The Struggle for Wanstead Flats 1946-47

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Local historian, Mark Gorman (Twitter: @Flatshistorian), celebrates a key date, and significant anniversary in the fight to keep Wanstead Flats the open space so many of us enjoy today.

Seventy years ago this month saw the climax of a local struggle with a very contemporary theme. On one side developers citing a desperate housing shortage, and planning the development of a large estate, on the other local campaigners, determined to defend their open spaces. But in this case the developers were local councils, and their opponents were the people of east London. The centre of the struggle was Wanstead Flats.

This was 1946, where wartime bombing raids had caused large-scale destruction across east London. The docks and industrial areas had been primary targets, and in West Ham alone 14,000 houses had been destroyed, worsening a pre-war housing crisis. Building had been almost at a standstill throughout the war, and many old and worn-out slums remained from before the war. 

Blitz damage in Eric Road, Forest Gate, 1940

Up to 1939 the open spaces of the Flats had drawn large numbers of East Enders annually, for fairs, circuses, football and other sports, providing the open space that they lacked near their own homes. During the war the Flats were pressed into use for military purposes. Anti-aircraft batteries and prisoner of war camps had been located there, and by 1945 large areas were covered by rusting barbed wire, bomb and rocket craters, the remains of gun emplacements and buildings. 

Much of the Flats had been dug up for allotments, or churned up by vehicles and military boots. In addition the local boroughs of East Ham and West Ham had claimed sections of the Flats for temporary “prefab” housing.

Meanwhile the British population had increased by over one million during the war, and this was followed by the post-war baby boom. The need for housing was immense; in January 1945 the government estimated 1,250,000 new houses were required.
Housing was the key issue of the July 1945 General Election. The Archbishop of York said he “could not imagine anything …more likely to cause bitterness among the men in the Services than to find when they came back that there was no possibility of the home to which they had looked forward so keenly”.

In the General Election campaign the Labour party promised 5 million houses in the shortest possible time, but after Labour’s election landslide the queues for homes seemed only to be getting longer.

This was the background against which in 1946 the County Borough of West Ham proposed to acquire a large tract of Wanstead Flats by Compulsory Purchase Order, to re-house local residents made homeless by wartime bombing. On the face of it, West Ham had a strong case for seeking to build housing on the Flats. 

It was expected that as evacuees returned, together with demobbed service personnel, housing pressures would reappear. West Ham Council was determined to provide adequate housing for the post-war population, and the open land of Epping Forest next door to boroughs which claimed serious housing shortages was an obvious target for development.

Despite the first warning voices raised against the potential damage to open spaces if councils started requisitioning land for housing, an editorial in the Stratford Express declared “as for ‘borrowing’ part for temporary houses pending the construction of permanent dwellings, there is far more to be said for than against the plan”. Bombed out residents “deserve all the consideration that can be shown them”.

However by early 1946 West Ham’s plans were viewed with increasing concern. The Walthamstow Guardian published a letter stating “that once temporary houses are erected on Wanstead Flats, the land will be lost to the public forever”. 

West Ham Council prefabs
 on Wanstead Flats c.1944

Longer term plans for development of the Flats also began to emerge. East Ham Council introduced a proposal to build two “modern” (senior) schools and a technical college at the eastern end. Then in April 1946 West Ham applied for 163 acres of the Flats to house up to 7,400 people. The new plans would mean that much of the central area would be covered with houses and shops.

West Ham Corporation received strong support from the newly-elected Labour Government, which was determined not to repeat the failure to provide decent housing after the end of the First World War. The Government even considered land nationalisation to prevent private landlords blocking housing development. 

There was a demand for action, and the Minister in charge of the housing programme, Aneurin Bevan, declared that landowners’ interests must be secondary to “the housing needs of the nation”. Referring to the specific case of Wanstead Flats Bevan declared “I regret very much that we have had to do it, but the people of East Ham must have shelter…The Commoners of Epping Forest must surrender to the overwhelming needs of the people of East Ham”.

Bevan’s own sympathies were made even clearer when he added the “property owner, like the vulture, cannot desert the carrion…and insists on hanging on to the land”. In a radical policy departure, the government therefore proposed to give responsibility for housing to local authorities, who would become the driving force in the housing market. 

Campaign leaflet published by the
Wanstead Flats Defence Committee. 

However, the argument was far from over as far as local people were concerned. As the plans became known through the local press alarm grew; a letter to the Stratford Express expressed a characteristic viewpoint in declaring that Wanstead Flats was not being taken from a wealthy landowner ”but from the working man and his children”.  This was echoed by another describing Wanstead Flats as “a recreation ground of incalculable value to the people, particularly the youth of thickly populated districts of East London”.

