“Irish Row” – a history

Friday 1 March 2024

Mark Gorman continues his series on pre-suburban farms in Forest Gate and district (first episode here) by looking at the inhabitants and conditions in Irish Row during the 19th century. In doing so, he updates and elaborates on an earlier feature we ran on the area (here). The detailed story below is a testimony to the dire conditions and poverty endured by local agricultural workers 150 years ago.

 Where was "Irish Row"?

The exact location of Irish Row is elusive. It seems most likely that the name was attached to a group of buildings on what is now the corner of Romford Road, Balmoral Road and Katherine Road in Forest Gate. Irish Row has also been assumed to be the name given to a group of cottages on the north side of Romford Road, the site of which became stables in the late 19th century and is occupied today by a monumental mason. However, the evidence is far from clear. "Irish Row" appears in newspaper reports, census returns and official records, but seems to have been applied in different ways to the buildings grouped together around the junction of the road from Stratford to Ilford and Plashet Lane (sometimes called Red Post Lane) which is today's Katherine Road, stretching to Gipsy Lane (Green Street today).

The cottages on the north side of present-day Romford Road appear as “Ebor Cottages” on the contemporary OS maps. These were sold in 1845 as 8 brick-built cottages “with good gardens in front of the High road”, part of the Greenhill estate (which also included Woodgrange Farm). Ebor Cottages appear (in an 1864 notebook recording the perambulation of West Ham parish boundaries) as Farey’s Cottages, although Samuel Farey, a local surveyor, who lived in The Grove at Stratford, may only have owned one or two, perhaps bought in the 1845 sale. 

The 1865 OS 25" map shows only two of the "Ebor Cottages" in existence at that time, but this cannot be correct, as other OS maps of the same period show more houses on this site. (Ordnance Survey revisions did not always keep up with the rapidly changing local geography).

The 1841 census does not clarify the Irish Row question. Its entries for the houses south of the road to Romford appear to be working from west to east, but begin with William Maxwell, the farmer who was a tenant of Plashet Hall and Farm, which would suggest that the enumerator was working the other way! It then lists dwellings called "Irish Row Ramsden's Cottages" (possibly after Joseph Ramsden, a farmer in the small village of Plashet to the south who may have been the leaseholder - he certainly was the tenant of a field south of Romford road). The next group of houses is listed as "Irish Row", the "Upper Irish Row Ramsden's Cottages", after which come Sun Row and Sun Buildings. The list confusingly ends with Plashet Hall, the recorded occupant of which, William Streatfield, lived in the hamlet of Plashet, half a mile south. It is possible that the census enumerator was not working methodically, and loosely applying local names to dwellings.

This 25-inch Ordnance Survey map was one of several editions published in the 1860s. It shows only some of the cottages called Ebor Cottages. Other editions published at about this time show a longer group of dwellings. All tenements on the south side of the main road and King Harry Row down to Plashet Lane are show

By the 1860's a terrace and pub or beer-house (the "King Harry") had been built along Plashet Lane called King Harry Row. These were said to abut Irish Row and Sun Row, which stretched along Romford Road. In the 1861 census Sun Row is divided into an eastern and western section, with a group of cottages (Prospect Cottages, which still exists today) and a larger building called Prospect House in between. Another cluster of buildings, Orchard Place, also appears, and in 1891 an Orchard Alley is listed, as is "Sun Row Buildings" which in 1892 were described as being at the back of Sun Row. A discussion at a meeting of the local Board of Health in that year seems to indicate that it was well known that tenements crowded in behind those facing the main road had existed for half a century or more (Barking, East Ham etc Advertiser, 20 February 1892).

So Irish Row as almost certainly a group of tenements between Plashet Lane and Gipsy Lane. Probably the most reliable records of its location are the tithe apportionment map and entries of 1838. These list Sun Row and Prospect Row as two lines of "tenements under one roof" between Plashet Lane and Gipsy Lane. This suggests that the term "Row" was applied to a terrace of houses, in which case Irish Row would have had to be on the south side of Romford Road, since Ebor/Farey's Cottages on the north side were clearly individual dwellings.

The 1838 tithe map (Source: The Genealogist)  - see appendix for details of owners and occupiers. King Harry Row and Prospect Cottages were not yet built. In the 1841 census the occupants of plot no. 23 above are listed as living in “Irish Row Ramsden’s Cottages”. Joseph Ramsden was the tenant of plot no. 30 in the tithe records, suggesting that Irish Row was part of his property.

All this may reflect the fact that this group of tenements in multiple occupancy was very difficult to define, and defeated the best attempts of officialdom to clarify who was living where. Irish Row may have been a name applied both to a specific group of dwellings and a generic name for a rural slum which occupied this corner for most of the 19th century.

