Town hall unveils plans to mark 100 years of iconic Becontree Estate

The Becontree Estate

The town hall has announced a programme of art, architecture and infrastructure named Becontree Forever to mark 100 years of the Becontree Estate. - Credit: LBBD

Plans to mark the 100th anniversary of the iconic Becontree Estate have been unveiled by the town hall.

Barking and Dagenham Council released details of its Becontree Forever programme of art, architecture and infrastructure to mark the centenary today (Monday, March 1).

Councillor Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “We’re really excited to mark the centenary of the largest estate built in the UK.

"As someone who has lived in the borough all my life - most of which on the Becontree Estate - this project is one that is close to my heart.

"The iconic estate and its history is something to be proud of and remembered, so please do keep an eye out and join us as we celebrate, renew and rebuild the estate over the next year and beyond.”

becontree estate

The designers of the estate prized gardens as much as houses in their plans. - Credit: LBBD

The Becontree Estate is the biggest council estate in the UK and is regarded as the most ambitious of the country’s housing estates built between the First and Second World Wars.

The first of 27,000 houses for war heroes returning from the 1914-18 conflict and working families were built on the four square-mile estate in November 1921.

becontree estate

The estate was built for returning war heroes and working class families. - Credit: LBBD

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It was designed as a cottage garden estate where parks and gardens were as important as houses.

More than 300 acres of land were compulsorily purchased for the project with a jetty built on the River Thames to transport building materials by barge.

The homes were fitted with mod cons including inside toilets and fitted baths, as well as front and back gardens.

Becontree Recce Trip 1. Copyright Jim Stephenson 2020

The estate features iconic cul-de-sacs known as banjos. - Credit: Jim Stephenson

Among the centenary projects announced are new playgrounds by artists Eva Rothschild and Yinka Ilori.

There are exhibitions and collaborations with the Serpentine Gallery, Focal Point Gallery, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Love Music Hate Racism and the EDF London Jazz Festival.

becontree estate

The first of 27,000 homes were built on the four square-mile estate in November 1921. - Credit: LBBD

Money for estate buildings - including The White House and Kingsley Hall - is also in the pipeline.

Full details are available at       

The centenary is being seen as not only an opportunity to celebrate the estate’s ground-breaking and radical past, but also to reimagine its future.

The council has committed to rebuilding the estate, starting with investment in retrofitting, parks and transport.

Kingsley Hall, the estate’s first community centre, is to be extended and Dagenham Heathway shopping centre is to be purchased as part of the plans.

Cllr Saima Ashraf, deputy leader of the council, said: "Here in Barking and Dagenham - a borough steeped in history - the Becontree Estate is a big part of our heritage.

"Celebrating the estate's centenary and the community spirit over the last 100 years is something I have been looking forward to.

"We want to celebrate the importance of the Becontree estate – not just for our borough, but the entire country. The wonderful programme of events taking place and the various commissioned projects, will do just that."

Artist Eva Rothschild said: "I am delighted to be working with [the council] and Create London to produce a sculptural playground for Becontree Forever."

Fellow artist Yinka Ilori said: “I am humbled and honoured to have won the commission to design a new playground for the Becontree Estate.

"The playground will create a vibrant collection of new, accessible play equipment with a focus on collaborative play and immersion in the outdoors."

As part of its own celebrations, Valence House shared art work late last year of the area before the estate was built in its #BeforeBecontree series.

In November, Dagenham MP, Jon Cruddas, announced plans to write a book about the area to mark the centenary, urging neighbours to share their memories.

The council is delivering its programme with people from the borough, organisations and funders including Create London, Wellcome Trust, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, The Mayor of London and Sports England.

Schools based on the estate, Arc Theatre, Barking & Dagenham Youth Dance, Studio 3 Arts, Green Shoes Arts and others will also present the programme.