A group of residents of Park Ward, on the Lakehouse and Aldersbrook Estates north of Wanstead Flats, became the core of the opposition. An organisation already existed on the estate, the Park Residents’ Society, which had begun life in 1945 as the War Damage Organisation, to help local people whose homes had been damaged by bombing.
Led by a hardworking secretary, Stanley Reed, a West Ham schoolteacher, a Defence Committee was formed, which launched a petition and held public meetings.  A Defence Committee was formed, which launched a petition and held public meetings, organised by its hard working secretary, Stanley Reed, a West Ham school teacher. Reed, also a keen film maker (in 1948 he made the excellent Neighbourhood 15, about the rebuilding of West Ham), was later to go to the British Film Insititute, becoming its Director in 1964.  There, he helped kick-start the careers of the likes of Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, Jack Gold and Kevin Brownlow.

The Committee brought together local resistance, urging opposition in particular from the residents of both East and West Ham, since Stanley Reed correctly foresaw that “objections from Wanstead were certain to be represented by the West Ham politicos who initiated the scheme as arising from snobbish fears among the Wanstead well-to-do of working class penetration into their preserves”.

Stanley Reed, later in life, after
 he had become Director of
The British Film Institute

As the furore grew the debate became increasingly bitter.  A public meeting convened in Leyton by the Defence Committee drew 250 people in July 1946. Leah Manning, MP for Epping, told the meeting that, if all legal means failed, “we have pickets and bands of people to take up positions on the Flats and prevent the first step to build. I am prepared to spend as many nights as you like on the Flats”.

Leah Manning’s involvement in the protest campaign was particularly significant; as Epping’s first Labour MP, she might have been expected to be in favour of the building proposal. Indeed, in the following year she worked equally hard for housing development in Harlow New Town in face of a local protest campaign. In her autobiography she wrote “…at that time, the need for housing accommodation was desperate and urgent. The bombed-out in London were living in conditions of unparalleled squalor and over-crowding…”, and this she felt should override the need to preserve “the natural beauty of village country life”.

At another protest meeting a local Councillor raised an issue central to the protestors’ case when he said that powers were being claimed which infringed on public rights. If they were able to build on one part of Epping Forest it would be the beginning of the end for the whole forest. “Therefore”, he said “they were approaching the methods which Hitler adopted when he used the law to carry out his schemes, and when the law did not fit he made it fit”.

This was strong stuff; West Ham Council’s response was equally robust. The Chairman of West Ham’s Housing Committee wrote an open letter to the Stratford asking protestors to “look at the problem from the point of view of the thousands of homeless or badly housed men, women and children” for whom the scheme offered the “only practical prospect” of housing in the next two-three years.  To these people, she said, “the ‘Hands off the Flats party’ might appear as indifferent to their needs”.

Nor was the general public unanimously opposed to the scheme. A writer to the Stratford Express said that the Flats were “an eyesore”. Servicemen who had fought through the war deserved homes of their own, “not… to live with relatives”. Another correspondent to the Walthamstow Guardian wrote “blocks of luxury flats, trolley bus routes, public lavatories, riding school tracks, all add to the ‘amenities’, but…dwellings for the labouring class of East Ham or West Ham apparently cannot be allowed even under the sacredness of socialism”.

However the general feeling locally was strongly against the proposals. Even other local boroughs, whose support for a major housing scheme might have been expected, were highly critical of their neighbours’ action. The Leyton Town Clerk commented sarcastically “if West Ham want to build houses they might consider using a park of their own”. 

Cartoon in a local paper on the housing plans. 

By the summer of 1946 the controversy was at its height. The story made the national press, becoming a test case for the preservation of open spaces against housing needs, the Scotsman among others reporting support for the protest campaign from all over the country. As the Stratford Express put it – “There can be no compromise…the question is simple; is the …need for more housing so acute that such an irrevocable step has to be taken?”

A public inquiry was ordered by the Minister for Town and Country Planning, to hear West Ham Council’s application for a compulsory purchase order. Apart from the petition with 60,000 signatures presented by Leah Manning to parliament, the Council received 379 formal objections to their proposal. A formidable array of groups opposed the application, not only the City Corporation but also including Wanstead and Woodford Borough Council, the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, the National Playing Fields Association, and Ilford Trades Council.  

The Inquiry got national coverage:
report from 
The Scotsman
December 1946

The inquiry opened on 3rd December 1946. Amidst catcalls and shouts the inquiry heard West Ham’s Town Clerk declaring this was a battle of “the haves and the have-nots”; he bitterly accused the protestors of prejudices against people from West Ham coming to live near them. West Ham Council knew that the scheme would be opposed, he said, “because the land was an open space and they knew the type of English mind which said that because a thing had been used for years for a certain purpose it was wrong to change it.”

