Heritage Week in Forest Gate

Thursday, 1 November 2018


Newham Council is holding its third Heritage Week from 8 - 18 November this year. There are literally dozens of events taking place across the borough and almost all are completely free of charge.

There are over a dozen in Forest Gate and Manor Park alone, and this article focuses exclusively on them. Some events are at specific times on particular days - they are shown in chronological order, here. Other exhibitions, displays etc last for the whole of the festival, and are listed at the end. For details of the borough-wide programme, see foot of the article.

Thursday 8 November

WE Wright: The Photographer and His Work
W.E. Wright was a late Victorian and Edwardian photographer of note. He had two studios in Forest Gate, and six others across East London and Essex.

This is the launch event of the Week. There will be a small reception, from 6pm, followed by  an illustrated talk by Wright's great-grand-daughter and the editor of this blog, on the man and his work.




The exhibition, which will run for the duration of the Week has been curated by Wright's great-granddaughter  this blog and a number of local historians. It extends over three separate galleries and features some of his extensive work, including many of his local photographs. There are also details of his family and extensive business life.  There will be a 10 minute running slide show, on a continuous loop, showing the man and his work, running until the end of November.



Have your photograph taken as a Victorian, on the night of the launch! 

Attendees will be able to have a period photograph taken. Bring along century old family photos and discuss them with the exhibition producers.

A great opportunity to compare and contrast locations in Forest Gate today and a century ago, and to see how fashions, costumes and cars have changed over the period!

Thursday 8 November, 6-8pm.  Forest Gate Library

Saturday 10 November

 Forest Gate Heritage Walk - North To South: from Forest Gate Station to West Ham Park

An illustrated walk revealing many of Forest Gate’s hidden gems, including the site of THE Forest Gate, two sets of almshouses, The Upper Cut Club, Forest Gate’s two oldest churches, the home of Britain’s most important trade banner manufacturer, Newham’s oldest secular building, London’s oldest senior football ground, the site of the home of the founder of antiseptic medicine, Lord Joseph Lister, sites of bomb damage.


THE Forest Gate

Forest Gate's earliest purpose-
built church - still standing!


Pawnbrokers' almshouses



Bombed out Methodist church

Upper Cut Club
Jimi plays the Upper Cut
   
Appalling working conditions in Forest
Gate Steam Laundry at turn of 20th C
Conducted tour of Grade11
listed St Antony's church
The home of Britain's most
significant trade union banner maker

Old Spotted Dog - Newham's
oldest secular building

Dame Anna Neagle's
childhood home
Birthplace of the founder of modern surgery

Home of Dr Fothergill and site
 of Britain's one-time second
 largest botanical garden
Ham House - stood where West
 Ham Park now is, and its
remains cans still be seen
Samuel Gurney, "Mr Forest Gate",
whose lands covered most of
what is now Forest Gate, and
who lived in what is now
West Ham Park

Gurney's sister, Elizabeth Fry, who
 he put up around the corner, when
 her family fell on hard times.
The walk will end at West Ham Park, home of "Mr Forest Gate", Samuel Gurney, the one-time second best botanical collection in Britain and home of prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry. 

Please note that this is a two-hour pavement walk. There will be a short site visit to Grade 11 listed St Antony's church, where one of the priests will give a conducted tour.

Saturday 10, 11am-1pm Meet outside the Forest Tavern (173 Forest Lane, Forest Gate, E7 9BB) just before 11am.


Newham Heritage Week Launch

Come down to Forest Gate Library and immerse yourself in heritage activities and find out what will be happening during the Heritage Week.

There will be a wealth of information and varied activities available for children and adults, including a children’s banner making workshop with the Museum of London, plus interactive activities and workshops with Salmagundi films, your chance to purchase rare heritage titles from Newham Bookshop and much, much more.

Saturday 10, 12 - 4pm Forest Gate Library

Museum of London, Children’s Banner Making Workshop

Join the Museum of London and the Museum of Docklands in this suffragette themed banner-making workshop, taking inspiration from the Museum of London’s extensive militant suffragette collection and learning about the East London Suffragettes.

