The plotland movement was essentially Londoners buying pieces of land to put on huts and cottages for either weekend use or permanent living. The impetus was to escape from the slums of the city for a quiet life in the country where residents could grow a few vegetables, keep animals, forage for food and live a simple life. Most of their houses, though, were of a very basic construction and didn't have services, such as running water, roads or power.
|Arable land on the edge of the former plotlands area.|
This land was known as "three horse land" because it was so difficult to work.
The move into the countryside was also made possible by the development of the railway in this area and the land companies teamed up with the railway operators to set up "champagne auctions" where they seemingly lured in potential buyers by offering special train tickets with alcohol. The height of the plotlands movement was the 1920s to 1940s (and I don't suppose it's a coincidence that this followed the horrors of the First World War, in which many of the men would have fought. Nor was it too long after the migration of their fathers and grandfathers from the country to the city looking for work during the agricultural depression). Buildings were supposed to meet housing and planning bye-laws, but they were often constructed regardless and the local councils would come to regard them as shacks springing up in a rural slum.
The Second World War changed the nature of the plotlands development. Agricultural land that would have been sold off for more plots was now returned to farming. At the same time, many people moved to the plotlands to escape the bombing in London. Once the war was over the "rural slum" nature of the plotlands began to occupy the minds of the local councils and they joined forces with the London councils (which were dealing with a post-war housing crisis) to lobby for a new town in the area. In 1949 the Basildon Development Corporation was formed and the plotlands were earmarked for development.
|The Haven: Once a Plotlands Home - now a Museum.|
Today, much of the former plotlands area is under Basildon New Town; some of it has been made into a nature reserve and the rest is now a mixture of housing and arable land. A small, plotlands museum, a few cottages and a plotlands trail around grassy tracks with the old "road" names are all that's left of this modern, back-to-the-land movement.