West Ham acknowledged its falling population, but claimed that 80,000 people needed re-housing. Citing people in urgent need the Town Clerk went on to declare that Wanstead Flats was a large “flattish, bleakish and unattractive open space”. This statement brought more shouts of protest from the audience, which grew when he went on that “only a lunatic” would travel from the surrounding areas to play football on the Flats.

Objectors pointed out that West Ham’s plans were at odds with the government’s own Greater London Plan, which emphasised keeping as much open space as possible. In support of this evidence the tireless Stanley Reed, who had been given unpaid leave of absence by his employers – none other than West Ham Corporation - to attend the inquiry, presented the petition of 60,000 names.

The most effective testimony was, according to Stanley Reed, from a bus driver who “told a graphic tale of his dismal progress through Hackney, Homerton and Leyton to the point at which the houses ended and he and his bus emerged into the light and air of Wanstead Flats, with their trees, grass and grazing cattle: Sam Weller himself could not have done better”.

Leah Manning, Harlow’s Labour MP,
 threatened to lie down
 in front of the bulldozers

The Inspector duly reported back to the Minister for Town and Country Planning, whose verdict was given in April 1947, rejecting the application for housing. However the Ministry did not accept that Wanstead Flats was protected from compulsory purchase for building.  Acknowledging West Ham’s “very urgent housing problem” the Ministry stated that the Epping Forest Act “does not exempt this land from compulsory purchase”; the rationale for rejection was that shortage of labour and materials meant that West Ham would be limited to building on the land it already had. 

He continued, “it is most undesirable to permit building on the Wanstead Flats…it is not necessary to contemplate sacrifice of some of this open space for housing…”

Instead the Ministry proposed to make land available to West Ham in the outer country ring or beyond, where new towns were being started, under the Greater London Plan, which provided a blueprint for comprehensive redevelopment of the whole London area.  Indeed the Minister borrowed a key concept of the Plan in his judgment, talking of the Flats as “part of a well-established wedge of public open space extending into the densely built-up area of London”. 

The Council declared itself without the means to appeal, saying it would “loyally accept the decision”, and at once set about pressing the Minister to help them find alternative building land.

There were merits on both sides of the argument. A large number of east Londoners were in dire need of rehousing, and this was a priority both by the Government and wider public. However, it was equally clear that the Flats were for many east Londoners precious open land, especially for those for whom it was their only green space. Despite West Ham Council’s accusation that the campaign against the scheme was run by well-to-do middle classes against housing for workers, many protestors were from the very people the Council claimed to be helping. 

It was also realised that the outcome of the battle for the Flats would have far wider implications, for if housing needs were seen to take priority over open space on the Flats, other open land in or near areas of scarce housing would be vulnerable. An old story with very modern echoes.

Life in a Forest Gate week

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A recent post featured a rather special seven day period in Newham - the borough's first Heritage Week.  This one features a rather more ordinary week, in the life of Forest Gate. 

Our listings column (right) tries to focus on one-off events, or music within Forest Gate.  We are always pleased to add YOUR event, free of charge, of course; just drop a line to

The listings section, however, omits details of  those dozens of activities that run as regularly as clockwork within the area. Many of them have emerged as initiatives initiated by recent "gators", or in-coming gentrifiers.
But, an equal number, are long-standing sessions that have helped make the area what it is, for years.  Many of these are provided by or with Aston-Mansfield, at Durning Hall on Earlham Grove, or at The Gate, by Newham Council.

Below we offer a list of regular weekly activities in Forest Gate. We have deliberately omitted education/training courses and religious-related activities - these would take a lengthy post in their own right.

Some of the events listed are free of charge and others incur a cost. If in doubt, call before attending.  We provide a list of providers/venues and their contact details at the end of the blog.

If any of the details in this list are wrong, or change, please let us know and we will amend the listings.  If new regular events are started up, we will be happy to add them to the list.

The aim is to keep the details up-to-date, so that the blog can be an ongoing and accurate listing of Forest Gate regular events. We will notify updates via Twitter (@E_7nowandthen).

We will follow this blog in a couple of blogs time with a week's eating and drinking in Forest Gate - and pretty mouth-watering it should be , too!


9.00am - 3.00pm Woodgrage Baptist church. Baby/Toddler group.

9.30am - 12.30pm Durning Hall. Tender cubs (pre-school).

10.15am Corner Kitchen. Toddler music, for the under 5's. This and other classes listed below are put on by local mums; they are drop in £5 charge.

11.00am - 12 noon. The Gate. Tai Chi in the park. Forest Lane Park, meet Magpie Lodge.

11.00am - 4.00pm The Gate. Table Tennis

4.00pm- 6.00pm Durning Hall. East London School of Dance: ballet, modern and tap (3yrs - 18).

4.00pm - 7.30pm The Gate. Table Tennis Meet new p[eople and try your hand (children).

