Dagenham was once full of blue collar workers clocking in at the borough’s iconic Ford factory every day.

At its peak, the factory employed 40,000 people, including many workers from Ireland.

But now the factory has closed, a sea of construction workers are building thousands of new homes as part of the huge Beam Park housing project.

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Having first opened in 1931, Dagenham’s Ford factory saw 11 million cars roll off its lines until it shut forever in 2013.

A local resident who has lived opposite the plant for years told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that this part of Dagenham became known as a “mini Cork” because of the huge Irish community that once thrived there.

However, when the original plant closed, some 1,400 workers lost their jobs. Old Ford workers have now been replaced by construction workers, who are building thousands of new homes for Londoners.

Rochelle Croom has worked at Mill House Social Club for 26 years, and said she fondly remembers the buzz at the watering hole when Ford workers came in for a pint or two after finishing their shift.

She told the LDRS: “We used to be packed, all the Ford workers used to come over when they finished [their shift]. It made a big difference to us when that all shut down.

Barking and Dagenham Post: Construction work is ongoing at Beam ParkConstruction work is ongoing at Beam Park (Image: Ruby Gregory LDRS)

“Years ago when I first started, you had the Ford workers coming in on their breaks and they had a couple of pints and something to eat before going back and having a sleep for a bit and then cracking on with work.”

After the site closed, Mill House Social Club wasn’t as packed as it once was and it quickly quietened down to just the members and local families who had loyally visited the venue for generations.

Rochelle said that many of the Ford workers moved away over the years, along with their kids, who outgrew the area as adults.

She said: “The Ford workers were coming here all the time and because you’ve got the avenues around the back as well, you used to get a lot of families – nans, grandads, mums and dads with their kids.

“But you found as the little ones grew up they tended to move away. We still get a decent crowd in there, like our regulars and we’ve got a function hall so we have parties and things going on so it keeps it going.”

The family venue also noticed a drop in customers following the Covid pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, but Rochelle is hopeful this will all change once thousands of new residents move into homes located on the site of the old factory.

Earlier this year, Barking and Dagenham Council approved plans to turn the site into a huge new village which will eventually see more than 3,000 new homes built on the empty site.

Following its closure almost 10 years ago, the factory was bulldozed to make way for a new neighbourhood that promises to have 47 per cent affordable homes for local residents along with shops, offices and brand new schools.

Much of the original site is unrecognisable and is full of construction workers scaling scaffolding that will become blocks of flats between one and 19 storeys tall.

The Beam Park masterplan is set to be completed by 2030 although there is uncertainty over a planned new railway station.

READ MOREBeam Park station: Terms designed to ‘progress discussions’ decided upon by major stakeholders

The first wave of residents moved into some of the completed homes back in 2020, which has had a positive impact for kebab shop owner, Ali Enguzekli.

Ali has been serving kebabs next to Mill House Social Club for the last two years after running his business in various parts of London.

He says the regulars he gets from Mill House Social Club and builders coming from Beam Park on their lunch breaks have become like family, and is looking forward to whatever the future brings from new people moving into the area.

Ali said: “It’s like a family here, it’s very friendly because of the connection with the customers.

"The benefit [Beam Park] will hopefully bring is members and more customers for us.”

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