A nod at our neighbours (2): Manor Park pt 1

Friday, 20 November 2015

This is the second in an occasional series of articles taking a quick peep at the history of a neighbouring area. This time our friends to the north east: Manor Park: from the Domesday Book until the latter part of the nineteenth century.

What we now know as Manor Park was, until the late nineteenth century, called Little Ilford (the small crossing over the River Hile - former name of the Roding) - as indeed the eastern part of it still is.

The area gained its modern name to describe the growing suburb being constructed around Manor Park railway station. This, itself, took its name from the home of the Lord of the Manor of West Ham, just round the corner, in what is now Gladding Road. 

Nineteenth century railway builders were a bit like modern estate agents in trying to brand areas with upmarket names; so, locally we have Manor Park, Upton Park, Woodgrange Park and Wanstead Park stations - all some distance from anything we would recognise as a formal park!.

Little Ilford was identified in the Domesday Book (1086), following the Norman Conquest, as part of Ham(me) - a low-lying pasture. It had a population of only 10. It was simply a hamlet at this time, and barely grew in population for the next 400 years.

It is thought that an alehouse has stood on the site of the former Three Rabbits pub, on the corner of Rabbits Road since the 1630's - probably taking its name from a rabbit warren on the old Aldersbrook estate (hence Warren Avenue). The pub was said to have been used by dealers trading at the annual cattle fairs on what is now Wanstead Flats, until the nineteenth century. It was situated, of course, on the old Roman - Colchester, now Romford, Road.

To the left, an early 20th century
 image of Three Rabbits pub. To
 the right the former Manor Park library,
 now re-opened as an arts centre.

Boots the Chemist, on the corner of Rabbits
 and Romford Roads, on site of former
 Three Rabbits pub, location of an
 alehouse for almost 500 years
The Three Rabbits lasted until the early years of this century, as a large music pub (ex-Tremeloes front man, Brain Poole was a regular, for a while), when it was refurbed into a Boots the chemist, with flats above - see photo.

Chapman and Andre's map (see below) of 1777 shows that the parish of Little Ilford, then, consisted of the parish church, Manor Farm, a few cottages, the Three Rabbits and the Aldersbrook estate.  Its small size was confirmed by the 1801 census, suggesting it had a population of just 100.

Chapman and Andre's 1777 map,
 showing the hamlet of Little Ilford
The Manor House that was built between 1810 and 1827 was the seat of the Manor of West Ham. It replaced a former house, of which there are few extant details. The nineteenth century dwelling, and the surrounding land, was purchased by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1839, when the London to Romford line was being constructed, to accommodate its route, for £10,000.

The Manor House,and splendid
 grounds, in better days
The house, itself, however, was not directly affected by the railway line and was leased to William Storrs Fry - son of Elizabeth, the prison reformer, who lived nearby, firstly in what is now East Ham's Plashet Park and then later behind what is now West Ham Park. 

The Manor House, and much of the land, remained leased to the family until 1866, when it was sold to the Victoria Land Company, from when it was to have a fascinating history.

Meanwhile, other developments were happening apace in what was still Little Ilford. Between 1829 and 1831 a jail was built in the area: The Little Ilford House of Correction (around what are now Gloucester and Worcester Roads), at a cost of £30,000.

Unfortunately no photographs of the prison survive, but when it was demolished in 1878, some of its rubble was used in the construction of houses in the aforementioned roads.

It was a brick building, designed for 100 inmates, who were expected to spend their time in silence, while incarcerated. It consisted of 60 cells, with eight day wards, 10 exercise yards and a treadmill, for the exhausting "hard labour" sentences.

Life there was grim. Existing records, still within the Essex Records Office, show a lack of adequate water supply, poor ventilation and diseases like scurvy, associated with poor diet. It is not known whether Elizabeth Fry ever visited, or was influenced by conditions there, but within a year of its opening she was giving evidence to a House of Commons Committee on poor prison conditions.
Print of prison reformer, Elizabeth
 Fry, reading to prisoners
Largely as a result of the existence of this penal institution, Little Ilford's population began to expand. By 1848 it stood at 189, which figure, in turn, had more doubled by the census, three years later. 

The growth came from a combination of the development of the jail and incoming Irish immigrants, fleeing the famine in the late 1840's, for cheap accommodation on the outskirts of London (see reference to Irish Row, in our recent blog about Ebor cottages - here).

We have written previously about the development of much of our local area as cemeteries in the second half of the nineteenth century (see here). Manor Park was at the forefront of this development. 

In 1854 the Corporation of the City of London bought over 112 acres of land from the Manor of Aldersbrook -  part of Little Ilford - for £200,000 for the construction of the City of London cemetery. It opened two years later, to accommodate up to 6,000 burials per year.

