Forest Gate - Pathe News clips

Monday, 25 August 2014

Pathe News was THE film newsreel medium in the days before the widespread television ownership in Britain.  Filmgoers would usually get 8 - 10 minutes of news clips, as part of the bill on most cinema programmes, each week, until the 1960s.

Fortunately, much of the back catalogue survives and is available to view (or purchase) via the internet.

Seven clips, focussing on Forest Gate, or locality-related incidents, remain and viewing them today can be a real eye-opener for a modern audience.

Below, we consider each of the clips and provide hyperlinks to provide easy viewing

Godwin school (1969)

By Pathe News standards, this is lengthy (14 minutes and 34 seconds), but it provides a fascinating picture of the school and our locality, just 45 years ago. It is grim viewing, but a reminder of how far we have progressed in educational provison over the last half century.

The film shows squalor and over-crowding in the school (which housed both Godwin primary and Woodgrange infants at the time). Both heads talk about the difficulties the overcrowding presents.  There are many shots of youngsters  (most of whom will be in their mid 50s now), at study, in assemblies and the canteen, and at play.

Godwin school, 1969- eye opener, today

The multi-racial nature of the school population is obvious, and commented upon by the narrator.  Interestingly, the predominant non-white grouping would appear to be Afro-Caribbean; the film being shot before the mass expulsion of people of Asian heritage from East Africa in the early 1970s.
View here

Soccer on skates (1934)

This was shot at the old skating rink on Woodgrange Road, on the site of what was the Public Hall and cinemas, later became the Upper Cut club, and is now a railway ventilation shaft.

The film shows various clips of two teams of girls playing football on skates, a "craze that was about to sweep the nation", apparently! The commentator displays the jaunty and sexist tone of many newsreels of the day. 

Although the film is relatively short (1 minute 47 seconds), it shows some action from a women's football on skates match, watched by a lively crowd.

Soccer on skates: "craze, sweeping the nation"

The Forest Gate skating rink was a prominent one in the UK from the 1930s until the 1950s and we hope to feature it more prominently in a future blog on this site.

 View here

Train crash at Forest Gate (1953)

There were minor casualties in a train crash in Forest Gate in 1953, and this short (1 minute 43 seconds ) clip shows the rescue effort, with various shots of the wrecked train (with a Gidea Park destination notice at the front) and goods wagons involved in the smash.  An interesting view for railway and E7 enthusiasts, alike!

Forest Gate train crash, 1953

View here

Jean Deforges gets married (1954)

Jean was a local games mistress and international athlete who married Ron Pickering (later to be TV athletics commentator) at Emmanuel church in 1954.

This very short clip (49 seconds) shows the couple emerging from the church to an adoring crowd of well-wishers.

Emmanuel church wedding

 View here

Busy Bobby (1968)

This would have constituted one of Pathe News' quirky, human interest items.  It is the only one in this article shot in colour, and is about the Pathe's standard length (1 minute 57 seconds).

Forest Gate and quirky, 1968

Various scenes show Forest Gate Police Constable Bert Slight on his police moped, going about his work as an accident inquiry officer; he asks an old lady some questions on her doorstep. We then see several shots of Bert at his multifarious hobbies.  A pleasant, light hearted look at some of the district.
View here

John Cornwell

There are two silent films about this local VC hero, buried in Manor Park cemetery, to whom we have referred on a number of previous blogs.  The first concerns his funeral, in 1916 and the second the unveiling of his memorial in Manor Park cemetery in 1920.

Honour the brave (1916)

This shows the navy funeral procession for John Travers Cornwall, VC on 29 July 1916. It is silent and 1minute 23 seconds in length.

It features pallbearers carrying his coffin draped with Union Jack; there are wreaths on the top. They set it on a 3-wheeled wagon.  The procession proceeds  down a street lined with large crowds,  led by a naval officer and two men in civilian dress and family. There is a navy band, which many more mourners follow.
View here

Dr MacNamara unveils memorial cross to Jack Cornwell, V.C. (1920)(n.b. typo on screen)

Unveling of Cornwell memorial, 1920

The film is of Dr. MacNamara (local MP) standing next to the memorial draped in a Union Jack flag. A crowd of people in mourning dress listens as he addresses them, including a woman holding a baby. The flag is removed, revealing the memorial to John Travers Cornwell, the men in the crowd remove their hats.  The film is silent and lasts 1minute 38 seconds.
View here

These films, individually and collectively, feature precious clips of local social history.  We would be delighted to hear from anyone appearing in any of them, and would love to highlight any similar films that may be in existence.

Forest Gate pub guide: 2014

Monday, 18 August 2014

A year ago we published one of our most read, and certainly commented upon, blogs, on Forest Gate pubs - past and present (see here). Well, a year is a long time in supping, and much beer has flown  since then, so it's time for an update on where things stand. And the news isn't, overwhelmingly great.

