Down the Line (14 of 16)
Chapter 5 - The end of an Era
The Dunton Estate no longer exists. The area is now a nature reserve, administered by the Essex Wildlife Trust. The four avenues just about remain as rough tracks, but there is nothing left of the bungalows and the original plots are hardly visible. In Third Avenue there is a visitors’ information centre, and one bungalow – the ‘Haven’ – has been preserved as a Plotlands Museum. What was a simple cross road at the Southend Arterial Road (the A127) and the Lower Dunton Road junction there is now a major road interchange, with the big Ford Engineering Research Centre. Some summer evenings in the pre-war bungalow era we used to walk up to the Arterial Road to sit on the grass banking opposite Wayletts Garage to merely watch the cars and coaches go by. The road was never really busy – we laughed at some of the ‘old crocks’ rattling along. In the late 1930s most cars were fussy and unreliable – the Singers and Standards, the Austins and MGs. And the posher Rileys and Alvis’, the racey Morgans. And the coaches and charabancs with their noisy trippers, we would wave and get greetings back.
This new dual carriageway concrete road with its then novel cycling tracks was very modern and impressive to us; it must have been soon after the addition of the second carriageway in 1936. We regarded the Southend Arterial Road with more awe than the present day motorways.
Although the Arterial Road has changed, the old Lower Dunton Road, with the primary school, the Colony and the railway arch is still intact and comfortingly recognisable.
I remember once we were waiting at the bottom of 4th Avenue for the evening bus to Laindon station, and Uncle Tom jokingly said one day there would be an Odeon here, and we all laughed – that would be the day! Well, his preposterous prediction did not materialise, his imagination would have been more accurate if he said ‘someday none of these bungalows would be here, it will be overgrown, like it was when we first came here and there would be schoolchildren roaming about to study the small animals and birds’. But cheerful Uncle Tom would not have such sober thoughts.
The site of our Lansbury is totally overgrown with no trace of the building. On the occasional sentimental visit there, I have struggled through the bushes to where I think the bungalow was and wonder if the slight thinning of the trees is where we children played cricket and where we lay in the warm grass and closely inspected the buttercups and bees.
If my father achieved nothing else in his life, his bungalow was his lasting contribution to so many happy memories for the whole family.
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