City of London Cemetery,
 Manor Park, c 1850
Within twenty years, another 50 acres parcel of the land was bought in the area, this time from the former Hamfrith farm's new owner, Samuel Gurney - a relative of the Frys - for the construction of the Manor Park Cemetery. This is a privately owned cemetery (for details see cemeteries articles referred to above) and was opened in 1874, with its original chapel opened two years later. Its success would have been confirmed by the opening of Manor Park station in 1872 (see next post).

Between these two cemetery developments in the area, the Catholic church purchased the Manor House, itself, and seven surrounding acres in 1866 and established St Nicholas Industrial School. We pick up the Manor Park story, next week with the school's story.

Forest Gate's first £2m house? - 224 Romford Road

Friday, 13 November 2015

Reluctant as we are to add to the property price madness that is sweeping Forest Gate, it is worth noting that one of the district's more distinct, and Grade 11 listed, houses is currently up for sale by Your Move at a guide price of £2m. The house and its architect are of local historic interest.

242 Romford Road - just the £2m, then

According to the British Listed Buildings website. It was built in 1878 and probably designed by John Thomas Newman FRIBA (1831-96) as his family home, in an eclectic Queen Anne style. 

It had a verandah added to the rear prior to 1920. The single-storey conservatory to the south-west was given a tile roof sometime after 1939.

Below we present a (slightly) edited, and quite architecturally detailed, description of the house.  This comes from the listed buildings website, here, and is the English Heritage's justification for their award of Grade 11 listed status to it.  We are grateful for, and acknowledge, their copyright of the information.

It was designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural Interest: as a relatively early example of the use of the Queen Anne Revival style in a middle-class suburban house. The house is enlivened by its asymmetric design, Japanese-inspired details and lavish use of terracotta decoration

* Interior: the house provides a good illustration of the decorative features associated with the Aesthetic Movement particularly the tiled fire surrounds and Japanaiserie joinery

* Degree of Survival: both interior and exterior are little altered and the house retains the original street boundary wall and coach house which are both included in the listing

* Group Value: with the contemporary former United Reform church opposite listed at Grade II


The house was built in 1878 and originally occupied, and presumably designed, by the noted local architect John Thomas Newman FRIBA (1831-96). 

Newman was the surveyor and head of the Mechanists Department at the Victoria Dock (1861-5) before setting up in private practice (1865-79) and was later architect to the West Ham and Leyton Schools Boards (for which he designed around 30 schools), surveyor to the London Hospital Estates Sub-committee and to the Council of the Bishop of St Albans Fund. 

Several of his buildings are listed at Grade II, among them the Protestant Martyrs Memorial at St John's Church, Stratford (1878). This 65 feet monument (see photo) was erected to commemorate the death, burned at the stake, of 18 protestant martyrs in and around Stratford in 1556, on the orders of Queen Mary Tudor ("Bloody Mary"). 

Martyrs Memorial, Stratford

Newman's other work included three churches, Christchurch, Sutton (1887-8), St Margaret of Antioch, Leytonstone (1892) and St Nicholas, Kelvedon Hatch, Essex (1895) where he had moved to shortly before his death.

Details of house construction and features

The house was built of orange brick laid in a free Flemish bond with terracotta dressings; tile roofs with decorative ridge tiles and finials.

It is rectangular in plan but with a single-storey conservatory to the south-west. The roof-plan is T-shaped with hipped gables to the west end of the front (north) and rear (south) elevations, and to the east side elevation.

The exterior of this large, two-storey, detached house was designed in an eclectic Queen Anne style with decorative influences from the Aesthetic Movement. The north elevation to Romford Road has a varied roof line with a deep coved eaves cornice, comprising from east to west a lucarne with hipped roof; a semi-conical roof over the angled two-storey entrance bay; and a broad hipped gable with deep eaves with bargeboards. 

The windows are tall sashes (some broad, some narrow) with the upper sashes and transoms having small-paned lights with a distinctive 'Japanaiserie' lattice design, mostly with coloured glass. The sills are of interlocking terracotta blocks whilst the keys of the square-headed gauged brick lintels have terracotta reliefs of sunflowers. 

Further terracotta decoration occurs as a continuous band below the first-floor windows (sunflowers with foliage); square panels aligned with each window below this band (floral designs except for the two date panels over the porch bearing the date 'AD 1878'); and a second band of continuous floral motifs with a brick edging above the ground floor window lintels. 

The apex of the hipped gable is decorated with a chequerboard pattern of tiles with floral motifs. The ground floor rests on a shallow concrete plinth topped with chamfered blue engineering brick and has a prominent porch to the canted entrance bay with a tiled canopy supported on large wooden brackets with turned wooden spindles. 

The glazed front door has coloured glass lights and an eight-light transom. The western gable has a five-light square bay window with a hipped tile roof. The east and west elevations have similar bay windows The west elevation has a central lucarne with two tall windows and a terracotta finial. 

