The Arterial Road (A127)
We know that Land speculators started to buy land in the Laindon area following the Agricultural depression of the 1880s but it was the coming of the railways and the opening of Laindon Station in 1888 that really kick started the development in the area. The first plots went up for sale in 1892 (Laindon Station Estate) and around the turn of the twentieth century, Thomas Elijah Collings built the first shops in Laindon on the corner of the High Road and Winston Hill; the start of Laindon Village.
The population of Laindon was 321, Langdon Hills 231, Dunton 137, Lee Chapel 15, (total 704). By the 1920’s the population of these four parishes had increased to 2472. Laindon was losing its village status and becoming a small town. It was going to be the building of the Arterial Road that accelerated this process.
Until 1925 anyone travelling from London to Southend by road had to use either the road through Grays and Stanford or the road that ran past the Old Fortune of War from Billericay along Wash Road past the Old Prince of Wales in Wash Road which was an old coaching station believed to date back to the 1600s.
By the mid 1920s Britain was experiencing a great economic depression and unemployment in Britain was very high. To try and eliminate as much unemployment as possible the government promoted many road widening and sewerage schemes.
One of the most far-reaching projects was the building of the London to Southend Road. In the first instance it was going to be terminated at Romford but the advantages of extending it another 20 miles eastward were apparent.
The whole length of this road is approximately 38 miles and initially it was to be dualled though when it was completed in 1925 the section that ran through Laindon was a single road. It was later dualled in 1936 with a cycle path added and the road was reclassified as a Trunk Road. The work started in 1921 with the intention of the central reservation to be used by light railway or trams, this however never transpired.
The new section from Romford cost approximately one and a quarter million pounds sterling. The London County Council contributed five hundred thousand pounds on the condition that their unemployed would work on the project. Southend Corporation contributed one hundred thousand pounds again on the condition that the first mile out of Southend was reserved for their unemployed.
The Billericay council also endeavoured to get as many local unemployed men working on the project. The wages paid were one shilling and two and half pence per hour for a forty five hour week. Many of the workers would have been men who had returned from the trenches in France .
The road as far as possible was designed to avoided villages and other centres of population. The only case of demolition was at the crossing of the Ilford and Chigwell Road , near Newbury Park Station where one house was demolished to make way for the contractors’ carts. The majority of the road would therefore run through fields and pastures making it a picturesque and extremely attractive road. The prettiest spot being at Laindon where it goes about a hundred yards north of St Nicholas Church, which stands majestically and lonely on its hilltop and encircling trees.
Prince Henry the 3rd son of George V opened the road on Wednesday 25th March 1925 . The first ceremony was held at Harold Wood Railway Bridge with following ceremonies taking place at Rayleigh Weir and Southend. Prince Henry described the road as “The finest highway in England ”. At the time it attracted widespread attention as Britain ’s first motorway, as well as being the longest stretch of road constructed from scratch since Roman times.
This road helped to kick start further expansion in Laindon and the surrounding district, turning the village into a small town. By 1931 the total population had increased to 10321.