Unique photo and details of Earlham Grove V2 attacks

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

We have just acquired a fascinating, captioned, photo from e.bay which helps illustrate a tragic story and raises interesting questions about the circumstances surrounding it.

Photo showing the damage done by V2
rocket on Earlham Grove on 6 March 1945 -

click photo, to enlarge it and see the detail.
This post examines the photo, the story it tells, those affected by it and addresses perturbing questions it poses. You should be able to enlarge the high-quality photo easily enough, in order to see some of the points raised, below.

The photo

The ariel photo - at its simplest - is of a WW2 bomb site. The caption on the back (illustrated, below) makes it of particular interest to this website.  The relevant section reads:

Associated Press Photo (caution: use credit). From: New York.
V-2 Rocket Bomb Damage in London.

Fifteen people were killed, 73 injured and a large number of houses were demolished, or damaged in March 1945 when a German V-2 bomb fell on Earlham Grove, Forest Gate, London. This is a British official photo taken in April 1945 and just released.

Associated Press Photo 5-31-45 (ed: 31 May 1945) etc.

The photo caption
- see transcript, above

It is, in fact, a photo of a bomb which completely destroyed, and killed the residents of nos 56 - 64 Earlham Grove on 6 March 1945. The subsequent bomb site is now the location of Earlham school (see photo below) and it is diagonally opposite what was then the Synagogue on the road - see top right hand corner of the photo for a partial view of the Synagogue.

The West Ham Synagogue, Earlham Grove

Final photo of the former Synagogue -
prior to its sale for housing development in 2004
The caption indicates that the photo was taken in April 1945 - the month following the damage. In the intervening period, the crater was clearly filled in, probably by the rubble (also not apparent)created by the rocket. It is interesting that the photo was not released until 31 May - 8 weeks after the bomb fell and over three weeks after the war in Europe was over.

Earlham Grove school, today - on the
site of the V2 rocket hit in question
The "bomb site" looks remarkably tidy - far more so than those I, as a boy, remember playing in a decade later, elsewhere in Greater London. 

The fact that it was an "official photograph", released in the United States  after the end of the war, begs the suggestion whether it was a propaganda plant, aimed at encouraging American post war economic support. I.e. 'Although we've been bombed, we are doing our best to clear up - now help us rebuild?'

A very close examination of the photo shows a number of points of interest.

Firstly, trees in the road were still standing, some in leaf, even very close to the centre of the blast - which is a testimony to their resilience.

Second, close examination of a number of the roofs on houses close to the bomb damaged area show what look like tarpaulin coverings, providing temporary respite for those still living in them from rain and other weather damage, pending repairs to them.

Third, there are clearly a number of people in the centre of the bombed area, which begs the question as to whether they were scavenging for objects from the destroyed properties - not an unusual feature of the period, following bomb destruction.

Fourth, at the very top right hand corner of the photo, there is the suggestion of another bomb site. Below, we speculate on what that might have been and who those killed by the bomb probably were.

The caption identified the exact number of people killed (see below for details), so there is a good chance that its stated 73 injured was also accurate.

Adler Court, today - on the site of the
former Synagogue on Earlham Grove
For totally understandable reasons, the caption did not, and probably could not, describe the nature of the area, or speculate on the reasons it was targeted.

The circumstances

There is only one, publicly available, contemporary account of the incident, from the Stratford Express of 9 March 1945, just three days after the rocket strike - see below.

It is fascinating from at least two respects.  Firstly, it was careful to adhere to government censorship regulations in that it did not give any close direct clue as to the whereabouts of the bomb - for fear of aiding enemy intelligence - simply referring to the location as being "in a Southern England district".

Second, it clearly relied on local witness statements for the story, published in the very next edition following the bomb hit, unlike, for example, the Dames Road Doodlebug hit that we covered recently (see here), whose definitive account was equally vague on location but came almost 2 months after the bomb, from government information sources. Any local readers would know exactly what and where the article was referring to.

Hence, genuine local news was provided, without giving succour to German military intelligence.

The extract of the press report, below, should be legible, but in case not, here is a transcript:

V Bomb Stories
Jewish minister had lucky escape.
The minister of a synagogue in a Southern England District probably owes his life to the fact that he was away when a V-bomb fell almost directly opposite the site where he lived. Upon returning, he discovered that several members of his congregation were among those who lost their lives and their homes.
Mr Woolf, with whom the minister resided, found that his wife and son, Murray, had had a lucky escape, and were unscathed, although the front of their house had caught the full impact of the blast.
The missile, which fell on some double-fronted houses, killed elderly Mr Owen and an 18-month baby B Adams (ed: Beryl, see below) and four members of a family named Golding (ed: all listed below).
(Ed: the reported death of Mr Owen is interesting. His is not a name that appears on the West Ham book of the WW2 civilian dead. The title of that book is, however, Residents of West Ham who were killed or died as a result of enemy air attack. The article - below - states that Mr Owen had been bombed out of his own home "in another district" and so was, temporarily, staying with his daughter - see below. West Ham may not have been his normal place of residence, which could be an explanation for his non appearance in the book - though other non-West Ham residents do appear in it. But, the numbers of dead recorded in that memorial book from this bomb blast is exactly the same number as that indicated on the caption of the press photo - above - issues many months before the list of the dead was published.) 