The rear (south) elevation has an identical hipped gable to the front elevation. A square, single-storey bay with a pent roof is set off centre and connects to a single-storey range to the south-west with a steeply pitched tile roof with tile-hung gable and continuous fenestration to the south and east with top-hinged casements and multi-light transoms. 

Map evidence indicates that this range was originally a glazed conservatory. The rear elevation is completed by two hip-roofed lucarnes, the western one wider than the eastern and a hipped dormer with terracotta finial set between the hipped gable and the western lucarne. 

On the ground floor a later timber verandah continues east from the bay window. This has a tiled hipped roof with two skylights. The fenestration on the rear elevation is less elaborate, combining multi-pane casements and sashes, most with multi-light transoms with coloured glass. There are two tall brick quatrefoil chimneystacks.

The interior of the house is largely unaltered with some changes to the mezzanine level servants' rooms at the rear, the ground floor rooms to the east of the house which form a separate flat (not visited), and the kitchen/conservatory.

Many original features survive, often typical of the Aesthetic Movement. In the upstairs rooms there are three fireplaces with inset Milton tiles of the Shakespeare series (c.1874) designed by John Moyr Smith (1839-1912 ) and Japanaiserie floral designs, arched panelled cupboards in the bedrooms, decorative ventilation vents, original joinery including five-panel doors and more fitted cupboards on the top landing, original light switches and a Gothic ceiling rose in the stairwell. 

The Canadian pine Japanaiserie open-well staircase has turned balusters and newels, ball pendants, a butler's tray rest, and glazed lattice under stair panelling. 

On the ground floor there is a geometric design quarry tile floor to the hall and verandah, leaded window panels with coloured lights set in a wood frame between the hall and front parlour, deep covings (reflecting those externally) and heavily moulded door surrounds to the main doors off the hall. 

In the study/lobby at the rear of the house are three built-in Canadian pine dressers, each with two hand-painted panels depicting parables or nursery rhymes, one showing a woman with two children entering what is clearly the porch of No. 224 with the inscription 'This is the house that Jack built' and the date 1878. 'Jack' is underlined suggesting that John Thomas Newman was the designer. 

Also in the study is a fireplace with Japanaiserie tiles and further Moyr Smith ones from the 'Idylls of the King' series (c1875) set in a Canadian pine surround. In the rear parlour is a Canadian pine fireplace with an overmantel with shelves and spindles which match the stair balusters. The fire surround has hand-painted tiles depicting birds and flowers on a gold ground. 

There is full-height wooden panelling adjacent to the fireplace and the room is divided by a deeply moulded spine beam supported on consoles and has a Gothic ceiling rose. Glazed double doors pass to the modern kitchen. These have fanlight with coloured glass. The front parlour also has the same Gothic ceiling rose, deep coving and an Anaglypta ceiling finish. The room retains its dado panelling. 

Unusual fitted shelves below the bay window with turned spindles and a fitted dresser incorporating the coloured glazed panels through to the hall. The fireplace has a wooden surround and overmantel but has lost its tile decoration. The kitchen has been extended into the original conservatory and largely modernised including a modern brick rustic fireplace although it retains its original fenestration and glazed door to the garden. The cellar retains its slate shelving. 

To the south of the house is a contemporary carriage house built against the south boundary wall. It is of orange brick on a concrete plinth with a hipped tile roof, double carriage doors to the west and fenestration to the north elevations. 

There is a tall brick boundary wall to Margery Park Road with an entrance to the carriage house with pyramid-capped gate piers. It adjoins the blind west wall of the former conservatory after which it continues as wooden paling on a concrete base with brick piers round into Romford Road. Both the carriage house and boundary wall to Margery Park road are of special interest.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced with thanks.

Very poor food hygiene practice in Forest Gate (and some decent) - 2015 ratings

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Forest Gate hosts some of the country's least hygienic eateries and food stores - and some of the best - according to the Food Standards Agency. This is our second round-up of the Agency's ratings for Forest Gate's food outlets.

For details of how the it judges food stores and restaurants, see our summary here, from last year's blogs.  For direct access to the FSA's Forest Gate ratings, see here.

The Agency gives Star ratings to all premises - from zero to 5. We have taken journalistic licence and given our own shorthand labelling to these ratings - as shown in the sub-titles to the listings below - for which we take responsibility.

There has been a considerable turnover of premises rated - some dropping off and others joining from the lists we published last year. So, the ratings below, which follow those the FSA's currently list, and is not totally comprehensive.

We have indicated (in brackets) below, last year's ratings for the premises where comparisons are available.  

Last year we also published details of all schools and social care home ratings.  We are not doing so this year, as they are, without exception rated either our "good", 4 stars, or "excellent" five stars.  Even Stratford Academy, which produced a rogue rating of only 1 star last year  is now up with the school norm of 4/5 stars.

