Post Memories: London’s Screen Archives bring borough’s past back to life

Louise Pankhurst introduces footage of the opening of Barking swimming pool, 1931

Louise Pankhurst introduces footage of the opening of Barking swimming pool, 1931 - Credit: Archant

As the camera pans out across bushes and brambles showing the vast countryside where Marks Gate estate now stands, “oohs” and “aahs” fill the room in Valence House.

Viewers enjoy the old footage of Barking and Dagenham

Viewers enjoy the old footage of Barking and Dagenham - Credit: Archant

“Those were the good old days,” some shout, while others watch dreamily, muttering: “Look how much it’s changed.”

They gathered at the archives and local studies centre in Becontree Avenue to watch 13 short films of the borough, dating as far back as 1915.

The clips included the opening of Barking swimming pool in 1931, footage of machinists in the Telephone Cables factory in Chequers Lane in 1956 and a Telephone Cables work fair and sports day in 1956 and 1959.

“I found the videos very nostalgic and wonderful,” said Rosemary Rogers, 75, who grew up in Dagenham village.

Footage from the Boulter family celebrations in which Tony's mother shows her bloomers to the camera

Footage from the Boulter family celebrations in which Tony's mother shows her bloomers to the camera. Christmas, 1966 - Credit: Archant


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“It’s wonderful to see the places of my childhood where I had such happy memories.

“My dad worked in the Cables factory from 1932 to 1975 and I used to go to all the events on the sports field with him.

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“Me and the other children never used to pay. We’d sneak into the field by slipping through the fence. It was all part of village life.

“It was amazing seeing the countryside before Marks Gate estate was built. I had no idea Rose Lane was so quaint. Anything to promote the history of Dagenham is well worth doing. We have a remarkable history in this area and it hasn’t been appreciated for years.”

The Telephone Cables company in Dagenham

The Telephone Cables company in Dagenham - Credit: Archant

The videos were showcased as part of the London: Bigger Picture project in Barking, which aims to collect and show old films from around the borough to preserve its history.

According to Louise Pankhurst, an archivist at London’s Screen Archives, the outer London boroughs are particularly under-represented in London’s film collection.

She said: “It’s about joining up communities. There’s nothing like hearing people say: ‘Oh look, I remember that place.’

“It gives people a sense of identity and a sense of belonging.”

Rosemary Rogers

Rosemary Rogers - Credit: Archant

Tony Boulter grew up in Dagenham and donated a family video that was played at Thursday’s event.

The film shows a Christmas party on the Becontree Estate in 1966 that quickly turns wild.

One grey-haired guest, Tony’s mother, dresses in a Playboy Bunny Girl outfit and flashes the camera her bloomers.

“I think it’s all part of our heritage – it’s there for future generations to see how we lived years ago,” Tony, 75, told the Post after the screening.

“It’s important we keep this tradition going – otherwise, it’s lost.

“I want people to see these family tapes. It shows how families lived. It’s totally different now.”

Tony’s family came to the Becontree Estate from Wapping in the 1930s. He said they described it as luxury compared to their previous home where front doors, baths and gardens were scarce.

“It was a tighter knit community back then,” said Tony.

“The people in my family film wouldn’t recognise the area today. I think everyone should contribute a video. They didn’t have films years ago but now we can preserve our heritage in this way we should make the most of it.”

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