"Irish Row" and its inhabitants

Origins

These tenements existed over most of the 19th century; they were first occupied in the early 1800s, and were still in use in the early 1890s.  Although relatively little evidence survives of the lives of those who lived in Irish Row and the surrounding tenements throughout the 19th century the six censuses taken between 1841 and 1891 give some idea of their lives, as do occasional reports in the press.

That Irish migrants were the early occupiers is demonstrated by the 1841 census. Of the 48 household heads 29 were Irish born, as were 18 of their wives. They seem to have been a relatively settled community; of the 112 children living there 105 were locally born, with just 5 being born in Ireland. The ages of the children indicate that 14 families had lived locally since at least 1830, with 8 having probably arrived before the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Ten years later only 11 out of 37 household heads were Irish born, and more than half of these had already arrived in south-west Essex by the late 1830s. None of the 128 children in the 1851 census were born in Ireland, indicating that at least in this small farming community there had been very few incomers as a result of the Irish famine. In 1861 just 6 out of 52 household heads were Irish born, and all of these were long-term residents in the area. This pattern continues through until the last census (1891) before the demolition of the tenements, with evidence of very few arrivals. In the 1850s for example there may have been about half a dozen migrants, judging by the ages of their locally born children in the 1871 census.

Nevertheless, connections with Ireland seem to have been maintained; Irish surnames appear even among those who were born and grew up locally and the 1871 census lists one couple where Forest Gate-born Cornelius Hays had married Catherine Chidle in Ireland in 1856. Since she was born in Cork and the marriage took place in Cashel, Tipperary, it seems likely that Cornelius had his own family connections in Ireland. James and David Barry, both in their forties and both Irish born, lived with their families at 6 and 7 Orchard Place. All their children were born in East Ham, and their ages indicate that James and David (possibly brothers) had arrived in the 1850s. James’ wife Johanna was born in Ireland, but David’s wife Anne was from East Ham.  Perhaps one brother had paved the way to East Ham for the other. James Barry’s household included an Irish-born widower, also called James Barry, who was perhaps a cousin. From 1841 onwards a number of households contained Irish-born relatives (ageing parents as well as members of extended families) and lodgers.

Over the half century from 1841 to 1891 the number and proportion of locally-born household heads remained fairly constant at about half of the total. Incomers were predominantly from the south-east of England with a handful of Londoners. Irish Row must have been enlivened by the presence of the well over 100 children recorded in each census until 1881, and there were still over 50 children in 1891, when the number of households had fallen to 31. 

Two out of the three Prospect Cottages in 2023. They stood between the terraces of Sun Row East and West.

Employment

For much of its existence, Irish Row was occupied by farm labourers and their families. In 1841 nearly 70% (33 of 48) of the households were headed by an agricultural worker, rising to 78% (32 of 41) in 1851, and peaking at 80% (42 of 52) by 1861. Thereafter the percentage fell to a still substantial 69% (41 of 59) in 1871, but then declined dramatically to 6% (4 of 66) in 1881 and 12% in 1891 (4 of 31). The 1850s may have been the best years for the inhabitants of Irish Row. Not only were most male household heads working on local farms, a few of their wives (6 out of 50) were also farm workers, while others were orange sellers, a dressmaker, a “small shopkeeper” and a housekeeper. In fact the census may not give an accurate picture of the true involvement of whole families in farm labour; for instance on William Adams’ Plashet Hall Farm, where many Irish Row inhabitants were employed, families worked in groups on pulling, cleaning and bunching vegetables for market. (Essex Herald, 24 Jan 1865).

Between 1841 and 1891 the number and range of occupations other than agriculture rose significantly, though manual labourers were still the predominant group in the 1880s. As we have seen, farm work had however declined significantly by this time. Over the period the number of artisans, shopkeepers and factory workers rose gradually and by the 1880s a wide range of occupations were listed. In 1851 Prospect House on the Romford Road was a tambour lace factory staffed by girls from St George’s parish in Southwark, presumably farmed out by the parish to earn a living. Tambour lace was a method of decorating net by using a tambour hook and a frame. It was an Essex cottage industry centred on Coggeshall, and it is not clear what lace work the girls at Prospect House were doing. The trade was at its peak about 1850, but then declined as fashions changed and machine production came in. By 1861 the tambour lace makers were gone from Prospect House.  Behind King Harry Row was an “animal charcoal” factory, where for over two decades the bones of slaughtered horses were boiled down to produce fertiliser and other by-products, providing employment for some living in the tenements.