Stratford Academy, over its rogue 1 star result
 last year, now up to a sector norm, of 5 stars

Because like is not being compared with like, it is difficult to say, overall, whether overall hygiene levels of Forest Gate food outlets are better this year than last.  However, some comparisons can be made, and the results are mixed.

Four restaurants last year had zero stars.  Two of those have subsequently closed, the Pakhtoon on Green Street and the New Sea Garden on Katherine Road.  The other two: Abu Bakar (Upton Lane) and Afghan Kebab (Green Street) now have one star. So, that is good news.

More worryingly, however, the first food outlet that faces rail passengers leaving Forest Gate station - Eat More on the parade of shops opposite the station - went from one to zero stars. Perhaps it should be renamed: Eat Less, Clean More.

There were some pleasing improvements in cleanliness standards in some food outlets. So, the Lahore Express and Margalla Grill, both on Green Street and Himalayan Food Store on Katherine Road had their star rating risen from a low 1 to a decent 3. The Holly Tree on Dames Road moved up from a good 4 star rating to an excellent 5 stars.

Biggest credit, however, must go to TSB Cash and Carry on Katherine Road and the Best Kebab House on Upton Lane, each of which moved from a rather poor one star rating to an excellent 5 stars, within a year. Good for them, and surely a great example of what can be done with some concerted effort, that all others, locally, could follow.

Great credit to TSB Cash and Carry
 on Katherine Road with a spectacular
 improvement from 1 star to 5

On the down side, the Forest Gate Hotel (Godwin Road), Kebabish Original (Green Street), Lahori Baba (Green Street) and Wenty's (Upton Lane) slipped from two stars to one.

Papa's Fried Chicken (Romford Road) made a steeper fall from 3 stars to 1.

Worst plummeter award, however, must go to Romford Road's Hartley Hotel which sunk from 4 to 1 star. Unacceptable activity, surely, meriting a rotten tomato, by way of recognition.

Rotten tomato award goes to Hartley Hotel,
 which has seen its rating plummet from 4 stars to 1

Shocking - 0 stars


Eat More (1) - 8-10 Railways Station Bridge, Woodgrange Road
La Pizza - 396 Romford Road
S and S Biryani - Rear of 19-29 Shaftesbury Road

Welcome to Forest Gate: Zero stars,
 perhaps should be renamed: Eat Less, Clean More

Shops and others

Favourite Best - 118 Upton Lane
Kiheta African Shop - 1a Sebert Road
Mona Food - 25a Oakdale Road

Poor - 1 star


Abu Bakars BBQ (0) - 47 Upton Lane

From the BBQ pits of zero stars
 to a solitary one - at least its
 progress for Abu Bakar

Afghan Kebab House (0) - 89 Green Street
A'la Pizza - 28 Upton Lane
Caribbean Country Style/E7 Jerk Pit - 110 Woodgrange Road
Charcoal Grill and BBQ (1) - 105 Woodgrange Road
Charsi Tikka (1) - 50 Woodgrange Road
Daily Fry and Spice/Biryani House (1) - 426 Katherine Road
Faruk Chatpoti House - 16 Carlton Terrace, Green Street
Forest Gate Hotel (2) - 105 Godwin Road

Poor from Forest Gate Hotel,
 which slips from 2 stars to 1

Hartley Hotel (4)- 365 - 367 Romford Road
Himalaya (1) - 9-10 Carlton Terrace, Green Street
Jin Hui Chinese Takeaway (1) - 64 Field Road
Kebashi Original/KO Grill (2) - 132 Green Street
Lahori Baba (2) - 78 Green Street
Medina Kebabish - 85 Upton Lane
Mobeen Restaurant - 222-226 Green Street
Panda's Kitchen - 396 Katherine Road
Perfect Fried Chicken (3) - 506 Romford Road

Far from Perfect - down
 from 3 stars to just 1 in a year

Rajmahal Sweets and Cafe - 132 Upton Lane
Wenty's (2) - 26 Upton Lane

Shops and others

Anand Pan Centre - 229 Green Street
Atawakal Fresh Halal Meat - 493 Katherine Road
Bondor Cash and Carry (1) - 116 Upton Lane
Cakes and Bakes - 302 Romford Road
London Fish Bazaar - 149-153 Green Street

Sub-standard - 2 stars


Chicago 30's Pizza (2) - 369 Katherine Road
Khan Restaurant (2) - 379 Romford Road
Lahori Zaiga - 297 Romford Road
Roast 2012 - 491 Katherine Road

Shops and others

Ali Communications - 367 Green Street
Al-Rehman Food Store - 465 Romford Road
Dames Off-Licence (2) - 215 Dames Road
Davina Supermarket - 58 Upton Lane
Karuri Newsagents (2) - 35 Woodgrange Road
MK Bros (2) - 30-32 Woodgrange Road
Perrier Wines (2) - 315 Romford Road
Pound Plus Store - 499 Katherine Road

