The street where you live (2) : Ebor Cottages and Irish Row

Friday, 2 October 2015

This is the second in an occasional series of articles by local historian, Peter Williams, who specialises in Newham housing, maps and local history. In each he looks, in detail, at the history of particular streets in Forest Gate.

See here for Peter's history of Woodford Road, posted earlier on this blog.

Peter has complemented his own knowledge by accessing the increasingly digitised national newspapers' collection - which can be found here- and has added extracts from this that refer specifically to the roads he will feature.

The reproduction isn't always great, so we have transcribed sections of them.

They add greatly to an understanding of social circumstances of the time, and describe some pretty poor public health and social conditions.

Ebor Cottages and Irish Row

This corner of Forest Gate has a very interesting history. 

The map below, dates back to 1800, and shows the area considered in this blog as being almost completely undeveloped.  The highway running from left to right, at the bottom is what is now Romford Road. The Eagle and Child pub is clearly marked at the centre, towards the right, and lies on what was then Eagle and Child Lane - now Woodgrange Road.

Map illustrating area covered by this blog, c 1800

What is described as "Mr Greenfield's Field - formerly Hamfrith Wood" is the land largely occupied today by the Woodgrange Estate.

"The Sun" - towards the right of Romford Road, where it meets Shrewsbury Road, is what we now know as The Rising Sun pub.

The boundary between West and East Ham is clearly marked on the map, and is considered later in the article, below.

The small black mark above "Mr Greenhill" is Plashet, or Potato Hall - also considered later in this article. The small black mark to the north of this, on what is now Romford Road, was "Irish Row", examined below.  The road immediately to the right is Katherine Road, which in less sensitive Victorian times was known as Gypsy Lane - presumably because of its proximity to Irish Row.

Here is the Ordnance Survey map of the area as it was in the 1860’s:

Ordnance Survey map of 1860's showing
 area covered by this article
There are a number of features worth looking at. There is the animal charcoal works in the centre. Animal charcoal appears to be something to do with converting ammonia into sulphate of ammonia.

This is likely to be a very smelly business. After the Metropolitan Building Act 1844  the smelly, noxious or offensive trades had by law to be located east of the River Lea i.e. they were driven out of metropolitan London into Essex. 

West Ham ended up with many noxious trades – blood and bone boilers; tallow manufacturers; tanning animal hides; soap and  fertiliser works; tripe boilers; animal rendering works (Carpenters Rd area of Stratford was known as stinky Stratford into the twentieth century). 

Indeed the last one of these factories John Knights in Silvertown only closed in late 2014, and has been prosecuted by Newham council in the last couple of years in effect for making bad smells. They made pet food and soap by rendering down animal carcasses. See here.

For another animal charcoal works, see New Gravel Lane Shadwell here

Engine house on the map will mean the building that housed the steam engine to power the factory.

Plashet Hall This house, locally known as Potato Hall, stood on the junction of Romford Road and Katherine Road, seen below about 1890. It was the residence of one of the Greenhill family which farmed the nearby 150 acres of Hamfrith farm. (Greenhill Grove and the Greenhill Centre in Manor Park recall the name).  It was also called Potato Hall from the large number of potatoes cultivated in the neighbourhood, see here.

Plashet Hall, popularly known as Potato Hall
A local rhyme said:
Potatoes now are Plaistow’s pride,
 Whole markets are from thence supplied
In 1796 there were 420 acres set down to potatoes in West Ham parish according to the Victoria County History. An 1828 parliamentary Select Committee on the police, mentioned that Irish migrant labour was being used to cultivate potatoes in East Ham.

The Potato Hall roof was surmounted by an octagonal lantern. This seems to have been a favourite feature in the area, probably because of the view it could command of the River Thames and its shipping, see here

On the far left of the map is Emmanuel Church on Upton Lane built in 1852 and enlarged later in the Victorian period.

Prospect House There seems little information on this. 

The Rising Sun pub sits at the top of Shrewsbury Road, and is locally listed by Newham Council.

The same area in 1898, see below for description
The same area in 1898 – what is noticeable is how much development has taken place in those 35 years. Plashet Hall has become a tramway depot – there was a sweet factory here later. 

North of the Romford Road the Woodgrange estate has been developed. The current industrial buildings occupied by Elfes stonemasons co-incide with the old Ebor cottages – the estate simply excluded it (see here for an earlier blog on the estate). See below for more on Ebor.

The estate included some larger detached houses as well as terraces. The Manor Park side of it, from Durham Road to Romford Road, was mostly completed about 1883, and the Forest Gate side, from Hampton Road to Romford Road (so far as this lay in East Ham) a few years later. 

The developer was A. Cameron Corbett, who later built much of Ilford. He operated on a large scale, and kept down his prices while maintaining a good standard. (see here and here)

South of Woodgrange, at Plashet, development began in 1883 with the sale of the Plashet House estate (between St. Stephen's Road and Plashet Grove).