Living conditions

Throughout their existence these dwellings were barely fit for habitation. A graphic - if prejudiced - description of a visit to Irish Row about the year 1810 is in a memoir of the Quaker philanthropist Elizabeth Fry, who lived in the hamlet of Plashet, to the south of Romford Road (Cresswell, F: A Memoir of Elizabeth Fry (1886) pp 43-44):

"About half a mile from Plashet, on the road between Stratford and Ilford, the passer-by will find two long row of houses, with one larger one in the centre, if possible more dingy than the rest. At that time they were both squalid and dirty. Windows stuffed with old rags, or pasted over with brown paper, and the few remaining panes of glass refusing to perform their intended office from the accumulated dust of years; puddles of thick black water before the doors; children without shoes or stocking; mothers, whose matted locks escaped from remnants of caps which looked as though they could never have been white; pigs, on terms of most comfortable familiarity with the family; poultry, sharing the children's potatoes - all bespoke an Irish colony."

Little changed over the succeeding decades. Looking back over half a century in the early 1890s the chairman of the East Ham Local Board of Health recalled that in the 1840s-50s: "they have ten to twelve in a room ... there were two of them that had as many as fifty or sixty in the house at night. They used to take them in a penny-a-night". Even allowing for exaggeration, this seems to fit with the general pattern of occupation of these tenements. The census returns show many houses subdivided, with numerous "boarders" and relatives sharing accommodation, which was probably common practice locally. In a case heard at Ilford Petty Sessions in 1829 an unemployed Irish labourer declared that when he took in lodgers at the house he rented in Barking, they slept in the same room as his wife and family.

In 1853 the Essex Standard named Irish Row among a number of localities in West Ham where open sewers and cesspools were breeding grounds for disease, warned of the advent of cholera if no action were taken, and called for the establishment of a Local Board of Health. The following year there was a serious outbreak of cholera in West Ham.

Ten years later cases of typhus fever were reported in one house in Ebor Cottages, and the report noted that it had been endemic here and across the road in Sun Row for years. Although typhus is an animal-born disease, the prevalence here was ascribed to open sewers near the houses, about which the now-established Local Board of Health had done nothing. The houses, noted the report, were occupied by poor Irish families. In 1867 The Inspector of Nuisances finally served a notice on the landlord Samuel Farey to drain the cesspool and lay water on Ebor Cottages, but four years on the problem persisted, despite Farey's assurances that he had addressed them.  

Ebor Cottages, shown in the notes of the 1864 perambulation of West Ham Parish boundaries as Farey’s Cottages. The broken line marks the perambulation along the West Ham Parish boundary. “Gipsy Lane” (or Campbell Road) is Green Street today

In February 1871 an inquest was held over the death of Mary Ann Bailey, who lived with her bricklayer husband James in King Harry Row, a line of tenements which stretched down what was then called Plashet Lane (now Katherine Road). Reports of the inquest gave graphic descriptions of the conditions in which the family lived, showing that nothing had changed since Elizabeth Fry’s time.

“The house was one of a row of miserable hovels, abutting on Irish Row. Dark, low pitched, and mouldy rooms, bare of almost any furniture and exhibiting traces on every hand of the greatest poverty. In this den were crowded ten little children, five of whom had belonged to the deceased, and five belonged to a lodger.  The hungry-looking little things were but half clothed, and the whole abode wore an aspect of misery”. (Essex Times 25 Feb 1871).

Landlords and tenants

These tenements were owned by several landlords. By the 1860s the biggest landlords were the Oldaker family, who owned properties throughout East Ham and Ilford, and Stephen Carey, who owned the whole of King Harry Row, which consisted of 20 tenements, each of four rooms with gardens behind. There was also a pub, the King Harry. When the tenements were sold in 1876 they were yielding £220 a year in rent, with the pub providing another £25.

Another group of smaller-scale landlords typically had three properties each, possibly bought from the Oldakers as investments for a small income. In the late 1860s, for example, three owners each had three of the Sun Row tenements, charging £4 10s rent a year. At least two of these owners may have been widows. Meanwhile as we have seen Samuel Farey owned at least two of the cottages on the north side of the Romford road, bought in the sale of Woodgrange Farm in 1845, for which he was charging an annual rent of £6 10s. 

 

Carey’s factory was sold in 1876, but the business continued for a number of years. This advertisement is from 1888.

In addition to King Harry Row, Stephen Carey also owned the “animal charcoal factory”, a knacker’s yard where horse bones were boiled down, located behind King Harry Row and Sun Row. The factory produced fertiliser or “chemical manure” for local farms and a number of the tenants in Sun Row worked there. Carey obviously took his business seriously, having taken out patents on improved apparatus for “reburning animal charcoal” in the 1860s. Nevertheless some idea of the local impact of this factory may be had from the advertisement when it was sold in 1876, describing the property as “just outside the radius within which obnoxious businesses are prohibited”. A complaint about the “horse boiling” works was made to the East Ham Board of Health in 1878, and though it was stated that the nuisance had been removed the factory was still located there ten years later.

