Billericay

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Coordinates: 51°37′41″N 0°25′06″E / 51.628°N 0.4184°E / 51.628; 0.4184

Billericay
Billericay High Street.jpg
Billericay High Street focusing on St Mary Magdalen Church
Billericay is located in Essex
Billericay
Billericay
 Billericay shown within Essex
Population 36,338 
OS grid reference TQ675945
Civil parish Billericay
District Basildon
Shire county Essex
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BILLERICAY
Postcode district CM11, CM12
Dialling code 01277
Police Essex
Fire Essex
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Basildon and Billericay
List of places
UK
England
Essex

Billericay (Listeni/bɪləˈrɪk/ BIL-ə-RIK-ee) is a town and civil parish in the Basildon borough of Essex, England. It lies within the London Basin, has a population of around 36,338 – 2011 census[citation needed], and constitutes a commuter town 28 miles (45 km) east of central London. The town has three secondary schools and a variety of open spaces. It is thought to have been occupied since the Bronze Ages.

History[edit]

Some of the earliest records of human occupation of Billericay are the burial mounds in Norsey Wood: evidence of occupation in the Bronze and Iron Ages. Evidence of Roman occupation has been found at a number of locations in the town and there may have been a small cavalry fort at Blunts Wall.

The Saxons did not settle in the centre of Billericay. They established themselves two miles south, at Great Burstead. In the late 10th century it was known as 'Burhstede'. Billericay was not mentioned in the Domesday Book, as it lay within Great Burstead. At this time the parish church for Billericay was at Great Burstead. In 1291 the name 'Byllyrica' is first recorded. This is believed to be from a medieval Latin word, bellerīca, meaning 'dyehouse or tanhouse'.[1]

Middle Ages[edit]

In the 13th and 14th centuries some pilgrims to Canterbury journeyed via Billericay. Some of them may have spent the night in Billericay before crossing the River Thames at Tilbury. This may account for the large number of inns in the town.

Norsey Wood
Norsey woods

Billericay's most notable historical episode was on 28 June 1381, when King Richard II's soldiers defeated Essex rebels at Norsey Wood. About 500 rebels were killed in the battle, which ended the Peasants' Revolt.

The Wycliffe preachers influenced the town. Four local people (Thomas Watts, Joan Hornes, Elizabeth Thackwell, and Margaret Ellis) were burnt at the stake. Two other residents (Joan Potter and James Harris) were tortured for their faith during the reign of Queen Mary.

Pilgrim Fathers[edit]

A meeting of the Pilgrim Fathers prior to their sailing in the Mayflower is said to have taken place in Billericay, and many local names and much historical imagery reflect this: Mayflower House, Morris Men, Taxis, School, Hall. Sunnymede School's houses were called Mayflower, Pilgrim, Chantry and Martin (after Christopher Martin, a Billericay merchant who travelled on the Mayflower as Ship's Governor).

Four people from Billericay were on board, including Christopher Martin. He and his wife Marie, along with Solomon Prowe and John Langemore, perished shortly after their arrival at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The unfortunate fate of the would-be pioneers did not deter other inhabitants of Billericay from setting sail for the New World. The town of Billerica, Massachusetts was established in 1655 by colonists from Billericay and named after their home town in England.

Georgian and Victorian eras[edit]

In the Georgian period many excellent examples of the period's houses were built in Billericay. One of those remaining today is Burghstead Lodge in High Street, which used to house the library. The road from Billericay to Tilbury still had a reputation for "footpads" and highwaymen[citation needed] operating along the road, where it passed through open country.

In the town, the Union Workhouse was built in 1840 to continue to implement the Poor Law. Parts of this building were later incorporated into what was St. Andrew's Hospital. The railway arrived in Billericay in 1889, being on the Great Eastern Main Line between London and Southend-on-Sea.

The 20th century[edit]

In 1916, during the First World War, one of the giant German Zeppelin airships was shot down during an aerial battle over Billericay. During its fiery demise, it narrowly missed the High Street, crashing into a nearby field. Recent research has indicated that this may be identified with the 'ghost Zeppelin' of Tonbridge which was allegedly seen floating over that town earlier in the day.

St. Andrew's Hospital, which was formerly the site of the town's Victorian workhouse, continued to function as an important communal building. From 1973, it housed the internationally renowned Regional Plastic Surgery and Burns unit until this was relocated to Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford in April 1998. After the relocation, most of the hospital was redeveloped into housing. The listed buildings remain intact but are now residential.