Below: we record a  success,  welcome an addition, rectify an omission, regret some closures, update some wobblers, report some progress and dig up some history.

The success

The undoubted pub success of the last year has been the opening of the Forest Tavern, on the site of the old down-at-heel Railway Tavern.  Bought by the London chain of gastro-pub, shabby chic specialists, Antic, eighteen months ago, the pub opened last September, to much local acclaim, and affirmations that gentrification was finally arriving in Forest Gate.

It's a pub and chain that listens to its customers. So, bit by bit has added a restaurant, an interesting range of bar snacks, entertainment nights (Forest Gap, comedy and quiz nights), a monthly record fair, a good, tasty range of real ales, ciders etc. and most recently a (rather uninspiring) back garden. There's no piped music or intrusive TV, so lots of animated chat and conviviality, from an overwhelmingly white, middle class clientele.

Great success: Forest Tavern

The food menu hasn't perhaps lived up to its early promise, and those concerned with the pub's management (and profit and loss accounts) must be a little disappointed at the apparent lack of take-off of the restaurant.

But, the venue has certainly become a favoured meeting place, and big hit with so many who have been frustrated at Forest Gate's lack of a decent pub, over the years.

The addition

The bravest initiative over the last year, however, has undoubtedly been the roar-away success of the Wanstead Tap. Stuck out of the way (352 Winchelsea Road - round the corner from the Holly Tree - see below), in a railway arch (surrounded by car repairers), with trains rumbling overhead, and no beer on tap. Madness; a guaranteed failure by someone who didn't have a clue; a certain money loser, failure, bankruptcy inducer and early closure.

How wrong! A real welcome awaits from a delightful mine host and friends and relatives; coffee shop and toy and game-packed environment for those with toddler care in afternoons and a huge and absolutely delightful range of bottled beers and ciders in the evenings for drinkers.  Here's a beer seller, who loves his job and is ever on the look-out for new stock to add to his already very impressive range.

Unlikely success: Wanstead tap

And at night, a fascinating range of wide-ranging activities to entertain the patrons.  Great supper nights, once a fortnight, with food supplied by Forest Gate's gourmet chef, Michael Sanders, timely film showings (Mrs Doubtfire the night after Robin Williams' death), fascinating talks by authors and music makers with local connections, or stories to relay.

If you haven't been - don't delay. But not because the much predicted closure beckons!

The omission

Lots of flack for a key omission from last year's listing - the Holly Tree on Dames Road. Although (like the Wanstead Tap, above) not in Newham, it is in Forest Gate, and there has been a pub on the site since at least 1870 - so mea culpa.  Here's a quick addition to last year's listings.

Last year's omission: The Holly Tree, Dames Road

It's a popular pub, offering simple hot food (with a 4 star food safety certificate)and a range of entertainments, including sports on TV, Karaoke on Fridays (from a small raised stage area), a pool table and some gaming machines.

There's an outside garden, which overlooks Wanstead Flats and hosts popular barbeques in the summer. It even has some simple children's play equipment.  One of the best features of the pub is the large conservatory extension, offering pleasant, airy views of the Flats.

The closures

It was almost inevitable that there would be losers and closures over the year, following the national trend. And so it has been. Within four months of last year's article, the Live and Let Live (or "The Live", as it was generally known) died and is currently boarded up (see photo), with no sign of a new licensee, or even new use, in sight. A real shame, not only to see a pub with history go, but one in what is rapidly becoming the scruffiest, most unwelcoming parts of Forest Gate.

Dying on its feet: The Live and Let Live

Last year, we reported on the (then) recent closure of Temptations, which had operated as a nightclub on the site of the old Wagon and Horses on Romford Road.  It was closed, following complaints of rowdiness from neighbours.  There was always a possibility that it could have re-opened as a pub.

But no - it has followed the trend running in former pubs such as the Princess Alice - a little further down the road - and become and Asian restaurant.  It looks smart (as the photo shows) and has only recently opened, so it's very much, watch this space to see how it prospers.  But, one more local pub closure confirmed.

From Wagon and Horses to Temptaions,
now just the Family Grill, Romford Road

The wobblers

As predicted last year, the most likely victim of the Forest Tavern's success was the Fox and Hounds, almost next door, on Forest Lane. And so it has proved to be. Enterprise (a company that leases pubs to landlords/tenants) has recently posted details on its website of the availability of the pub, as a new business challenge for somebody.

Their website puts its best spin on what's on offer "This is a real 'heart of the community' traditional 1930's public house, with an original U-shape central bar, tons of original features, fireplaces, warmth and charm. It also benefits from a rear paved ('secret') garden, and well maintained three bed private accommodation."

Up for grabs, with £1,000 a week running costs

The annual rent is £35k, with additional estimated costs of £16k p.a. It must be a big ask to clear £1,000 per week "profit" from the pub, before making a wage!

