Love of Dagenham street leads to history project
PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 September 2015
“Everybody on the street knows me – it’s the friendliest street you’ll find.”
So says Raymond “Ray” Bull, who has lived on Surrey Road in Dagenham for his whole life.
And his mum, Emmeline, owned the house from 1931. She bought the property four years after it was built – making Ray’s family the longest to live on the street.
So when a neighbour needed help with a school history project in 2002, Ray’s knowledge of the road came in handy.
“She asked me to help because she knew I’d always lived here so I started writing bits up and it turned into a project,” he explained.
“There’s a lot of history here and it hasn’t changed much over the years, that’s why I wanted to do it.
“I still keep it up now because it’s interesting to keep a record of everything. It’s good to look back and see what’s happened on this road.”
Ray was born in the house in 1950 and squeezed into the two-bed with his three siblings and parents.
The 65-year-old has seen family and neighbours come and go over the years and says it’s the community spirit which makes the street what it is.
“Whenever the Royal family had a celebration we had a party in the street,” he recalled.
“One of the first I remember was in the 1970s when we were celebrating the Queen’s wedding anniversary.
“I remember [Princess] Diana’s wedding party too. We had a kids party early in the day and the adults party later in the evening. I was 28 at the time and I remember there being lots of food and drink.
“It got everybody together in the community and meant that we all knew each other, that’s what makes this street special.”
His book records how fifteen years ago someone on the street won the lottery. Although Ray doesn’t know the amount he remembers it was enough to allow them to move away.
Another gem Ray discovered was that the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Ron Todd, lived on the street after he retired.
“There’s a road named after him called Ron Todd Close near here,” he said. “We also had a lady who was made an OBE for her charity work.
“When loved ones lose someone I’ve always started a collection on the street.
“We donate money to a charity of the bereaved’s choice and spend any remaining cash on flowers.”
Going further back, he recalls his mum telling him about the Anderson shelter in the garden which she used for protection from bombs during the war.
She moved to Coventry in 1940 when a bomb ripped the roof off the house but, otherwise, lived in the property until she died in 1993.
Ray retired from working for an insurance company in May and is now looking forward to devoting more time to the book.
“This street has always been interesting,” he added. “I don’t think I’ll ever move away.
“Everyone knows me. Everyone on the street knows Raymond.”
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