It is also notable that on the other side of Plashet Lane from King Harry Row was Plashet Hall (Potato Hall) the home of various large-scale tenant farmers during the nineteenth century. In the 1860s-70s William Adams and later his son, also William, had the tenancy of Plashet Hall Farm. In the early 1860s William senior employed more than 100 farm-workers, most of whom probably lived in the slums grouped around the corner of Plashet Lane and Romford Road. The Adams family would have looked out over the Irish Row tenements from their front windows.

The last years of Irish Row

Right up until their demolition the tenements clustered around Plashet Lane were in a wretched condition. In February 1892 the East Ham Board of Health heard from its “Outdoor Committee” about their inspection of Sun Row Buildings, which appeared to have been cottages at the rear of Sun Row itself, and may have been converted from wash-houses. The committee found the cottages “in a dilapidated state, and the w-c very damp from defective roof and flushing apparatus, and the approach to the cottage very dirty”. They recommended serving notice on the owners to make repairs. The landlord, J.W. Oldaker, wrote expressing surprise at the Medical Officer’s report, declaring that he would never allow his cottages to become unfit for habitation. In a justification familiar to slum landlords everywhere he then blamed everything on a single female tenant who would not leave despite receiving notice to quit, and was drunk and abusive. Oldaker concluded that the cottages were a bargain at 1s 9d a week.

Nevertheless the Board, having heard that the tenant had been removed to hospital, accepted the report. Some members wanted to go further and condemn the tenements, which were “an eyesore to the parish”, but one, Elias Keys, countered that though they were in bad condition they could be made habitable. Since (according to the 1881 census) Keys’ income came from “house property” this may have been a case of landlords sticking together. 

 

25-inch OS map (1897). The tenements along Romford Road had been demolished, though Prospect House & Cottages remained. King Harry Row was still standing in Plashet Lane/Red Post Lane but Ebor Cottages had been replaced by stables. The animal charcoal factory was now a smelting works.

The urbanisation of the area increased rapidly towards the end of the century. By the mid-1890s Sun Row had been demolished, and the “animal charcoal” works was also gone, replaced by a smelting works, which itself was the subject of an inspection by the Board of Health due to its smoke emissions. King Harry Row survived for some time longer, but by 1914 it too had disappeared.

 

The 1910 Valuation Office Survey, the so-called “Lloyd-George Domesday” survey, showing Ebor Cottages replaced by a row of stables

The site of Ebor Cottages may still be seen today in Balmoral Road, now a monumental mason’s premises, though the existing buildings were constructed as stables, which would have replaced the cottages. Prospect Cottages on Romford Road, which stood between what may have been two terraces forming Sun Row, also survive today.

 Appendix

Sun Row etc in Tithe Apportionment records

 


 Date

Plot number

Owner

Occupier

April 1838

14 “Sun Field”

Executors of William Wickham Greenhill

William Maxwell

April 1838

15 “Paddock”

Now John Inyr Burges Esquire

George Lord

April 1838

16 “Rising Sun Inn & stables”

Now John Inyr Burges Esquire

George Lord

April 1838

17 “meadow”

Executors of William Wickham Greenhill
William Maxwell

April 1838

18 “Mansion and garden” (Plashet Hall)

Executors of William Wickham Greenhill
William Maxwell

April 1838

19 “Homestead”

Executors of William Wickham Greenhill

William Maxwell

April 1838

20 “Paddock”

John Dyer

John Dyer

April 1838

21 “Sun Row consisting of 12 tenements under 1 roof with yards” & “Sun Buildings behind the above consisting of 4 tenements under 1 roof with yards”

 

 

Executors of William Scoffins

Cornelius Sullivan Daniel Mahony Edward Castle  Eleanor Chard  George Smith  James Broker Jeremiah Driscoll  John Mullin Mary Murray Michael Michael Chard  Michael Stabbs Richard Westley Sarah Linnard Thomas Deller William Slater

April 1838

22 “Orchard”

John Dyer

John Dyer

April 1838

23 listed as “Irish Row Ramsden’s Cottages”* in 1841 census

John Dyer

John Cocks & Joseph Baker

April 1838

24 “House & garden”

John Dyer

John Dyer

April 1838

25 “malthouse”

John Dyer

John Dyer

April 1838

26 “beer shop & shed”

John Dyer

Matthew Guerrier

April 1838

27 “Prospect Row consisting of 12 tenements under 1 roof with yards”

Executors of William Scoffins

2 Unoccupied David Barry Dennis Kilfray James Cain James Hagan James Mahony John Lequade John Marrow John Ragan Julia Downey Owen Larkins