6.00pm - 8.00pm. Durning Hall. Shpresa Programme (mentoring and dancing workshops).

6.30pm - 7.30pm The Space East. Beginners Pilates (other times available during the week, contact Space East for details and prices).

7.00pm - 10.00pm Forest Tavern. Swing Dancin' Get dancing with Swing Patrol - swing dancing; no partner required. £10.

Forest Tavern - Swing Dance on a Monday night

8.00pm - 9.30pm Durning Hall. Kick boxing.


9.15 - 10.30am Space East. Beginners Yoga (other times available during week, contact Space East for details and prices).

9.30am - 12.30pm Durning Hall. Tender cubs (pre-school).

10.00am Forest Tavern. Gate Yoga: Traditional Hatha Yoga (suitable for all levels).

10.30am - 11.30am The Gate. Story telling; story and rhyme session for children upto 5 years old.

11.30am - 12.30pm The Gate. Buggy Fit: Free guided walk to the local park with your buggy. Meet at the library.

1.00pm - 2.00pm The Gate. Adult Chess Club

4.30pm- 7.00pm Durning Hall. East London School of Dance: ballet, modern and tap (3yrs - 18).

Durning Hall, for the East London School of Dance

5.00pm - 6.00pm Space East. Teen Yoga (contact Space East for details).

5.30pm - 7.30pm The Gate. Chess club : play, learn or get help to improve your game. All ages and abilities irrelevant.

6.00pm - 7.00 pm The Gate. Backsercise

6.00pm - 7.15pm Durning Hall. Beavers (boys 6-8).

6.00pm - 7.00pm Durning Hall Swing TrimFit. Scott Cupit's Swing Patrol branches out with a weekly swing dance inspired hour long work out. £5.

6.00pm - 7.00pm Forest Gate Community school. Female only Zumba

7.00pm Forest Gate Methodist Church, Woodgrange Road.  Gate Yoga: Traditional Hatha Yoga (suitable for all levels).

7.30pm - 9.30pm Durning Hall. Wing Chun school of martial arts.

8.00pm - 11.00pm Forest Tavern. Pub quiz. Winner £50, second bottle of wine.


9.00am - 12.noon Woodgrange Baptist church, Women's Health Club

9.30am - 12.30pm Durning Hall. Tender cubs (pre-school).

9.30am Corner Kitchen. Toddler French, for the under 5's. £5 charge.

10.00am CoffeE7, 10 Sebert Road.  Gate Yoga: Traditional Hatha Yoga (suitable for all levels).

CoffeE7 for Yoga on
 a Wednesday morning

3.30pm - 5.00pm The Gate. Games club: Sony, PS3, XBox 360, Nintendo Wii, board games and much more. Free activities for the 7's - 16's.

4.30pm- 6.30pm Durning Hall. East London School of Dance: ballet, modern and tap (3yrs - 18).

4.30pm - 5.30pm. MBox. Try an under 16's boxing class with Mickey (other times available - check website for details, phone for prices - see below).

Boxing, with Mickey from Mbox

8.00pm - 9p.00m Durning Hall. Wing Chien school of martial arts.

8.00pm 11.00pm Red House, Upton Lane. Jazz@St Ants. New performers each week. Reasonable priced drinks. £3.


9.30am - 12.30pm Durning Hall. Baby massage music for the under 5's. £5 charge.

9.30am - 12 noon. Woodgrage Baptist church. Baby/Toddler Group.

1.00pm - 3.00 Woodgrange Baptist church. Foodbank

3.00pm  Corner Kitchen. Toddler music, for the under 5's. £5 charge.

4.00pm - 6.00pm Durning Hall. Kick boxing.

4.00pm - 6.00pm The Gate. Science Club Join the club, carry out interactive experiments, watch demos and record results.

4.00pm - 6.00pm The Gate. Children's movie club. Free screenings for children aged 7 - 16 (under 8's must be accompanied by an adult). Advanced notification of films given. Advanced bookings essential.

Children's movie club at The Gate

6.15pm - 7.45 The Gate. Yoga; exercise for physical and mental well-being.


9.30am - 12.30pm Durning Hall. Tender cubs (pre-school).

10.00am - 4.00pm Community Garden, 138 Earlham Grove. Open for assisting or viewing: with a children's and a quiet area, for reading. You will be encouraged to sign up as a member.

10.00am Corner Kitchen. Toddler drama, for the under 5's. £5 charge.

10.30am - 11.30am Space East. Mums Yoga with babies, level 1 (contact Space East for full details).

Space East for mums and babies
 yoga on a Friday morning
11.00am - 1.00pm The Gate. ICT drop-in session. Learn how to create your own email account and set up a My Newham profile.

11 am. - 12.30pm The Gate. Tai Chi in the park. Low impact class, combining deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movement to improve muscle strength. Forest Lane Park. Meet Magpie Lodge.