Average -3 stars


Al Farooq Kebabish (3) - 84 Upton Lane
Alnuur Cafe and Restaurant (2) - 466 Katherine Road
Aromas Restaurant - 172 Forest Lane
Bay of Bengal - 109 Green Street
Brioche Burger - 236 Green Street
East African Restaurant (3) - 14-16 St Georges Road
Eastern Palace (3) - 278 Romford Road
Express Chicken/Pizza - 136 Green Street
Everest (3) - 327 Romford Road
Family Grill - 392 Romford Road
Forest Cafe(3) - 61 Woodgrange Road
Forest Tavern - 173-175 Forest Lane
Fredor African and Caribbean Restaurant (3) - 177 Upton Lane
Kaffine - 180 Forest Lane
Lahore Xpress (1) - 99 Green Street

Pleasing progress from Lahore
 Xpress - up from a poor 1
 star to an average rating of 3

Lahori Kulfi - 8 Carlton Terrace, Green Street
Lazat Family Restaurant and Takeaway - 409 Katherine Road
London Travel Inn (Countryside Hotel) - 207 Romford
McCreadie Hotel (3)- 357-363 Romford Road
Manor House Hotel (3)- 235 Romford Road
Margalla Grill (1) - 255 Green Street
Newham Hotel - 349 - 353 Romford Road
NUR Restaurant (3) - 43 Woodgrange Road
Peri Peri Crush - 401 Katherine Road
PFC - 472 Green Street
Pizza Haven - 14 Sebert Road
Reggae Pot - 93 Pevensey Road
Ronak Restaurant (3) - 317 Romford Road
Safari International - 49 Upton Lane
Sake Sushi - 29 Upton Lane
The Grill Corner - 1-2 Carlton Terrace, Green Street
Vijay's Chawalla - 268 - 270 Green Street
Wakelin Court Residential Hotel - 96 Halley Road
Zu's Sizzler's (3) - 83 Green Street

Shops and others

Al Madina Butcher - 21 Upton Lane
Al Noor Fresh Fruit and Veg Store - 31 Upton Lane
AS Mini Market (3) - 276 Katherine Road
Asona Ba (3) - 305 Romford Road
Barry's Meat Market (3) - 49 Woodgrange Road
Bismillah Halal Meats (3) - 70 Upton Lane
Bondor Bazaar Cash and Carry (3) - 130 Green Street
Co-op - 67 - 73 Woodgrange Road (pre refit)
Himalaya Food Store (1) - 332 - 336 Katherine Road
Katarznynka Polish Supermarket(3) - 318 Romford Road
Kiri Food and Wine - 517 Katherine Road
Mina Stores - 274 Green Street
Muzda Bakery (3) - 129 Green Street
One Click - 522 Romford Road
Orbit Food Stores - 2 Reginald Road
Shalamar Supermarket - 513 Katherine Road
Sobji Bazar - 92 Woodgrange Road
Tesco - 542 Romford Road
Unique Cash and Carry (3) - 418 - 420 Katherine Road
United Halal Meat (3) - 3 Carlton Terrace, Green Street
Vasara (3) - 171 Forest Lane
Vegetarian Pound Foods - 4 - 6 Carlton Terrace, Green Street
Vinto - 529 Katherine Road 
Woodgrange News Mart (3) - 25 Woodgrange Road

Good - 4 stars


Cafe @ 48 (4) - 48 Upton Lane
Coffee 7 (4) - 10 Sebert Road
Compotes Cafe - 118 Woodgrange Road
Elsha Delight (4) - 173 Upton Lane
Hyderabad Darbar (4) - 60-62 Green Street
Indiano Pizza (4) - 126 Upton Lane
Lahoori Spicy Biryani House (4) - 342 Katherine Road
Marrakech - 236 Green Street
McDonalds (4) - 322 Romford Road
Mini Coffee Shop - 245 Romford Road
Moon House (4) - 56 Woodgrange Road
Papa Shafs Original (4) - 50 Upton Lane
Tarbush Swahili Dishes - 128 Upton Lane
Wanstead Tap - Winchelsea Road

Shops and others

Shindes Pure Veg - 236 Green Street
SM Food - 9 Upton Lane
Tesco Express (4) - 28 Woodgrange Road
Variety Foods - 20 Carlton Terrace, Green Street

Excellent - 5 Stars


Best Kebab House (1) - 20 Upton Lane

Living up to its name: Best Kebab
 House on Upton Lane improves
 from 1 to 5 stars in just one year
 - an example for all the others

Bojun's Grill - 236 Green Street
Coffee Republic - 236 Green Street
Hudson Bay (5) - 1 -5 Upton Lane
Khana Khazana (5)- 249 Green Street
Papa's Chicken (5) - 37a Woodgrange Road
Pita Pit - 236 Green Street
Pizza Hut (5) - 60 Woodgrange Road
Subway - 9 Woodgrange Road
The Holly Tree (4) - 141 Dames Road