This estate, with adjoining parts of East and West Ham, became known as Upton Park. By 1890 building was in progress in the whole Plashet area from Green Street to High Street North, including the estates of Plashet Cottage (Grosvenor, Eversleigh, and Spencer Roads), Plashet Hall (Sherrard, Halley, Strone, and Monega Roads), and Wood House (between Woodhouse Grove and High Street North). See here.

The site of Ebor Cottages

Now the yard of Elfes memorial masons off Balmoral
 Rd Forest Gate – photo by Peter Williams May 2010.
Studying the map above there seems little doubt that Elfes occupy the space previously occupied by Ebor Cottages. These did not exist in 1800 (see first map), but were clearly evident a little over half a century later (see second map, above)

Ebor was, of course, the Roman name for what is now the city of York. Quite why the cottages in Forest Gate should have been given this name is unclear. Although what is now Romford Road, on which the cottages sat, is the route of the old Roman London - Colchester Road.

The surviving Elfes buildings clearly look quite old and predate the surrounding Woodgrange estate and the shops fronting Romford Road, including the Claremont Clinic, and the nearby mosque.

By the mid nineteenth century the cottages had become a fairly notorious slum area (see press clippings, below, for further evidence).  In 1855, Alfred Dickens, brother of the novelist Charles was commissioned to conduct a survey into public health issues in and around West Ham.  His report was damning and lead to the creation of local bodies designed to address some of the issues he highlighted.

He chose Ebor Cottages for special mention, when he wrote:

Ebor Cottages - these are at the eastern extremity of the parish of West Ham. There is no water. There used to be a pump, but it became rotten and broke down; the landlord refuses to replace or men it. The privies are overflowing and running to the surface. Near these cottages, in the front, and at the side of the Romford turnpike road, is an offensive stagnant ditch, full of all kinds of filth; a similar nuisance, at intervals is repeated all along this road.
A considerable quantity of house drainage, including that from the Pawnbrokers Almshouse (ed: see here, for details), finds its way into these places. Even along Upton Place (Upton Road), where there are some handsome houses paying rents varying from £70 to £150 a year, no proper drainage is provided; and immediately facing them are these open ditches to the extent of full a quarter of a mile on both sides of the road.
The Commissioners' scheme does not touch this part. There is another stinking ditch near the Three Pigeons public house (ed: now a Tesco local, on Romford Road, near the fire station, close to Stratford). It is very much complained of. 

Surviving cottages, built in 1850's
 and local authority "conserved", adjacent to 
what was "Irish Row" Romford Road.
A little further along Romford Road are the cottages illustrated above.

These are part of the Romford Road Conservation area. A two bed-roomed and modernised one was recently on the housing market for £450,000.

Site of former Irish Row, today
 - Romford Road, facing Claremont Clinic

A row of late Victorian shops, including the Post Office, opposite the Claremont Clinic, occupies the space between these old, surviving cottages and what is now Katherine Road.  

This is the site of what was previously known as "Irish Row" This was demolished as slums in the 1870's - 1880's, and replaced by the current shops.

They appear on the 1863 OS map, above, but are certainly gone by 1898, and the shops have yet to be built by this time.

The official Newham council document, describing the area is here. To quote from it:
During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the land to the north and south of the Romford Road was undeveloped farmland.
The First Edition Ordnance Survey map, published in 1844, confirms that this area was largely undeveloped during the first and much of the second quarter of the nineteenth century. These cottages do not appear on a map of the area published in 1839 but the occupiers of the houses are listed in the 1841 census.
It is therefore logical to assume that the houses were built during the period 1839 - 40. A large house, called Potato Hall, was nearby and it may well be that these cottages were built for agricultural workers and were those locally known as ‘Irish Row’.
It is clear that this official council document confuses Irish Row and the surviving cottages, which we now know are quite different buildings.

 What the Papers say

Below are a series of newspaper cuttings, from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries referring to the area. They offer useful contemporary insights to conditions within it;

Chelmsford Chronicle - 13 May 1864

Partial transcript:

Beating the bounds of West Ham Parish

... at eight o'clock on Thursday morning at Rokeby House (in central Stratford), the company took their seats and went forthwith to Ebor cottages on Romford road where they alighted and on reaching Gypsy Lane (the former name of Katherine Road), the first stone was beaten, and christened "Ashdown" after then name of the vestry clerk, who underwent the old custom of "bumping" nearly all of the company being bumped during the day; and by way of a finale the vestry clerk received thirteen bumps at the stone where the start was made.

Ed: Beating the bounds was an ancient tradition and involved a procession from the parish church visiting the boundary stone markers at the parish boundaries, to ensure that they were still visible, and thus that the extent of the parish could be determined. You can still see one of these on the south side of Balmoral bridge, as you head north (see below).

Boundary stone today,
Balmoral bridge: WHP
(West Ham Parish)
Dated 1864 (the "1" has

 been damaged)

A second, later, iron boundary marker,
 today - on the kerb stone, Claremont
 Road, near junction with Balmoral Road

Essex Newsman - 14 June 1887


East Ham: alleged theft of a donkey

Chas Williams, a general dealer and Thomas Reynolds, both of Ebor Cottages, Romford Road, East Ham, were charged with stealing a donkey, valued at £2.10s, the property of Henry Rose, of the Broadway, Stratford. The donkey was stolen from a stable on the night of the 3rd of June, and on the 10th the prisoners sold it to a man named Mason. The prisoners were remanded.

