50th anniversary of Rolling Stones' "insulting behaviour" outburst in Forest Gate.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Rolling Stones entered Forest Gate's history with a minor splash on 18 March 1965. We have pulled together some contemporary images and reflections of the events, below - in a kind of blog of the bog.

The band were passing through the area after a gig in Romford, and wanted to take a pee. Denied access to a toilet, three of the band took matters into their own hands, and left their mark on the wall of a local service station.

Three of the group were subsequently arrested and four months later fined £5 each, at West Ham magistrates court, for "insulting behaviour".



Publicity shot of Rolling Stones in the summer of
 1965. Left to right: Keith Richards (saw "nothing"),
 Brian Jones (fined £5, with £5.5s costs),
 Mick Jagger (fined £5, with £5.5s costs), Bill Wyman
 (fined £5 with £5.5s costs for "insulting behaviour",
 not guilty of "using insulting language",
 Charlie Watts (sitting in the car, reading newspaper)

The Stones were reaching the peak of their popularity in the UK, at the time of the original incident and  were sitting at number 1 in the British charts with their double A sided hit - Play with Fire and The Last Time. They were chart-topping with (I can't get no)Satisfaction when they appeared in court in July 1965.

Christopher Sandford, in his The Rolling Stones: the first fifty years, provides a graphic account of the evening's events:


Sorry events on 18 March 1965 ... when the Stones wound up a two-week, 28-date tour of old Art Deco British fleapits with a boisterous performance at the ABC Romford. It was the town's first real rock concert the words entered the language alongside RIOT and ANIMALS in the next week's Havering Post.
 

Around eleven o'clock that night, Ian Stewart, was driving the Stones in Mick Jagger's new black Daimler up the A118 in to central London. Stu turned the car into Francis service station where, according to the attendant, 41-year old Charles Keeley, "a shaggy-haired monster wearing dark glasses alighted to enquire, "where can we have a leak here?"
Ian (Stu) Stewart; an original
 member of the Rolling Stones,
 but driver of the car on the
 night in question

Apparently struck by the phrase, Mr Keeley asked the Stones to move on. The forecourt wrangling then became noticeably bitter. Mick Jagger allegedly remarked, "We piss anywhere, man" a line that was taken up by Keith and Brian, who repeated it in 'a kind of chant', it was later said in court. Bill Wyman took the opportunity to relieve himself against a nearby wall.

A small crowd began to gather, and some of them yelled encouragement to Bill, while Keeley himself yelled the opposite, as Brian jumped up and down pulling his patented "Nanker" facial contortion. An honourable exception to the growing furore was Charlie, who remained seated in the car, apparently reading the evening newspaper.
It's perhaps not impossible to feel sympathy for the middle-aged petrol-pump attendant, whose premises had been so bewilderingly converted in the space of a few minutes from a quiet suburban retail outlet in to the scene of a pagan ritual.. After a bit, a dramatically bearded young man, referred to as Goatboy wandered over to politely ask (for autographs). Bill then asked what the fuck he was meant to sign it with.
Brian jumped up and down again, pulling the corners of his eyes down, while simultaneously sticking his little fingers up his nostrils. This went on until Bill returned to the car, which then accelerated away, one occupant - believed to be Keith Richards - making "a parting gesture with two fingers."
Summoned for insulting behaviour, Jagger, Jones and Wyman were each fined five pounds, with costs, when the case reached East Ham (it was in fact, West Ham) magistrates court on 22 July. Keith Richards, in his first ever appearance in the box was called as a witness. He testified that he saw "nothing happen" at the service station."

Poster for the Southend gig, the night
 before the Forest Gate incident
Stephen Davis, in his Old gods, almost dead provides a little more colour to events in the service station:


"They stopped at a service station, but the attendant took one look and told them to get lost. Mick gave him some lip and was told to get of the forecourt. "Get off my fucking foreskin", yelled Brian, pulling a repulsive nanker (face). "We'll piss anywhere, man", Mick said, and the Rolling Stones lined up, peed on the wall, marking their territory, and roared off into a defensive blast of naughty language and rude gestures. Someone got the plate number, and the incident was splashed all over the press. Months later, they were dragged to court, charged with insulting behaviour and obscene language, and fined five pounds each."

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the Newham Recorder's account of the events (in their post-trial edition of 25 July), was a little more restrained:


Newham Recorder 25 July 1965



Magistrate raps three 'Rolling Stones' - insulting behaviour fines
Three members of the chart-topping Rolling Stones pop group, who were alleged by the prosecution to have urinated against the boundary wall of a London garage, were each fined £5 at West Ham, London Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Bill Wyman, 23, bass guitarist, Mick Jagger, 21, singer and Brian Jones, guitarist and harmonica player were all found guilty of using insulting behaviour whereby a breach of the peace may have occurred.
Wyman was found not guilty of using insulting language to the annoyance of passengers. The three were also ordered to pay between them a total of 15 guineas costs.
The Chairman of the Magistrates, Mr AC Morey, told them: "Just because you have reached the exalted heights of your profession this does not mean you have the right to act like this."
Mr Kenneth Richardson, prosecuting, said Wyman, Jagger and Jones stopped at the Francis Service Station, Romford Road, Forest Gate, late on March 18. Wyman used disgusting language in asking an attendant if he could use the toilet.

