Laindon's Wikipedia entry

It is noted that the Wikipedia entry for “Laindon” regards “plotlands” to be confined to the Dunton area.

 “Plotlands”, as a definitive social reality, covered a great deal more of the Basildon District Council’s area.  It covers most of the parishes of Laindon, Langdon Hills (which embraced the extra-parochial parish of Lee Chapel), Basildon, Vange, the northern parts of Fobbing, Pitsea, Nevendon and Bowers Gifford, as well as much of the eastern part of Dunton and the southern parts of Little Burstead. The boundaries of the old ecclesiastical parishes were retained as individual administrational functions for a time even after that function was secularised in the late 19th century. What was previously referred to as the “Vestry” (ie the local C of E incumbent and his appointees) was replaced by ”Parish Councils”; a system that embraced the democratic process in their formation. The only necessary qualification for being elected to these bodies was to be over 21 years of age and resident in the particular parish area.

As far as the Basildon area is concerned and the parishes listed above, at their inception the area was being administered at the next level above by the Billericay Rural District Council (BRDC, also an elected body but subject in turn to the similarly created Essex County Council (EEC). This arrangement remained in force until in 1937, when, mainly because of the growth of the population in the “plotlands” area, the BRDC was elevated to become Billericay Urban District Council (BUDC). At the same time the Civil Parish Councils were abolished and, with them, the old boundaries which meant it became less necessary for the individual to know where he or she lived!

Although at the time of the upgrading of the local council was considered by many to be an improvement because more of the residents of the southern parts of the district got elected to the Urban District Council, the loss of the Parish Councils meant that many residents lost interest in local politics. Heretofore, attendance at local meetings had been good and often very lively, unelected members of the public often joining in discussions in a vigorous manner. Attendance at the Urban District’s meeting proved to be difficult for many and, at them, there was no free discussion by the members of the audience allowed.

Considerable resentment began to build up in the Laindon area where, needless to say, the general state of the unmade-up roads was uppermost in series of perennial problems. Rightly or wrongly the idea grew up that the residents of Billericay in particular “enjoyed” the greatest benefit of all derived from the collection of the “Rates”, by which name the Community Charge was then known. It was the incidence of the outbreak of WW2 followed by the institution of “New Towns” that followed that solved what the BUDC saw as an insoluble problem, the so-called ‘rural slum’ that was “Plotlands”. It becomes highly debatable if the Billericay Urban District Council becoming Basildon District Council represents an improvement.

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  • Perhaps the best guide to what is referred to as “plotlands” is;-

    “In the first half of the twentieth century a unique landscape emerged along the coast, on the riverside and in the countryside. more reminiscent of the American frontier than of a traditionally well-ordered English landscape. It was a makeshift world of shacks and shanties, scattered unevenly in plots of varying size and shape, with unmade roads and little in the way of services.

    To the local authorities (who dubbed this type of landscape the “plotlands”) it was something of a nightmare, an anarchic rural slum, always one step ahead of evolving but still inadequate environmental controls. Places like Jaywick Sands, Canvey Island and Peacehaven became bywords for the desecration of the countryside.

    But to the plotlanders themselves, (an) Arcadia was born. In a converted bus or railway carriage, perhaps, and at the cost of only a few pounds ordinary city-dwellers discovered not only fresh air and tranquility but, most prized of all, a sense of freedom.”

    Quoted from the Preface to “Arcadia for All” by Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward. published in1984 by Mansell. The paperback version is ISBN 0-7201-1743-7 and is probably still available from the public libraries.

    By John Bathurst (13/03/2015)

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