HISTORY: New book recalls East End origins of many of estate's residents
THE East End origins of many of the families who make up the backbone of Debden have been explored in a new book by one of its residents.
In his book A 1960s East End Childhood, Simon Webb, 58, of Newmans Lane, remembers the run-down terraces and streets littered with bomb sites which many families left for the newly-built council estate on the edge of Loughton.
“I grew up in Custom House and we moved to Bethnal Green,” he said. “It was fairly primitive, because we didn’t have an inside lavatory or a bathroom and all the water had to be heated up with coal.
“You had to build a fire if you wanted hot water and we had a tin bath in front of the fire. I have two siblings and I’m the youngest, so I got the water last, when it was dirty and cold.
“There were bomb sites all over the place and they were great fun, but hazardous.
“The ground had been cleared, but there were still broken bricks, plaster and nails and all sorts lying around.”
The Debden estate was built from 1945 onwards by the London County Council, to house Londoners who had been bombed out or were living in sub-standard housing.
The Council used prisoners of war from a nearby camp at Lippitts Hill, west of Loughton, to build some of the roads, including Rectory Lane, and some of the homes.
Houses and roads were still being built as people moved in and The Broadway was only finished in 1958.
“Gradually, a lot of people drifted out from the East End,” said Mr Webb. “It was a great movement.
“It happened all the time. First, my uncle moved to Hornchurch, then my Grandma moved to Romford.
“I have relatives who moved to Debden when the houses were first built in the 1940s.”
He said that while families were desperate for better housing, many felt homesick for their old tight-knit neighbourhoods, which had been broken up.
“People would be offered a house and move, but there was a lot of travelling to and from east London, because people would go back to visit,” he added.
“The community spirit was strong in the East End, but once people moved to other places, it broke up.
“In the East End, a lot more people would have relatives living around the corner or in the next street.
“I wouldn’t say Debden seemed like a real community, because it was full of people from all over London.
“There were a lot of people from the Kings Cross area there as well.”
Although he moved to Israel in the 1970s, when he was 22, he moved to Debden in the 1990s and has spoken to many former East-Enders about their experiences.
“You find a lot of people's parents and grandparents come from there,” he added. “It was really a social phenomenon.”
A 1960s East End Childhood, published by The History Press, is available at The Bookshop, Loughton High Road, priced £7.99.