Holly Tree: up from 4 to 5 stars

Shops and others

Akbar's (5) - 51 - 53 Upton Lane
Akro Pharmacy - 404 Katherine Road
Alaudin Sweet Centre (5) - 148 Green Street
Amba News - 108 Woodgrange Road
Amitas - 124 - 126 Green Street
Bharat Food Stores - 4-6 Carlton Terrace, Green Street
BT News - 22 Upton Lane
Cheap Store - 157 Green Street
Crailmay (chemist) - 70 Green Street
El Marinero - 11 Clifton Road
Fish Mela (5) - 39 Upton Lane
Gafoor Pure Halal - 134 Green Street
Malchem - 63 Woodgrange Road
Mayors Chemist - 45 Upton Lane
Mithal Box - 165 Green Street
Nawal - 253 Green Street
Nirala - 276 Green Street
Pennies and Pounds - 452 Romford Road
Post Office - 444 Romford Road
Post Office - 181 Upton Lane
Reids Minimart - 19 Station Road
Shan Chemist - 453 Romford Road
Shifa News - 35 Woodgrange Road
Shrewsbury Newsagents - 180 Shrewsbury Road
Step in Local - 321 Romford Road
Tesco (5) - 326 Katherine Road
The Cake Box (5) - 163 Green Street
The Urban Chocolatier - 236 Green Street
TSB Cash and Carry (1) - 428 Katherine Road
Upton News - 82 Upton Lane

Footnote: The above article was based on FSA ratings in October 2015. The ratings are regularly updated.

Forest Gate and family history

Friday, 30 October 2015

This site is often contacted with family history enquiries from genealogists tracing their Forest Gate roots.  We always try to assist, and where enquirers can provide a little bit of local background and flavour, we are happy to publish their requests here.

We will be happy to update this post, on a case by case basis, in future, when we get queries that offer the basis of a story and research already undertaken. Below is the first of these queries to be published.

Arthur Edington Williams (1845 - 1923)

One such enquiry recently came about a local turn of the century socialist, Arthur Edington Williams. It was from one of his great grandchildren, Anne Speight. We run her information and request, below.  If anyone knows more about the family concerned, we ask you to contact Anne directly by e.mail: annep.speight@ntlworld.com.

Anne writes:

Arthur Edington Williams was my great grandfather and born in Bethnal Green, but his married life was spent in Forest Gate. He was the son of a buhl and facet cutter (ed: craftworker specialising in inlaid work on furniture), but Arthur himself was a fancy cabinet maker. One of the things he made was portable writing desks.
Arthur Edington Williams (1845-1923)

His wife Hannah originally, come to London from Norfolk, to work as a servant. They had several children and lived variously at Dean Street, Odessa Road, Boleyn Road and at Keogh Road. Their offspring were variously members of the Clarion Cycling Club,  a ship’s wireless operator, elementary school teacher and two were railway telegraphers based at Stratford station.

Arthur’s daughter-in-law, Clara Williams, played violin at the Earlham Grove Music Academy c 1920.

I have the 1923 newspaper report of Arthur being knocked down in thick fog by a car on Romford Road. He died almost immediately, but his widow remained at Keogh Road till after World War Two.

Arthur was a keen socialist. I wonder if he appears in any trade directories or political hustings?

Sydney Frederick Williams (1884-1972), a son of Arthur Edington Williams, was a railway telegrapher and bachelor. He remained at the family home on Keogh Road until after World War Two.

1919 strike committee of West Ham branch
 of National Union of Railwaymen,
Sydney Williams third from left in middle row.

I believe he is the same Sydney Williams as identified in the attached group photo, which is of the National Union of Railwaymen, West Ham branch, strike committee in 1919. Third from the left, in the middle row is Sydney Williams.

The street where you live (3): Chestnut Avenue

Friday, 23 October 2015

This is the third 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.

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 features. The reproduction isn't always clear, 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.

Chestnut Avenue

Chestnut Avenue, especially the wider section, has been in existence since well before the Victorian houses were built. Its current shape may well be to do with land holdings going back to the 18th century and earlier – for example Chestnut Lodge a country house with orchards which lay immediately to the west of wide Chestnut Avenue. 

For details of the previous article on the nearby Woodford Road, the former Eagle and Child pub, Lord Lister clinic and cattle on Wanstead Flats, see here. That article also looked at the earlier Woodgrange farm and the original Forest Gate.

The 1863 Ordnance Survey map published 1873 (see below) shows the narrow and wide Chestnut Avenue, more or less on the current alignment, but with no housing development. 

  For an enlarged view of this 1863 map, click here
Trade directories of the time show that there was a pub at 40 Chestnut Avenue, The Globe, between 1871 and 1886.  There is currently a house at this address, which almost certainly replaced the former public house.