April 1838

28 “2 tenements under 1 roof with gardens”

Poor of Stepney

John Owens Simeon Dawson

April 1838

29 “Garden”

Poor of Stepney

John Owens

April 1838

30 “Colville Hall piece” arable

Poor of Stepney

Joseph Ramsden*

April 1838

31 “Paddock”

John Dyer

John Dyer



The Forest Gate drinkers’ guide

Friday 23 February 2024

It is almost a decade since we last featured a Forest Gate drinkers’ guide (see here for 2015 round-up and here and here for the previous ones). Unsurprisingly there have been many changes and some closures, but overall there now is a more varied range of watering holes for the thirsty.

There have been two significant closures. The Live and Let Live on Romford Road, has closed as a pub, but seems to be some kind of accommodation address now, and round the corner to it, the Wetherspoons Hudson Bay has gone. This is surprising, as it always appeared to be busy thoughout the extensive opening hours, with both drinkers and diners.  It went last year and is to be replaced, on site, by an Islamic social centre.

Almost all of the pubs we have previously featured have undergone significant changes in ownership in bids to keep up with changing trends and demands. There is now a pretty significant division between those venues patronised by the older, perhaps more traditional, local population and the younger set of incomers, in addition to a couple of essentially exclusively Asian bars.  The range of options currently available offers something for almost all drinking tastes and type of venue.

The local drinkers’ venues have been expanded by the arrival of local micro brewery’s Pretty Decent Beer Company, which joins the Wanstead Tap in offering a different kind of drinking within a railway arch, off the beaten track. The railway arches have had a mixed history over recent years: Tracks, off Avenue Road, arrived and disappeared, as has Burgess and Hall, next to the Tap - although some drinking presence survives. The Ciderhouse opened next to Tracks. It seems to have very limited opening hours and would appear to be mainly a venue for hire

This time we have included Giovanna’s on Woodgrange Road, although it is more a restaurant/wine bar than pub, it does have a beer garden, so on that basis, meets a criterion for inclusion!

We are also looking at a couple of private clubs for the first time: the Century Bar and St Antony’s and have added the Rising Sun to the review list, which seemed to have dropped off our radar in previous round-ups. Having visited a number of times recently, its easy to explain the oversight.

In a rough price comparison guide, we have replaced the former Stellaometer with a Guinness Guzzler’s Guide (being the most universally available beer in the UK) at the end of this review, although a couple of the venues don’t sell the black stuff.

At the end of each review we give the latest Food Standards Agency food hygeine ratings.

Enjoy the read, and cheers!

Century Bar and Restaurant


Address: 454 Romford Road.

Web address: www.century.london

Background: Fondly known as a Desi pub (one owned or managed by a landlord of Indian origin), the Century was established by Kenyan Asian, Peter Patel, in 1988. He established it to provide a safe haven for Asian drinkers in an area where they often felt unsafe, from racist abuse in local pubs (see here for an explanation).  When he first opened the bar Peter was threatend by another, wholly unexpected, menace: Asian thugs seeking protection money. The close proximity to Forest Gate police station helped see off that challenge. Peter stayed for 30 years before retiring. Although branded as a club, membership is not required to eat or drink there.

Opening hours: Mon: closed. Tues-Thurs: 5pm – 11pm. Fri: 5pm – 1 am. Sat: 3pm – 1 am. Sun: 3pm – 11 pm.

They say: Describes itself as and Indian restaurant and and cocktail bar. “A space for relaxed social dining … draws its inspiration from the vibrancy of the culture, art and music, including an innovative spiritual modern India”.

We say: It's more of an Indian restaurant than drinking den, but there is a bar at the entrance with half a dozen beers on tap that welcomes casual drinkers, without question. Friendly staff. The restaurant has an extensive menu 50:50 vegetarian and non vegetarian, although no vegan options. The decor and furnishings are smart although unremarkable. There are a couple of large screen TVs showing, not surprisngly Asian stations.

FSA says: 5 stars.

Forest Tavern

 

Address: 173 Forest Lane.

Web address: www. foresttavern.co.uk

Background: Called the Railway Tavern until 2013, for obvious reasons, it was then taken over and revamped by Antic pub chain, as the Forest Tavern. They held it for a decade, after which it was taken over again by gastropub chain Portobello, and revamped again. The refurb has opened up its rather splendid facia board (see photo). The pub was originally opened by Holt and Co of East Ham, who were taken over by Cannon Brewery of Clerkenwell in 1922, who erected the facia in 1925. Cannon, themselves were taken over by Taylor Walker in 1930, and later by Allied Breweries, until their sale to Antic.

