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The importance of the Community Association

Two organisations, the Tenants’ Association and the Community Association, have played prominent roles in Harold Hill over the decades.

The Harold Hill Community Association

The Harold Hill Community Association began at a meeting sponsored by the London Council of Social Service in February 1953 when 150 tenants gathered to discuss the possibility of opening a community centre. Gooshays Farm House was put forward as one prospect. In May, the same number of residents turned out again to see the adoption of a constitution for the Community Association, the objectives being: to promote the wellbeing of the community by a common effort to further health, advance education and stimulate physical, intellectual and moral development; to foster a community spirit; to assist in the maintenance and the management of a community centre; to operate in a non-political and non-sectarian way.

There was a battle between the Working Men’s Club and the Community Association over the use of Gooshays Farm, which also included a straw-roofed 18th century barn, the biggest in Essex. The Community Association won, with the opposing group moving into the Red House (situated near Noak Hill, this continued as a Working Men’s Club until the 1990s).

Mr R.J. Frost, part-time warden and Broadford school teacher, announced: ‘It will take a long time to get the Association running smoothly, but when we do, it will be of great benefit to the residents of the estate.’

Familiarly, the following week’s Romford Times reported that the building had been vandalised, this time by Teddy boys.

By the summer of 1956 the Community Association had a total of 218 individual members, with 15 affiliated organisations. Their magazine, Farm House News, had a circulation of 1,000, while every room in the Gooshays Farm House was fully booked daily during the week with classes such as needlework and motorcycle maintenance.

By 1957, however, the membership had dropped to 130, with a corresponding decline in enthusiasm; five years after starting, it looked in terminal decline.

Typical of the dedication of the small minority of activists, 22 people went out to knock on doors and recruited 256 new members. The chairman of the Community Association said: ‘We visited 777 houses in selected areas. On average, each canvasser has spent 40 evenings or Sundays going from door to door explaining our aims. They have done a wonderful job.’

By 1959 that had risen to 500 members, and from there continued years of pressurising the authorities to build the community centre, which was finally built in the mid-1960s.

Hundreds of estates and towns had their own Community Association.