40 Chestnut Avenue today, 
location of The Globe pub,
 1871 - 1886
There is a very interesting plaque surviving on the wall of 48 - 50, in narrow section of Chestnut Avenue that records the role of the Spitalfields Investment Society in developing the houses in 1875.

Plaque on wall between 48 and 50 Chestnut
Avenue, reading: "This stone was laid on August
 5th 1875. Amos Sanders, John Newman and
 George Roberts, trustees of the Spitalfields
 Investment Society. Edward Brown,
 architect, C W Beale, builder
Below is an extract from a contemporary newspaper, which is the tender for painting 35 of these, cottages at Forest Gate.

Chelmsford Chronicle 11 May 1877

There were a number of these kind of societies in East London at the time, they were often known as Four Per Cent Societies. They were privately funded by non- exploitative investors/landlords, who wanted to build decent housing for working people, and in exchange were guaranteed a four per cent return on their capital - paid for from the rents. 

The idea was to provide good housing at reasonable rents, a far cry from much of the accommodation in the slums of East London, at the time (or, indeed, today). These, some of the original "building societies", were not totally philanthropic, but offered a fair rate of return on capital to the builders of decent houses. An idea that wouldn't go amiss, in helping address the housing crisis in London, today.

The need for good housing and sanitary conditions in this area was rather well illustrated twenty years previously. A number of concerned citizens called for an inquiry into poor environmental health conditions in the West Ham area in the early 1850's. The result was a very influential report, to which we will return at a later date, written by Alfred Dickens, the brother of the famed author.

His report, of 1855, had the rather clumsy title of Report of the General Board of Health on a Preliminary Inquiry into the Sewerage, Drainage and Supply of Water, and the sanitary Conditions of the Inhabitants of the Parish of West Ham in the County of Essex.

Its publication had far reaching local consequences, as we will show in a later blog.  Page 55 of it specifically referred to the area around what we know as Chestnut Avenue:

There is a well in Chestnut Walk, an open ditch flows into it and pollutes it. Near the Eagle and Child there is an open ditch, which is said to be very offensive.

The surrounding area had a number of market gardens and smallholdings, no doubt supplying the London Market. For details of some of the local market gardens, see here.

Chelmsford Chronicle  17 Jul 1896:

Partial transcript:

Lord Claude Hamilton, chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company is announced to open the fruit, flower and vegetable show which has been arranged by the salesmen of Stratford Market in aid of the funds of West Ham Hospital. Numerous entries have been received ... The entrance to Chestnut Lodge Paddock, Carnarvon road, Stratford is quite close to the tram cars running between Stratford and Manor Park ...

The press cutting, above, shows that even in the 1890s in Carnarvon Road, just this side of Stratford, there were active market gardens and horticultural producers. 

Originally some of the market gardens had wooden shacks occupied by residents from inner East London – Shoredittch, Hoxton – as weekend or holiday homes.

Stratford had a wholesale fruit and vegetable market developed by the railway company in Burford Rd. 

The cutting also shows the impact of the Great Eastern Railway (the current Liverpool Street line) in opening the area up to development, allowing rapid movement of people and goods to central London. It is comparable to CrossRail opening up Forest Gate again from 2018. 

The Great Eastern arrived at Forest Gate in 1839. The army of clerks in the City of London needed housing and new suburbs sprang up to meet the demand as shown on the next map.

For an enlarged view of this 1895 Ordnance Survey map, click here

This map shows more or less the current street pattern and the tree lined wide Chestnut Avenue. 

The map below also marks the arrival of the Tottenham and Forest Gate Junction Railway (now the Barking-Gospel Oak) with Wanstead Park station opened 1894. This is an example of blatant marketing by the railway company, since it is nowhere near Wanstead Park proper.

For an enlarged view, click here 
You can also see Angell Pond at the junction of Capel and Woodford Roads, developed by West Ham council engineer Lewis Angell to assist drainage on the Flats, which were very boggy. A bandstand soon appeared too demolished in the 1950s. 

Angell Pond, with bandstand, as described, above
The development process is spelled out in this piece from the 1907 publication West Ham, a Study in Social and Industrial Problems by Howarth and Wilson:

Chestnut Avenue and Avenue Road, which leads from Forest Gate Station to Wanstead Flats, were built about 1875. The houses are detached, or semi-detached, and are let by the year or quarter at rentals varying from £28 to £50 per annum. The tenants are chiefly business people and clerks, whose work lies in the City. A change has come over the Avenue Road property during the last five years (i.e. the early years of the twentieth century). The houses are difficult to let, and although the tenants are of the same class as formerly, they belong to a rather lower grade. On the other hand, some of the Chestnut Avenue property has largely increased in value. The reason for this is that several of the houses have very long gardens, and there is a demand in this district for houses with gardens.  The lease of one of these, with four rooms and a wash-house, was recently sold for £230, whereas it fetched £175 twelve years ago.
By way of explanation for the variations mentioned in the extract above, building started in the mid 1870s but the 1880s saw a major recession in Britain and speculative house building slowed down. The report says that there was an adequate supply of housing between 1892 -97, but from 1897 -99 demand outstripped supply and rents rose. Families took rooms not houses. 