Back to the press report:
Three other members of the (Golding) family, including a soldier recently returned from the Middle East, where during the fighting he was ambushed and the only one of his party to remain alive (ed: this could well have been Jack Golding, aged 23 - he fits the age profile - as indicated in the list of the dead, below), were among those at first accounted for. Digging operations for these and three other people continued after the bomb fell.
 Octogenarian rescued
Mr J Francis, the caretaker of a nearby synagogue, which owning to its sturdy build took the blast well, immediately rushed over to an opposite house and stared searching for the occupants.  After a short while, with the aid of some A.R.P. personnel, they recovered from the wreckage, Mrs Lunt and her 86-year-old mother, Mrs Owen, both only slightly injured.
A further search found Mrs Owen's  husband dead. Mr and Mrs Owens, the parents of Mrs Lunt, had recently been bombed out of their own home in another district and went to live with their daughter. Two cranes and dogs were employed in the rescue operations.

Howard Bloch, Newham's late archivist and local history librarian, wrote an intriguing book on the Earlham Grove Synagogue twenty years ago (Earlham Grove Shul) - see footnote for details. 

In the book, he describes the impact the rocket had on the overwhelmingly Jewish community into which it fell:
The worst incident which affected the Synagogue occurred on (Tuesday) 6 March 1945 at 7.45pm, when a V2 fell opposite the building in Earlham Grove between Norwich Road and Atherton Road. This caused widespread devastation. Murray Woolfe (sic - note difference in spelling from press report, above), who lived at 97 Earlham Grove - the house adjoining the Synagogue - remembers the tragedy:
"The front of our house was taken off at an angle. The blast was almost directly opposite. I was in the back of the house.

Fortunately, it's a very long narrow house and I was with my mother, and I was also with one of the shul (ed: shul = Synagogue, from the old German word meaning school) members because this landed round about the time we were expected to go in ....

There was this enormous vibration and noise and the whole house shook and I opened the door from our living room which opened on to a passageway. The front door had been blown right in and all my stuff (dental equipment) for starting at Guy's (Hospital)in the autumn of 1944 had been upstairs front room and it had just gone - disappeared. 

Half the furniture in the front room had gone and we found curtains from our upstairs front room and had been sucked out as a result, and we found them hanging on trees on the other side of Earlham Grove. Most of the windows had gone. The roof of our house was badly damaged. Opposite there were three or four houses which were just a mass of rubble ...

I could not get out because the door was in the wrong place, so I went out through the side, through the shul grounds, across the road ... The phone was still working ... and I was able to phone through to the post and get through. The light rescue and heavy rescue both came. I wanted to go into the bomb site, but they would not let me in ... Father was allowed to go and assist. The whole thing was absolutely shocking, terrible ...

The Rev Einhorn was away at the time when the V2 fell, but on his return he discovered that several members of the congregation had lost their lives.  Murray's story continued:

The Synagogue had been damaged but the Communal Hall at the front had limited the extent of the blast and temporary repairs were subsequently carried out. The extent of the damage to the building was reported at the meeting of the District Synagogue Council on 7 June 1945:

The Synagogue's
Communal Hall (see above and below)
Here again considerable damage was sustained to roofs, ceilings and windows of the Synagogue and Hall, and general damage throughout. The Minister's residence at 91 Earlham Grove was partially demolished and the caretaker's residence extensively damaged - these residences are being repaired by the local authorities. 

Fortunately, the officers concerned and their respective families - though shaken - escaped un-injured. Services are being held temporarily in the lower portion of the Communal Hall.

The condition of the house in Earlham Grove made it uninhabitable and the minister was offered alternative accommodation ... in Romford Road and subsequently moved there.

The victims

Fifteen people were killed and 73 injured by the rocket. The West Ham book of the civilian dead (see copy of cover) identifies those killed. All bar three of them would appear to have been members of the local Jewish community - hardly surprising, given how close they lived to the Synagogue, and Jewish traditions of only walking to the place of worship on the sabbath.

West Ham book of
WW2 civilian dead
We have searched Ancestry for details of those killed by the bomb and supplemented the War Dead register with details from it.  We provide details of those killed, house by house below. 

The one apparently gentile household - the Adams' family of number 56 - stands out not only because of its apparent non-Jewish nature, but also because Ancestry provides considerable details about the head of household - Edgar. We share the information about him below the main section on the deceased.

Earlham Grove - 15 killed, 73 injured

Number 56 - 3 deaths

Joyce Mable Adams, aged 25, husband Edgar Henry Adams, aged 50 and their daughter Beryl Joyce Adams, aged 18 months. These were, perhaps, the only gentiles killed by this bomb, and Edgar has an interesting story - as outlined by the press cutting, below.

Edgar Henry Adams - source Ancestry
Number 58 - 2 deaths

Bernard Carl Marcovitch, aged 16 and his mother Rachel Marcovitch, aged 38. Rachel was the widow of Lazarus Marcovitch and, according to probate records, left £636 in her will.