Westgate House, on Romford Road,
 currently situated on the site of
 the "insulting behaviour" incident

After being told the toilets were being reconditioned and being refused permission to use the private toilet, they urinated against the boundary wall of the service station "without taking steps to conceal this act."

He added: "They assumed they had the right to treat the property of others with the utmost contempt".
Wyman, in evidence, said the group did not have time to go to the dressing room after a show at the Romford Odeon because they had to rush out to avoid the fans. When they could not find a toilet at the garage they got back into their car and drove off.

Denial
Jones and Jagger also denied using insulting behaviour. Jones said he had been laughing at the attendant's childish behaviour. He was not too aggressive.
Jagger said he had "never been in a bad enough mood to want to hit anyone." The group were very happy about having a record at the top of the Hit Parade. He had been "to nearly every country we could make money in" and had never been in trouble with the police."

The West Ham Magistrates Court register for the period sits in the Newham archives, today.  Below we reproduce extracts relating to their case, from July 1965.

West Ham magistrates court register for July
 1965 (1)
Court details of offences of William
 George Wyman, Michael Philip Jagger,
 Lewis Brian Jones (Newham archives) (2)

Court details of fines of William
 George Wyman, Michael Philip Jagger,
 Lewis Brian Jones (Newham archives) (3)
Unfortunately, we have been unable to track down a poster for the Stones show on the evening of their Forest Gate splash, but we have traced one from the previous evening's show, in Southend (see below). It was part of the 28-date tour referred to, above, and shows that on it they were supported by The Hollies and Dave Berry.

And, what of the Francis service station? It was located at 176-180 Romford Road, but is now long gone. In its place, today sits the XXX residential care home, pictured below.

Doubtless some of its residents will recall the previous incarnation and infamy of their current abode.


The Wyman version

Bill Wyman was always regarded as the Stones' in-house archivist and he provides perhaps the most detailed account of the incident and its aftermath in his 1990 memoirs Stone Alone. Below we quote, directly from it, as "an insider's", although inevitably self-justifying, account of the incident:

It was a perfect concert, a fitting end to a very strong tour. We were all in a great mood. At 11.10, with excellent police security, we rushed straight off stage, jumped into a car before the fans could leave the theatre and headed back to town. Twenty minutes later, I needed to use the toilet, so we pulled into the Francis Service Station in East London. I asked the attendant if I could use the toilet. He said 'There isn't a toilet.' I replied 'This is a big garage, and there are service bays and showrooms, so there must be one.' He said, 'There isn't, so get off my forecourt.'
Absolutely bursting to go, I returned to the car, where I explained what had happened. Mick took my hand and said 'Come on Bill, we'll find you a toilet.' Then Mick, myself, Joey Page and Brian returned to the attendant and asked him once more if we could use the toilet. He started screaming at us, 'Get off my forecourt! get off my forecourt!'

A fuller view of Westgate House, many
 of whose residents doubtless recall
 the case of the leaking Stones.

Brian suddenly started dancing around pulling a 'Nanker' face and singing 'Get off my foreskin!' The attendant once more told us to leave. We walked across the forecourt into the adjoining side road, went about ten yards up this road and proceeded to pee against the wall. We returned through the forecourt, yelled a few insults at the attendant, got back into the car and continued our journey.

We considered the incident closed, but two days later the Daily Express ran a story that surprised us. Mr Eric Lavender, a customer who had been at the service station, said there was an 'incident which led to him and a mechanic reporting two members of the of group to the police. Mr Charles Keely, on duty at the garage as night breakdown-mechanic, said it was about 11.30pm when a big black car pulled up and a long-haired type wearing dark glasses got out'.

'After an incident, he told the people with the car to move off. 'Mr Lavender told them their behaviour was disgusting,' he said, ' and they started shouting and screaming. They went back to the car and I took a note of the number.' Mr Lavender was quoted as saying that if the police did not prosecute, he would press for a private prosecution. Later a Metropolitan Police spokesman, confirming that an incident was reported, added 'It is believed that members of the Rolling Stones were involved. Inquiries are in hand.'

Three months later the case reached East (sic) Ham Magistrates Court, London. Fifty policemen were on duty outside, where a crowd of nearly 300 surrounded the gate leading to the court and waited behind a police cordon on the pavement across the road. Inside the spectators' gallery was packed with about sixty teenage fans, three policemen standing either side of the gallery.
Mick, Brian and I were summonsed for insulting behaviour. I was further charged with using obcence language. We were allowed to write down our addresses, to keep them secret from the fans. We denied using insulting behaviour by urinating against a wall and pleaded not guilty. Charlie and Keith, who had come for moral support, listened from the back of the court.

Prosecuting, Kenneth Richardson said, 'If the magistrates were satisfied that the disgusting behaviour had taken place, it was no great crime, but it was regrettable behaviour, and the three might themselves agree in time. They are well known to certain sections of the public, and it is wrong that they should show such disregard for the feelings and morals of others.'
Magistrates' Chairman AC Morey asked Keely: 'You have talked about long-haired monsters. Did that influence you in bringing the charge?'
Keely:'The conception of long-haired monsters did not influence my decision to complain, although it might have started the ball rolling. It made me determined not to let them go to the staff toilet.'
I told the court, ' We finished two shows at the Romford Odeon at 10.45. We didn't have time to go to the dressing room after the show, because as soon as the curtain fell, we had to leave the stage and rush to the car to avoid fans.'