Watch this space, for a forthcoming closure or very serious competition for the Forest Tavern.

The old Freemason's Arms (called Simpsons from the 1980's until around 2000), 324 Romford Road was boarded up at the time of last year's pub round up.  It still is, albeit with a scaffold-supported roof cover now.  It is not clear what will happen to this building, but a re-emergence as a pub seems highly unlikely.

Simpsons, further down the road of dereliction

The standing and operating

In summary then, Forest Gate now supports only 6 pubs:  Forest Gate Hotel (Sebert Road) , Forest Tavern (Forest Lane), Fox and Hounds (Forest Lane), Golden Fleece (Capel Road),  Holly Tree (Dames Road) and Hudson Bay (Upton Lane) , and one pub-like establishment (Wanstead Tap, Winchelsea Road).

Progress report: Old Spotted Dog, Upton Lane

The Grade 11 listed former pub continues to be boarded up, and remains in the hands of a liquidator, who having held it for about seven years, is trying to dispose of the site. There have been some pre-planning application enquiries about using the car park area for residential accommodation, but these have not progressed. The liquidators have been helpful to the local campaign to save/reopen the pub, who report that, despite its outward appearance, it seems fairly watertight inside and not too structurally damaged.

Fighting for survival and refurbing: The Old Spotted Dog

Previous squatters have been evicted and the site is reasonably well secured and patrolled. The Campaign held a well attended and successful public meeting in April this year and have been able to report interest from the Prince's Regeneration Trust, in helping them secure a community future for the pub. Realistically, it is going to take at least £2m to acquire and refurb the location, so the campaign group has set up a trust with a view to raising the money and seeking to get some building plans drawn up. Contact them for further details, and how to help and get involved.

Updated history

Meanwhile, this website provides details of additional, Forest Gate pubs, that have been closed over the last century, that did not feature in last year's listing, and provides further details and photographs of some of those already covered. Huge thanks to them for their painstaking work.

The Builders' Arms, 47 Station Road, Forest Gate. There was a pub here, from at least 1874 until 1934.  Its last recorded publican was Herbert Henry Webb. There are now garages, attached to flats built on the former pub site.

Camden Arms, 70 Field Road. Although we recorded this pub, which closed in 2008, we didn't have photo of it.  Below is one (thanks to Stephen Harris). There was a pub on this site, although clearly at least one pre-dating the one in the photo, from at least 1870. There are now flats built on the site of the old pub 

Camden Arms, after closure

Earl of Derby, Station Road, Forest Gate. The fate of this pub caused a little controversy following last year's posting, when we described it as having been subsequently tuned into a nursery.  The photo below (thanks to Stephen Harris) confirms this fact. The pub was managed in the 1930's by former World Bantamweight Boxing champion, Teddy Baldock, who had to hand it back to the brewery during World War 11, when custom dried up.

Let there be no doubt, what was
the Earl of Derby is now a nursery!

Forest Glen, Dames Road.  There has been little change from last year, as the pub still appears to be awaiting refurbishment into residential accommodation, and possibly a restaurant.

The Globe, 40 Chestnut Avenue.  There was, what must have been a small,  pub on this site, according to trade directories from 1871 - 1886. The building remains, as a house.

It's a small world: site
of The Globe, Chestnut Road

Golden Horse, 111 Forest Lane.  A pub of that name was listed at this location in trade directories from 1861 - 1934, and continued until the 1950s. The pub and a large area of Odessa and Wellington Roads were bombed in the second World War, and prefabs and a prefabricated Golden Horse were ereceted on the site. They have subsequently been demolished ard the area is now occupied by  St James' school playground.

Jolly Smiths - Field Road. This pub existed between 1871 and 1885, until its publican, Edward Prince surrendered his licence to local magistrates. We don't have its exact location, unfortunately.

Parliament House, 1 Parliament Place, which subsequently became 63 Forest Street, by the 1911 census. A pub of this name was located there from 1871 - 1944. For a lengthy time at the end of the nineteenth century it was in the hands of the Burren family, who were landlords of a number of pubs in Kent and elsewhere in East London. The site of this former pub is now occupied by part of Forest Gate Community School.

The Plough, 55 Field Road. There was a pub here from 1871 - 1887. It is now the Al Dubbagh Indian restaurant and take-away.

Once The Plough, now and Indian take-away

Prince of Wales, 58 Forest Street. A pub of this name was located here 1872 - 1886. The building has long gone and the site is now occupied by flats, behind Forest Gate Community school.

Railway Bell, 129 Forest Lane, 1877 - 1886. This site is now residential accommodation.

The former Railway Bell, Forest Lane

Travellers' Rest, 12 Cemetery Road. Thanks to Brian Berry for use of a photo of the most recent manifestation of a pub that had been on the site from 1871, until its recent transformation into flats.