Number 60 - 6 deaths

Marks Golding aged 63 and his wife Sarah Golding, aged 61.  They were both Russian - Polish nationals. According to census records, Marks had been a cap maker. In addition Hilda Golding, aged 30, the daughter of Mark and Sarah was killed by the blast. She was described as a spinster, and according to probate records left £100 in her will, administered by two of her brothers - Tony Solomon Golding, and audit clerk and Barnett Ben Golding, a tailor.  

Intriguingly, official records indicate that her body was not found until 8 May - two days after the bomb blast - unlike all the other victims who were found on the 6th.  This suggests that she was buried under rubble - and found later by the rescue workers, dog and equipment referred to, above - which had obviously been cleared by the time the blast photograph had been taken.

Also killed were her brother  Jack Golding, aged 23, and his wife Sadie, aged 22, together with Geoffrey Golding, their two year-old son. According to probate records, Jack left £50 in his will, administered by the same two brothers as Hilda's. Jack, as suggested in the Stratford Express report, above appears to have been on leave from military service, having escaped death in a recent incident in the Middle East.

Some of the Goldings were buried in East Ham Jewish cemetery and others in Rainham Jewish cemetery.

East Ham Jewish Cemetery - resting
place of some of the Goldings family
Rainham Jewish Cemetery, resting
place of others of the Goldings family
Number 62 - 3 deaths

Rose Schector, a 62-year old Polish national and widow of Jacob Schector. She appears to have been visited by Hetty (31) and her husband Nathan Bogansky (29), of Hoe St, Walthamstow on that day, as they were also reported as having been killed at this address by this missile hit.

Number 64 - 1 death

Samuel Henry Hoinville, aged 84, a former boot repairer. He would appear to have been visiting from his home address in Holms Street, Hackney.

Edgar Henry Adams of 56 Earlham Grove

Below is an obituary of Edgar, from The Distributive Trades Journal, the newspaper of the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers, the forerunner of USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers).

In brief, he became an official of the union in 1936 and prior to that had been a member of West Ham Borough council, "when the borough (perhaps more than any other) passed through a period of want and misery unsurpassed in the annals of this country". He specialised in housing, hospitals (at at time when it was a local authority responsibility) and unemployment.

He joined the Co-op, as a 16-year old shop worker in Silvertown and spent four years in France during WW1, as a volunteer.

Edgar Henry Adams' obituary in
Distributive Trades Journal - source Ancestry
He became active in the union on his return from the war, and soon became a shop steward (no pun intended). He later became chair of his union branch and subsequently a full-time paid organiser.

The questions

Earlham Grove was struck by a V2 rocket. These were the world's first long range ballistic missiles, the first artificial objects to fly into outer space. They were deployed in late 1944, for the first time. The British government initially tried to conceal their effectiveness, by describing the explosions they created as being caused by "defective gas mains".

V2 rocket, prior to launch
A total of 1358 were launched on London, over a six month period, resulting in an estimated 2,754 deaths and 6,523 casualties.

The Earlham Grove rocket was one of the more destructive, with over seven times the average number of deaths and almost twenty times the average number of causalities. It was also one of the final strikes.  The last two were launched exactly three weeks later - on 27 March - less than seven weeks before the official end of the war in Europe.

We do not know whether the technology was getting more sophisticated and its accuracy was getting greater as more were deployed. The fact is, however, that the rocket struck incredibly close (less than 10 metres) to the Synagogue, which was, for a while at least, the largest in Essex.

Pin point accuracy from the descending V2?
Was that missile deliberately aimed at the Synagogue, in a last desperate act of trying to address Hitler's "Final Solution" - the total destruction of the Jewish people?

Fanciful thinking? Well, the Third Reich, and their cheerleaders, were certainly aware of the existence of the Synagogue.  As we have mentioned on this blog before (see here), Bryan Forbes wrote in his autobiography of listening to a broadcast by the German wartime propagandist Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) during the Blitz in which he made derogatory comments about the Jewish population of Forest Gate. Forbes said:

We listened to Lord Haw Haw in the Anderson, searching the dial of the wireless until the arrogant rasping voice filled the small enclosure. 'We shan't be dropping bombs on Earlham Grove tonight, we shall be dropping Keating's Powder' (ed: a brand of disinfectant).

William Joyce - Lord Haw-Haw,
German WW2 propagandist
Was Earlham Grove deliberately targeted because of the presence of the Synagogue? 

Given what Howard Bloch has reported on how busy the place of worship would have been at the time of the hit, was its timing aimed to have a maximum destructive impact on a Synagogue and its worshippers?

The Keating's Powder, of which Joyce ranted
We will never know the answers to these questions. Put at their simplest, however, these issues provoke the question: was this V2 deliberately aimed at one of Hitler's key targets, or did those launching this particular missile, just "get lucky", from their perverted perspective?

The second bomb site identified in the photo

A close inspection of the main photo in this article suggests that the blotch at the very top left hand corner of it could well have been the site of another hit, in which case, it was probably the bomb that fell on Earlham Grove on 30 October 1944,killing 10.

