East Tilbury is one of the most important planned landscapes in the East of England. It was built by the Czech Tomas Bata to provide both work and housing in a garden village setting. The Bata Museum and Reminicence Centre is located at East Tilbury Library in the midst of the Bata Estate. Tomas Bata visited England in 1929 to find a site for a new factory. He had already built factories and towns in many other countries.
Known as the Czech Henry Ford, he adapted American mass production methods to traditional shoe-making. The layout and buildings at East Tilbury are based on the BATA factories and estate at Zlin in the Czech republic, where the company originated.BATA became one of the most successful companies in the world.
The first factory building at East Tilbury opened in 1933, and the first Bata houses in Bata Avenue were built the same year. They were set in gardens in a chequerboard pattern to encourage more healthy living. Tomas Bata was strongly influenced by the layout of homes in Letchworth Garden City, in Hertfordshire. It was a break from the terrace housing of the Victorian period. As well as housing for Bata employees, the company constructed a hotel (now Stanford House) and Cinema which can still be seen. An open air swimming pool was also built but this has now been demolished.
The Bata factory is in a Modernist style known as Constructivism. Tomas Bata studied American building methods and encouraged his architects to develop a fast method of construction using a steel frame and infills of concrete or brick. The basic layout could be adapted to any type of production. The East Tilbury factories were designed by Vladimir Karfik who also worked with the famous architects Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.
In April 1993 the Estate and Factory became designated as a Conservation Area with strict controls on building alterations and development. The BATA factory in East Tilbury ceased production in March 2005. The Bata Reminiscence and Resource Centre was opened in April 2002 by Mrs Sheila Plampton who was the first baby born on the Bata Estate. Located within the local library it houses the memories of the people who have been a part of this community, as well as photographs and artifacts donated by them. Since its opening the Bata Reminiscence and Resource Centre has gone from strength to strength and the collection has grown rapidly. It was soon realised that we could not single out the life and times of the people of the Bata Community at East Tilbury as they were very closely connected with Bata communities in both the UK and the rest of the world.