Site of Travellers' Rest, Cemetery Road

Well, that's this year's round-up.  At the current space of developments, it is likely to need an update - and we hope a better news on -a year hence.

Summer of Love in Forest Gate: Upper Cut, Summer 67

Monday, 11 August 2014

1967 has been labelled the Summer of Love, in the annals of pop music. Hippies, flower power, San Francisco nights, and the widespread emergence of hallucinogenic drugs within pop culture have characterised the era. In this, the last of our monthly round-ups of Upper Cut gigs from 47 years ago, we have a brief look at how that summer played out in Forest Gate. For a full list and links to previous posts Upper Cut-related posts, see footnote.

Stratford Express reports on
Upper Cut's summer difficulties

June and July were difficult times for the club. It faced an enquiry into renewing its licence, following complaints of late night rowdiness by patrons and anti-social parking.  The months were relatively slack times at the Upper Cut, before it closed for a summer break.

Stratford Express -
2 June, with The Turtles

There was only one act of any significance in the first four weeks of June: The Turtles, who played the venue on the third. They were a short lived American rock band, who managed to move swiftly from folk, through folk rock to psychedelic within about five years. They first came to prominence in 1965 with a cover of Dylan's It Ain't Me, Babe, but had their biggest hit, just as they were appearing at the Upper Cut, with Happy Together. The Turtles folded in 1970, with a couple of their members leaving to join Frank Zappa in the eclectic Mothers of Invention.

Turtles - not Happy Together for long

Stratford Express,
23 June, advertising
The Chiffons and The Toys

There was then a three week gap in Woodgrange Road's gig schedule, before a double header of two Black, all girl American groups: The Chiffons and The Toys, on 24 June. The Chiffons came from New York's Bronx and had been formed in 1960.  They helped define the girl group sound of the time, and in many ways foreshadowed the later Motown greats. By the time they appeared at the Upper Cut, they had already had chart hits and a gold disc with He's So Fine, and Sweet Talkin' Guy, a few months before the Forest Gate outing.  The core of the Chiffons broke up in the late 1960s, although off shoots continue to tour until today.

Sweet Talkin' girls - The Chiffons

The Toys also hailed from New York,  were a short lived group.  They disbanded the year after the Woodgrange Road outing, by which time they had already had their biggest hit A Lover's Concerto.

The Toys

A week later, there was the return of Chris Farlowe at the end of the month( 30th). He had appeared only two months previously at the club a return doubtless encouraged by the popularity of this Islington soul/blues shouter.
Then July. Only two gigs of note - but two of the most influential bands of the era - on successive Saturdays!

Summer of Love at
the Upper Cut, with
Cream and Chris Farlowe

Return visit from Chris Farlowe

First up, Cream (or The Cream, as they were advertised) on 1 July. Surely one of the greatest rock/blues bands of all time, and perhaps one of those bands who were to characterise the famed Summer of Love.  They had a short life (about two years) but left an indelible mark on British, and indeed international, popular music.  They sold over 15 million albums in their three years of existence, including the Wheels on Fire, the first ever platinum double album.

Cream of the crop

The three piece band consisted of the mercurial Eric Clapton , who had already outgrown his stints with the Yardbirds and John Mayall's Blues Brakers, and Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, who had emerged from the Graham Bond Organisation, which played the Upper Cut in May. Cream had just released Disraeli Gears by the time they appeared in Forest Gate, so doubtless Strange Brew and Sunshine of Your love got a good airing on the night.

Small Faces revisit home club
And, the curtain closure before the summer break was the return of local boys, The Small Faces, who had played the club earlier in January 1967. They were just about to release Itchycoo Park. Whether it got its first public airing at this gig isn't clear; but it would have been highly appropriate, had it done so. The inspiration behind the song is much disputed, but Wikipedia, at least, is happy to accord it very local origins. The website says:

A number of sources claim the song's name is derived from the nickname of Little Ilford Park, on Church Road, in the London suburb of Manor Park, where Small Faces singer and song writer Steve Marriott grew up. The "Itchycoo" nickname is in turn attributed to the stinging nettles which grew there. Other sources cite nearby Wanstead Flats (Manor Park end) and Gardeners'  Corner, Aldgate, as the inspiration for the song.

Stratford Express,
7 July, with
The Small Faces

The club then took a six week break, over the summer months, not surprisingly, perhaps. But, the Stratford Express of 14 July offered an alternative explanation for the closure, when it announced:

Forest Gate police swooped on youngsters leaving Billy Walker's Upper Cut club and the Lotus dance hall on Saturday (the night of the Faces gig), in a bid to beat hooliganism.
Local shopkeepers had complained of vandalism and residents of noise and parking disruption caused by the club's patrons.
There was also chaos inside the club, as the Stratford Express continued:

After appearing at the Upper Cut on Saturday ... the Small Faces apologised to fans ... 'It was chaos on stage. We couldn't concentrate', said leader Steve Marriott. Tough bouncers either side of the stage rushed across the front of the Faces to drag away screaming girls to safety. In their rush, Plonk Lane's guitar was put out of tune and Steve Marriott's mike went dead. Dozens of hysterical girls were treated by St John Ambulance men and one was taken to hospital after being trampled in the crush. 'We're very sorry for the kids who got hurt but it was so hot up the front that they fainted and had to be dragged to the stage to safety' said Plonk.