Opening hours: Mon – Thurs: 11am – 11pm, Fri-Sat 11am – 12pm. Sun 11 am – 10.30pm.

They say: “We’re conveniently situated right by Forest Gate station and just a 5 minute stroll from Wanstead Park” (they probably mean Flats, unless they “stoll” at 12mph!).

We say: It has a weekly quiz night on a Tuesday and monthly supper club (£50 a head). The pub regularly features live jazz, hosts a monthly Forest Gayte Pride night and frequently sponsors charities, such as the Magpie Project. There is a large “back room”, which doubles up as its restaurant and an outside paved area/garden that can probably accommodated 50 people. It has an extensive – vegan friendly – menu, which is on the pricey side, with a great Sunday Roast offer. It has range of interesting drinks (including some Pretty Decent Beer Co options – see below). It offers £4 pints between noon and 7pm Mondays – Fridays. It has no TV, or other distracting entertainment. It is a busy pub, catering mainly for the younger, middle class “Nouveaux Gater” set.

FSA says: Awaiting inspection, since the Portobello takeover.

Forest Gate Hotel


Address: 105 Godwin Rd.

Web address: www.theforestgatehotel.co.uk

Background: A traditional east-end boozer that has fallen on hard times. It had serious drug-dealing issues over a decade ago, which seem to have been overcome, but the anti-dealing messages in the pub remain a reminder of those times. We gave it a poor review a decade ago, and things seem to have got worse since; so, both the comedy and music clubs they ran then, along with the bar food, have dropped off their offerings.

Opening hours: Who knows? No indication on website, or inside or outside the pub, other than a vague statement "open all day".

They say: “Pub in the backstreets of Forest Gate, with a relaxed atmosphere. Spacious single bar, with some nice features like three columns (??!!), bar-back and counter. Sports TV, pool, darts, rear patio, a function room.”

We say:  Two large screens for live sport, often MTV music. Pool, darts, a one-armed bandit, pub quiz nights on Wednesdays, Karaoke on Thursdays and a DJ on Fridays. It is incredible how this place remains open. There are very few customers and the décor is poor and beer the choice absolutely minimal and fizzy.  The substantial hall at the back that is rarely used.  It seems to operate mainly as a cheap hotel, with the rack rate being £66 per night for a double room with bed and breakfast. The Trip Advisor reviews are horrific; the 46 of them average a 2/5 (poor) score, with some grim stories to accompany the ratings.

FSA says: 3 stars, up from 2 in 2014 and 1 in 2015.

Fox and Hounds

 

Address: 178 Forest Lane.

Web address: Craft Union Pub Co

Background: The pub has changed hands and landlords a few times over recent years, and was even shut for a few months a decade or so ago, but it has bounced back to become a very busy boozer.

Opening hours: Advertised as: Sun – Thurs: 11am – 11pm. Fri -Sat: 11am – 12 pm. But seems to have started opening at 10 a.m.

They say: "The Fox and Hounds is a great example of a 1930's East London public house, equipped with unique features like fire places and a through around bar. It is about as typical as a boozer gets with a pool table, fruit machines and jukebox."

We say: Difficult to get a greater contrast of pub than with the Forest Gate Tavern, just 4 doors along (for confirmation, see Guinness prices at the end)! Their self-description (above), like the pub itself, could not be less pretentious. Following the closure of the Hudson Bay, last year, it’s the cheapest and busiest pub in the area, by some distance. It is always lively with an older, long-established, very multi-cultural and harmonious customer base. The bar staff are always pleasant and welcoming.  It has a juke box, half a dozen sports TVs, and a pool table; it is a hive of activity. The food offering is pretty much restricted to crisps and peanuts, but it’s a pub and has no pretentions of being a restaurant. There’s an outside, paved area, with some shelter, that can accommodate upto 30 people  – a haven for smokers, but hardly an oasis.

FSA says: 5 stars.

Giovanna’s

 

Address: 58 Woodgrange Road.

Web address: www.giovannas.co.uk

Background: Opened 4 years ago, it is a family run business, inspired by the owners’ parents and grandparents who emigrated to Newham in the 1950s, opening the Windsor Restaurant, also on Woodgrange Road, followed by Marco’s Café on the Victoria Dock Road.

Opening hours: Mons: closed. Tues – Thurs: 11.30 am – 10.30pm, Fri – Sat: 10 am – 11pm. Sun 11 – 5pm.