Brian, giving evidence, said, 'We drank only Coca-Cola and tea. We were very happy because we had had a great night. I was not aggressive. We were laughing a lot because Mr Keely's behaviour was so comical. We are rather more mature than that.'

Mick said, ' I think we were at the top of the hit parade at the time and we were discussing our forthcoming American tour. We had every reason to be happy. I've never been in a bad enough mood to want to hit anyone. We have played in many places from Texas to Miami, to Helsinki, and this is the first time we have been in any trouble with the police..' Keith also gave evidence and said that he saw no incident at the service station.

The wall in question - baptised by
 three Stones, according to Bill Wyman
Our defending counsel, Dale Parkinson said, 'This is a trivial case, and you are making a mountain out of a molehill.'

We were all found guilty of using insulting behaviour, whereby a breach of the peace may have occurred. We were each fined £5, and ordered to pay 15 guineas costs. We all gave notice to appeal.
I was also found not guilty on the other charge of using obsence language. The magistrates' chairman said, 'Whether it is the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, or anyone else, we will not tolerate conduct of this character. Because you have reached the exalted heights of your profession, it does not mean you have the right to act like this. On the contrary, you should set a standard of behaviour which should be a moral pattern for your large number of supporters. You have been found guilty of behaviour not becoming of young gentlemen.'

Brian said later, 'We've always had a wild image. We built ourselves on the fact. Groups like the Hollies envy our image a little. The garage incident was grossly exaggerated. The kids in court were amused by an incident blown up out of all perspective. It may do us some harm, but I doubt it. There's always America.'
Charlie said, 'I kept out of trouble. I was asleep in the back of the car, man.' After the hearing, we were smuggled out of the court, and driven back to town. The episode did us no damage with our fans and might even have persuaded a few people that we were human!


Forest Gate's proud suffragette legacy

Friday, 6 March 2015


The East End was a centre of radical political and trade union activity in the 1880's - most famously for the Matchgirls' Strike, in Bow in 1888 and the historic Dockers' Strike of 1889. What is, perhaps, less well known is that the area became one of the earliest centres agitating for votes for women, around the same time.

The Women's Suffrage Society held meetings at Stratford Town Hall in the late 1880s, one being reported in the Stratford Express in 1887. Some of the women involved then, and a little later,  were to play prominent roles in Women's and wider politics in Newham over the next half century - notably Rebecca Cheetham.
She was the first warden of the Canning Town's Women's Settlement, 1892 - 1917 (whose own history is closely related to that of Durning Hall - see last week's post). She became a co-opted member of West Ham Council's Education Committee, from its inception in 1903, until her death in 1939, and person after whom the eponymous nursery in Stratford is named.


.
Rebecca Cheetham, Newham
 Suffragette and educational reformer
Another prominent figure, though less well-remembered today, was Minnie Baldock, who played a significant role in Forest Gate's suffragette story - see below for a brief biography.

Minnie Baldock, 1908
Together with local MP, Kier Hardie, Minnie held a public meeting in 1903, to complain about low pay for women in the Canning Town area. She was also involved in the West Ham Unemployed Fund and in 1905 became an Independent Labour Party candidate in the election for the West Ham Board of Guardians (the body that oversaw the local administration of the Poor Law and workhouse, and whose elections were open to female voters). She joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) later that year and became active in heckling prominent political figures in public meeting halls across London.

On 26 January 1906, Minnie Baldock established a branch of the WSPU (known commonly as the Suffragettes) in Canning Town, in an attempt to recruit working class members to the cause. By September that year, open-air Suffragette public meetings were being held in Upton Park (see extract form Stratford Express, 28 Sept 1906).

Stratford Express,
29 September 1906

There was soon a branch of the WSPU in Forest Gate, as the extract from the Stratford Express of 25 January 1908, below, suggests. The writing may not be very distinct in the cutting reproduced, but the contents are clear - the WSPU was up, running and strong in Forest Gate in 1908. It says:

Votes for Women


Stratford Express, 17 October 1908
On Friday, at 102 Clova Road, Forest Gate, Mrs Pethwick- Lawrence (another person with Durning Hall connections), hon. treasurer of the National Women's Social and Political Union addressed a meeting of local ladies (some forty persons)on the subject of "Women's enfranchisement" giving the reasons leading her, with so many others, to advance the cause.

Special emphasis was placed on the matter of female labour and on its successful entry into so many vocations, yet commanding scarce more than two thirds remuneration of that given to men and on the fact of women who having to support themselves by their own labour, finding themselves face to face with the trade union organisations working for the reservation of the labour market wherever possible for the male sex.

The result of Mrs Lawrence's eloquent address was a considerable addition to the local union, recently started, and which is organising an energetic campaign in the immediate constituencies".

A small, but fascinating article, which makes uncomfortable reading about the sexist historical nature of many trade unions, and how much (or little?) things have changed in over a century, in the struggle for equal pay in the workforce.

