Dagenham author pens novel to mark centenary of Becontree Estate

Elaine Spires

Elaine Spires has written a novel set in the Becontree Estate. - Credit: Danann Breathnach Photography

A novel is due to be released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Becontree Estate.

A Village in the Country by Dagenham author Elaine Spires will be available from August 18.

Inspired by the estate's centenary, Elaine is releasing the novel which begins in Dagenham on Armistice Day, 1918 and moves through the 1920s.

Elaine said: "I've really enjoyed writing it. It was quite a challenge. My previous book was set in Dagenham as I remember it.

"But of course I was not alive in the 1920s so it was fascinating [to research]."

The self-published work tells the story of three resourceful female characters - Milly Brightwell, Maudie Page and Elsie Woods.

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It also delves into the changes the community goes through after the First World War.

During the period in which the story is set, the area covered by the estate went from being an Essex village surrounded by fields and market gardens into a town with more than 27,000 homes, a population of more than 100,000 and the country’s then-biggest car factory.

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"It was such a tremendous change for the people living in the village to find themselves living with this huge estate around them," the writer said.

This included both sets of Elaine's grandparents who moved to the estate from Stepney and Kensington.

One of the most striking things Elaine found during her research into the estate's history was just how extensive farming was before it was built.

Another was the impact of the 1914-18 conflict, she said.

"One of the most impactful things was how many Dagenham families lost two or more members," Elaine added.

The four-square mile estate was built to provide homes fit for war heroes and working families.

Elaine has already written two books set in Dagenham: The Banjo: Book One and The Banjo: Book Two. A Village in the Country is the third in the series with a fourth, A Town in Essex, underway.

Each charts the lives of the families living in the area and the changes within the community.

book cover

The cover of A Village In The Country shows Crown Street in Dagenham in the early 1900s. - Credit: Lisa Morena/Vanilla Gecko cover photo reproduced by kind permission of Barking and Dagenham Archives, Valence House Museum

On what makes A Village in the Country unique, Elaine said: "You never really know what is going on inside anyone's head. It turns into a bit of a whodunnit."

A Village In The Country will be out in paperback and on Kindle. It is available to pre-order on Amazon.

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