They say: “We are an independent Italian deli, wine shop and bar focussing on selling quality Mediterranean produce to the Forest Gate Community.“

We say: A delightful addition to the local drinking and eating scene on Woodgrange Road. It is a “living wage employer” with charming and friendly staff, headed by owners Alex and Vic. There is a lovely Italian deli counter and short, but tasty, menu of fresh food. Small, but interesting range of mainly Italian food from the café/bar/restaurant/shop. They have three beers on tap and many of their food products are from small, independent, ethically-sourced producers. Outside dining with tables and chairs on Woodgrange Road and space for around 30 in pleasant back beer garden area. There is a large, comfortable downstairs dining room, with seating for 20, available for hire.

FSA says: 4 stars.

Golden Fleece (honorary mention, as a popular venue for many Forest Gaters)

 

Address: 166 Capel Rd.

Web address: www.greeneking.co.uk/pubs/greater-london/golden-fleece

Background: A mainstay and focal point for the local, and Manor Park, communities. It has changed hands a number of times during its history. A decade ago we said: ”It is now owned by John Barras pubs, an old north-east England brewery which rebranded itself in 2010 as a pub chain, along Chef and Brewer lines.” It has subsequently been taken over by East Anglain brewers, Greene King.

Opening hours: Sun – Thurs: 11.30 am – 11pm. Fri-Sat: 11.30 am – midnight.

They say: “A great local pub, in the heart of the community, with friendly service and honest pricing.”

We say: The pub, offers a wide range of guest beers and a 10% discount for CAMRA members on selected pints. A substantial menu, with reasonable prices; though the quality of the food varies greatly, depending on the duty chef. It is a popular pub facing Wanstead Flats with sizeable beer garden with children’s play area. There is plenty of scope for spilling over into the Flats on hot summer days. The pub offers TNT and Sky Sports (mainly football and rugby) on 5 large screens and can be packed when West Ham, Spurs or international rugby feature. Frequent live music and karaoke events – see website for details. Does a busy post-funeral trade, being the nearest pub to both the City of London and Manor Park cemeteries. 260 TripAdvisor Reviews, average 4/5 stars.

FSA says: 5 stars.

 Holly Tree


Address: 141 Dames Road.

Web address: thehollytreepub.co.uk

Background: Had always been a reasonably popular pub, with a history dating back to 1870, with more potential than customers. It looked as if it may have suffered the fate of many under-used street corner pubs and become replaced by a block of flats. But it underwent a major refurbishment after it was taken over by Remarkable Pubs in 2019. Remarkable was founded in 1985 and has subsequently acquired over 15 Georgian and Victorian pubs in London (including the Boleyn Tavern on Barking Road) and restored them to their former glories. The Leyton Engineer is to follow soon. It has to be said they have done a magnificent job in all those in the chain that we have visited.

Opening hours: Mon – Weds: 5pm – 11pm. Thurs – Sat: noon – 11pm, Sun: noon – 9pm.

They say: Following an extensive refurbishment in 2019, a new kitchen has been installed serving delicious food daily, including superb Sunday roasts. The huge garden has been landscaped and the large pub interior refurbished with a classic look and feel including the much desired cosy snug with real fire.”

We say: It is in a great location, on the edge of Wanstead Flats, with a children’s playground opposite. Children are welcome in the pub and at times can delight in a fully functioning minature railway (£1 a ride, for two circuits). Half of the pub is “child-free”, and dogs are permitted in certain areas; so all preferences are catered for. There are lots of options for outside dining and drinking and a substantial conservatory and glass annexe which are particularly suitable for visitors with children. It has become a very popular pub, particulary on Sunday lunchtimes, when young families can enjoy a drink and meal, with plenty of distractions for the youngsters.

FSA says 5 stars.

Pretty Decent Beer Co

 

Address: Arch 340, Sheridan Rd.

Web address: www. prettydecentbeer.co

Background. Started off as a brewhouse in Forest Gate about six years ago, which soon grew and opened up a tap room a few arches away, just before the onset of COVID, at current address. The brewhouse became so successful that in December 2022 they needed to double its capacity, but they could no longer be easily accommodated in Forest Gate. They moved to the Blackhorse Beer Mile, in Walthamstow, leaving the tap room behind in Sheridan Road.

Opening hours: Weds: 2pm-10pm. Thurs – Fri: 4pm-11pm. Sat: noon-11pm. Sun: noon -8pm.

They say: “Every beer sold includes a donation to causes driving change for the good ... Our  taproom is an inclusive neighbourhood spot where everyone feels welcome to sit down, relax and enjoy themselves. We brew a diverse range of modern, seasonal beers so there is always something new on the taps to try. We have 12 beers on tap, a full wine list and spirits from local legends Victory Gin. We also have gluten free and no alcohol beer - so something for everyone!”