For the future. We have tracked down and interviewed the proprietors/managers of Forest Gate's two popular music venues of this - and later eras: Billy Walker, who was the front man for the Upper Cut and Kenny Johnson, who managed the Lotus Club, the other side of Woodgrange Road, for 40 years.  We'll be reporting, with up-to-date photos, on their recollections of this iconic era for local, and indeed national,  popular music, over coming weeks.

Footnote: Previous postings on the Upper Cut Club can be found at the following locations:

Back catalogue
This is the latest, and penultimate postings on the history of the Upper Cut club, whose fortune we have tried to mirror, on a month by month basis, 47 years on from its short lived existence.

Other posts in the series have been:

Upper Cut (1) - a summary of the emergence of the first six months of the club

Upper Cut (2) - a brief survey of the second, and final half year of the club's existence

Georgie Fame, The Tremeloes and Unit 4 + 2 - (September 1967 at the Upper Cut)

When Stevie Wonder played Forest Gate - (October 1967)

Mouthwatering musical fayre on Woodgrange Road - (November 1967)

Club bills for the Upper Cut's two Decembers - (1966 and 1967)

The Upper Cut beds down - (January 1967)

Essex comes to Forest Gate - (February 1967)

Stax comes to town - (March 1967)

A mixed bunch at the Upper Cut in April (April 1967)

Upper Cut - May 1967 (June 1967)

Becoming rapidly forgotten

Sunday, 3 August 2014

This weekend marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1, and events of remembrance are being held, nationwide.  These usually are occasions heavily imprinted with the message Lest we forget.

About twenty varied war memorials were erected, after World War 1, in the Forest Gate area.  As far as is possible to tell, about half of them have subsequently been lost or destroyed, as the following makes clear. The passage of time and changing religious affiliations account for most of the local losses.

West Ham borough suffered  2,035 civilian and military deaths during the World War 1, the exact number of the Forest Gate death toll is not known.
The local memorials were originally located in:

Local churches/synagogue

All Saints Church, Romford/Hampton Road junction. The church, has hosted two tablets, set on either side of main entrance. They list the 428 members of the congregation who served in WW1. There is also, apparently, a plaque to the right of the alter, near the small chapel, which reads: To the greater glory of God, the chancel screen as erected by the congregation to the undying memory of the men of this church who gave their lives for king and country. There were 58 names on the screen  (whereabouts unknown), including  2nd Lt George Drewry. He was born in 1894 at 58 Claremont Road, and won his VC for his actions in the Battle of Gallipoli, in 1915.  He was killed, accidentally, three years later. The church also displayed a 2' x 2' tablet, in honour of Drewry.

Emmanuel Church, Romford Road.There is a bronze plaque, unveiled in 1922 (see photo) with the names of around 49 local servicemen/parishioners  killed during World War1.  The inscription reads: To the glory of God and in everlasting memory of the men from Emmanuel Parish who laid down their lives for king and country in the Great War 1914 -1918. It was dedicated on 5 Jan 1922 by the Bishop of Barking. The church also houses  a wooden board, unveiled in 1956, with the names of 36 local service personnel and civilians killed in World War 11.

Plaque to fallen World War 1 parishioners,
Emmanuel church, Romford Road

The nearby St Peter's Upton Cross church was demolished in 1972, and its war memorials - one for each of the 2 world wars were moved to its new "parent" church, Emmanuel. Although the Second World War plaque remains in its new home, the First World War monument - with 15 names on it -seems to have become "lost"
St Edmunds Church, Katharine Road. At one time hosted a screen and a plaque. The plaque reads: This screen is dedicated in memory of the men in this congregation who gave their lives 1914 - 1918. 66 names are listed.  The screen may now be lost, as the plaque is mounted on an outside wall of the church.

St James Church , Forest Lane. There was a memorial screen with the 148 names of the parishioners who perished in the First World War, and a chapel, in the church,  with window dedicated to the fallen. These  were unveiled on 13 November 1921 by Lt Gen Sir Francis Lloyd.  The church was demolished in 1964 (see photo)and it appears that nothing from the memorial and window was saved.

