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Learn more about Beckton

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OS grid reference:TQ435815
Latitude: 51.514643°
Longitude: 0.067374°
London borough: Newham
County level: Greater London
Region: London
Constituent country:England
Sovereign state:United Kingdom
Ceremonial county: Greater London
Historic county: Essex (1965)
Police force: Metropolitan Police
Fire brigade: London Fire Brigade
Ambulance service: London Ambulance
Post office and telephone
Post town: LONDON
Postal district: E6
Dialling code:020
UK Parliament: East Ham
London Assembly: City and East
European Parliament: London
London | List of places in London

Beckton is a place in the London Borough of Newham, located 8 miles (12.8 km) east of Charing Cross.

Its boundaries are the A13 trunk road to the north, Barking Creek to the east, the Royal Docks to the south, and Prince Regent Lane to the west. The area around Prince Regent Lane is also known as Custom House. Modern Beckton is divided into East Beckton, Mid Beckton, North Beckton, West Beckton, and Cyprus (named for the British capture of Cyprus from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, which occurred as the original estate was being built).

[edit] History

Until 1965 Beckton was part of Essex and from 1894 it was divided between Barking Urban District (later municipal borough) and East Ham Urban District (later county borough). A small area on the Thames was historically part of the Woolwich parish of Kent and became part of the County of London in 1889. It formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich from 1899 until it was transferred to Newham in 1965.

Situated north and east of the Royal Docks, the area was formerly heavily industrialised, and was the location of the largest gasworks in Europe, which served the capital; the area itself was named after Simon Adams Beck, the governor of the Gas Light and Coke Company when work began on the site in November 1868. Beckton Gasworks also had a huge by-products works producing a wide variety of products including ink, dyes, mothballs, and fertilisers, all by-products of the process of turning coal to coke in the production of town gas. When Britain switched from town gas to North Sea natural gas in 1969, the gasworks closed.

The other major Beckton industry, the sewage treatment works, is still thriving. First established in 1864 as part of Joseph Bazalgette's scheme to remove sewage (and hence reduce disease) from London by creating two huge sewer pipes from the capital, one on each side of the Thames, the sewage works is Britain's largest and is now managed by Thames Water. The outfall sewer has been landscaped and now also serves as the Greenway cycle track through East London. Originally sewage was pumped untreated into the Thames, and this contributed to the high death toll in the 1878 Princess Alice disaster, when over 600 died in Britain's worst inshore shipping tragedy. The site was mooted in 2005 as the location for a desalination plant, but the proposal was rejected by Mayor Ken Livingstone as environmentally unacceptable.

In more recent times, industry has left the area, leaving huge areas of brownfield land, and Beckton has been redeveloped as part of the Docklands project. It now comprises mainly housing and several out-of-town shopping centres, and the architecture is mostly post-1982. Small areas of Victorian housing survive in Winsor Terrace, originally built as accommodation for Gas Light and Coke Company staff, and in the 'Nottingham' estate off Prince Regent Lane. It is served by local buses and Beckton DLR station, which acts as the terminus of the DLR's Beckton branch. The Victorian 'Cyprus' estate was rebuilt in the 1980s, but the original Cyprus public house survives (named The Ferndale).

Henry Addlington Close in Beckton
Stonechat Square Mid-Beckton

[edit] Local Interest

The Coke & Gas Works were still extant - although derelict - in the early 1980's, when Stanley Kubrick's team came scouting for an area that could double for the battle scenes in his movie Full Metal Jacket. The Gasworks rough concrete structures were painted with Vietnamese script, and then strategically dynamited so as to resemble war-torn Saigon. The scene where the VietCong girl brutally dies - she is lying on the coke-spoil of the Beckton plant. Spoil from the plant was heaped up to make Beckton 'Alp' - which became a dry-ski-slope for a time, which even lady Diana came to Beckton for the formal opening. It is now a sad and sorry state, as the Norwegian company that had planned to convert it to a real snow-dome backed-out of the project, citing doubt over getting a licence to run a casino in the facility as the reason to stop the work. The beautiful Beckton Alp has now become a scar, a blot on the landscape. And the Council seem powerless to get it re-instated to its former glory!

Another movie, but less well-known, made shortly after the time of Kubrick's masterpiece (1986/87), was a version of Ian McEwan's Cement Garden. This starred Serge Gainsbourg's daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg, who could often be seen (at the time of filming, 1990) shopping in the aisles of ASDA. In several scenes, aircraft can be heard taxiing at the nearby London City Airport. The house that served as the backdrop to the movie was demolished; the Winsor Lodge Hotel stands there now.

Building 1000, by Royal Albert DLR (LBN had enquired about re-siting their offices to Building 1000), has been the backdrop to several movies, the most recent perhaps being Sharon Stone's attempt to kick-start her career. Brittany Murphy has also been seen in its environs. At the time of writing, one floor of Building 1000 has been taken. Three more similar buildings are planned on the site.

Perhaps "Becktonites(?)" should be thankful to Tilbury - as containerisation, and the development of the Docks at Tilbury, released all the land from the Thames up to the A13 which had been earmarked for a new, North Albert Dock, and was made over to housing. Eisenhower Drive, off Tollgate Road, stands as testimony to the friendship and generosity of our American friends post World War II, as they shipped over thousands of prefab buildings to accommodate the homeless of the Blitz. The prefabs were assembled around Eisenhower Drive, and now, long gone, the name of the road is the only reminder of the huge generosity of our American friends.

As Beckton burgeons south and further east, I hope its not presumptuous to include Gallions under its remit. "Gallions Hotel", part of the Furlong City development by the lock that links the Royal Docks to the Thames, was once the overnight stop for Rudyard Kipling (he of Jungle Book fame etc.), as whenever his ship arrived home from Africa, and there was no train-connection to be had, he would overnight there.

[edit] Future

Beckton is at the western end of the London Riverside redevelopment zone of the Thames Gateway. Transport for London are planning a new bridge, the Thames Gateway Bridge, which will connect Beckton to Thamesmead on the southern bank of the River Thames.

Section 14: Capital Ring Walking Route Section 15:
Hackney Wick Beckton Woolwich

London Borough of Newham

Districts: Beckton | Canning Town | East Ham | Forest Gate | Manor Park | Plaistow | Stratford | Upton Park | West Ham

Attractions: ExCeL Exhibition Centre | London City Airport | Royal Docks | Thames Barrier | West Ham Park

Constituencies: East Ham | West Ham | Poplar and Canning Town


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