Chelmsford Chronicle - 27 Sept 1867

Partial transcript:
Report of the medical officer: Dr Elliott, the medical officer read his report. The deaths in the parish for the week ending Sept 134 were 20 and for the week ending 21st Sept, 20. ... The report alluded to the nuisances still remaining at Ebor cottages, Romford Road, Stratford. The clerk was subsequently instructed to take immediate steps for the removal of various nuisances contained in the medical officer's report.

Essex Standard - 8 Sept 1865

Partial transcript:

West Ham Board of Guardians

...Mr Tanner drew the attention of the Board (of Guardians) to the outbreak of typhus fever in Ebor Cottages, Romford Road. ... Mr McDowell, the relieving officer of the district stated that the inhabitants of the locality alluded to were very dirty people and fever might be traced to that cause. In one house there were only two rooms for 17 people to live in.

Ed: Typhus was an infectious disease of poverty that Victorians began to tackle in earnest through the new science of public health. It was sometimes called "Irish Fever" and was noted for its virulence. It killed people of all social classes as lice were endemic and inescapable, but it hit particularly hard in the lower or "unwashed" social strata.

Chelmsford Chronicle - 31 Aug 1866

Partial transcript:
The Medical Officer's Report: ... There were various nuisances requiring suppression, among which the animal charcoal factory at East Ham was the most prominent; so late as Saturday last the inmates in the houses Sun-row, Ilford-row were driven out by the stench and fetid smoke arising therefrom. The instantaneous removal of these works was strongly urged.

Chelmsford Chronicle - 1 August 1845

This is an advert for the sale of the 247 acre Woodgrange estate, included within the auction are:

Partial transcript:

Eight neat cottages with gardens. ...Lot 7 will consist of eight brick-built cottages (ED: i.e. Ebor Cottages), with good gardens to the front of the high road.

Essex Standard - 13 Oct 1854

A fatal accident from running behind a wagon - on Thursday last, as Mr Wells jnr carrier from London to Brentwood was on his home journey near the Rising Sun, Stratford, several children from Irish Row ran after the wagon and hung on the tail-board: one of them, a boy about eight years of age, got too near the wheel, which caught his pinafore and drew him through the spokes of the wheel with his head under the springs. Mr Wells, who was driving, felt some obstruction, and got down to see what was the matter, when he found the poor boy with his head crushed to atoms and quite dead. The body was tightly wedged in that it was with considerable difficulty extracted. An inquest was held on Saturday before CC Lewis Esq, and a verdict of "Accidental Death" returned.

Chelmsford Chronicle - 2 June 1865


Beerhouse Offence - Mrs Sarah Styles, beer house keeper, Irish Row, West Ham was convicted of having her house open for the sale of beer after eleven o'clock on the night of the 19th inst, and fined 10s and costs.
Chelmsford Chronicle - 27 Feb 1863


Caution to carriers - On Tuesday night last, Mr Maunt, carrier from London to Hornchurch was conveying a box from the former to the latter place, containing a dressing case, jewelry, and ladies wardrobe, the property of the Rev C Row of Cranham, and although on nearing Irish Row, Forest Gate, at ten minutes past seven, he saw the box perfectly safe, and had gone only a few yards further when he missed it, nor could he find the least trace of it. Information was quickly given to the police and the same evening one of the metropolitan police force, K 342, found the box in an adjoining field, in the occupation of Mr Adams, farmer. It was broken open, and part of its contents, to the value of £10 had been abstracted.

From chapel to ...?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The fate of Forest Gate's longest surviving, purpose-built, religious building hangs in the balance since a recent attempt by an evangelical church to take it over and restore it to its original purpose has been challenged locally, by campaigners objecting to its "change of use".

The building in question, in its most recent use
The building itself has an almost 200 year history - and is one of Forest Gate's oldest. It has certainly had the most varied range of uses during its existence, of any local landmark.

It is, of course, the rather innocuous-looking building which until recently hosted the Angel's restaurant, at 79 Woodgrange Road. The building was then empty for some months, during which period a local catering company, Pyramid Pizza, thought they had a lease on the premises - only to be gazumped by the evangelical church.

The church had its name board up for about a month and began meeting, earlier this summer, before the planning challenge was made. As the photo at the end of this article shows, it is currently without a facia board, pending an outcome of the planners' investigation.

The building was constructed in 1830.

Jabez Legg was a Stratford-based Congregationalist minister in the early years of the nineteenth century (see here for details of his life and the almshouses he supported, locally).  He took to preaching in a hut next to the old Eagle and Child pleasure gardens (later to become a pub), on what we now know as Woodgrange Road - previously Eagle and Child Lane - in the mid 1820's.