Former St James' church, Forest Lane.
Former memorials assumed lost/destroyed

St Marks, Lorne Road hosts a parishioners' plaque, which was originally erected on the previous church (see photo) and moved when that was demolished, in 1985. The inscription reads In memory of those fallen in the war 1914 -1918 from this parish, and lists 44 names. The church also features a  memorial window to the First World War fallen. It is in three sections; one depicting Christ crucified with two soldiers at his feet; to the left, a depiction of Mary;  and to the right, one of  St George. It was designed by Herbert Hendrie and unveiled by the Rev James Elphick in 1920.  It, too, was moved to the new church when the old one was demolished.
The previous St Mark's church, Lorne Road.
Its memorials now housed in post 1985 church

St Saviours Church, Macdonald Road. The church was demolished in 1974. It had a roll of honour for the 134 parishioners who were lost in World War 1, with the inscription: To the glory of God and in undying memory of the following me from this church who died in the service of their country in the great war 1914 - 1918. Their names live for evermore Unfortunately not, however, as the memorial plaque has been subsequently lost. There was an associated Book of Remembrance in the church, listing the names.  Its whereabouts is also unknown, as are a similar plaque and Remembrance Book to the World War 11 dead.

St Saviour's Church, Macdonald Road, under
the hammer. Memorials missing, assumed destroyed

West Ham Synagogue, Earlham Grove. A stone memorial (pictured) featured the 13 names of the congregation who perished in World War 1.  The inscription read: 1914 - 1919, West Ham Synagogue. For God King and Country (13 names). Surely England deserves that we, her Jewish children, should gladly live and die for her. Erected to the memory of members/sons of members and past scholars of the school who made the supreme sacrifice in the great war (see photo).

World War 1 memorial, assumed
destroyed, from former West
Ham Synagogue, Earlham Grove

A similar plaque with the World War 11 fallen was also erected. The Imperial War Museum believe that these memorials were destroyed when the synagogue was demolished, in 2005.

Woodgrange Baptist Church, Romford Road. The church holds a memorial tablet, which reads: Lest we forget.  To the memory of the following men connected with this church who laid down their lives in the great war 1914 - 1918. (27 names) Death is swallowed up in victory The tablet was placed in storage during redevelopment and part of the top and base were chipped.

The Woodgrange Methodist Church on Woodgrange Road hosted a plaque of the 19 members of its congregation who were killed in action during the First World War, but this was, ironically, destroyed when the church, itself,  was hit by an incendiary bomb on 3 December 1940 (see photo).

Woodgrange Methodist church,
Woodgrange Road, after bombing
on 3 December 1940.
WW1 memorial destroyed in WW11

Local cemeteries

Immaculatedly tended, and standard,
Commonwealth War Commission memorials
in Manor Park, City of London, West Ham
and Woodgrange Park Cemeteries

In addition to the meticulously maintained, official Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorials in Woodgrange Park (187 remembered), Manor Park (168 remembered), West Ham and the City of London Cemeteries (see photos), there are a number of individual headstones to some of the World War 1 fallen in each of these cemeteries maintained to varying standards - universally poorly, in the case of the Woodgrange Park Cemetery. There are other WW1-related memorials of note within local cemeteries.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial,
Woodgrange Park cemetery, Romford Road

Commonwealth War Graves Commision
memorial, Manor Park Cemetery

Firstly, two Victoria Cross holders. Perhaps the better known is that of John (Jack) Cornwell (1900 - 1916), who was awarded his medal, posthumously for his bravery as a 16-year old at the Battle of Jutland.  His memorial is in Manor Park Cemetery, (see photo).

Jack Cornwell memorial,
Manor Park cemetery

Second, Lt George Drewry  There is a monument to him in the City of London Cemetery (see photo). He is also remembered in what was his local parish church, All Saints, Romford Road, (see above).

The Drewry headstone,
City of London Cemetery

Claxton Family. There is a memorial to this family in West Ham Cemetery, though none of those remembered on it is buried there.  It does, however, throw into focus the devastating effect that the First World war had on many families.  The inscription speaks for itself: In loving memory of Pte Benjamin Claxton, 13th Rifle Brigade, wounded in France August 21st Died Bangour military hospital Sept 10th 1918 aged 19. Pte Samuel Henry Claxton 2nd HAC, killed at Beaumont Hamel Nov 30th 1916 aged 26, interred at Beaucourt. Pte William Claxton 2/10th Middlesex.  Reported missing, then killed in Palestine March 12th 1918 aged 27, interred at Bonn, Cologne.  Sons of WH and RE Claxton "God is Love" Also Rev WH Claxton who passed on to a higher life on Nov 3rd 1935, aged 72 years. Cremated in Bristol.

Other local memorials

The Imperial War Museum's inventory lists three other memorials in the Forest Gate area, two of which seem to have been lost, or at least obscured from public view.  They are:

London County Westminster and Parrs Bank - later, Nat West Branch Forest Gate, 300 Romford Road. A bronze wall plaque was erected in the branch in 1920, as the bank did in all its branches who had a member of staff killed in the conflict.  It read:  In memory of the following member of staff of this branch who gave his life in the great war 1914 - 18 (name) There was only one name (unfortunately no longer known on it.  The plaque was installed c 1920. The building is no longer a bank, or with public access.

