Debden History - 50 Years On

Debden's Clubs and Societies

Moving to the new estate in Debden meant leaving family and friends behind and sometimes new residents complained they had little to do, other than walk in the fresh Loughton air. 

Moving meant that the old friendship networks were no longer around, and that families and friends had been left behind in Dagenham or London's East End.

Many men discovered the miseries of the daily commute back into London and women often felt isolated. 

As one respondent put it, it was all too easy to feel that they had moved to an 'alien land', surrounded by beautiful forest and fields, but without any of the previously enjoyed conveniences, such as having shops and schools close by. 

"Oh mum got fit, alright. She had to walk into Loughton for the shops, the school, and for almost everything else. Nobody had a car in those days."

One solution to the isolation and loneliness was the Church, and one in particular welcomed the incomers as soon as they began to move in.  

Then there was the Oakwood, a prefabricated pub in Oakwood Hill that could seat 100 people. Mrs Mills used to play there before she became famous, and it was a welcome way for new residents to meet new people and while away an evening or two.

It did not take too long before people started to organise their own activities. For example, s
ports of different kinds not only occupied young minds, it also enabled fathers and husbands to find a predominantly male only space.

The Debden Sports Association was created in 1955 by amalgamating the Debden Cricket Club and the Football Club.

Gerald Lionel Bernstock started the Cricket Club, and by 1954 it was running three elevens.

The Football Club was perhaps less successful, but nevertheless the newly formed Sports Association enabled men of all ages to play the games that they loved near to their own homes, when the pitch was not waterlogged, of course. 


Loughton Hall, which is now a care home, was built in  1878 by Eden Nesfield, and was acquired for the Debden community in 1949 for £11,000. The red brick Grade II listed building which stood in 12.75 acres of land quickly became the local 'community centre'. 

Loughton Hall's activities ranged from from school classes and clinic appointments, to synagogue services, political meetings and evening classes. 

The evening classes were extremely popular. You can see the kinds of courses on offer, to the left.

I have met many people who fell in love at Loughton Hall, and then went on to hold their wedding receptions there. 

The Debden Community Association and the Debden Horticultural Society often worked together and their collaboration led to the Debden Fair and Carnival in 1954.

The Fair Diary on 1956 included a Carnival Procession starting at Wellfields, organised by J.R. Thompson who lived at 54 Wellfields.

There was also an Art Show, a Band Concert led by the Chingford Pipe Band, a children's talent competition  and a Grand Carnival Social and Dance. 

The 1956 Debden Carnival Queen in the picture on the left was Patricia Renwick and her two attendants were Rita Guest and Frances Herbert.

Do you remember them? Is this you? If so, please get in touch. 


I was always involved in anything outside, so I joined the cubs at the tender age of eight (10 Epping Forest troop ). They had a purpose built club house at the bottom of `Alderton Hall Lane` by the railway arch backing onto the school playing fields, my old infant and junior school. The scout hut alas is no longer there, great times were had there and Gilwell Park (Chingford )  

When I was eleven I went to Fairmead School in Pyrles Lane and joined the youth club that was held there after school.  I became a keen member of the drama group going on to do some work for the ITV schools programmes organised by the club and Mr Garrard, the English teacher ran the group. 

As a teenager I went to the Methodist Youth Club in Mannock Drive and then to the Methodist Youth Club in Loughton.  The youth club was vital as there was nothing else to do and we eagerly awaited the next dance or bank holiday hike.  I think us kids from Debden realised that we were not of the same social standing as the kids from Loughton as there was and still is a stigma attached to living on a council estate.  Sometimes our club would join forces with the club from St. Mary’s Church but on the whole they were a lot posher than us.  Len Murray, the ex-union boss, was our youth leader and I have very fond memories of him.   It was an excellent youth club and probably the only place where we could meet kids of our own age.  Because of the happy memories I had of his youth club, I volunteered with my husband to run our church youth club, which we did for over 10 years.  

A lot of us used to be involved in children’s clubs, they used to be run by a fella named Dave Stannard, he and his helpers would take the kids off the street into school halls on a couple of evenings a week hired by the hour and play games, the idea had religious overtones, which wasn’t a bad idea at the time. We took them on holidays to Devon and such places. Had some good memories. I think just about every kid on Debden estate went at least once to the clubs some stayed forever.

© Sue Taylor

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