Dagenham (’Daecca’s home’) was probably one of the earliest Saxon settlements in Essex: the name is first recorded in a charter of A.D. 687. From the 13th century onwards references to the parish, its farms and hamlets, are sufficiently numerous to suggest a flourishing community. In 1670 Dagenham contained 150 houses.
In the south of the parish the main west-east road from London to Tilbury entered as Ripple Side, known in the 16th century as Ripple Street, and now called Ripple Road. It turned north as Broad Street, formerly French Lane (mentioned in 1540) and then east past the Church Elm (1456), through Dagenham village, as Crown Street, formerly Dagenham Street (1441), and then south-east over Dagenham (or Dagenham Beam) Bridge. Joining that road at the village was one coming south from Becontree Heath. The northern part of this last road, now Rainham Road North, was formerly Spark Street (1540) and later Bull Lane. The southern part, now Rainham Road South, was known recently as Romford Road, but this does not seem to have been an ancient name.
The continuation of Broad Street, north of the Church Elm, was Halbutt Street, named from a farm recorded in 1339. This ran to Five Elms, where there was a small open green. Oxlow Lane
, formerly Hokestrete (1456), ran east, from Halbutt Street to the Four Wants (1623), where it crossed Bull Lane.
At Five Elms, Halbutt Street joined Wood Lane
(1563), coming from Barking, which ran north-east to Becontree Heath. Running west through Becontree Heath was Green Lane
(1339), the road from Ilford to Hornchurch and Upminster. Whalebone Lane went north from Becontree Heath to Marks Gate and the forest, through Chadwell Heath, where it crossed the main road from London to Colchester, now High Road. Whalebone Lane took its name from whalebones set up at the cross-roads. The first known reference to the bones is in 1641, when it was stated that the rib of a whale had lately been placed at the cross-roads. A map of 1652 shows a whalebone in the middle of the road there. In the early 18th century it was stated that a bone fixed there had come from a whale taken in the Thames in 1658. This tradition is not disproved by the earlier references, for it is clear that several different bones are involved. In 1904 there were two whalebones overhanging the gates of Whalebone House, which stood on the north side of the High Road to the east of the cross-roads, and it was then stated that another pair, which had stood at the opposite corner of Whalebone Lane, had recently been removed. The pair from Whalebone House is now (1963) at Valence House.
In the extreme west of the parish, forming the boundary for part of its length, was Gale Street (1433), running north from Ripple Side to cross Wood Lane
, and continuing as Bennetts Castle Lane, formerly Castle Alley (1600), to a junction with Green Lane
. Chitty’s Lane, previously known as Bolimereslane (1307), Gotislane (1393), and Groves Street (1440), ran from Green Lane
north to Chadwell Heath. At Marks Gate was Rose Lane, named from a medieval family. The road from Cockermouth southwards to the Thames, now Chequers Lane, was formerly the Marsh Way (1563), West Marsh Lane (1630), and Breach Lane (1752). Other marsh roads were Pooles Lane and Choats Manor Way. Workhouse Lane branched east of Halbutt Street, approximately on the line of the present Holgate Road
Dagenham village in 1653 consisted of a single street — Crown Street — with buildings along most of the north side, some on the south side, including the church, and a few others at the junction of the road to Rainham. It was little bigger in 1805 and its growth was slow throughout the 19th century, even after the opening of the railway. In 1963, although surrounded by the modern town, the old village retained its shape and something of its character. Many of the houses, however, were unoccupied, and the whole area was awaiting redevelopment. The oldest surviving building, apart from the church, stands opposite to it on the north side of Crown Street. This is the Cross Keys Inn, a timber-framed hall house with gabled and formerly jettied cross wings, probably dating from the 15th century. In 1670 this belonged to the Comyns family, who were prominent in Dagenham and Romford. It became an inn, the Queen’s Head, about 1700, and received its present name before 1785. One of the rooms has 17th-century panelling. To the east of the inn the vicarage, a timber-framed building of early-17th-century origin, stands in its own garden. Farther east, the small houses and cottages on both sides of the narrow street leading to Rainham Road are mostly brick buildings of the 18th and early 19th centuries; a few are of timberframed construction. Nearly all are in poor repair and several, including two 18th-century brick houses of some architectural character (Nos. 33 and 35), are empty and derelict. Many old buildings in the village have been demolished during the past 80 years, among them George House, west of the church, which has been traced back to 1540. On the north side of Crown Street Comyn’s almshouses, largely rebuilt in the 19th century, still survive.
The urban development has for the most part preserved the lines and the names of the old roads. Among the important new roads are Heathway
, which runs south from Becontree Heath to the Tilbury Road, Parsloes Avenue
, running south-east from Wood Lane
, and Valence Avenue, from Wood Lane
north to Chadwell Heath. In north Dagenham, Whalebone Lane was extended northwards from Marks Gate to link up with Romford Road, leading to Chigwell Row.Source: Dagenham: Introduction and manors | British History Online
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