Osborne Road According to the Imperial War Museum (IWM), Osborne Road hosted a shrine on side of an unidentified building. It consisted of a three part arch, round headed, supported on pillars. It was an example of street memorials financed and erected by the former borough of West Ham, in memory of the victims of World War 1, and located throughout the borough. According to the IWM repeated whitewashings have obliterated the inscriptions. So much so, that the significance of the tablet may have been lost over time, and been subsequently removed or destroyed.  There is no visible presence of it remaining.  We would be delighted to hear from anyone with photographs of it, or knowledge of its fate and whereabouts.

Old Bonaventurians A 4' x 3' metal enamel plaque sits in St Antony's church, it is not dedicated to all the church's fallen parishioners, however. It  commemorates the boys and masters of St Bonaventures school, situated next door to St Antony's church. Its inscription reads: To the glory of God and in memory of old Bonaventurians who gave their lives in the wars of 1914 - 1918 and 1939 - 1945


Royal Mail Sorting Office, Earlham Grove. Thanks to Carol, in the comments, below, for drawing our attention to this memorial, and to Paul Holloway for pointing us to the Royal Mail Memorial Database.

Below is a photo of this memorial, at 199 Earlham Grove.  It is wall mounted in the sorting hall, and not accessible to the public. It reads: In memory of our gallant comrades who fell in the Great War, and then lists the names.  There is an additional small plaque, attached to the bottom of it, dedicated to the memory of those who died in WW11.

Royal Mail Sorting Office memorial,
199 Earlham Grove
No sooner had this post been uploaded on the blog and a new war memorial was unveilled in Forest Gate - on 4 August 2014, the centenary of the British involvement in WW1, remembering The glorious dead 'K'Division, the Great War 1914. The following police officers gave their lives 23 names are listed Here lies sacred soil of the Somme and Paschendaele 4th August 2014.

Newly unveilled war memorial,
outside Forest Gate police station,
August 2014

Footnote. We are indebted to the Imperial War Museum for much of the detail contained in this blog.  The relevant section of their website can be found at: Any corrections to the text, or up-to-date photos or sightings of any memorials mention, will be gratefully received.  They will be added to this post, and where relevant, forwarded to the Imperial War Museum, for their definitive records index and database.

Tragic end to local World War 1 romance (part 2)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

This is the second, and final, blog recalling the experiences of local couple, Jack Richardson and May Larby, as they meet in 1913 and engaged in a relationship that was to end prematurely, with Jack's death, in France in May1915.

The blog is based on a recently self published book by local author and publisher, Paul Holloway, which consists principally of the letters from Jack that his grandmother (May Larby) kept, during the less than two years of their relationship. Details of the book, and its availability appear in the footnote, below.

Lt John "Jack" Richardson, 1915

The first half of the story (see here) told how Jack, the son of Shaftesbury Road Elementary school's headmaster and May, daughter of a local police constable, met in 1913 and how their relationship blossomed over a shared interest in the arts. As war loomed, they each volunteered for appropriate service and the correspondence plotted their progress to conflict.

The previous episode ended with Jack's departure to France, on 17 March 1915, some nine months after volunteering for action, and eight after the outbreak of hostilities.

The reality is, however, at this time, the average allied forces' officer only survived six weeks on the front line, before death struck - Jack managed seven.

Jack, like most of his contemporaries, could not wait for action, and was frustrated at the delays he had experienced.  He viewed the prospect of the front line, if not with relish, certainly with eager anticipation.

It is now mid March 1915, and Jack's first letter from the trenches is received.  For understandable security reasons, the exact location is not identified. The tone is cheerful. Clearly the war is on, work is to be done, but all seems well.

"I came to the trenches for four days last night about 6.30. We marched along a railway line, then a road with just one or two bullets whistling here and there but with no casualties..  ... The Germans giving us quite a rifle bombardment at 'reveille'. They keep this up more or less all night. ... It's such lovely weather today and the fellows here are jolly decent. I've even begun sketching the ruined houses etc. ...

"We stay here in the trenches 4 days and then have 4 in the billets. The latter are quite nice and we live in comparative luxury, although the shells come quite close and knock the corners off houses and break windows."

"There is very little danger here and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. The business doesn't seem nearly so horrible now that I am here. I'm in that frame of mind which is prepared to take the whole thing as a game, and a good one too."

The message by 23 March is still upbeat: "We had a 'working party' too last night and in front of the trench parapet throwing up earth to strengthen it. It's rather exciting for the enemy send up rockets and star shells and light up the whole scene.  Then we have to drop down until everything is dark again.  However there isn't much real danger and its jolly good exercise."

But the mood soon changes.  The next day's letter reports: "The trenches are some 4 or 5 inches deep in mud and you can't distinguish the shape of our boots for the mud round them and my puttees are caked in it up to the knees".