Geography[edit]

Lake surrounded by trees in Billericay
The Boating Lake at Lake Meadows

Billericay is within the London Basin and lies on a mixture of London clay, Claygate Beds and Bagshot Beds. Near the High Street, there is a change in soil type from sandy to clay, which gives rise to local underground springs. Open spaces include Norsey Wood, Mill Meadows Nature Reserve, Queen's Park Country Park, Sun Corner, Lake Meadows, Hanningfield Reservoir and South Green. Billericay contains Billericay School, Mayflower High School and St John's School.

Governance[edit]

Between 1 July 1837 and 1 July 1939 Billericay was a registration district. From 1974 until the present, the town falls under the Basildon district. The registry office is located in Basildon, in the council offices. There is also the facility to register deaths in Basildon Hospital.[2]

Parliamentary[edit]

Since major boundary changes in Essex for the 2010 general election, Billericay has been part of the parliamentary constituency of Basildon and Billericay, whose MP is John Baron of the Conservative Party. The town was previously represented by Teresa Gorman from 1987 to 2001, a Conservative rebel who had the whip withdrawn for opposing the Maastricht Treaty. Her predecessor, the Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, was also prominent in the news in 1987, when he was charged with indecency.[3]

Local government[edit]

Billericay is part of the Basildon district, although occasional proposals have been made to transfer it to the nearby Brentwood district.[4] Basildon District Council is Conservative controlled. Billericay is served by a town council of 20 members elected in 3 wards. There is also a youth town council, elected in schools around the town.[5] The town council has powers related to local planning and finance, while the youth council has an annual budget of £500 to spend or invest in local services or entertainment.[6]

Billericay parish was not formed until 1937; before then the area had been part of the ancient Great Burstead parish.[7] In 1894 Billericay Rural District was created, which covered a wide area stretching as far as Brentwood and Pitsea.[8] In 1934 the core of this district around Basildon and Billericay became Billericay Urban District, and in 1937 a Billericay civil parish was created covering the same area. The urban district, but not the parish, was renamed Basildon in 1955. In 1974 the district was abolished and became the present-day Basildon district.

Transport[edit]

Billericay is a part of the London commuter belt.

It is served by Billericay railway station on the Greater Anglia route from Liverpool Street station, in the City of London, to Southend. The station connects to local bus routes.

Billericay is close to two primary routes: the A12 to the north and the A127 in the south. The A176 provides a road link to Basildon to the south of Billericay, as well as to the A127. The only secondary road in the town, the B1007, passes from just south of the town centre as Laindon Road, meets the A129 at Sun Corner and then continues northwards as Billericay's High Street and then Stock Road. It continues north to the county town of Chelmsford. Along its route is the village of Stock and an interchange to the A12. The town is a destination on the A129, linking it to the neighbouring towns of Brentwood and Wickford.

Sport[edit]

Billericay Cricket Club
Billericay Cricket Club
The clubhouse, main stand and The Cowshed at New Lodge, 2007

Culture[edit]

Billericay is served by a community radio station, Phoenix FM, which is based in Brentwood.

The town was immortalised in the Ian Dury and the Blockheads song "Billericay Dickie". Billericay is mentioned in George Orwell's novel Down and Out in Paris and London. Billericay is the setting of the BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey as the home of Gavin Shipman (Mathew Horne) and his parents; however, the actual filming took place in Wales.

The Cater Museum is a privately owned local history museum housed in an 18th & 19th century building in the High Street.

The Mayflower Morris Men are members of the Morris Ring of England and continue to dance the Morris in the town and perform their traditional Mummers' play, St. George and the Dragon, in the High Street every year on the nearest Saturday to St. George's Day.

Twinning[edit]

Billericay is twinned with:

Notable people[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 'Oxford Dictionary of British Place-Names', A.D. Mills, Oxford University Press
  2. ^ Basildon District – Essex County Council. Retrieved 22 September 2006.
  3. ^ BBC: On this day 16 April 1987, Retrieved 7 September 2006.
  4. ^ LGCE review for Basildon area Retrieved 23 December 2006.
  5. ^ Billericay Town Council. Retrieved 9 November 2006.
  6. ^ Billericay Youth Town Council. Retrieved 9 November 2006.
  7. ^ Vision of Britain – Great Burstead parish (historic map). Retrieved 9 November 2006.
  8. ^ Vision of Britain – Billericay RD (historic map). Retrieved 9 November 2006.
  9. ^ "Twinning Ceremony in Billericay". Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  10. ^ "Billericay Mayflower Twinning Association". Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  11. ^ "Le Comité de Jumelage" (in French). Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  12. ^ "French Charter". Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  13. ^ "Parker reflects on career blighted by racist abuse ; Billericay resident was sent racially abusive letters by Everton fans". Brentwood Gazette. 2011-11-02. 
  14. ^ Gordon, Byrony (2009-03-17). "Russell Tovey interview: A History Boy with a big future". London: www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 

External links[edit]