The deceased were of that hit were listed in the West Ham book of civilian dead as: 

Number 3 - 4 deaths

Agnes Turner (aged 55) - nee Sullivan. She was the widow of Ernest Turner. In addition to Agnes, her two children, Agnes Frances Turner (aged 24) and William Turner (aged 13) were also killed. Charles William Hazell, (aged 14), the son of M.E. Hazell and the late Alfred Ernest James Hazell, was also killed at number 3.  

Number 5 - 2 deaths

Edith Lillian Read (aged 42) - nee Barrett, husband of Henry Herbert Read (1901 - 1972) and Terence Read (aged 7), her son. 

Number 7 - 4 deaths

All four were members of the Everitt family, whose father had earlier been a well-known local stone mason. The four were: Clara Hall (69) nee Everitt- she had been an elementary school teacher in East Ham.  Between 1911 and 1944 she had married Alfred Hall, who died before the bomb had struck. Clara had subsequently returned to, or continued to live at, the old Everitt family home. Also killed were three of her sisters, none of whom had married. They were: Alice Everitt (aged 66), Annie Everitt (aged 56) and Ellen Everitt (aged 64). At the time of the 1911 census all three (as well as Clara) were living at 7 Earlham Grove with their parents, Robert and Annie Everitt. Alice appears to have been a children's costumier in 1911 and employed her younger two sisters in the same trade.

Footnote 1. Earlham Grove Shul - One Hundred Years of West Ham Synagogue and Community, by Howard Bloch, 1997 pub by the Synagogue. Now out of print, but copies can occasionally be found on Amazon. See here, for this blog's summary of Howard's excellent book.

Footnote 2. For a wider account of V1 and V2 bombs falling on Forest Gate in 1944-45, see here

Samuel Gurney (1786 - 1856) - Forest Gate's most influential resident

Monday, 4 December 2017

We have written, in passing, frequently about Samuel Gurney - who has probably been Forest Gate's most influential (both locally and nationally) resident. And here we touched on his literal and metaphorical monumental legacy.

This article presents a biography of the man, himself.

He was born on 18 October 1786 in Earlham Hall, Norfolk. The buildings - see photo - now constitute part of the University of East Anglia.

Earlham Hall - the family seat - today,
 as part of the University of East Anglia
The Gurney family can be traced back to the Norman Conquest, when ancestors were given areas of Norfolk as part of William 1's English control and pacification process.

The family had lived in Earlham Hall, as tenants, for over half a century before Samuel was born. Sixteen years before his birth, they established a local Norfolk bank - Gurney's.

As Quakers, the family were denied access to many of the traditional routes of the sons of the rich and famous - university, the army, some professions etc - but not banking. Like the Jewish community, many members were almost forced into the looked-down upon (by the upper class) fields of commerce and banking in order to make a living.

In 1800, aged 14, the young Gurney was placed in the counting house of his brother-in-law, Joseph Fry, in St Mildred's Court, Poultry in the City. Joseph was married to Samuel's older sister, Elizabeth - the prison reformer.  The "favour" by Joseph to Samuel was later returned - see later.

Samuel Gurney (1786 - 1856)
In 1807 Gurney joined the firm of Richardson and Overend, which, over the course of the next few years, became the most significant retail bank in England.

The following year, Samuel married Elizabeth, daughter of James Sheppard of Ham House (which was to become the family seat and provide the grounds 65 years later for West Ham Park - see here). Samuel inherited and moved in to the property on the death of his father-in-law (in the days before the Married Women's Property Act) in 1812.

Samuel and Elizabeth had two children by the time they took possession of Ham House and set about making alterations to it, that made it a Georgian house of distinction. At the time it had about a dozen live-in servants.

Ham House, pre- destruction
In 1809 he borrowed money from his father and father-in-law and bought into the bank in which he was working and had it re-branded as Overend, Gurney and Co.

During the financial crisis of 1825 his bank lent money to a number of other London banks in temporary financial difficulties. For the next 30 years it was to be the largest discounting house in the world. Thus, Gurney became known as 'the bankers' banker' and many firms began to deposit money with his institution in preference to the Bank of England.

Having impressively stamped his mark on the banking world, Gurney devoted much of the rest of his life to his two main passions - land acquisition and disposal in Forest Gate and a variety of (even today) impressively liberal philanthropic endeavours.


Chronologically, the philanthropic endeavours came first. They are worthy of - and have been recorded in - many histories. For brevity's sake, the more significant of them were:
  • Supporting, financially, his sister Elizabeth, the prison reformer and brother-in-law Joseph Fry - who had kick started his career. The Frys were hit in the financial crises of the mid 1820's and were forced to sell their grand house in Plashet - now host to Plashet Park and the borough's registration offices. Gurney rented them Cedar House, next to his own home of Ham House, in Portway. (This later became home to the Territorial Army - ironically for a property owned by pacifist Quakers).
Elizabeth Fry - reading to
prisoners in Newgate Prison
  • Supported another brother-in-law, Edward Buxton and his father Fowell Buxton - in the anti-slavery movement. He attended the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840 - see picture (in National Portrait Gallery) - below, and was for a while chairman of the organisation.
Gurney, front row, far left at the 1840
 World Anti-Slavery Convention