102 Clova Road is a modest, middle class, house, which recent photo below, suggests was a rather small place in which to accommodate a meeting of 40 people, even in 1908. The adjacent property (104) - also shown below - is a much larger one. Could there have been an error in the Stratford Express account, in describing the exact location of the meeting, one wonders?

102 Clova Road, today -
scene of  January 1908 meeting
104 Clova Road - a far larger property - more likely to have been able to accommodate 40 people, at a meeting






In an unpublished PhD thesis for the University of Greenwich, Diana Elisabeth Banks-Convey states that Minnie Baldock became a paid organiser for the Forest Gate branch of the WSPU - although, unfortunately does not source this statement, as she writes:

Despite this new organisation, with its links with working class women in West Ham, the WSPU maintained its branches in both Forest Gate in the north and Canning Town in the south. ... However, Minnie Baldock, despite being a leading light in South West Ham Labour, joined the Forest Gate organisation and was a paid organiser for them, speaking at many meetings throughout the East End.
We have discovered a lengthier Stratford Express account of another WSPU meeting held in Forest Gate, later that year(17 October 1908), reproduced below. This seems to have been a well-attended, determined, session, painting a very vivid picture of the struggles that suffragettes faced in attempting to win the vote, over a century ago.
It provides a salutary local lesson for those people who say they can't be bothered to vote in the forthcoming general election, of the hardships endured by our foremothers (?), to establish that very right, today.

Enthusiastic meeting at Forest Gate

Stratford Express,
 19 October 1908
Artist's impression of Earlham Hall,
Earlham Grove, in 1897,
 while under construction

Organised by the Forest Gate branch of the National Women's Social and Political Union, a meeting was held in Earlham Hall on Monday evening. There was a good attendance of members. A few men occupied seats at the rear of the hall. Mrs Sleight presided, supported by members of various local surrounding branches.

Miss Hewitt, hon. treasurer of the branch referred to the promised demonstration at the House of Commons on Tuesday by Suffragettes. She stated that a demonstration was going to the Prime Minister to ask that a Bill for Women's Suffrage might become law without any further delay. They had no reason to think that the delegation would have any better reception than previous demonstrations had had.
  
Referring to the "courageous women" who would certainly be arrested and sent to prison for the parts they would take in the affair, the speaker said that it was impossible for them all to be arrested, but it was as great a punishment almost for them not to go to prison as it was for the leaders who suffered that indignity. She knew, of course, that on Wednesday they would hear it stated that by their conduct they had put back their cause forty years, and also that they had made other women ashamed of their sisters; but it was their duty to try and show people that it was a difficult business, and that they were prepared to pay any harsh penalty to secure the enfranchisement of women (Hear, hear).

They would hear that women were ashamed of their womanhood and of their sex, but they wanted to make women admire the courage and ability of their leaders, who were prepared to face ridicule and imprisonment for their great ideal. At present they were practically outlaws in a free country. They would stand hand in hand, in spite of the ridicule of the world (Applause). ...
Before the conclusion of the meeting a messenger arrived to say that warrant officers were waiting outside for Mrs Pankhurst and others, who had failed to appear at Bow  Street Police Court in answer to summonses that afternoon. It was discovered, however, that they had not come to arrest the women, but to tell them that they must appear the next afternoon. The charge against them was that of inciting a riot.

Miss Friedlander went on to say that by this means the Government thought they were going to stop them, but they were mistaken, for arrangements had been made for the work to be carried on by able lieutenants during the temporary absence of their leaders. (Applause)

Mrs Sleight said that mounted dragoons and warrant officers had no terrors for them. Men must feel proud that their wives, sisters and sweethearts would willingly suffer for their rights. ...Miss Hewitt invited the men present to ask questions, but received no response.

Miss Flowers, speaking of what they were prepared to do for the sake of the cause, said : "Think what it means to be dragged through the streets like criminals, and before hostile and unsympathetic men" (This remark was greeted with loud laughter by the men present.)

Replying to a question, Miss Hewitt said she did not expect that the enfranchisement of women would create a paradise or Utopia, but without the vote, they could do nothing. (Applause).

Mr John Gordon sang a solo and a collection was held.
On that stirring note, we are sad to report that we have no further information on the activities of the Forest Gate branch of the WSPU (but would love to hear from anyone who has). We do, however, have more on the Minnie Baldock story.
Below we offer a pen portrait, from the available material, of this one-time paid organiser of the Forest Gate branch of the WSPU.

Minnie Baldock, a brief biography

Minnie Baldock, c 1909
Born in Poplar in about 1864, as a girl, Minnie worked in a shirt factory and married Harry Baldock, around 1890. The couple had two sons, Jack and Harry. They lived together at 23 Oak Crescent Canning Town, at the time of the 1891 census, both described as general labourers, with their 10 month old son, Harry (see extract, below). The house no longer exists, and the site today is a green open space, near the Canning Town fly-over (see photo, below).


1891 census entry for the
 Baldocks  - Oak Crescent,
 Canning Town
          Oak Crescent, today



Minnie became a member of the recently formed Independent Labour Party (ILP) in the 1890s, and Harry - from 1901 until 1907 - was an ILP councillor for the Tidal Basin ward of West Ham Council.
The family does not seem to appear locally, in the 1901 census.