11.00am - 2.00pm Durning Hall. House of Love. Over 50's club.

12. noon - 4.00pm Woodgrage Baptist church. Lunch club and drop-in.

12.30pm - 2.30pm Durning Hall. East African Muslim cultural group.

12.30pm - 2.30pm Durning Hall. Newham Gambian Association.

1.00pm - 4.00pm. Forest Gate Community Garden, Earlham Grove, open for volunteering, or just a stroll.

1.30pm - 3.30pm The Gate. Bumps and babies - free activities for the under 5's.

4.30pm - 5.30pm Durning Hall. Think Big (drama class).

5.00pm  - 6.30pm Durning Hall. Folk in Motion (wheelchair dancing for the over 50's).

6.30pm - 8.15pm Durning Hall. Cubs (boys 8 -10).

8.00pm - 9.30 Durning Hall. Scouts (boys 11 - 15).


9.30am -3,30pm Durning Hall. East London School of Dance (ballet, modern and tap; 3years - 18).

9.30am  Corner Kitchen. Toddler ballet, for the under 5's. £5 charge.

2 sessions of Toddler ballet
 at Corner Kitchen on Saturdays
10.00am - 11.30am Woodgrange Baptist church. Football academy.

10.00am - 1.00pm Woodgrange Market - corner of Woodgrange and Sebert Roads.

10.00am - 1.00pm Community Garden, 138 Earlham Grove. Open for assisting or viewing: with a children's and a quiet area, for reading. You will be encouraged to sign up as a member.

10.00am - 12. noon Durning Hall. Irish dancing academy (all ages).

10.15am  Corner Kitchen. Toddler ballet, for the under 5's. £5 charge.

10.30am - 12.30pm The Gate. Homework club: free study support during term time for children aged 7 - 14.

10.45am -1.30pm Durning Hall. Tender cubs (pre-school).

11.45am - 2.30pm Durning Hall. Alcoholics Anonymous.

2.30pm - 4.00pm The Gate.  Keep fit to Salsa.

3.00pm - 4.00pm Durning Hall. Wing Chun school of martial arts.

2.30pm - 4.30pm The Gate. Salsa. Dance yourself and keep fit while learning Latin and Salsa moves, without the need for a dance partner.


10.30am - 12.30pm Durning Hall. Kick boxing.

10.00am - 11.30am MBox. Try and Open Gym/Boxing circuit with Edward at MBox (other times available, check their website for times, and phone for prices - see below).


Community Garden:, @FGCommGarden

Corner Kitchen, 58 Woodgrange Road:  020 8555 8068, www.cornerkitchen.London, @cornerkitchenlondon

Durning Hall, Earlham Grove: 020 8536 3800, @A_Mcomms

Forest Tavern,  173 Forest Lane: 020 8503 0868,

The Gate, 2-6 Woodgrange Road:  020-3373-0856,

Gate Yoga:

MBox ,488 The Arches, Cranmer Road:  07952486062. @mboxlondon

Swing Patrol, 020 3151 1750.

Space East, Arch 439, Cranmer Road: Swing Patrol

Woodgrange Baptist church, Woodgrange Road. Parish nurse 07947 029556, or minister 020 8555 9880

140 -150 Earlham Grove - regeneration plans

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Six months after proposals for redeveloping 39a - 49a Woodgrange Road (see here for details) comes plans for an ambitious development on Earlham Grove (between the footprint for the other development referred to, above and the boundary of the Community Garden).

A combination of these plans, of course, put the final nail in the coffin of the former Obsidian proposals for the area, although, as will be seen, below, there is an interesting carry through of involvement.

The developments, combined, provide more evidence, if ever needed, of the massive regeneration and house price hike for Forest Gate, in advance of the coming of CrossRail to town, in 2019 (see here, for details).

This proposal comes from a consortium of Mura Estates ( and the Aitch Group (www. - which are very similar companies, sharing a Shoreditch head office, having almost identical websites and sharing involvement in a number of projects.

The associated architects are Buckley, Gray, Yeoman Architects. They are a large firm of architects, with commissions across London, Britain, Europe and beyond.

Like the builder/developers, they are based in Shoreditch.  Intriguingly they were associated with the now abandoned and much derided Obsidian proposals for Forest Gate of 4 years ago.  They haven't taken this down from their website (, so perhaps they still hope it is alive, or will be using aspects of it for the Earlham Grove plan.

The consortium have had boards up, advertising their presence for some time.

The footprint runs behind the shops on Woodgrange Road and surfaces at the gates next to Percy Ingle's on Woodgrange Road (see diagram on leaflet).

This strip of land seems very thin and is probably no more than an access route proposal.