  • Played a significant part in helping to established the African state of Liberia, as a home for slaves freed from Europe and America. Such was his contribution to the establishment to the country, that he had a town named after him there.
  • Was a staunch opponent of capital punishment; and was threatened with prosecution himself for refusing to prosecute a man who forged his signature, knowing that the result would be capital punishment for the offender.
  • Was patron of two non-conformist British and Foreign Society Schools (see here for details) in Stratford: one for boys and another for girls. He left an annuity of £150 - c£15,000 today - for the future development of the two schools in his will. This passed to West Ham School Board, on its formation - and now rests with Newham Council.
  •  Was the national treasurer for the non- conformist British and Foreign Schools Society from 1843, until his death in 1856. He left the Society £5,000 (c £500,000 today), on his death.
Samuel Gurney in 1840

  • Although a Quaker, he was non-sectarian in his approach to education. So, he also supported Church of England schools. In 1853 he donated land on the corner of Woodgrange Road and Forest Street to build Emmanuel (later St Saviours) National School.
  • Toured Ireland in 1849 and made many donations to those affected by the Potato HUnger of that decade.
  • Established the Poplar Hospital for Accidents in 1853, to look after injured dock workers, in the first instant.
  • In 1856, his will gifted £800 - c £78,000 today - for the "maintenance and winding up of clocks in public places" in Forest Gate, including one to be erected on Forest Gate Congregational Church. Since 1860 the income has been given to West Ham, now Newham, Council.

Local land acquisition and disposal

Having inherited the area of what is now West Ham Park from his father-in-law in 1812, Gurney was quiet on the local land acquisition front until his effective retirement from his successful banking career.

His transactions and their subsequent disposals, however, have shaped the area, making what is recognisably Forest Gate, today.

in 1851 he bought the 131 acres of Hamfrith Farm/estate for £17,710 - c £2,250,000, at today's prices - from the Greenhill estate. This was roughly the area between Romford Road and Wanstead Flats, to the east of Woodgrange Road, as far as Station Road, Manor Park.

Two years later he bought the 200 acres of the Woodgrange farm - most of the Forest Gate area to the west of Woodgrange Road.

He also acquired about 250 acres in what was then Little Ilford (now Manor Park) and acquired the Lordship of the manors of Woodgrange and Hamfrith.

He promptly resold much of the land he had acquired, to become the West Ham and Jewish cemeteries, as well as the Industrial School on Forest Lane (see here and here, for details).

Ever the astute businessman, he clearly saw the development opportunities with the arrival of the railways into Forest Gate (see here); and in the short period  remaining in his life, began to package some of the land up, with a view to housing development resale.

So, from 1855, development started on the Gurney and Dames estates - to the west and north of Forest Gate station (see here, for details).

He died on 5 June 1856 and was buried in the Friends' burial grounds in Barking. He was survived by 9 children and 40 grandchildren. His oldest son died soon after and the estate subsequently transferred to his grandson, John.

Within 10 years, however, the bank that Samuel Gurney established and built became mired in severe financial difficulties, by diversifying into greedy, risky projects (sound familiar?) and faced bankruptcy. Many shareholders, including members of the Gurney family, lost fortunes and faced financial ruin.

It was this crash that spurred the rapid building boom in Forest Gate, as grandson John disposed of land and property in order to stabilise family finances.

Most notable among the disposals was the sale of the family home, in 1872, to become West Ham Park (see here), for a knocked down price of £15,000 - c £1.5 million, today.

The grounds of Ham House, before being
 turned into West Ham Park, in 1874
Also, in 1872, he sold most of the north side of what had been the Hamfrith estate to the British Land Company, which, in turn sold some to the Manor Park Cemetery Company (see here) and enabled the development of much of which in estate agents-speak is now known as "The Forest Gate Village".

Thomas Corbett acquired much of the south side of the Hamfrith estate and developed it into what is now the Woodgrange estate, between 1877 and 1892 (see here).

The period 1870 - 1890 saw the development of the western end of Forest Gate, from lands that had been part of the Gurney estate. This lead to the construction of Hamfrith, Atherton, Sprowston (see here), Norwich and Clova Roads,. as well as Earlham Grove (see here).

So, Quaker, banker, philanthropist, land-owner, Samuel Gurney stands as the man whose property dealings lay the foundations of Forest Gate, as we know it today.

He is most visibly remembered locally not in Forest Gate, but by the obelisk and drinking fountain in the grounds of St John's church, in Stratford. It is interesting that there should be a monument to a Quaker in the grounds of a prominent CofE church - but such was the regard in which he was held locally.
An 1861 drawing of the Gurney
memorial, soon after its erection
The monument is 40 feet high and made of granite. It was unveiled in 1861, having been designed by Gurney's fellow Norfolk-man, John Bell.

The inscription reads:
In remembrance of Samuel Gurney, who died on 5th of June 1856. Erected by his fellow parishioners and Friends (Quakers) 1861.
When the ear heard him, then it blessed him.
 (ed: this is a paraphrase from the Book of Job
One final point. Although the bank that Gurney turned into such a success bombed a decade after his death, its entrails survive as part of what is now Barclays Bank. If only he had been around in 2008 to offer them his counsel, prior to the banking crash of 2008.