In 1903, along with her local MP, Kier Hardie, Minnie organised a public meeting to complain about low pay for women in the area. She was involved in the administration of the West Ham Unemployed Fund. In 1905 she became the ILP candidate in the election for the West Ham Board of Guardians.

As mentioned above, she joined the WSPU in 1905, and was soon very active, within it, heckling prominent politicians (like prime minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman)and demonstrating outside their houses, in central London.

It is probable that she was part of the group, including socialist activists, Kier Hardie, George Lansbury, Julia Scurr and Dora Montefoire, that organised a march of 1,000 women from the East End to Westminster, to lobby for welfare assistance for the unemployed in 1906.

Minnie Baldock, left - handing out Suffragette
 leaflets in Nottingham, 1907
In November of that year another march took place, when 4,000 women from West Ham, Poplar and Southwark marched down Whitehall, bearing banners with messages such as 'Work for our men', 'Food for our children' and 'Workers of the world unite', accompanied by a band playing The Marseillaise.

When the working class, Lancashire-born, and later prominent Suffragette, Annie Kenney moved to London, in 1906, she stayed, at the recommendation of fellow socialists, with Minnie Baldock in Eclipse Street in Canning Town. Minnie had local contacts gained from her actions, above, and, through her husband, Harry, with various local trade union branches. She helped Annie make connections in the area and assisted in finding speaking engagements for her.

In 1906 Minnie, together with Annie Kenney,  was instrumental in establishing a branch of the WSPU on her home patch, of Canning Town.  The pair met frequently with Sylvia Pankhurst, who was extremely active in Bow and introduced a young local cigarette factory worker, Daisy Parsons, to the movement. Daisy would later be part of the East London Suffrage Movement's 1914 deputation to meet the prime minister, Asquith. In 1936, she became West Ham's first female mayor.
Daisy Parsons, far left, on Suffragette
 deputation to Downing Street,
 February 1914

Minnie, herself,  soon became a full-time organiser for the WSPU, for Forest Gate (see above), and toured the country addressing meetings.
She was arrested in a demonstration outside the House of Commons in February 1908 (see video clip, below) and sentenced to a month in Holloway prison. The Daily Mirror described her involvement thus:

Mrs Baldock drove round with a megaphone and shouted 'Votes for Women' as far up the stairs of St Stephen's entrance as the megaphones could send the words. Other women with megaphones drove past in cabs shouting their battle cry.
Much of our information about Minnie comes from a small article about her, published in Votes for Women, on 18 June 1908. It reads:

Mrs Baldock, as a working woman, knows the difficulties and sorrows of their lives, and has now given up all work to fight for political power. She brings to her work the experience gained as a Poor Law Guardian and by work in the Independent Labour Party, on Distress Committees etc. Mrs Baldock was one of the first militant suffragettes in London, heckling Mr Asquith at his Queen's Hall meeting in December 1905, and holding up the banner at the Albert Hall. In October 1906 and again in February 1908, she suffered imprisonment for her enthusiasm.
In February 1909 Minnie was heavily involved in a recruiting and propaganda campaign for the WSPU in the West Country.
The Baldock family lived at 490 Barking Road, Plaistow at the time of the 1911 census, though Minnie was not present on the night of the count - presumably campaigning elsewhere in the country. Harry snr. was described as a driller/hole cutter in the shipbuilding industry, and the two sons were also employed in that industry, in that census.

490 Barking Road, today

1911 census, Baldocks (minus Minnie)
 at 490 Barking Road 
























Minnie became seriously ill with cancer in late 1911, and was operated on in the New Hospital for Women (now the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, Bloomsbury). She went to Brighton, for a while for recuperation, and never returned to work with the WSPU.
It has been speculated that she disapproved of the increasingly militant tactics being adopted by the organisation (e.g. arson) , because continued to hold membership of the Church League for Women's Suffrage.

In January 1913, Minnie and Harry snr moved to Southampton. In her later years, she lived in Hamworthy, near Poole, where she died aged about 90, in 1954.

Screengrab from YouTube clip of
Votes For Women,
which can be accessed here
In 2011 Poole museum, and National Lottery funded commissioned a short film celebrating the life of Minnie Baldock, The Right to Vote. It was written by Kate O'Malley and starred Michelle O'Brien. You can access it via the hyperlink in the caption to the screengrab, above.



The Durning Hall story

Monday, 23 February 2015


Durning Hall in Earlham Grove is one of Forest Gate's most used "public spaces". Here we look at the background and history of this important local social and care facility.



Durning Hall, Earlham Grove today
The Hall is today run by Aston-Mansfield, a merger in 2000, of two local charitable organisations - the Aston Charities Trust and The Mansfield Settlement. Durning Hall was brought to the merger by the Aston part of the arrangement
.
The Aston Charities Trust began its formal life in the nineteenth century, co-ordinating  the philanthropy of the Durning, Smith and Lawrence families, whose charitable work was concentrated in London's East End from the late eighteenth century. Their work included the establishment of the Canning Town Women's Settlement and the first Durning Hall, which was built as a community facility in Limehouse, in 1884.



The original Durning Hall, in Limehouse.
 Thanks to Aston-Mansfield for use of photograph
The families' money originated from the carpentry trade in the City of London; and by the mid nineteenth century they had provided a couple of Lord Mayors of London, as well as other civic dignitaries, and had been awarded a couple of baronetcies.


Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence - charity
 founder -  who performed the opening
 ceremony of original Durning Hall, in 1884
The original Durning Hall, although Christian-inspired, was very liberal for its time and aimed to meet needs of impoverished people from all backgrounds and communities, with a minimum of evangelical work tied to its efforts. The Durning-Lawrence family were primarily of the Unitarian persuasion.

Their various charitable foundations operated a Sunday school, a savings club and a coal club. They offered food, clothing and shelter for the needy. They also provided a Barrow Club - aimed at supporting street traders (costermongers - who sold fruit, vegetables etc from hand carts, on a mobile basis) by helping them purchase their vehicles.


The charities attempted to help the young, by hosting Scouts, Guides and Boys' Brigade groups, together with a boys' brass band, and dressmaking and needlework classes for the girls.


The original Durning Hall hosted an orchestra and an amateur dramatic club, which doubled up as a reading class, helping actors to learn their scripts. The organisers of the Hall encouraged debating activities and hosted discussion and lecture sessions, for the erudition of its users.

The Scout group they encouraged survives today, in Forest Gate, and is known as the Busby Scouts, named after one of its founder members, William Walter Busby. He came from Sherrard Road in Forest Gate and helped establish the local scouts troop in 1908. 

Busby signed up to the "West Ham Pals" (13th Battalion, Essex Regiment - "The Hammers") in 1915 and was soon promoted to the rank of acting Captain.  We will feature the Forest Gate connections of this Battalion in a future blog.



William Walter Busby MC, founder of the scout
 troop who meet at Durning Hall,  who was
killed in action towards  the end of  the
Battle of the Somme, having been
awarded the MC for his  bravery on
the first day of the battle.
Busby was awarded the Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry" on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916), but was killed in action, as the Battle drew to a close in November that year. The local Scout troop was renamed the Busby Scouts, in his honour, and changed their neckerchief to khaki colour, in recognition of his distinguished army service. It remains so, today, almost a century later.

The Busby Scouts originally met in a building Forest Lane in the inter war period, which was paid for and supported by a Durning Lawrence family trust.


In 1930 the jumbled collection of trusts and endowments controlled by the Lawrence and Durning families was consolidated by Theodora Durning-Lawrence into the single Aston Charitable Trust.

Theodora Durning-Lawrence, under
 whom the work of the Aston Charities
 was co-ordinated, in the 1930s
Theodora herself, was a strange woman, who never married and despite her considerable wealth chose to live, alone in a single room in a seedy London hotel.

Forest Gate was badly hit by bombing during World War 11, which will be the subject of a future blog. Among the local bomb damage was the local YMCA, situated next to the railway station, and the Regal Cinema, next to that, on Woodgrange Road (see here for a history of local cinemas and that of the Regal, within it).




Durning Hall charity shop, Woodgrange
 Road today. Site of former Regal cinema
 and for a while HQ of local Busby
 Scouts (see door handles to the shop)
Upwards of half of the local population left the Forest Gate area for the duration of the war, many not returning. Among those fleeing were some of the owners of prosperous family homes, along Earlham Grove - including many attendees of the synagogue (for details, see here). Many of the larger houses were subsequently subdivided into a series of flats, and, thus, this once most prosperous part of Forest Gate soon began to appear down-at-heel. after the war.

The Aston Charities were on the look-out for a new premises for a Durning Hall, from which to operate their various activities, at the end of the war. They took over the site of the destroyed Regal cinema and adjoining shops in 1948.

One of the shops, number 59, still somewhat battered, became the new home of the Busby Scouts, with the Aston Trust as their landlords, and it remained a scouts shop until after the youth group formally moved into the new Durning Hall, in 1959. A relic of this part of the story remains on the door handles of the charity shop on Woodgrange Road - see above.



Opening ceremony of Durning Hall,
 Earlham Grove, 1959. Thanks to
 Aston-Mansfield for the photo
The ACT established one of the country's first Housing Associations in 1964 and raised funds to build a 45-bedroom hostel on its Forest Gate site. Princess Margaret opened the facility, which was later extended to provide 50-study bedrooms.

Forest Gate's old Whitehall School was knocked down, in the early 1960's, to be replaced by what is now the Forest Gate Community School. During the two years' of the new school's construction, Durning Hall provided temporary teaching accommodation for over 200 pupils.  The Hall later became a temporary health clinic, during the eighteen months it took to construct the Lord Lister Health Clinic, on Woodgrange Road.



Durning Hall used for emergency classrooms,
 while first Forest Gate Community school
 was being constructed, in the 1960s
In 1962 the Aston Charitable Trust bought a farmhouse in St Osyth, in Essex to provide holidays for "disadvantaged" Newham residents. This was destroyed by fire in 1970 and was replaced as a holiday home for local people by the Bridge House hotel, in Southend, which was purchased and opened the following year. This was sold off in 2002, as it was no longer felt to be an economic proposition for the charity.

Meanwhile, in 1967, the ACT acquired the old Canning Town Women's Settlement, whose premises had fallen into disrepair. They cleared the site and built Lawrence Hall, a 64-unit social housing complex and social centre. This was sold to Springboard Housing Association in 1990 and the proceeds were used to build the Froud Centre (with St Michael's church), on Romford Road, in Little Ilford.



