Wickford shown within Essex
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||SS11 and SS12|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
|UK Parliament||Rayleigh and Wickford|
Wickford is a town in the south of the English county of Essex, with a population of more than 32,500. Located approximately 30 miles (50 km) east of London, it falls within the District of Basildon along with Basildon, Billericay, Laindon and Pitsea.
It has become a commuter town, serving the City of London through its direct connection to Liverpool Street station through the Southend Victoria line, on which a train to London takes approximately 40 minutes. The town can also be easily reached via the road network by the A127 between London and Southend-on-Sea or by the A130 from Chelmsford.
Wickford is a fairly small town with a main high street including a range of shops. A swimming pool, a library, an open-air market and a community centre are also within the vicinity of the town centre.
The town has existed since before 975 AD. There is evidence that the area itself was inhabited in prehistoric times probably by a tribe of Britons called Trinobantes, Roman and Saxon times. The name Wickford is of Saxon origin, Wic meaning a village, habitation, castle or dairy farm and Ford being a shallow river crossing.
Wickford was in the Middle Ages known under the names of Wiceford, Wikford, Wygeford, Wicfort and Wincfort, as referenced by the Domesday Book in the year 1086 AD. Before the 20th century Wickford was an agricultural village. At the time of the Domesday Survey, 1085 AD, 6 land-holders were recorded. Historically there have been only two considerable estates in Wickford, The Manor of Wickford Hall (Robert Wikeford or de Wickford (1330-1390), Archbishop of Dublin, was born in Wickford and his family are thought to have been Lords of the Manor of Wickford Hall.) and The Manor of Stilemans.
It is believed that the Wickford in Washington County, Rhode Island, USA was named after this town, the English birthplace of Elizabeth Reade, step-daughter of Hugh Peters and wife of John Winthrop, Governor of Connecticut.
The Second World War
During the Second World War the edge of town was hit by one of the German doodlebugs, and on 6 December 1944 a V2 rocket fell in Branksome Avenue, about a mile west of the town centre. Around the town, in amongst the hedgerows and fields, there are numerous pillboxes constructed as a part of British anti-invasion preparations.
The flood of '58
In 1958 Wickford town centre was hit by a flood, which made national news headlines. The most striking image of the flood was a double decker bus, left stranded at Halls Corner overnight, partly submerged by the floodwater. A second bad flood in 1960 meant changes to the course of the River Crouch were made. This included turning the river into a concrete channel through the centre of the town, although this may be removed in the coming years, depending on the scale of the Wickford Masterplan (see below).
For the most part Wickford is flat and 10 metres above sea level. The highest point, on the outskirts of the town, is 74 metres above sea level. The River Crouch flows through the town, from the west to the east. The River Wick flows into the River Crouch from the South.
Wick Country Park
The Wick Country Park comprises 50 acres (200,000 m2) of former agricultural land, with over 2 km of easy access trails around the site. The trails leads visitors past old hedgerows, the 5-acre (20,000 m2) lake, ponds, World War II pillboxes and recent woodland plantings, with bridges and boardwalks that allow the trails to continue over the North Benfleet brook.
Neighbouring towns and villages
- South Hanningfield
- West Hanningfield
- Crays Hill
- Ramsden Bellhouse
- Ramsden Heath
- South Woodham Ferrers
The Master Plan
The Wickford Masterplan was first unveiled at the Wickford Community Centre in December 2004 and published in November 2005 by DTZ Pieda Consulting, at a budget of £125 million, and many of the developments are currently in progress. At the heart of the proposals is the redevelopment of the High Street, which will be redesigned to be the town's premier meeting place. The Masterplan would create new public spaces, enhance the retail environment through the renewal of retail floor space and bring the market into the street scene, promoting urban living above shops and on the existing market site.
Adjacent to the River Crouch, a number of high quality residential developments promoted as the "Town Centre Riverside Living" complex would revitalise the riverside as a public asset and promotion of new eating and drinking opportunities. In addition, a new residential development to the west of Market Avenue will be constructed.
