Humble Beginnings

1935 saw the completion of some 25,000 homes in Dagenham to take the overspill from East London. They were built for the London County Council to provide cheap rented accommodation for the people of the poorer areas of East London. Unemployment was very high as there were very few firms sited in the area. Fords opened in 1930/31, but a large percentage of their workers were brought in from Southern Ireland, Manchester and Wales. There were a lot of open spaces, but very few organised games.

1935 Ford Dagenham aerial view
Kickabouts

Because of the many young unemployed with nothing to do, kick-abouts in open areas took place around Meadow Road and Terrace Walk. Coats were put down for goals, scratch teams were made up and matches played on Sunday afternoon. A local businessman saw the enthusiasm from the boys and decided to do something about it. A meeting of interested parties was held, a Trophy was put up, medals bought and the Becontree Simister League was formed.

There were no changing rooms, no nets or corner flags and pitch markings were not all they could have been. The new League could not affiliate to the Essex County Football Association, as County FA’s did not recognise Sunday Football. Players who played for a Saturday side had to play under assumed names or risk being suspended ‘sine die’. Referees were in the same position, and any players sent off, or cautioned were dealt with, by the Disciplinary Committee of the League.

Dagenham History Archive
World War II

Unfortunately the League had hardly established itself when, along came World War II The Parks were turned into anti-aircraft gun sites and with most young people becoming involved in the war effort and going into the services, very little football was played. Any games played involved a local services side or A.R.P. sides, although as the records show, the League Division one was won by Brook Old Boys in 1938/39.

Post War

In 1946 things started to return to normal, Parks were being returned for public use. But Sunday football was still not recognised by the Essex County FA. Large crowds however went to the parks to watch games. In fact, in Mayesbrook Park on Sunday mornings, a rope had to be put around the pitch, as a crowd of 300 to 400 was common in 1947.The Premier Cup was competed for and was won by Coleman Utd.

In 1955/56 Sunday Football was finally recognised by Essex County FA. This allowed us to change our name after a Council of Clubs meeting held at the Rio Cinema. It was agreed we all ourselves the Essex Sunday Football Combination The Combination was to consist of no more than 96 teams who must all play within a 10-mile radius of the Dagenham Civic Centre.

Typical local estates that formed the basis of the ESFC

All Committee meetings were held at the Dagenham British Legion headquarters in Rectory Road. Council meeting were held dining room suite at the Rio Cinema in Barking. Cup Finals were played at Old Dagenham Town FC at Glebe Rd, or at Rainham Working Mans Club in Rainham.