In defence of Dagenham

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Sir,

I read your review of Graham Turner’s book “The Car Makers” with more than usual interest as I work at Fords and reside in Dagenham. If you will bear with me, I would like to correct a few mistaken impressions that these Sociological Surveyors seem to gather on their well-worn paths to and from our community.

In the first place, I wonder if Mr. Turner is not confusing Dagenham with the Becontree Estate, about half of which is in Dagenham, and neither is Dagenham the Becontree Estate only. His description of road upon road of drab grey L.C.C. council houses has me baffled, as most of the houses owned by the L.C.C. in Dagenham are of red brick or timbered construction, many are not council houses at all, and I, as well as many other Dagenham residents, own my own house. I might also add that what houses the L.C.C. do own in Dagenham are beautifully maintained and are a credit to our community. Rachmannites please note.

“The wind that blows over the litter-laden open spaces carrying the smoke from factories” also baffles me. Of Dagenham’s 7,000 acres, 2,000 acres are unashamedly devoted to farmland and open spaces, and if Mr. Turner likes to visit the north of the Borough his best point would be from the Maypole Inn (Dickens knew it well). He could then besport himself over 1,000 acres of open parkland in Hainault Forest and Hainault Golf Course. It also might interest him to know that Dagenham citizens paid £18,000 for 30,000 rounds of golf on this excellent course – perhaps Mr. Turner would like to linger a little longer on his next visit and, providing he doesn’t get thrown off the end of the Ford jetty, have a round or two with some of the local Ford workers.

“On Sunday mornings there are dustbins at the front doors.” This comment had me puzzled for some time and called for a few inquiries to be made. You see, first of all the dustbins are collected from the rear of the houses, and secondly this operation is performed every Tuesday by the council’s refuse collectors. I am therefore wondering what town Mr. Turner did visit. Also his comment about “men in blue suits strolling about on a Sunday morning like miners in some northern town” is, it seems to me, unnecessary and spiteful criticism of a strong church-going community that exists in Dagenham, and these men would naturally wear darker clothing to attend mass, or morning service.

If Mr. Turner would like to visit Dagenham and bring his map with him, we would be pleased to offer him the following facilities within a quarter of a mile from Fords, and yet within 300 yards of my own doorstep – golf, tennis, cricket, football, bowls (indoor and out), a children’s playground, an adventure playground, and a large swimming pool. If, however, Mr. Turner prefers hunting foxes or rabbits with a shotgun, or maybe horse-riding, fishing, bird watching, or winter skiing, we can still oblige him within the boundaries of the borough.

“Towering above this fossilised community is a towering sense of insecurity.” This statement is so confusing that it is difficult to think what Mr. Turner means by it. The only fossils I know of in Dagenham which may qualify for the title as such are the local Parish Church and the Cross Keys Inn, both of which are mentioned in the Domesday Book. Regarding the sense of insecurity of the car workers, as less than one third of Dagenham working population are employed by Fords, I can only think that either the national feeling of insecurity caused by the fear of “H” Bomb warfare prevails here as well, or that Mr. Turner lingered too long in Fleet Street on his way here.

As another point of factual interest, the average wage of the Ford worker is £21 17s. 1d. per week, as against £20 15s. od. per week for other workers in the vehicle industry, and not £30 per week as you state in your review.

There is, however, one point I would agree with Mr. Turner and his fellow sociological surveyors (we have had three around Dagenham this year alone). This is that the real successes of Dagenham move out of the Borough. They go to the United States of America (Fords of course). Yes, Mr. Turner, England is becoming a most unfashionable address.

Dagenham. Alan R. Nye.