The consortium is holding a consultation evening on 23 November, at Durning Hall - see copy of leaflet, for details.

We have written to the developers offering them space on this page to lay out their proposals.  We have yet to hear from them, but will treat what they say with respect - and without editorial judgement, as we feel that this is the best way of conducting a dialogue about an important project for our locality.

Whether they respond or not, we will update this post after 23 November with more detailed about their proposals and projected timetable, following the consultation session, as we did earlier this year with the Woodgrange Road project. That post has attracted about 1600 page views and provoked about 30 comments.

Their leaflet, advertising the consultation session is high on rhetoric and low on detail.  It says:

We will take this opportunity to present our emerging proposals for the redevelopment of the site.  The site is currently vacant and hoarded and detracts from the local environment.
 Our proposals are for high quality residential redevelopment comprising the delivery of new homes to the area and delivering on the Council's regeneration ambitions.
The event is for local residents, businesses and stakeholders to discuss the proposals with the project team and provide any views and comments.
We have had a quick survey of the websites of the three partners associate with the Earlham Grove project: Mura, Aitch and the architects. As noted above, Mura and Aitch overlap hugely in their profile, and in their projects too.

They have been in business since 1995 and deal mainly in residential and commercial developments in London and the South East.

Among the residential developments they have promoted in the East London area have been a 36 apartment block in Bow Road, just completed, with all but two flats sold (these are on the market at £500k each).

They are involved with 2 developments on Fish Island (45 residential units on Monier Road, due for completion in 2018) and 100 units on Dace Road. The architects of these were also Buckley et al.

The architects, established in 1997, have a very large portfolio.  They seem to be the "house" architects for Fred Perry and include their store in Westfield in their portfolio.  They also undertake a number of projects for Nandos.

Their other East London projects include Forest School, in Walthamstow, the Q Building in central Stratford and a development in Pier Road in North Woolwich.

We will add further details about the Earlham Grove proposals, here,  as they become available.

Meanwhile, feel free to add comments below, in order to keep a healthy debate and source of information about this project live, until it is delivered, or aborted.

Update - 25 November 2016

We visited the consultation evening on Wednesday (23rd), and here's what we learned:

  • The developers plan around 80 flats (1,2 and 3 bed), organised into 3 pods on their plot of land. Some of these will be for "social rent". The affordable/unaffordable mix is down to negotiations with the planners.
  • Meetings with the planners are going well, as a result the developers are likely to scale the heights of their blocks of flats back from their originally hoped for 7 stories to five or six. Presumably the seven storey option was their opening bid, that they knew would get negotiated down.
  • Because the development is behind the main (Woodgrange) Road, it is less visible to passers by, and consequently less controversial; so less interest has been expressed and fewer problems are likely to be encountered.
  • The proposed development is essentially on a brownfield site, which has already been cleared, so the lead-in time until development will be considerably shorter than that on the Woodgrange Road site, as existing tenants will not need to be accommodated and buildings demolished - should both proposals get the go ahead.
  • This means, should both sets of plans get the go-ahead, given the advanced nature of the Woodgrange Road proposals (already submitted to the council), it is possible that building on both sites could be taking place simultaneously.  This could cause congestion problems on Woodgrange Road.  The "communicator" told us that early talks had taken place between the two potential developers to consider how they could minimise this.
  • The thin corridor, shown on the first illustration, above, of the development will essentially be an access route for the rail tunnel that sits behind Percy Ingle's, on the site of the old Upper Cut club.
  • There is another strip of land, currently held by Aston Mansfield that lies between this proposed development and the Community Garden.  There are no firm proposals for this yet, but there have been preliminary discussions between these developers and senior people at Durning Hall about its longer term fate.
  • If the developers for this proposals and those for the Woodgrange Road site get their way, we will see 140 new flats - up to 6 stories in height within a couple of hundred metres of the station built - ready for the opening of CrossRail in 2019.  Watch this space, and prepare to draw your breath as prices are announced!
Further update - later on 25 November!

Since the above was written, the developers have sent us copies of the exhibition boards they used in Durning Hall.  We are reproducing them below.

The typeface is not always clear, so we are adding the copy of each, under the image, to give viewers a clearer idea of what the developers are proposing.

We encourage anyone with views about this development to engage in a discussion about it in the comments section below this post.

Board 1 

Public consultation, vacant land at 140 - 150 Earlham Grove, Forest Gate E7 9AB.

Welcome to the public consultation exhibition for 149 - 159 Earlham Grove.

We would like to use this exhibition to introduce the project team, the site itself and some of our initial ideas for its regeneration.

The site is brownfield/previously developed land and has remained vacant for almost 10 years, detracting from the environment and not making any contribution to the local area. The site is identified by the council for residential development and represents an excellent opportunity to enhance and regenerate the site while providing much needed housing for the area.