Rev Jimmy Froud, Warden of Durning Hall
 from 1959 - 2002, after whom the
 Froud Community Centre
 in Manor Park is named
This Centre was named after Jimmy Froud, who had come to Durning Hall, itself, as its warden in 1959, and stayed until his retirement in 2002. Like Durning Hall, The Froud Centre continues the ACT tradition of hosting a multi-purpose Community Centre, open to all.

Footnote: For further information, including the current activities of the Hall, see the Aston-Mansfield website, here and The Aston Story book, by Evelyn Ray Keen.   






Forest Gate's 12 MPs

Friday, 13 February 2015


As an precursor to the forthcoming general election, this blog offers a pen portrait of the 12 MP's who have represented the Forest Gate area over the last 130 years.

Following a significant extension of the franchise in 1884, and the rapid growth of the West Ham area over the previous 30 years, the district became a Parliamentary borough for the first time, in 1885, with two seats: North and South. Forest Gate was firmly within the northern seat.

Edward Cook - MP, 1885 - 1886 (Liberal)

The victor in North West Ham in the 1885 election, and thus Forest Gate's first real MP, was the Liberal, Edward Rider Cook (1836 - 1898). He lost the seat in another election, a year later.

He was a soap manufacturer, who was a senior partner in his father's Bow based soap and chemical manufacturers, Edward Cook and Co.


Prior to becoming the area's MP he had been a member of the Metropolitan Board of Works (a predecessor of the GLC/GLA), was a JP and was described as a radical/progressive Liberal.

J Forrest Fulton - MP, 1886 - 1892 (Conservative)

Fulton had been the unsuccessful Conservative candidate in 1885, but took the seat in the following year's snap election.  He was a senior barrister, prior to entering Parliament.

He has been described as having "made no particular mark" in his six years in Parliament (not the only one of the area's MP's to have failed to impress), and was defeated after only one term.


Forrest Fulton (Cons) -
local MP 1886 - 1892
He returned to the legal profession, as a judge and was knighted after his narrow defeat in the 1892 election.

TN Archibald Grove - MP 1892 - 1895 (Liberal)

Although Grove won the election in North West Ham, the more historically important result, locally, that year,  was in West Ham South, which was won by James Kier Hardie. He became Britain's first Labour MP and leader (although the party had yet to be formed at this time).

Before entering Parliament, Thomas Newcomen Archibald Grove (1855 - 1920) launched and became the magazine editor of a low price "literary" publication (The New Review). He was defeated at the election three years after he was first returned to Parliament.


Archibald Grove (Lib) -
local MP 1892 - 1895
He tried to re-enter Parliament elsewhere and was successful in Northamptonshire in 1906, but stood down, and retired from politics four years later, due to ill health.

Ernest Gray - MP, 1895 - 1906 (Conservative)

Sir Ernest Gray (1856 –1932) was an educational reformer, one-time president of the National Union of Teachers and author of a number of education handbooks.

After an assortment of almost zero impact, one-term, local MPs, Grey became the first local MP to hold his seat for more than one election, serving 11 years, in total.


Ernest Gray (Cons) -
local MP 1895 - 1906
He lost the Parliamentary seat in 1906, tried and was unsuccessful once more in the first election of 1910. He eventually re-entered Parliament in 1918, for Accrington.  In the meantime he was elected to the newly formed London County Council and was for a while a councillor in Brixton (two positions he shared with a successor, a century later - Tony Banks).

He lost his Accrington parliamentary seat to Labour in 1922, and retired from politics soon after, being knighted in 1925.

CFG Masterman - MP, 1906 - 1910 (Liberal)

Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman PC ( 1873 –  1927) was  distantly related to the Gurney family, who were significant local land owners in the Forest Gate area in the nineteenth century.

He was a social reformer, and like his Liberal predecessor in the seat, Archibald Grove, a journalist (The English Review). In 1909 he published The Condition of England, a survey of contemporary society with particular focus on the state of the working class.


Charles Masterman (Lib) -
local MP 1906 - 1910
Masterman worked closely with Winston Churchill and Lloyd George on The People's Budget of 1909 and was responsible for the passage through parliament of the National Insurance Act of 1911, which introduced Old Age Pensions to Britain.

He was re-elected to the seat in both the general elections of 1910, but the second election was declared null and void, and he was returned to Parliament in Bethnal Green, in a by-election, the following year. He lost that seat in 1914, and dropped out of Parliamentary politics for almost a decade, as a result.

During World War 1 he was head of the British War propaganda Bureau (WPB), in the course of which he recruited authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, John Buchan and Rudyard Kipling to add their literary talents to the propaganda war on the home front, and in an effort to get the USA to join the war on the British side.

He re-entered Parliament, briefly, in 1923, as a Manchester MP, but lost his seat in the election the following year. His health declined rapidly, hastened by drug and alcohol abuse. He died in 1927, possibly having committed suicide.

Baron De Forest - MP, 1911 - 1918 (Liberal)

Maurice Arnold de Forest (1879 –  1968) was the son of a one-time circus performer. He was an early motor racing driver and aviator. His title was Austro-Hungarian, and so it did not disqualify him from membership of the British House of Commons.

