The Bata Factory and planned village in East Tilbury

In 1932, Tomas Bata, a Czech industrialist, began construction of a shoe factory on a marshland site in East Tilbury. Tomas himself died in the same year in a plane crash, but the ethos of his company was continued by his sons. The Bata Shoe company took a paternalistic attitude towards its workers. It provided housing, recreation and entertainment in addition to employment. For example, the Bata cinema was opened in the 1930s. The cinema ceased operating in 1965, but after refurbishment it remains in use as the East Tilbury Village Hall.

The Bata estate is a rare example of integrated residential estate and garden spaces in 1930s eastern European style created to house the workers of the British Bata Shoe Company and echoing the layout of the company's primary location in Zlin, Czech Republic. Further amenities including a memorial park and a garden dedicated to the founder of the company have been added later. The Bata estate is built on approximately six hundred acres of farmland purchased from a Mr William Wilson of St Clere's Hall, East Tilbury. Bata's intention was to build 'a garden town, full of sunshine, water and green grass'. Typical of urban planning in Bata towns was the chequerboard layout where semi/detached dwellings were located at alternate ends of a garden securing maximum green space around each property. All houses were constructed with a private garden while the majority of roads were bordered by trees or hedges. The construction of driveways within front gardens was forbidden with garages provided at the end of each road. Buildings such as the Bata Hotel and Cinema had well maintained gardens although in the case of the Bata Hotel, much of the garden has given way to car parking.

Although in gradual decline from the 1980s, the shoe factory continued operating until 2005. Thurrock Council designated the East Tilbury (Bata) Conservation Area in 1993.

The designed landscape and gardens of the Bata estate were included in Historic Landscapes of Essex, Inventory, Part VII, Designed Landscapes of Thurrock published by The Essex Gardens Trust in 2022.

The Factory            The Tomas Bata's Statue           The Bata Heritage Centre