Jabez Legg, the congregationalist
 minister (1786 - 1867),
inspiration behind
the original chapel
He chose the location because the tearooms and pleasure gardens were something of a "resort" for day trippers, getting away from the hustle, bustle and filth of the streets of the inner East End - with Wanstead Flats on its doorstep. Thus, he was provided with something approaching a captive audience/congregation.

1851 sketch of the original Forest
 Gate, next to which Legg first
 began to preach in the area
Forest Gate was barely developed at this time and the tea gardens and preaching effectively operated in the middle of the countryside. The congregation, however, soon outgrew the hut, by the old Forest Gate, so Legg and William Strange, whose daughter ran the Sunday school attached to the church, raised funds for a purpose built chapel for the congregation on the corner of Forest Lane and Woodgrange Road.

Sketch of Legg's first local preaching
 spot - by the original Forest Gate.
See footnote for source
The couple were able to solicit a donation from near-by resident and prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry, to help towards the £220 construction costs of the 100 seater chapel. The building was known simply as the Forest Gate Chapel.

This new, purpose-built, church expanded to run a day school during the week, in the era before state provided education. It opened in 1832 - at about the time of the passing of the Great Reform Bill, and seven years before the railway - which provided the real spur to Forest Gate's development - arrived in town. The school started with 48 pupils, when the population of Forest Gate was barely 350 people.

Sketch of the building in its original
 state as a Congregationalist chapel.
  See footnote for source
At this time most schools were based around religious institutions, those attached to the Church of England became generally known as "National" schools, and those associated with non-conformist churches - like the Congregationalists - were known as "British" schools. This was a "British" school, as can be seen marked on the 1863 Ordnance Survey map, see below - the first of its kind in the area.

1863 Ordnance survey map, showing
 the building as a "British" school, and 

 new chapel, around the corner, in
 Chapel Street - see below
With the coming of the railways and the growth of Forest Gate, the congregation soon began to outgrow the newly established premises, and the Congregationalists were on the lookout for a new and larger home, yet again.

Samuel Gurney, the banker, relative of Elizabeth Fry, and local landowner, who prospered greatly from the sale of his holdings for the development of Forest Gate, donated £100 and land to the Congregationalist church, just behind what is now Forest Gate school, in the mid 1850's, for the construction of a much larger chapel (see map, above).

Sketch of the Chapel Street chapel.
  See footnote for source
A total of £1,560 was raised to pay for the 350 seater church (see diagram below), described as being "a commodious and neat building of Italian design, similar to those recently erected in Yarmouth and Lowestoft and by the same architect". It was opened in 1856, in what the 1863 map, shown below named Chapel Street (later Chapter Street), in honour of the building.

Forest Gate photographer, Edward
 Wright's undated photo of the
Chapel (later Chapter ) Street building
Membership of this congregation more than doubled by the 1880's - expanding significantly, in keeping with the rapid development of the area's population - and it outgrew the building.  So, it was, in turn, replaced by the 1,000 seater church, which still stands on Sebert Road.

1880's constructed, fourth and final
 location of Forest Gate Congregationalist
church, Sebert Road
We are getting ahead of ourselves. The Woodgrange Road building remained as a British school once the Chapel Street church was built in the 1850's. In 1871, according to the newly established West Ham School Board, it had a roll of 65.
One of the first acts of the new School Board was to construct its own purpose built school, Odessa, with a roll of 703. This opened in 1874 and the National School closed. Its, then, 88 pupils transferred along the road to Odessa school.

We do not have a complete timeline for the subsequent fate of the building. Kelly's Directory of 1890, however, shows it as the headquarters of the Forest Gate and Upton District Liberal and Radical Association, confirmed by the 1895 map, below and the turn of the century photograph taken by prominent Forest Gate photographer, Edward Wright.
1893 Ordnance Survey map, showing the premises as a "club", and round the corner, in Chapel Street showing a Sunday school (belonging to Sebert Road Congregationalist church) after the church itself re-located, yet again, a couple of hundred yards away to Sebert Road.
By 1908 the club had been renamed the South Essex Club.

Turn of century Edward Wright photo,
showing the building as headquarters
 of the Forest Gate and Upton
Liberal and Radical Association
According to histories of cinema venues, the building had a short life as a cinema, between 1910 and its closure at the start of World War 1, in 1914.  It was known as the King's Hall (not to be confused with the King's Cinema, which occupied what later became the Upper Cut Club, at the foot of Woodgrange Road). Unfortunately, no photograph of the building serving this function seems to have survived.

Between the two World Wars, the building was converted to become Max Fietcher's house furnishers (according to a 1925 trade directory), and subsequently Shenker Brothers, drapers (1938).

Following the second world war the premises housed WM John Biles, glaziers and glass suppliers, from at least 1949 until the 1990's, when it closed, having employed a dozen or so people. It was a well-known local landmark and boon to many a local builder and diy-er.

Since the 1990's the premises have been a restaurant, in a number of guises, most recently as Angel's - see photograph, below.  For at least some of that time it functioned as Forest Gate's most notorious drug dealing premises!