He was immensely rich, and Winston Churchill spent much time on his yacht (including his honeymoon). He was, however, politically progressive and favoured Irish Home Rule, land nationalisation female suffrage and equality of religion, in education.


Maurice Arnold de Forest (Lib)
- local MP 1911 - 1918
Following the conclusion of World War 1, Parliamentary boundaries were redrawn and the two former West Ham seats became four (Stratford and Upton in North, Plaistow and Silvertown in south). Forest Gate was in the Stratford constituency.

CE Leonard Lyle - MP, 1918 - 1922 (Conservative and Unionist)

(Charles Ernest) Leonard Lyle, later 1st Baron Lyle of Westbourne ( 1882 –1954), was an industrialist whose family were major ship-owners who had diversified into sugar refining, and Leonard joined the firm in 1903, and became a director when his father retired in 1909.

When Abram Lyle & Sons merged with Henry Tate and Sons in 1921 to form Tate and Lyle, he became a director of the new company, then its chairman in 1928, and president in 1937.

His tenure as Stratford MP was short. Following his defeat in Stratford in 1922, he was elected MP for Epping the following year, only to stand down a year later to make the seat available for Winston Churchill. He was elected to parliament again in a bye-election, for Bournemouth, in 1940, where he remained MP until 1945.

In addition to his parliamentary career he was a significant British golfer and tennis player, but was perhaps best known for running the anti-sugar nationalisation campaign, following the election of the 1945 Labour government.

Tom Groves - MP, 1922 - 1945 (Labour)

Thomas Edward Groves (1884 – 1958) was the constituency's first Labour, and one of its longest serving, MPs. But he made little impact, and in a fate to be experienced by another long-serving successor (see below). was unceremoniously de-selected by the Labour Party, for his inactivity.

He successfully contested the division in the elections of: 1923, 1924, 1929, 1931, 1935 and 1939.

He wanted to stand again in the post-war election of 1945, but was deselected by the Labour Party as its candidate. Groves stood as an independent, and was both electorally humiliated and expelled from the Labour party for his troubles.

Henry Nicholls - MP, 1945 - 1950 (Labour)

Henry Richard Nicholls (1893 – 1962) was selected in place of Groves, but he was a one term MP, as the constituency was abolished, following  population decline during and post World War 11, and a subsequent boundary review.

West Ham reverted to having two MPs -one for the North (including Forest Gate) and the other for the south. Nicholls lost out in the selection to the other, former MP for the north of the then borough, Arthur Lewis, who had represented Upton since 1945.

Arthur Lewis - MP, 1950 - 1983 (Labour)

Arthur William John Lewis (1917 - 1998) was an official of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers when he was elected as MP for Upton, in 1945. He beat Nicholls for selection as Labour candidate for the now united North West Ham seat, which he represented until a further boundary review, and the formation of the Newham North West seat, in 1974, which he represented until 1983.

He was won the local seat at the elections of 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1974 (x2) and 1979.


Arthur Lewis (Lab)
- local MP 1950 - 1979
(photo taken 1947)
In 1983, after 38 years as an MP, Lewis was deselected as Labour candidate by his local constituency Labour Party, which he said had become "100 per cent Trotskyist, Militancy Tendency, Communist and IRA supporters". By this time he was refusing to attend local party meetings or hold "advice surgeries" for his constituents.

He was replaced as Labour candidate by Tony Banks. Lewis stood as an Independent Labour candidate at the 1983 election and was humiliated, coming fourth with 11% of the vote behind the winner, Banks.

Tony Banks - MP, 1983 - 2005 (Labour)

We have already given Tony Bank's parliamentary career a cheerful nod (here), but a little more formally, we'll recognise his time as MP here. Anthony Louis Banks, Baron Stratford ( 1942 – 2006) was an MP from 1983 to 2005, before being created a member of the House of Lords.

He was elected as the local MP at the general elections of 1983, 1987, 1992, 1997 and 2001.


Tony Banks (Lab)-
local MP 1983 - 2005
He was a trade union official and local councillor on both Lambeth and the Greater London Councils before being selected as Labour candidate, to replace the out-of-touch Arthur Lewis. Following a 1995 boundary review, Newham North West was expanded and renamed West Ham for the 1997 election and Banks represented that seat until 2005.

He was Minister for Sport from 1997-9, and then Tony Blair's unsuccessful "envoy" for England to host the 2006 World Cup for another couple of years. He gradually became disillusioned with life as an MP and retired in 2005.

Having been enobled after the general election of that year, he suffered a massive heart attack a few months later, and died in January 2006.

Lyn Brown - MP, 2005 - to date (Labour)

Lyn Carol Brown was born in Newham in 1960, and following university became a social worker. She was elected to Newham Council in 1988 and stood, unsuccessfully as the Labour candidate for the Wanstead and Woodford parliamentary seat in 1992.

She was elected as MP for West Ham in 2005, which she retained with an increased majority at the 2010 election.


Lyn Brown (Lab) -
local MP 2005 - to date
Following her election, as MP for West Ham, in 2005, Lyn Brown held a number of minor government positions, until Labour's defeat at the 2010 general election. She has attracted criticism for using unpaid interns, while campaigning for a living wage; for claiming expenses for a central London flat, despite having a constituency half an hour from Westminster on the Jubilee line; and for harassing a blind journalist in the precincts of parliament.