Board 2

The developer: Aitch Group and Mura Estates

The developer is a privately owned mixed use developer, based in Shoreditch.

The company was founded in 1995 and has for the last two decades focused on delivering regeneration projects in the fringe areas of London, predominantly in East London.

Our delivered schemes vary greatly from the refurbishment of an art gallery in Dalston, to the conversion of a factory in Hackney into 85 flats and workshop space.

The one element all our schemes have in common is that they seek to bring an improved vibrancy to the area both through high quality design and new uses.

The architects: Buckley, Gray, Yeoman

Buckley Gray Yeoman is an architectural practice formed in 1997, and is based in Shoreditch, which has accumulated a wide body of work over many areas, including residential, commercial, hotel & education, with a particular focus on East London. We aim to provide imaginative responses to the complex needs of today’s society. We are passionate about design and creativity. Good design brings a better quality of life, as well as bringing commercial advantage to our client’s business. Buckley Gray Yeoman and Aitch Group have a working partnership dating back over 15 years. During that time, we have undertaken a range of projects together, from smaller scale residential developments of 10 units right up to large urban regeneration schemes. We are currently working together on a number of mixed use, residential - led development, in a range of locations including Hackney, Fish Island and Deptford.

Board 3

Top half: Surrounding area

Bottom half: Outline of development area

The brown double headed arrow represents the proposed internal street/right of way. The green shapes, green spaces, the brown triangles Earlham Grove and the grey ovals, massing (i.e. the blocks of flats)

Board 4

The proposals. Key:
1 = site entrance,
2 = internal streets
3 (a-c) = residential blocks - 5 - 7 stories. 80 units (1, 2 and 3 beds)
4 = landscaped courtyards 
5 = residential allotments
6 = accessible car parking spaces

Board 5

Top half: 3D sketch precedent images (no, nor do we!)

Architecture: traditional brick elevations; balconies; tall windows; 5, 6 and 7 stories; 80 units, high quality, well built residential accommodation.

Bottom half: landscaping

Green courtyards; Birch forest; residential allotments; hedges and ornamental grasses; mature trees and shrubs; front gardens.

Board 6

Programme/further information.

If you require further information or would like to discuss the proposals further, please contact:

Write to us at: Freepost, MPC Consultation


Telephone: 0800 148 8911


Summer 2016 - design commences
Winter 2016 - public consultation and design developments
Early 2017 - planning application
Summer 2017 - planning application determination
Early 2018 - construction commences
Summer 2019 - construction completed.

A nod at our neighbours: Abbey Mills pumping station. Stratford

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Newham's first Heritage Week is over and early impressions were that it was a great success.  For Forest Gate locals the highlights would have included local historians (and significant contributors to this blog) - Peter Williams and Mark Gorman's packed-out (100 people plus)  presentation at The Gate on Gentrification in Forest Gate over the last 170 years. So popular was the talk that they will be re-running it at The Wanstead Tap (see footnote for details), in late November.

Another delight was a rare opportunity to visit Abbey Mills pumping station in Stratford.  This has variously been described as the Cathedral of Sewage, and earlier as the Mosque in the Marshes (to describe its original immediate setting and appearance). It was constructed on the former lands of Stratford's Langthorne Abbey - hence the name.

Woodcut of the original building,
 with minaret-like chimneys

The photos in this blog, gleaned from a number of sources (to whom we express our gratitude), illustrate why the visit was such a delight.  Details of how you may be able to gain access, in the future, are in the footnote.

"The Cathedral of Sewage" - today

For centuries London was drained by the various rivers, such as the Fleet, Tyburn and Hounds Ditch that ran into the Thames.  With the great growth of population in the nineteenth century and the development of rudimentary forms of toilets and running water, the Thames began to fill with raw sewerage, causing major public health problems.

Tour of the "Mosque in the
marshes", soon after its opening
 This culminated in what became known as "The Big Stink" in 1858, where the pungency was so great immediately outside Parliament, that the politicians moved out temporarily to Cornwall, to avoid it.

The Metropolitan Board of Works, one of the earlier manifestations of London-wide local government, commissioned its chief engineer Joseph Bazalgette to find a way of addressing the problem.

Joseph Bazalgette's, whose
 sewerage  system ended
 at Abbey Mills

His solution was gloriously simple, although it took a major civil engineering feat to implement.  It was to build a huge system of sewers which took the sewerage from central London to the far reaches of the Thames and deposit it there, where it was then pumped (untreated) into the Lower reaches of the Thames.

Stratford, Forest Gate and surrounding areas were seen at the time as being almost literally beyond the pale.  London moved all its smelly problems and potential health hazards to this land beyond the River Lea.  So "stinky industries" were driven to what more recently has become the Olympic Park area, sewerage to Abbey Mills and Beckton and cemeteries to Forest Gate and surrounds - where there are five.

