Glimpse history through old images of Dagenham, in Greater London.
Old Photos of Dagenham
Valence Park Swimming Pool
Valence Park was created from the grounds and garden of Valence Manor House, which is today home to the borough’s museum.
Valence Park itself is popular for its children’s playground and fishing lake, and although it is a relatively small part, offers a pleasant leisure space for dog walkers, joggers, and families.
Back in the 1930s, however, there was an outside swimming pool.
Stealing Coal in 1926
In 1926, a steamer caught fire. When it was safe to do so, many locals quickly came in to salvage coal.
Ladies brought their prams and boys brought their wooden go carts, helping to cart great sacks of coal back home.
They all look like they’re having a jolly good time.
Residents collect coal at Dagenham (1926) – British Pathé on Youtube
Dagenham Civic Centre 1935
In 1935, Lord Snell laid the foundation stone for the new Dagenham Civic Centre.
Dagenham Civic Centre (1935) – British Pathé on Youtube
Dagenham’s Export Industry in 1948
In 1948, Henry Ford’s grandson visited the Dagenham Ford Car Plant, which then employed 15,000 local people.
The factory had just completed its 250,000th vehicle.
6,000 cars and vans were being produced for immediate exported to the United States, which would bring more than £1 million into the British economy.
Dagenham Essex – Car Export (1948) – British Pathé on Youtube
Sterling Gun Production in 1955
Cars weren’t the only items being produced in Dagenham’s factories in the 1955. On a smaller scale, the local industry also produced the new Sterling guns, here demonstrated by some of the factory workers.
New Sterling Gun (1955) – British Pathé on Youtube
Fog Causes Train Disaster 1958
In 1958, heavy fog caused a nasty train wreck just 200 yards from Dagenham Heathway station. Ten people died, and 87 were injured.
It was the second train disaster caused by fog in recent months. Rescue workers battled through the night on a line which had suffered no rail casualities since 1875.
Another Fog Disaster (1958) – British Pathé on Youtube
The Princess Bowl in 1960
Lots of movie stars came to enjoy bowling at the new Princess Bowl, Britain’s largest bowling alley. The opening scene in this newsreel shows the front of the building.
‘tenpin’ Up And Up (1960) – British Pathé on Youtube
1962 Car Plant Strike
Silent footage shows the car production plant at a standstill in 1962, with the workers coming out of the factory gates.
Ford Strikers Meet – Dagenham AKA Ford Strike At Dagenham (1962) – British Pathé on Youtube
More Strikes in 1969
Ford went to the High Court in 1969 in an attempt to stop strikes organised by three unions. It failed.
This newsreel includes a few seconds of the Dagenham women immortalised in the 2010 feature film ‘Made in Dagenham’. Quite a few are smoking as they fill out their ballot forms, all wearing coats and many with a hat or headscarf too. Notably, they are missing from the other footage about local strikes.
Meanwhile the country lost £1 million a day in export sales, with orders for the new Ford Capri having come in from all over the world.
Ford Strike (1969) – British Pathé on Youtube
By the 1970s, large numbers of police were called in to keep the crowds of strikers back from the factory gates.
The silent footage also shows long lines of male strikers walking through nearby streets in protest.
Ford Workers Strike – Dagenham (1970-1979) – British Pathé on Youtube
Car Plant Under Threat in the 1970s
In the 1970s, amid great turmoil in the British company, and serious ongoing problems between management and staff, the factory came under threat and many workers were laid off.
Recent closures had cost the company £3 million, and cost 8,000 workers their income. That in turn badly affected local businesses, who suddenly lost customers and their own livelihoods. Within days, the fish and chip shop lost 40% of its trade.
Ford announced it was fed up of the difficult trade relations at the plant, and was considering closure for good. Luckily it was not to be.
Vehicle assembly ceased at the famous car plant in 2002, when production there instead focussed on making only vehicle engines, which has secured its long term future.
Ford Threaten To Close Dagenham (1970-1979) – British Pathé on Youtube