Thursday 10 May 2012

VE Day at Eastbury House

Eastbury as it looked before the estate was built
On Saturday I took the family to a local National Trust property just a couple of miles from where I live. Eastbury Manor House is a Tudor country house completed about 1573, now set in the midst of a housing estate in the East London Suburbs.

Until about 80 years ago Eastbury Manor House was indeed a country home with its own gardens and parkland. The rapid expansion of London's Suburbs in the latter half of the 19th Century had finally reached out as far as Barking and in the 1920's and 1930's farmland was turned over to the vast new housing estates of Barking and Dagenham. The house is now surrounded on all sides by terraced housing and survives as a strange juxtaposition of the old and the new.

Although maintained by the National Trust the house serves very much as a hub for community based events, weddings and special exhibitions. They have re-enactment days throughout the year where figures from the house's Elizabethan past explain the history and heritage to visitors. Eastbury is significant not just because it is a rare survivor but also because key elements of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 took place here. Daniel Defoe wrote in 1727 that...
"A little beyond the town, on the road to Dagenham, stood a great house, antient, and now almost fallen down, where tradition says the Gunpowder Treason Plot was at first contriv'd, and that all the first consultations about it were held there."
There is some evidence to support this claim but the truth may never fully be revealed as all the conspirators that were caught were tortured and executed and if any did evade capture they were understandably cautious about revealing the truth of their involvement.

Veterans of Bomber Command signing books
We have visited the house many times before for special events and this time it was for a VE Day weekend. Throughout the house there were exhibitors with collections of WWII weapons and other memorabilia. There were also several RAF Veterans of Bomber Command at the event talking to visitors and signing books. These old gentlemen must all be in their 80's but they are still full of vigour and all have plenty of stories to tell. One fellow told me with a twinkle in his eye that he enjoyed his time in the RAF because the smart blue uniform was good for getting girls!

I also met the author Richard Smith (who I know from similar events at the Purfleet Heritage Centre) and bought his latest book, a Pictorial history of RAF Duxford. This is a fascinating collection of pictures from the sites first beginnings in WWI, through the second world war and into the Jet age.

I didn't take a vast number of pictures because I took the time instead to talk with the exhibitors and the Veterans. However some of the more interesting ones are shown below and the full set can be viewed here.

Toy soldiers cast in lead, dated about 1935-40
Civil Defence Corps armband and Whistle
Vickers Machine Gun
Wartime Newspapers
Civilian gas mask


  1. Very cool.. to have so much history and the ability to chat with those that were there.. just great mate..

  2. Always something interesting here. Another great post. Thanks fella.

  3. An excellent set of pics and a great place to visit, I went there a couple of years ago.


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