E7 properties owned by overseas companies

Monday, 27 November 2017

The Land Registry has recently made public details of foreign-owned UK properties - many of them held by companies in tax havens, where the ultimate owners can hide behind the anonymity that looser company registration regulations in those territories permit.

An interrogation of the Registry data base has thrown up details of 22 sets of properties in Forest Gate. In September 2015 we covered a number of them covered in a data base put together on behalf of Private Eye - now relocated immediately under this article..

The Land Registry records have thrown up 14 new sets of properties in E7, listed below. These include The Gate library, the Iceland supermarket, a care home, a private school and a number of premises sub-divided into flats.

This article also updates details of nine property portfolios covered in our previous article.  Seven additional properties from the earlier article are not detailed in the Land Registry list - suggesting that they may have been sold over the last two years - these too are also referred to. The company owning the most significant one - City Gate House on Romford Road -  has fallen into liquidation  since the earlier blog - see below.

It should be said at the outset that it is not illegal for a UK citizen to transfer property to an overseas company, and there is probably nothing unlawful about anything that is covered below. But, this simply illustrates how weak British company and taxation laws are - as highlighted by many of the revelations emerging from the recent so called 'Paradise Papers' leaks.

While successive governments have claimed to be clamping down on tax avoidance, in order to collect sufficient funds to pay for much needed public services, almost nothing has been done to close this huge loophole. People with substantial assets, or property holdings, are able to set up companies in tax havens and transfer their assets to them. In doing so, they can easily avoid paying the level of taxes to the UK government that they would need to, were they registered in the UK.

And herein lies a basic hypocrisy. These companies, depending on how they are structured, can save their arms-length UK owners huge amounts in taxes; income or corporation taxes from rents and/or Capital Gains Tax (CGT) from profits made on the sale on the properties. The cost to the exchequer nationally of this avoidance runs to many billions of pounds per year. It is difficult to estimate how big a "saving" for the proprietor, or "loss" to public services, the companies listed below account for, but it must run to tens of millions annually.

At the same time, some of the companies below will be more than happy to pick up public funds from the properties held in these tax havens:  from Housing Benefit from the tenants in flats and houses, from rents for libraries and civic premises, from fees on behalf of care home residents, or from tax exemptions around private school fees, without being willing to contribute to the public funds that enable the services to be provided.

The result: public services are deprived of much needed funds by some people who are significant beneficiaries of them.

Illegal? - no. Immoral - absolutely.

Public and political debates about tax levels in the UK are rendered almost meaningless until "loopholes" such as these are closed and that wealthy people pay their taxes on an equitable basis with the rest of us.

The details outlined below throw up another angle on the "convenience" made of overseas property ownership.  We have cross-referenced many of the properties below to Newham Council's planning website, and on the residential property licensing details the site provides.

Several of the properties have been subject to changes of use, or extensions being built since they were registered as being owned abroad.  In no cases are details of the overseas ownership declared on the publicly available documents on the council's website.  Planners and the like, when considering correspondence and plans relating to these properties, end up dealing with agents, and what appear to be smokescreen UK-based companies, blissfully unaware of the tax haven-based ownership of the buildings.

Again - nothing illegal; but an indication that foreign based ownership is used as a convenience for tax avoidance purposes, but is not declared when dealing with other arms of the state. Perhaps if the council were aware of the tax-avoiding ownership of the properties they are considering, they would be in a stronger position to extract concessions (known as Section 106 agreements) from the property owners, to compensate for income denied to the exchequer by tax avoidance, when determining planning or change of use proposals for them.

The residential property licensing aspect of the site, however, throws up another, intriguing factor. 

According to Newham Council's website: 
You must have a license for every home that you rent out privately in Newham. If you don't, you could face a fine of upto £20,000.
We have run all the properties, below, against Newham's publicly available register of licensed residential rented properties. Some have been registered - but only one, as far as we can ascertain, in the name of the tax-haven ownership company. There are however, up to a dozen other properties that are almost certainly rented out, but have not been registered under the local licensing scheme.

Wouldn't it just be a little satisfying, if they were brought to book by Newham and forced to pay that £20,000 - to show the ultimate owners that they are not entirely our of the jurisdiction of British law - and thereby have to contribute a little to public coffers - by way of a fine - of what they have tried to avoid by hiding in a tax haven? 

Properties new-to-this-site

Flat D, 87 Idmiston Road - registered as owned by Laneside properties in the Isle of Man (IoM) on 8 March 2001. There are a total of 17 properties registered as owned by this company, across North and North-East London. There is no Newham council licence to let this property for residential accommodation.

87 Idmiston Road
69a Pevensey Road -  registered as owned by Sunrise Capital Services, in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). There are a total of 22 properties registered as owned by this company in Hackney, Waltham Forest and Newham. See 65 Dames Road, another local property by Sunrise, immediately below. There is no Newham council licence to rent this property as residential accommodation.