Angel's closed last year, having acquired a pretty poor reputation, food-wise and in terms of the behaviour of its customers. Since that time Pyramid Pizza were on the point of acquiring it, then pulled out after a rent hike, and after a short period of continues closure it re-emerged as a meeting place for an evangelical church - apparently without permission for a change of use.

In its current state. What next for
 this undistinguished-looking,
 but historic, local landmark?
The sign is now down - so watch this space for further twists in the development of this rather ordinary, but quite remarkable local building.

NB. We are deeply indebted to the publication Hitherto, Henceforth, published in 1956, celebrating the centenary of the Chapel Street church for the sketches, showing the meeting places of the Congregationalists, in Forest Gate.

Offshore Forest Gate

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Meticulous work by Private Eye and friends has tracked down over 100,000 properties in the UK owned by companies based in overseas tax havens - usually for tax avoidance purposes.

This pattern of property ownership is, of course, well-known in such up market areas as Mayfair and Knightsbridge.

More surprisingly, perhaps, the tentacles of the trend are beginning to stretch into Forest Gate.

Using Private Eye's detailed, inter-active map (see here) we have located more than 20 such properties in E7, and provide details of them and their "owners" in the article and photos, below. We would put a conservative estimate of their collective value today of around £20 million.

Readers may be able to offer further details about these properties and the people behind them, about which, we and Private Eye would be delighted to hear.

Below is a list of all local properties registered in overseas tax havens between 2005 and 2014, with, in some cases, details of the purchase price recorded at the time of registration.

The tax advantages gained by foreign registered company ownership include the avoidance of Capital Gains Tax (usually 28%, after allowances) and Stamp Duty (rates varies according to price) on their sale and purchase (though there has been a recent attempt to tighten up on the latter) and the ability to pass the properties on, without incurring Inheritance Tax (40% after allowances), on death.

The sums saved can, of course, be huge, depending on the values of the properties in question.

The fact that the companies owning the properties listed below are registered overseas means that little can be established about their ultimate owners, or beneficiaries. They may be UK citizens who prefer to spend their money on hiring the services of expensive lawyers and accountants to arrange their tax avoidance affairs, than to pay tax, and thus contribute to public services.

They may be genuine foreign nationals, with diverse assets portfolios, or they could be people with dubious records to hide (money launderers, drugs dealers, criminals or kleptocrats).

The British exchequer looses £ billions, annually, by the kind of tax avoidance practiced by many of the foreign companies listed below, and their ilk.  It is unlikely that the present government will do too much to curtail the practices for as long as the Conservative party is recipient of donations from many of the beneficiaries of such schemes.

About half the properties listed are simple domestic houses. Given property inflation, tax savings from foreign registration could exceed £30,000 p.a. per property - as shown in a couple of examples.

There are a second set of properties which are, broadly, obviously commercial.

They constitute a mixed bunch, from a fairly prestigious office block, through some industrial property to some rather strange clusters of land, which could, at some stage, be used for a lucrative residential or commercial development.

The final property, to which we draw attention is a former pub, which has been converted into nine flats, with a supermarket attached.  According to the "owning" company's declaration, that has probably increased in value by about £2,000,000 since registered - saving the owner (depriving public services) of about £500,000 should it be sold, today.

The fate of that former pub is becoming increasingly common these days, and the money to be saved from tax-haven registration of the developments are considerable.

Iconic office building - City Gate

City Gate - Romford Road
The City Gate building (above) on Romford Road (246 - 250) was registered as being owned by BCP City Gate, based in the Isle of Man, on 8 July 2005, with a value of £3,658,840.

Residential property

These are listed in alphabetical order of the names of their streets.

50 - 50d Avenue Road

Five separate properties
 registered here - at
50 - 50d Avenue Road
Five properties, all at this address were registered as being owned by Dominion Ltd, Isle of Man in May and June 2012. They were number 50 (no price recorded), 50a (£192,000), 50b (£158,900), 50c (£204,275) and 50d (£122,650).

45 Chaucer Road

45 Chaucer Road
This house was registered to the ownership of Yaas Investments, in the Isle of Man, in September 2012, with a value of £285,000. This company was also registered as owner of nearby 314 Cann Hall Road, in July 2013, with a value of £800,000.

10 Crosby Road

10 Crosby Road

This terraced house was registered as being owned by Balinara, incorporated in Guernsey, with a value of £247,750, in June 2011.

113 Earlham Grove

113 Earlham Grove
This property was registered as owned by Gibraltar based Northern Trading in August 2004, for a value of £750,000.

27 Knighton Road

27 Knighton Road

This house was registered as owned by Tarleton Investments, based in the British Virgin Islands in April 2005. No details of the purchase price are logged with the Land Registry.

1 - 12 Sycamore Court - Romford Road

1 - 12 Sycamore Court, Romford Road
This is a small 12-unit residential block, which was registered as being owned by Almond Land, in Guernsey. For reasons that are not altogether clear, it was listeded as costing £20,648 - which represents less than 1% of its current value. If it were sold today, the Capital Gains Tax saved would be in excess of £500,000.

