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Becontree Heath Barking & Dagenham

Becontree Heath

Becontree Heath, view over golf course, March 2009. Photo: Crowlands Heath Golf Club

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Becontree Heath, probably the meeting place of the Saxon Hundred Court, was ancient commonland, and the area remained rural until the 1920s. Although much is since built over, some remains as open space. In 1931 a portion of the land was transferred to Dagenham UDC by Special Act of Parliament, extinguishing common rights, and was levelled, drained and planted for public recreation, opening as Central Park. The land north of Wood Lane was largely used for allotment gardens in the C20th, but by 1971 Wantz Boating Lake had been created to the south. The open land today is used for school playing fields, children's recreational facilities and a golf club, which uses the former boating lake as an Aqua driving range, the only one of its kind.
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Wood Lane, Dagenham, Essex
Postcode: RM8 1JX
Type of site: Private Open Land 
Listed structures:
Borough: Barking & Dagenham
Site ownership: LB Barking & Dagenham
Site management: leased to Crowlands Heath Golf Club
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: 7.30am-9pm
Special conditions:
Facilities: Pay and play 9-hole golf course, driving range over water
Public transport: Tube: Dagenham East (District). Rail: Chadwell Heath. Bus: 5, 87, 103, 128, 129, 173, 175, 499.
Becontree Heath, view of lake, March 2009. Photo: Crowlands Heath Golf Club
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Becontree Heath, view over lake, March 2009. Photo: Crowlands Heath Golf Club
> Enlarge
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/03/2015
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Fuller information:

Becontree Heath was a large area of commonland, probably the meeting place of the ancient Saxon Hundred Court. By 1777 the hamlet of Becontree Heath had grown up, a couple of miles north of the main centre of population in Dagenham village. It comprised a cluster of houses on the unenclosed common at the meeting of a number of important early routes, Wood Lane, Green Lane and Whalebone Lane to which there are references from the C14th. At one time at the south-east corner of the heath was a tower mill, which was converted to steam by 1894. The Dagenham area remained rural until the 1920s, after which it began to change radically as housing as well as industrial use accelerated and at Becontree Heath only a few C19th buildings survive among the proliferation of houses, shops and other facilities.

In 1931 Dagenham Urban District Council obtained c.11 acres of the commonland by Special Act of Parliament, which vested Becontree Heath in the Council, extinguishing common rights. The Heath had become known as ‘Nanny Goat Common’ due to the amount of common grazing on the land; following transfer of ownership to the Council, a number of owners were impounded for not removing their goats from the common. The Council levelled, drained and planted the land with shrubs and borders ‘to provide an area to serve as a pleasure ground for adults . . .(which was) to be preserved as a natural amenity as well as a central open space of approach to the Civic Centre’. The Civic Centre was built in 1936, although Central Park (q.v.) opened in 1932.

The tract of open land north of Wood Lane was largely allocated to allotment gardens until the 1960s, as shown on the OS Map of 1961, 1:2500. The OS Map of 1970-74, 1:1250 shows an artificial body of water had been created in the area just north of Wood Lane, named Wantz Boating Lake; Dagenham Swimming Pool also opened nearby in 1972. The Wantz Stream, which flows from Romford through Becontree Heath and feeds into the Beam River to the east, is one of a number of waterways that run through this area, now largely culverted. What remains of the former commonland as open space is now predominantly used for school playing fields and a golf course, the lake now an Aqua Driving Range within Crowlands Heath Golf Club. This driving range over water is the only one of its kind.

Sources consulted:

Implementation Enquiry, 9/2/38 by Urban District Council of Dagenham - Evidence of Engineer and Surveyor; Dagenham Digest October 1949, March 1955; James Howson, 'A Brief History of Barking and Dagenham' (LB B&D Libraries Dept., 1990); 'Dagenham: Introduction and manors', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 5, ed. W R Powell (London, 1966), pp. 267-281 [accessed 14 March 2015].
Grid ref: TQ495870
Size in hectares:
On EH National Register : No
EH grade :
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: No
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order: Not known
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: No
Other LA designation:

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