We say: Offers a monthly subscription service, that delivers to your door. There is a small bar showcasing a dozen or so of the varied and interesting range of beers brewed by the company – many on tap, others in cans.. It can accommodate about 40 people, inside and out. There are “Happy hours” on most days; between 5pm and 9pm Weds and Thurs and between noon and 6pm on Sats and Suns, when prices are just £4 on all “core” pints. The bar hosts a Japanese kitchen offering about a dozen options on Fri-Sun afternoons. The “good causes” they have supported have included local initiatives like Clapton FC, Newham Solidarity Fund and the Magpie Project.

This bar and brewery are a great local success story. Use them or lose them!

FSA says: 4 stars.

Rising Sun

 

Address: 528 Romford Road.

Web address: www.the-rising-sun-london.edan.io

Background: Ex Bass-Charrington pub which has clearly seen better days and is unlikely to revisit them. Has recently been on the property market and presumably would be replaced by a street corner block of flats; although thi                          s may be difficult, as the pub is locally listed by Newham Council.

Opening hours: Sun – Thurs: 1pm – midnight, Fri-Sat: 1pm – 2 a.m. (frequently closed during some of these advertised hours).

They say: Big screen, Sky Sports, Pool tables, Karaoke Fri-Sun, authentic Indian food, resident DJ.

We say: Another Desi pub! Overwhelmingly 40 years plus male Asian customers enjoying Bollywood karaoke 4 nights a week. Small public bar at front, with shabby furniture. Larger back room with four pool tables, features quite large card games. Reluctant to take credit cards at the bar, stating a £10 min.

FSA says: 4 stars.

St Antony’s Catholic Club


Address: The Red House, 13 Upton Ave.

Web address: www.theredhouse-sacc.co.uk

Background: This Grade 2 listed building has a proud history (see here), which has fallen on hard times in recent years. It was established as a Cathoilc Social club in 1907, but changing local demographics has meant that it struggles, financially, to survive today. It was bailed out a few years ago, to have its exterior and façade refurbished, in order to preserve its Grade 2 listed status, but the inside is dreary and is in desperate need of a similar revamp. The trouble is, that it’s in the wrong place! Like the Old Spotted Dog a couple of hundred yards away (see here) for its great history), it is off the beaten track, as far as decent transport links are concerned and survives within a relatively poor area with a very limited local drinking culture. Nobody can afford to do it (or the OSD) up and so it languishes. With better transport and within a more affluent and alcohol-friendly area of London, both venues would be ideal Remarkable or similar chain targets and busy thriving club/pubs. They have neither, however, and an uphill struggle against the odds seems on the cards for both establishments.

Opening hours: Tues – Fri: 7.30pm – 11pm. Sat and Sun: 11am – 11pm

They say: “A social meeting place for members of the Catholic community in Forest Gate. The club was built on key Catholic principles”.

We say: It provides a Jazz night every Wednesday, from 8.30, priced £3 to non-members. The club hosts a regular summer party and occasional games, wine and steak nights tasting nights. Unsurprisingly, it hosts a major St Patrick’s Night party. Beware of advertised opening hours. We visited on four separate occasions within the advertised hours to find it closed.

FSA says: 5 stars.

Wanstead Tap


Address: Arch 352 Winchelsea Rd.

Web address: www.thewansteadtap.com

Background: The Tap has been opened for a decade now, confounding the naysayers who predicted that it wouldn’t last five minutes tucked away in a railway arch, well off the beaten track in the Waltham Forest bit of Forest Gate. Owner and mine host, Dan Clapton, had spent some time before opening the venue selling a variety of interesting beers on market stalls and at festivals, before taking the gamble on establishing what is now a Forest Gate drinking and cultural institution.

Opening hours: Mon – Tues: closed, Weds – Thurs -open at 4pm, Fri – Sun: open from noon.

They say: “Award winning bar and venue”.

We say: Dan and the Tap have come on a remarkable journey, from selling cans of beer to establishing a venue of note. They have battled through COVID and massive rent hikes and have survived by innovation. It is now the district’s only go-to spot for cultural events – large numbers of high quality book events in conjunction with Newham Bookshop and live music is gradually returning. Big televised sporting events often get sell out sessions, sometimes accompanied by good food from local suppliers. Next up – regular live podcasts. That should be interesting!

FSA says: 4 stars.

 Guinness guzzlers’ guide

Century Bar and Restaurant: £5 (when available)

Forest Tavern: £6.20

Forest Gate Hotel: £4.20

Fox and Hounds: £3.55

Giovanna’s: No stout

Golden Fleece: £4.90

Holly Tree: £5.75

Pretty Decent Beer Co: No Guinness, but their own milk stout: £5.20, or £4.00 during “happy hours”.

Rising Sun: £5.00

St Antony’s Club: Unable to find out, because unable to access.

Wanstead Tap: £5.75 for the Pretty Decent Beer's stout (see above)