69 Pevensey Road
65 Dames Road - registered as owned by Sunrise Capital Services, BVI on 21 October 2016. Another property in the Sunrise portfolio is 69a Pevensey Road - see above. There is currently a Newham council licence, granted to Arshad Shahed - no address given - to rent this property as residential accommodation.

65 Dames Road
4-20 Woodgrange Road (Donald Hunter House) - registered as owned by Stratos Holdings, in Guernsey, on 15 October 2014. This is the only property owned by the company, in the UK. It includes both The Gate library and Iceland stores.  So, Newham Council will be paying rent to Stratos in order to run a library there, but Stratos will skip a major obligation to help fund public services, like - libraries!

Part of 4 - 20 Woodgrange Road
29 Upton Lane - registered as owned by  Sunshine Investment Devices Ltd, in the BVI on 17 January 2017. There are 8 properties owned by this company in London. Three months after this property was registered in the BVI, Mr Shahed of Queen's Road Walthamstow was "the applicant" for planning permission, which was granted, for building a garage at its rear. The premises is licensed by Newham council to be property letting agents.

29 Upton Lane
362 Romford Road - registered as owned by Orellan properties Ltd, in the BVI on 2 November 1998, when valued at  £116,000 - probably worth in excess of £1,000,000 today. Think of the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) to be "saved"/tax lost to the exchequer when it is sold.  This is only property owned by the company. In 2002, at least three years after the property was registered in the BVI, a UK-based applicant, Mr Baulackey of Highbury submitted, and was granted planning permission, to turn it into a care home. No mention was made in the application of its BVI- based ownership.

362 Romford Road
45 Glenparke Road -  registered as owned by Tranmorne Properties, in the Seychelles on 6 April 2003. This property has a Newham council licence granted to Home Connect Ltd to let it as residential accommodation.

45 Glenparke Road
115 Dorset Road -  also registered as owned by Tranmorne Properties, in the Seychelles, on 25 June 2003. See 45 Glenparke Rd, above - these are the only two properties whose ownership is registered to this company. This property has been granted a licence by Newham council, to Nazir Hanif, to be let as residential accommodation.
115 Dorset Road
21 Studley Road - registered as owned by Felixstow Ltd, in the BVI, on  24 May 1999. There are two properties registered as owned by this company, the other one is in Croydon. There is no Newham council licence to let this property as residential accommodation.

21 Studley Road
478 Katherine Road - registered as owned by Glenhalgh Australia, in Australia on 6 April 2017. There are seven properties registered as owned by this company - the other six are also in Newham: 371-373 Green Street; 284 Barking Road; 65 Plashet Grove; 131 The Grove and 1a Manbey Park Road.

478 Katherine Road
179 Monega Road - registered as owned by VRP Holdings, in Jersey on 20 April 2016, when valued at £440,000. This is the only property registered to VRP. There are two flats at this address licenced by Newham council to be let as residential accommodation, to Mohammad Waqas and RG Properties Ltd, respectively.

179 Monega Road
Grangewood Independent School, Chester Road - owned by, Associate Properties, in the IoM,  valued at £2,300,000 when the company was registered. Associate Properties own seven bundles of properties, including 128-130 High Street North, East Ham (see photo), plus high street properties in Croydon, the White Swan pub in Greenwich and property in Hoxton St, Hackney.

Grangewood School

128 - 130 High Street North, East Ham.
This Iceland, like the one of Woodgrange Road
has tax-haven owners - see above.
Flats 66, 67, 69, 68, 70, 71 Lumiere Building, 544 Romford Road  - registered as owned by Xanthe Ltd, in Cyprus. Each flat was valued at £78,000 (probably worth £280k plus, today.  Think of the  CGT  savings/loss to the exchequer on sale when sold (i.e. gross capital gain of £1,000,000). In addition to the Lumiere buildings, Xanthe owns property in Portsmouth, including the Allders car park and land and buildings in Surrey Street and Commercial Road. Newham council has granted no licences to let any flats at this address. This seems worthy of an investigation by the licencers!

Lumiere Building
44 Thorpe Road - registered as owned by Long Smart (China) Ltd  in Hong Kong. It was valued at £90,000 when registered. Probably worth c £500,000 today - think of CGT savings/loss to the exchequer. The Thorpe Road property is the only one owned by Long Smart, and is in Waltham Forest.

Properties previously covered by this site

27 Knighton Road -  registered as owned by Tarleton Holdings International, BVI,  on 7 April 2005 at a value of £170,000. Tarleton owns three other properties, all in Ilford. Newham council has granted no licences to let any accommodation at this address.

27 Knighton Road
99 Green Street - this Asian restaurant was registered as owned by Cranbrook Property Investment, BVI, with a book value of £500,000. In addition to the Green St address, the company owns property in Cranbrook Road, Ilford. Newham council has granted no licences to let any accommodation at this address.

99 Green Street
50, 50a, 50b, 50c, 50d Avenue Road - registered as owned by Dominion Ltd, IoM on 18 May 2012 These are the only 5 properties registered as owned by the company. This collection of flats was formerly a hostel owned by London and Quadrant Housing Association. Persistent, unresolved dampness problems with the premises, however, lead to the HA to sell it on and move the residents elsewhere. This explains the reasons for the sale of the properties, but not why they went to a tax-haven company, with a registered value of around £600,000. Newham council has granted licences to Zahur Ahmed Chaudry with a business address in Romford to let three flats at this address for residential accommodation.

