The Transport Revolution
The Industrial Revolution brought great improvements to communications in the east of England. This had been a region of poor roads and a few navigable rivers. Sea transport was often the fastest and easiest means of access.
Trade in the north was dominated by Norwich and in the south by London. By 1800 most main roads had been
adopted by Turnpike trusts, making road transport by horse or foot slightly easier and more reliable. The canal age saw rivers such as the Chelmer, Nene and Stour improved by Navigation Companies, allowing barges to reach furtherinland, delivering essential raw materials like coal and pig iron. From the 1840s main line railways linked the principal towns to London and entirely altered the economy of the east of England.
The lines were built by entrepreneurs, such as Sir Morton Peto, Peter Bruff and Thomas Brassey. The workers lived with their families in temporary villages and in summer many left to help with the harvests.The railways fostered growth in heavy industries, such as engineering and chemicals, which clustered in the region’s railway towns like Colchester, Peterborough, Ipswich and Norwich.
Lorries powered by the internal combustion engine were quicker and simpler than the railways and were able to make use of existing roads. Until very recently, the major vehicle manufacturers Vauxhall and Ford employed people in large numbers at their factories in Luton and Dagenham.