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Uncovered video shows moment in South Woodham Ferrers past

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: January 07, 2013

  • AERIAL VIEW: South Woodham Ferrers from above in 1981 Picture from South Woodham Ferrers Local History Society

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AN ESSEX Record Office worker has unearthed an old promotional video of South Woodham Ferrers from the 1980s.

Sound Archivist Martin Astell found the tape gathering dust in a box in the Colchester study library, before deciding to upload it to YouTube.

The five minute long film was made in 1981 by the Essex Educational Film Unit in a bid to lure people into the new town development.

Within a week it had attracted over 4,000 hits as it conjured up fond memories for people who were attracted to the history of the town.

It even includes an original song by unknown Canvey Island band, Right Hand Man, chosen by a panel of judges, including former Radio 1 DJ, Tony Blackburn.

"Essex Educational Film Unit normally made educational videos for schools about fossils or Maldon salt, so this was very much an anomaly," said Mr Astell.

"But because South Woodham Ferrers was the county council's project, it makes sense why they would have done all they could to promote it.

"I decided to put it onto YouTube after I got a Twitter request from @SouthWoodham who were wondering if there was a jingle for South Woodham Ferrers.

"I told them there was no jingle but they could certainly have a listen to this song.

"It is indeed catchy, and memorable but let's just say it's of it's time.

"I think it is an important piece of history for South Woodham Ferrers, I really doubt there are many new towns that have been documented in this way."

The video is part of a longer 23 minute promotional film which includes interviews with the principle development officer and the secretary of South Woodham's history society.

Local historian for South Woodham Ferrers, John Frankland, was working for Essex County Council's planning department in 1972 when the development was to go ahead.

Mr Frankland said: "It really was a team effort with both architects and planners working together.

"Essex County Council really were trail blazers in the sense that they were trying out a new way of designing houses as part of the 1973 Essex Design Guide.

"If I remember correctly Essex County Council was allowed to borrow the largest chunk of the £80 million set aside by central government to use for development, around £14 million I think.

"The area around South Woodham Ferrers in the early 1970s was an area of scattered properties, unmade roads, under-used land, scrubland and low quality agricultural land, so it was suitable for this kind of project, especially as the railway line provided good access to London.

"The majority of the people it attracted came from communities on the east side of London, and it increased the town's population from 4,000 to 17,500.

"From what I remember it was a very effective video which was used at exhibitions and public shows – it definitely does capture a moment in time."

County Councillor Jeremy Lucas, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Environment and Culture said: "I remember the development project that surrounded South Woodham Ferrers back in the early '80s and find it fascinating to watch the film again now.

"The ERO stores a lot of our Essex history and whether it's online at Essex Ancestors.co.uk or in the Searchroom, the ERO is a great place to start your family history search."

Anyone interested in viewing the full version can visit the Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, and put in a Searchroom request.

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