23b South Esk Road

23b  South Esk Road

This flat was registered as being owned by Exel Venture in Guernsey in November 2013, with a value of £134,500. It is worth nearer £200,000 today - meaning a potential Capital Gains Tax saving of approximately £25,000.

115 Trumpington Road

115 Trumpington Road
This two-bedroom property has recently been sold for £400,000, after a major refurbishment. It was previously registered, in September 2007, as being owned by Charming Properties, based in Jersey.  A considerable capital gain will have been made - and no tax paid on it.

133 and 137 Upton Lane

133 Upton Lane
137 Upton Lane
These two neighbouring properties have been listed as being owned by British Virgin Islands based compan, DAS Properties. 133 was registered in March 2005, with a value of £165,00 and 137 in 2007, with a value of £250,000.

Commercial and industrial properties


There are three plots of land in and around Romford Road, almost adjacent to the City Gate office block (see above), all owned by a St Vincent and Grenadines company called Loesch.

One is described as "land adjoining 286 Romford Road", and was registered to the company in March 2007.

Land adjoining
286 Romford Road
A second property is described as "land adjoining 8 Nursery Lane". Nursery Lane is a long and uninviting alleyway, just behind Romford Road, off Upton Lane. The land value was registered with a value of £110,000 in 2008.

Land adjoining 8 Nursery Lane
The third piece in that area is 10 Nursery Lane, registered with the company to a value of £75,000 in 2007.

10 Nursery Lane
These three pieces of land will probably be joined up and form the footprint of a significant commercial or residential development at some time in the future. The capital gain from these seemingly valueless chunks of land will, then, be considerable - all tax free, of course.

Restaurant - 99 Green Street

99 Green Street
This Asian restaurant was registered to Cranbrook Properties in the British Virgin Islands in 2012, to a value of £500,000.

Sherrard Works

Two views of Sherrard Works
This is a large, antiquated industrial property, running behind the restaurant, above, with a side entrance into Sherrard Road. It, too, was registered to a British Virgin Islands Company, in 2012 - Sherrard Works Ltd - with a value of £1,500,000.

The footprint of these two properties is very large and could form the basis, planning permission dependent, of a considerable residential development - with a large value and consequential tax-free capital gain.

The big one: 326 - 330 Katherine Road

326 - 330 Katherine Road
This former pub site has been developed into a unit of 9 flats, with a Tesco Local occupying the ground floor.  It is typical of the fate of many former large, corner, Victorian pubs.

It was registered to the ownership of a British Virgin Islands based company in 2013, with a value of £870,000.

The nine flats could now be sold for in the region of £2.5m, and the Tesco's could probably command an annual rent of £30,000.

Not a bad, tax-free, return for those behind the company with its very British sounding name - Irlam Properties Ltd.

The facts relating to the tax-haven ownership of each of the properties highlighted above is indisputable.  Some of the speculation about levels of tax-free capital gains and tax avoidance may be challenged by the overseas owners.  If so, we would be delighted to hear from them, and would welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.  

As it is, in the absence of information about the beneficial owners, it has been difficult to contact them for clarification about their motives and financial benefits.

The street where you live (1) - Woodford Road

Saturday, 5 September 2015

This is the first in an occasional series of articles by local historian, Peter Williams, who specialises in Newham housing, maps and local history. In each he will be looking, in detail, at the history of particular streets in Forest Gate.

See here for Peter's history of the Fire Brigade in Forest Gate, posted earlier on this blog.

Peter has complemented his own knowledge by accessing the increasingly digitised national newspapers' collection - which can be found via - and has added extracts from this that refer specifically to the roads he will feature.  The reproduction isn't always great, so we have transcribed sections of them. They add greatly to an understanding of social circumstances of the time. Some, with hindsight, are quite amusing today.
Peter would like to express thanks to fellow local historians Lloyd Jeans, Mark Gorman and this website for further informing his work.

Woodford Road

The current Woodford Road lies to the north of the town centre, right on the edge of the modern London Borough of Newham. The Eagle and Child pub also goes back many centuries (though the surviving building, opposite the Lord Lister clinic, is, itself Victorian).

Rocque's map of 1746 marks the Eagle and Child, which would have been used by cattle drovers. They brought cattle, on foot, from the north of England and Wales to the great annual cattle market that was held on Wanstead Flats (probably the origin of the current fairs).

Woodgrange Farm can be seen on the Rocque map, just south of the junction of what is now Forest Lane. The modern Woodgrange estate lies over this farm.
Portion of Rocque's 1746 map,
showing Eagle and Child and surrounds
The original Forest Gate (literally the toll gate lying at the southern limit of Epping Forest - the gate was used to control the flow of the cattle drovers) was located between the Eagle and Child and the current Lord Lister surgery.

1851 print of"Ye Olde Toll Gate",
 Forest Gate 1851
The next useful map is the 1863 Ordnance Survey, published in 1873. Much of the area was still rural in character. The other day, I (Peter) met somebody who lives locally – who had a relative in the 1830's who kept poultry just behind the Eagle and Child.

