silk river

Batanagar & East Tilbury


Batanagar was established in 1934 by Czechoslovak industrialist Tomas Bata when he built his first shoe factory in India. Still in production today, most of the factories employees still live in the surrounding area of the specially built ‘Bata-ville’. Its location next to the river and its proximity to Kolkata has attracted real estate developers to build a new township at Batanagar.

The Bata factory has multiple capabilities and produces a wide variety of shoes. Apart from the factory, shoe making is also a predominant cottage industry and several homes have a small shoe manufacturing unit.

A little known fact about this town is that it has been home to several great footballers who played at the national and international levels. It is common to still find boys playing a game of football in the vast grounds.

The landscape of this area is rapidly changing with the proposed satellite township development and high rise apartments are replacing the older Bata houses.

East Tilbury

Partner: Bata Heritage Centre

Built in 1932 the Bata shoe factory in East Tilbury is what remains of an industrial estate which produced shoes for over 70 years. The plant shut in 2005. Now the area forms part of the Thames Gateway redevelopment zone which is expected to provide 14,000 homes and 20,000 jobs. The Bata Heritage Centre in East Tilbury promotes the substantial social and architectural legacy left by Bata in the area. They keep the memory of Bata alive through guided tours, lectures and an exhibition space within East Tilbury library. They also work closely with other heritage sites in the area including Coalhouse Fort, built to defend the Thames, and St Catherine’s Church, which marks a historically significant pilgimage route to Kent.

There is a Bata connection to Kolkata as the company also built a workers factory and settlement there in Batanagar. With Batanagar under threat, we are interested in preserving any connections with India so that this memory is not lost.

Through the Silk River project the Bata Heritage Centre hope to raise the international connections and profile of East Tilbury as a surviving and thriving modernist village built by Bata – one of many across the world.