dagenham & Redbridge FC
  • Cricket: Goresbrook Cricket Club

Dagenham has a King George's Field in memorial to King George V. The park, which has been in existence for over a century, was renamed in 1953 by Queen Elizabeth II. Dagenham also has many other parks such as Valence and Parsloes.


  • Dagenham Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, founded by John Johnson, were the first British Drum Corps. They reformed I recentl years and in 2010 fielded a competitive corps for the first time in 22 years.
  • The Dagenham Girl Pipers are a bagpipe marching band founded in 1930 by the Rev Joseph Waddington Graves.


  1. Mills 2001, p. 64
  2. Ford UK - History of Ford in Britain
  3. Greater London Authority - Wind Turbines, Ford Estate, Dagenham planning application. 4 June 2003.
  4. [1]
  5. "Old Dagenham Village". Heritage and History. Barking and Dagenham Council. http://www.barking-dagenham.gov.uk/4-heritage/dag-village/dvil-main-menu.html. 
  6. Olechnowicz, A., Working-Class Housing in England Between the Wars: The Becontree Estate (1997)
  7. British History Online - The borough of Barking. Date accessed: 5 May 2007.
  8. Vision of Britain - Dagenham population
  9. Rose, D., The London Underground: A diagrammatic history, (1999)
  10. Railways Archive - Report on the collision at Dagenham East - 30.01.58