"However, none of us will be sorry to see the end of the war - this life is jolly interesting and exciting for a time, but after a few months I should think it becomes well nigh unbearable and monotonous".

Jack Richardson's Memorial Scroll

The next letter is from billets - some way away from the front, where troops went for some rest, after four days of action in the trenches.  The message is further downbeat, even from this comparative haven:  "There was only one officer left ... every day he told us, he had to go to his observation tower along a road swept by bullets and he escaped death daily. Time and again officers who went were killed or badly wounded, but he still remained and he was going back to it tomorrow ...

"Here and there is a house with great holes in the walls or roof, where a German shell has landed; and the Town Hall clock looks down on you with half its face blown away. It is, at night, absolutely a town of the dead - a city of dreadful night and the guns boom all the time"

"I have never felt death so omnipresent before ... We shelled the Germans as they left the town a month ago. There was house to house fighting, to force them out, and the fields outside must be sown with corpses. May, the war must end before the summer. And everywhere, during the day, outside the town where we are in the trenches it is one incessant scream and whistle of bullets and shells and at night absolute silence between the booming of the heavy guns and the bursts of rifle fire and the machine guns."

And then, for a while, the letters are less graphic.  Perhaps conditions improved, more likely Jack did not wish to depress May with his observations.  But the letters kept coming, reflecting once more on their shared cultural interests, or often detailing the more mundane aspects of life in a foreign country. That, and hopes for the future, when the two long for their reconciliation, that tragically will not occur.

Jack Richardson's medal entitlement

As March turned to April, Jack received his first casualty. His dismissive description of it was presumably to set May's mind at rest, but it was at variance with the more serious response of his comrades: "After putting several (bullets) through the German sniping hole opposite me and splitting the sand bags around about, I got a reply - and this was rather too good It caught the stock of my rifle and sent splinters and pieces of earth  .. and they caught my left hand slightly. However, very little damage was done and after getting it dressed by the stretcher bearers , to whom I went, I walked down to the Field dressing station and got it seen to again ...

"As a result I am now in hospital for a day or two, in order to get my hand cleaned of the grit and little splinters ... I expect to be quite capably left-handed again in a day or two.... At present of course, my hand has a plum pudding appearance, but in all I should think there is hardly a dozen small cuts and scratches, though much bandage."

His hand is still recovering five days later, but Jack is still able to show what a small world even that of warfare is, when recounted to May: "I met an old Shaftesbury Boy in the street here - in the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) - and he tells me that Hudson (do you remember him at the Tech?) is in billets in the town.  I am going to seek him out."

University Roll of Honour and Roll of Fallen

Jack was put on the "Casualty list", as a result of his hand wound, but tried, in vain, to have it removed from that list; because, as a result of the listing, the War Office sent May a telegram, informing her of Jack's injury. He was not amused and tried to minimise the significance of the wound, in what turned out to be his last, undated, letter to May - from the trenches.

He was, of course, completely unable to predict his final demise, but the closing paragraphs of his last letter almost seemed designed to offer reassurance to May, in what are clearly extremely difficult conditions "Yesterday night the Germans managed to drop three shells, out of some fifteen fired, into our trench, but the damage was slight and there were no casualties. These are awfully good trenches and will stand any amount of shell fire.

"While the weather lasts, I think, on the whole, I would rather be in the trenches than in billets. I scarcely ever sleep comfortably in town because I expect to be called up with an alarm every night I hear the gunfire; here the guns boom all night, and one doesn't notice it."

"My beloved, these days of sunshine make me feel only a matter of weeks or a month or so before I see you again - I dream of it at night"

Sadly, it was not to be. On Sunday 25 April 1915 Jack was wounded having been reconnoitring in front of his trench, at night, with his sergeant. He died of these wounds on Friday 7 May 1915, aged 22.

Thus, a young and local life, with someone with hopes and real aspirations for a bright future came to a tragically premature end. It was the fate of 16 million other young men of the age, in the 'war to end all wars', which effectively recommenced just 20 years later.

Jack is buried at Ferme Butene military cemetery
, Houplines - 2 kilometres from Armentieres.
It was used as a war cemetery from January -
October 1915 and contains 129 Commonwealth losses

May  later married, Richard Williams, and had four children. She became a successful mathematician, was awarded a CBE for her contribution to maths in education and died in 1986, aged 91. But the memory of that brief affair linger with her till the end - 70 years on; individual testimony to the lasting grief that the 'war to end all wars' brought to so many.

Footnote: There Are No Flowers Here - Collected Letters of Jack Richardson, published by My Fat Fox  priced £9.29 (inc p&p), from Amazon. We are most grateful for Paul for permission to run these extracts and recommend his collection of letters to you - they put local flesh on the bones of some of the raw data that is published about World War 1.