Promoting the station entrances on both sides of the railway line as key gateways to Wickford are also key areas of the plan, which would enhance transport interchange facilities and bring forward the car park site on Station Road for development as a new multi-storey car park and mixed-use development. As of present only the northern side of the station facing The Broadway is easily accessible, with the southern London-bound track only accessible from the outside though a small out-of-way footpath from Market Avenue as a courteous entrance for wheelchair-using passengers.
Public and health services would be improved under the scheme, with the re-organisation of existing health, library and community services into a new ‘iconic’ building to the east of Market Avenue as an integrated community service facility.
The Eastern Extension would create a better presence and new linkages to the east of the town centre by redeveloping the car park into a multi-storey development with residential and live-work uses and a new housing scheme to the east of Wickford Bypass. The Southern Gateway area, which surrounds London Road and the southern end of the High Street, are also planned to undergo a transition with a strong leisure and recreational theme, building on existing eating and drinking facilities and incorporating compatible residential uses.
Overall 650 apartments are planned to be built as part of the Masterplan as officially stated by councillor Tony Ball, although other sources opposed to the project claim this figure is closer to 735.
The Masterplan has met with resistance with many residents of Wickford, mainly due to overall cost, and also the fear from some older residents that raising the level of the river could see repeats of the floods in 1958 and 1960.
There have also been criticism over the number of developments being constructed, which some say threaten to overdevelop and cause environmental and aesthetic damage to the town centre whilst providing minimal improvements to public services; one such group is the Wickford Action Group who has campaigned against many of the revisions made prior to the public approval of the plan.
Construction began in earnest in February 2007, which saw the demolition of many of the buildings in Lower Southend Road to make way for a new residential area. As of December 2009 this development has been partially completed (Riverside Place phase 1 + Riverside Court), however the compulsory purchase order of the post sorting office has been withdrawn leaving the fate of Riverside Place Phase 2 in doubt.
As of April 2010, the whole of the Masterplan project is facing serious delays and construction has halted due to the global financial crisis. In May 2009 the construction company Bradgate Developments released a statement assuring residents the project was still on track.
New prison development
Under plans by the Labour government's Justice Minister Jack Straw, land near the Runwell Hospital mental institute would be redeveloped into a prison capable of accommodating up to 1,500 inmates which is scheduled to open as early as 2013, with possible plans for an American-style Supermax gaol with a capacity of 2,500.
Basildon Borough Council leader Malcolm Buckley has pledged to fight the proposals, even though the gaol would be built on land under the administration of the neighbouring Chelmsford Borough Council.
- Robert Wikeford or de Wickford, ( 1330-1390 ) Archbishop of Dublin, was born in Wickford, where his family are thought to have been Lords of the Manor of Wickford Hall.
- Alvin Stardust's mother used to own and run a café just outside of Wickford railway station (a common misconception is that it was indeed Billy Ocean's mother who used to own and run the café, but this is false). Alvin, himself, worked on a building site in Wickford before he was famous.
- Tony Stockwell - A British author, television personality and psychic medium.
- Jon Morter (notable for the Rage Against the Machine and The Justice Collective UK Christmas No.1 singles) used to run a Rock music night in Wickford.
- "TGN Full Record Display, English (Getty Research)". Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- O'Flanagan J. Roderick Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland London 1870
- "Wickford Masterplan 2005". Basildon Council. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
- "Basildon Council accepts sole bidder for Wickford masterplan tender". Echo. 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
- "Masterplan - the current total". Wickford Action Group. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- "Masterplan - the current total". Wickford action Group. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- "Fears for Wickford". Echo. 2007-03-26. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- "Wickford Masterplan may be put back again". Echo News. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
- "WICKFORD: Builders vow flats plan will go ahead". This Is Total Essex.co.uk. 2009-05-12. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
- "WICKFORD: 1,500-man jail to be built at hospital". This Is Total Essex.co.uk. 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- "BILLERICAY AND WICKFORD: Titan prison could open on your doorstep". This Is Total Essex.co.uk. 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- "Battle lines drawn over Wickford prison plan". Echo. 2009-05-02. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- O'Flanagan J. Roderick Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland London 1870
- Basildon District Council - Early History of Wickford
- Guardian Unlimited - Candidates have same Essex ancestor