By the early 1900s the area was in some decline but then bounced back with a house costing £175 in 1895 and £230 in 1907. House price volatility is not a new thing.

Chestnut Avenue in 1910
In 1910 Chestnut Avenue was a quiet leafy suburban street with only the occasional small cart to be seen on the road. Notice the trees on the left, in the photo above, are in the carriageway not on the pavement.

Chestnut Avenue achieved a less welcome footnote to history between the two World Wars.  It was the home of Millicent "Scat" Bullivant, a leading light in East London fascism.

Bullivant was the daughter of middle class conservatives from Norfolk and was employed as the secretary to the sales manager at Yardley, the cosmetics company, the core of whose iconic headquarters survives on the approach to Bow Bridge, in Stratford.  She lived at 94 Chestnut Avenue.

She was a long-standing doctrinal fascist, having joined the Fascisti, a forerunner to Mosley'e British Union of Fascists (BUF) in the 1920's. She, and her brother, Richard Alveston Bullivant, were active early organisers of the fascists in Forest Gate and established its bookshop/headquarters, just around the corner from their house, at 18 Woodford Road. 

Bullivant, centre, with a couple of
 fascist colleagues in their blackshirt
 uniforms, before they were banned

Their ultimate fate isn't known, but they recruited the local organiser, Arthur Beavan to the role of local organiser.  He was a thug, who was detained, without trail, in 1940, following the outbreak of war with Germany.

See here for a fuller account of Fascism in Forest Gate in the 1930's.

What the papers' say

Essex Newsman - 2 February 1895


Run over and killed in Forest Gate

Mr Lewis held an inquest at the King's Head Inn, West Ham on 24 Jan, on the body of George Gilbert, aged 68, lately residing at 10 Derby Road, Forest Gate, who was run over and killed by a horse and van in Chestnut Avenue. Albert Edward Perkins, of 81 Park Road, West Ham who was cautioned, said he was employed by the Forest Gate Steam Laundry Company as carman, and was collecting linen in Chestnut Avenue. He pulled up at No 89 and got out to pu the chain on the hind wheel. Before he could do so the horse bolted and galloped Chestnut Avenue towards Woodford Road. Witness could assign no reason for the horse bolting. The horse was sent to the company on trial. He was told not to leave it.  A boy went with him, but at the time he was in Capel Road collecting linen. The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death", but said that they considered that there was negligence on the part of the laundry servants, and that the widow be compensated.

Chelmsford Chronicle - 3 Aug 1900

Partial transcript:

Alleged artfulness of a servant

At West Ham police court on Tuesday Emily Taylor, 21, a servant of earl Street, Stratford, was charged with stealing a quantity of silver and other articles, a large quantity of household linen etc, valued at £!5, the property of William O'Reilly, of Chestnut Avenue, Forest Gate. The prisoner entered Mrs O'Reilly's employment on July 19 and the next day the family went away for a fortnight. ... The prisoner admitted that she had had a man in the house, and that she had helped him to pack up the things and to count the money, and that she had pawned some of the things. A remand was ordered.

Essex Newsman - 18 July 1896


Shocking death on Wanstead Flats: Something frightful

On Thursday an unknown wanderer was found in a dying condition on Wanstead Flats. He expired before medical assistance could be obtained.  The body was in a fearful condition, showing long-continued neglect. The coroner (Mr C C Lewis) held an inquest as soon as possible in order that the body might be buried. Constable Comley, 229K, who deposed to the poor man's death opposite Chestnut Avenue, said the clothing was of a very shabby description, and covered with vermin. Flies had also attacked his body and left live matter about. On the left leg of the deceased's trousers there was an appearance of blood, and the smell was "something frightful - you could hardly breathe". Witness loosened deceased's neckerchief and administered smelling salts, which he carried. He also blew his whistle, and thereby obtained assistance. Dr Boyton came, but the man was dead. The body was conveyed to the mortuary, where it was examined. The left leg was discovered to be one mass of mortification. Nothing was found in the clothing to lead to identification. The body was much emaciated, and live creatures were crawling over it. Deceased said nothing to witness. The Coroner adjourned the inquiry.
Bodies were regularly found on the Flats in the Victorian period, a reminder of the extreme poverty of the era.  There were also a number of suicides and the odd murder. 

FootnoteSee here for Peter's history of Woodford Road, and here for the Ebor Cottages article, posted earlier on this blog. Last week's blog featured the history of Brettell's, a firm of wood turners who have recently vacated their premises on Chestnut Road, after 30 years on the street.