To get a clearer view of this map, click here 

To quote Robert Clayworth's 1837 Sun Insurance schedule "3 tenements north side of the Eagle and Child in Epping Forest". In the mid nineteenth century this area was largely rural, but on the urban fringe. Clayworth had a poulterer's shop on the Mile End Road and a stall in Leadenhall market, in the City.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map, below, is noticeably different from the 1860's map, as the 1870's was the main period of development in the area, with speculative builders knocking up terraced houses cheaply and quickly.
Sidney Road has some notably large villas still surviving. That area was developed from 1900.
To get a clearer view of this map, click here

Notice that the southern area of Wanstead Flats is part of West Ham borough council, with the boundary angling past 113 Woodford Road. To the north was Wanstead and Woodford urban district council.

The map show more or less the current street pattern. This also marks the arrival of the Tottenham and Forest Gate Junction railway (now the Barking - Gospel Oak line), with Wanstead Park station opened in 1894.

You can see Angell Pond at the junction of Capel Road and Woodford Road, developed by West Ham council engineer Lewis Angell to assist drainage on the Flats, which were very boggy.

A bandstand soon appeared, to be demolished in the 1950's. The tinted photo of the bandstand in the first decade of the last century (below) shows it in its fully glory.

Tinted photograph of bandstand
 on Wanstead Flats c 1910

Bandstand in the distance, avenue of
 trees known as Monkey's Parade,
 1910, around Angell Pond

The tree avenue, to the right of the bandstand in the photo, was known as Monkey's Parade.
A contributor to the Newham Story, in a recollection of the Parade in the early years of the twentieth century, said:

Every Sunday when she was a kid, all the men would dress up in their best clothes and walk the streets to attract the girls or simply to be on their way to see a girl they already had an arrangement with. Winny and her mates would get a bucket of water and a load of newspaper, soak the paper in the water, wad it up into a ball, then try and knock the hats off the young men walking by.

The photo below is a pre 1908 view of the old pond, on the opposite side of Centre Road, before it was enlarged to become the Model Yacht pond. Dames Road is in the background of this photo.

Below is the same pond, in about 1908, when it had been developed fully for model yachting.  There are impressive crowds in the background. It was used for much of the time up to the 1960's for model boating - hence its popular name - but subsequently the pond fell into disrepair, did not retain water and became more of an eyesore than an amenity.

Local concern about the state of disrepair at the turn of this century resulted in a considerable refurbishment of the pond as a wild life preserve and educational facility, and its re-branding.  It is now known as Jubilee Pond, but continues to suffer from problems associated with water loss and leakage.

View from a similar position, today

An 1893 OS map shows a small pond with its more northerly end opposite Ramsey Road. Works were undertaken in 1905-6 to improve drainage to Wanstead Flats which included laying surface drains from Leytonstone to this pond. Unemployed labour, mainly from West Ham was used to enlarge the pond to its present size, extending it to both the north and south. Surface water using drains in Cann Hall Road and Sidney Road fed into the enlarged pond, which opened in 1908.

The fairs

As mentioned, above, the fair goes back centuries and is bound up with the movement of livestock into London to feed a growing population, before the advent of railways, in the 1840's.

Cattle were driven distances on foot and arrived in East London in poor condition. They needed to be fattened up before being driven to Smithfield for slaughter. They were grazed in the Flats and deals were done in local pubs like the Three Rabbits in Manor Park (see next week's post!) and the Eagle and Child.

Local farm owners continue to have grazing rights for their cattle over Wanstead Flats. A right that readers who have been familiar with the area for more than a couple of decades may well remember.  It was only an outbreak of BSE in the late 1990's that has effectively stopped (interrupted?) that practice. The delightful photo below records a relatively frequent event, up until the 1980's of cows wandering down Woodford Road.

Cows from Wanstead Flats wandering
 down Woodford Road in the 1980s
The Flats were also used for horse fairs, and travellers had caravans on the Flats. Within living memory, travellers were born in vans on the Flats. It became a funfair in the late nineteenth century.  See below for photograph of the Whitsun fair in 1905.

Whitsun Fair, 1900


This blog has covered the history of trams and Forest Gate previously, see here. The photograph below shows trams at the terminus in Woodford Road. The trams stopped where the houses ended.

The turning to the left is Forest Road. When larger numbers of passengers began to use the services, additional tracks were laid in Forest Road and then at the western end of Capel Road, to facilitate additional traffic. Later the Forest Road length was joined to tracks from the Leyton borough tramways, allowing them to merge in Woodford Road.

West Ham Corporation tramcar no 45
 in 1905. The trams stopped where the
 houses ended, just at the borough boundary.
The tram terminus office was located in Bective Road, as this photo from 1903 shows.