Prestigious party gathers for the opening
 of a sewage works' pumping station
 - an unlikely sounding caption

Bazalgette's scheme most dramatically pushed the Thames back from its original shores in central London (The Strand) to its current limit - the Embankment - and a systems of sewers was constructed under the reclaimed land. These sewers continued until they reached the site of the pumping station in Stratford.

The engineering feat was remarkable, and conducted within seven years. But the significance of the achievement was buried under ground.  To celebrate its importance, the Abbey Mills pumping station was erected - at the end of the sewers - as a magnificent building, and testimony to the considerable engineering feat.

The rest of this blog concentrates on the architecture of the site, rather than the engineering, about which much has been written elsewhere.

The mills were constructed at a then cost of £200,000; a very considerable sum, considering the whole of the sewer system that ended its course there only cost £3million.

Bazalgette explained the need for pumping stations, rather than simply allowing the sewage to flow unassisted into the Thames:

The fall in the Thames isn't above three inches; for sewage we want a couple of feet (in order to ensure that the sewers are self cleaning), and that kept taking us down below the river and when we got to a certain depth we had to pump up again. It was certainly a very troublesome job
 We would sometimes spend weeks in drawing out plans and then suddenly come across a railway or canal that upset everything, and we had to begin all over again. It was tremendously hard work.

The station employed up to 300 workers in the late nineteenth century. Mechanisation, improved fuelling systems and modern technology mean that none is  currently employed on the station, on a full-time basis - although this "de-labouring" of the site is presently under review.

It was not until 1998 that the pumping station (much modified) was eventually replaced by the aluminium shed like structure, on the same site, that operates today.

The Bazalgette building is  Grade 2 listed. It has the lay-out of a Greek cross and the walls are faced with Suffolk brick. There are many arched windows on the faces and the roof has dormer windows and is constructed of slate. A lantern with a colonnade rises from the centre of the building.

The overall style owes something to that of an Orthodox church (it is not clear why this design was chosen).  What makes it exceptional is the lavish use of costly materials and ornamentation, such as decorative porches, sculpted masonry, encaustic wall tiles (where the coloured sections run as deep as the tile - rather like sticks of rock), patterned lead and gilded crests.

Most impressive is the internal ornamental ironwork

There were two huge chimneys (about 200 feet high) to clear the smoke from the original coal-fired boiler house that fuelled the pumps.  These were taken down in 1941, for fear that they would be bombed and the resulting damage disable the rest of the pumping station.

Stumps left of former chimneys
Other contemporaneous buildings include the Superintendent's house - currently being restored and a number of semi detached (and very desirable) former workers' houses, which fetch up to £900,000 on the property market today.

Superintendent's house, today

The architect was Charles Driver (1832 - 1900), who specialised in engineering based work, especially railways. For reasons that are not clear, he chose to incorporate six different styles of architecture into the buildings - in a way in which no other Victorian building does.

They are:

Italian Venetian - principally in the arched windows and Venetian corkscrew twist incorporated into the rainwater down drainpipes.

Magnificent arched windows

French Gothic - reflected in the internal iron pillars, and tops of the access towers to the beam engines.

Internal iron pillars

Flemish - the influence seen in the steeply pitched roofs.

Steeply pitched roofs

Byzantine/Moorish - shown in the venting chimneys (now gone - see above), which looked like minarets.

Russian orthodox - evident in the cupola, or lantern.

Looking upwards to the cupola
Celtic - seen in brass and copper florets on the east wing doorway.

Splendid doorways
From its origins until the 1930's the pumping station was steam drive, when electricity took over. The original pumping system was effective replaced in 1998 by the modern aluminium structure, but acts as an overflow, during heavy storms, or as a backup, when repairs and maintenance need to be undertaken on the new equipment.


1 Mark and Peter's  popular talk on the Gentrification of Forest Gate will be repeated at the Wanstead Tap on 30 November - see here for tickets (£3), which are in great demand. 

2 Abbey Mills pumping station is rarely open for public viewing, which seems a great pity. Newham Heritage Week organisers managed to get a weekend's viewing for Newham residents during the event.  It was oversubscribed.  The annual London Open House event features tours of the pumping station.  But this can be very heavily oversubscribed too.  For further details and booking, see here.

Difficult to gain a visit, but well worth it

3.One of Joseph Bazalgette's great-great-grandsons is Sir Peter Bazalgette, currently chair of ITV.  In his time he has also been chair of the Arts Council and prior to that was the man that brought Big Brother to British television. 
Sir Peter Bazalgette -
descendant of Joseph

The standing joke at the time was a version of what goes around comes around. Joseph Bazalgette pumped the shit out of London, while his great-great grandson pumped it in. Ho, ho, ho!