50 Avenue Road
113 Earlham Grove -  registered as owned by Northern Trading, Gibraltar on 6 August 2007, valued at £750,000. There are two properties owned by the company in London, the other is in Hounslow. About the time the property was registered in Gibraltar, it owners, through agents in the UK, applied to Newham's planners to have it converted into four separate dwellings. No reference was made to its Gibraltar ownership in the publicly available files on the Newham website. The application was approved. Newham council has granted 3 licences to Urban Spectrum Property Management Ltd and one to Hassan Yassin to let residential accommodation at this address.
113 Earlham Grove
10 Crosby Road - registered as owned by Balinara Ltd Guernsey on 10 June 2011. This is only property registered as owned by the company. Newham council has granted a licence to Balinara to let the property for residential accommodation.

10 Crosby Road
Sherrard Works -  registered as owned by Sherrard Road, Sherrard Works Ltd, IoM on 29 October 2012, with a book value of £1.5m. This is the only property owned by the company. It is a large, antiquated industrial site, behind the restaurant at 99 Green Street (see above), bought, presumably with housing development in mind.

It is difficult to establish its value today - and that will be determined by any planning permission may be given for its re-development. Whatever proposals are accepted by the planners, the tax-free profits accruing to the tax-haven based company will be considerable.

Sherrard Works
It would be highly appropriate if any S106 agreement Newham council could extract from the tax exiles could be large enough to help compensate for the tax loss to the exchequer, brought about by the tax-haven ownership arrangements

1 - 12 Sycamore Court, Romford Road, registered to Abacus Land4 Ltd, Guernsey on 6 June 2017. AbacusLand4, as its name suggests, is a land, rather than buildings-owning company. So, it owns the freehold of the land on which these flats sit, rather than the flats, themselves - which are frequently up for sale or let, as individual units. The company's income will come from the annual ground rent of the flats, and full ownership of the flats and land on which they are built will revert to Abacus on the expiry of the lease. The company owns 1214 plots of land in the UK, including in the south of Newham, on Gallions Road and Woolwich Manor Way.

Sycamore Court, Romford Road
326-330 Katherine Road - Tesco's local store and 9 flats - registered as owned by Irlam Properties Ltd, in the BVI on 8 September 2013, with a book value of £870,000. This is the only property listed as owned by Irlam Properties.

The new flats alone could be sold for over three times the registered price today, and the Tesco shop will bring in a rental income of at least £50,000 per year. Not a bad tax-free saving and investment for the anonymous faces behind Irlam! Newham council has not issues licences to let any flat in this block, for residential purposes.

326-330 Katherine Road
Properties listed in earlier article but not on current Land Registry database

These properties have, presumably, been subsequently sold to UK owners, but the previous tax haven-based owners will have sold them - depending on how the ownership has been structured - without the inconvenience of paying CGT on the profits made from the sale or Inheritance Tax, if passed on to another person, on the death of the earlier owner.

The first five of the properties listed below are houses. The fifth is the landmark City Gate House building, on Romford Road, and the last one, land and a cluster of buildings near-by it..

23b South Esk Road. This property was registered to the ownership of Excel Venture in Guernsey in November 2013, at a value of £134,500. It would have been worth in the region of £300,00 in late 2015, bringing a potential GCT savings/exchequer loss of around £70,000, when sold.

27 South Esk Road
115 Trumpington Rd. This was sold in the autumn of 2015 for £400,000, having previously been owned by Charming Properties Ltd, in Jersey, since 2007 - bringing a potential CGT avoidance/exchequer loss of around £100,000.

115 Trumpington Road
133 and 137 Upton Lane.  These two properties were registered to DAS Properties in the BVI for a little over £400,000 in the mid 2000's. They appear to have been sold a decade later for twice the price, bringing a potential CGT savings/tax loss of around £125,000.
133 Upton Lane
45 Chaucer Road. The house was registered to the ownership of YAAS Investments in the IoM in September 2012, for £285,000. If sold recently, it will have doubled in value, bringing a CGT savings/tax loss of over £125,000.

45 Chaucer Road
City Gate House, Romford Road. This iconic local property was registered in the name of BCP City Gate in the IoM in July 2015, with a book value of £3,658,840. It was, however, put in the hands of liquidators on 10 April 2015. It is difficult to know how this could have occurred - dreadful mismanagement, or another sleight of hand, designed to avoid even more tax.

City Gate House, Romford Road
Land property in and around 286 Romford Road and Nursery Lane. This was mainly low-quality commercial or industrial premises and unbuilt-on land. It no longer features on the register of properties held by overseas-based companies. Some of it was subject to a recent "unfortunate" fire. Much of it is now within the footprint of a proposal for housing redevelopment, currently with the Newham planning process for consideration.

Land at Nursery Lane
The details in this article are all based on Land Registry files, some Newham Council files and the database created for Private Eye in 2015. If any of the information is incorrect, we invite the property owners to correct any errors, and we will happily amend the details above.