Tram terminus offices in Bective Road, 1903

Social survey - 1907

As this site has previously mentioned (see here), Howard and Wilson, in 1907,  set out to describe conditions in their highly-acclaimed  "West Ham - a study in industrial problems".  They said this of the area, around Woodford Road:

A great part of the western section of the ward, that between the Woodford Road and Tower Hamlets Road, belonged to the Dames estate. In 1855, it was sold in plots of 75 to 80 feet by 100 to 110 feet, but was developed very slowly, a few houses being put up at a time. In about 1866 it was bought by a land company, and the development became more rapid. Londoners, such as Curtain Road (Shoreditch) cabinet makers and inhabitants of Whitechapel, often bought plots for gardens.
  They used to put up huts and spend the week-end in them, and many built houses at a later time. A large number of the plots were bought by the Conservative Land Society and United Land Company, who cut them up into smaller plots and resold them for sites. Building ceased about 1880.
In Dames Road, which for the most part runs northward from Woodford Road, are some new flats, with separate front doors. The accommodation consists of four rooms and a wash-house downstairs, and three rooms and a wash-house upstairs. They were built in 1903, and are inhabited mostly by newly married City clerks.
These flats are very strictly kept, as they are in great demand. The rest of Dames Road, which was built in 1878, is chiefly inhabited by clerks and businessmen in the City, and has shops on one side of the southern end. The rents vary from 8s 6d, per week to £40 per year.

What the Papers say

Below are a series of newspaper cuttings, from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries referring to the area. They offer useful contemporary insights to conditions in the area; and the longest one, offers a delightful description of the Easter fair on the Flats in 1898.

Chelmsford Chronicle - 14 December 1900


Urban Council, Dec 7
Mr RA Ellis chairman
The road across the Flats - The Essex County Council wrote offering £100 as a contribution towards the cost of widening the road across the flats. The Clerk said the cost of the widening was estimated at £600, and the Wan-.stead Council had decided that £100 was a fair.contribution from that parish. The Forest Gate.Ratepayers' Association would probably give£100, making a total of £300 - The Clerk was.directed to write to the West Ham Town Council.again asking for a contribution.

As a result, Centre Road in its current form was developed at the turn of the century

Chelmsford Chronicle - 5 April 1907


Petitions are being signed in Forest Gate and Leytonstone asking the City Corporation to abolish the Bank Holiday fair on Wanstead Flats.
Plus ca change - residents unhappy with the disturbance caused by bank holiday fairs. As working class people acquired more leisure time towards the end of the nineteenth century (enshrined in the Bank Holidays Act and the half day closing of shops), Epping Forest, in general, and Wanstead Flats in particular, became a major leisure destination for workers from Inner East London.

There were works outings, picnics and sports teams arriving in large numbers, by train, charabancs and especially by trams, which were cheaper than trains.

Thousands could turn up on a busy day, as shown in the cutting below, from 1898.

Chelmsford Chronicle - 15 April 1898

Partial transcript:

Bank Holiday on Wanstead Flats
by a Perambulating Pressman

Wanstead Flats have long been a favourite resort for the East London Bank Holiday crowd, and this Easter my curiosity led me to Wanstead to see how their amusement is catered for. ...
 The streets were thronged with people and all were enjoying themselves with that absolute abandon which is so characteristic of the Easter holiday maker. ...
The young ladies ... sang with a gusto which only high spirits could produce, but "Marry the girl you fancy" was the popular refrain.
 There are several railway stations "quite adjacent" to the Flats, and a good service of buses is capable of rapidly transporting visitors to the gay scene, but for the holiday traffic special brakes were put on the route from Stratford, and at: "Tuppence all the way", these command full complements of passengers. ...
The centre of the fun, I found, was on Dames Road, had by the Holly Tree Tavern. Here was a gigantic country fair, or rather twenty country fairs rolled into one, constituting a scene of startling splendour, which is difficult easily to describe. A gorgeous merry-go-round occupied a central position, rivalling in its gold and brilliant colours, its mirrors and dazzling lights, scenes depicted in the Arabian Nights.
 ... This elaborate piece of mechanism must have cost a small fortune, but it was providing a gold mine to its proprietors.
 ... A "wild Indian chief" emerged into the open, brandishing a sword and uttering horrible gutteral sounds. He was silenced in summary fashion by the proprietor, who gave graphic accounts of the sights to be seen inside. Meanwhile the "Indian Chief" had disappeared into the wigwam and I followed bent on investigations.
Answering a common-place remark, the wild warrior lapsed into unmistakable Cockneyese, and openly admitted he was a fraud. ...

Chelmsford Chronicle - 23 June 1911


Harem skirt scare 
Near the bandstand on Wanstead Flats on Sunday night somebody shouted "Haremskirt!" A crowd at once gathered around a lady who was smartly dressed and fol-lowed her to the tram terminus. By the time the Woodford-road was reached over.500 people had collected, and the young lady had to board a tramcar going to Stratford to avoid them. She was wearing a hobble skirt.

A hobble skirt was a skirt with a narrow enough hem to significantly impede the wearer's stride, and was a short-lived fashion trend around the turn of the twentieth century and the early 1910's

Chelmsford Chronicle - 23 September 1921


Model Yachting
The race for the Hall Cup in connection with the Forest Gate Model Yachting Club was held on Saturday, and was a win for the Vice Commodore, Mr Breach. Messrs. Copper and Wilson tied for second place.