Saturday 10, 12-4pm Forest Gate Library


Salmagundi Films: Digital Archiving Workshops

Salmagundi Films will be in residence at Forest Gate Library to facilitate lively and informative digital archiving workshops, using iPads. 


‘inHERitance’ workshop

An opportunity for Newham residents to celebrate the influential women who have shaped their lives. Women who are well known, friends, family members or community figures. Bring along photographs, an object or ‘curiosity’ of historical or personal significance which celebrates influential women and share memories.

Work with Salmagundi Films to preserve their stories and share with the community.

Saturday 10, 11.30am-1.30pm

WW1 Memorabilia workshop

An opportunity to share and record treasured war memorabilia and their stories. Bring along photographs, medals, an object or ‘curiosity’ of historical or personal significance and work with Salmagundi Films to preserve the story and share with the community.

Saturday 10, 2-4pm Open to all.

Spaces are limited, to book contact Forest Gate Library

Monday 12 November

From Suffragettes and Beyond
Discover the history of women and the vote.  Be inspired by the fascinating story of how women won the vote, from the earliest petitions and protests to the direct action of the suffragettes and beyond. Find out when women sat in the Lords and what they did when they got there. The event will be led by Charlotte Dobson, who is a Senior Education and Engagement Officer for Parliament.

She focuses on building relationships with local community groups, in order to deliver sessions which encourage people to become more actively engaged with Parliament. You are welcome to turn up on the day but places are limited so you may wish to book by visiting Forest Gate or calling 020 3373 0856

 12.30-2pm Forest Gate Library

Talk: Manor Park Seen Through Old Postcards

A rising locality – the life and times of Manor Park at the turn of the last century. Local historians Peter Williams and Mark Gorman will tell the story of Manor Park 100 years ago, illustrated by local postcard images.


Earl of Essex, in better days
- soon after opening in 1902
You are welcome to turn up on the day, though spaces are limited so please guarantee your space by contacting Manor Park Library either in person or on 020 3373 0858

 6.30 - 8.30pm Manor Park Library

Tuesday 13 November

Talk: Forest Gate During World War 1
An illustrated one hour talk on Forest Gate and the First World War by the editor of this blog. It will examine life on the home front - particularly food shortages and Zepplin raids - through the detailed diaries of Godwin school, local soldiers and their fates (particularly in the Hammers' Battalion), the treatment of local conscientious objectors. There will be half a dozen brief biopics of local people and "their ward, including a touching story of a romance killed in its tracks by the war. 

The causes and objects of anti-German riots during the war, the Armistice, and the fate of the local war memorials erected to remember the dead will all be covered in this extensively illustrated talk.


Local anti-German riots in April 1915



The Hammers Battalion story
 - unit for many local men


Zepplin raids over Forest Gate


Some of the many thousands of
Forest Gate men who signed up
Troops mustering, on Wanstead Flats



The fate of local Conscientious Objectors


George Drewery VC -
from Claremont Road, one 

of six local case studies 
covered in the talk

Another. William Busby MC, local
congregationalist and scout leader


And another - Jack Richardson - 
whose local romance was 
ended by the war


And one of many local 
memorials to the fallen
Places are limited, you can book by visiting Forest Gate Library or calling 020 3373 0856

 7-8.30pm Forest Gate Library

Wednesday 14 November

The Princess and the Suffragette
 Visit from popular children’s author Holly Webb to Forest Gate Library to discuss her book The Princess and the Suffragette with Newham school children in years 5 and 6. Newham Bookshop will be on site to sell signed copies of Holly Webb books (from £6).

Schools are asked to get in touch with Forest Gate Library if they are interested in their year 5 and 6 classes being booked in. Tel: 020 3373 0856 Email: CN.forestgate@newham.gov.uk

Session times: 9.30-10.30am, 10.45-11.45am and 1.15-2.15.pm Forest Gate Library

Thursday 15 November

Film: Archibald Cameron Corbett: The man and his houses
A one hour professionally produced film about the remarkable story of the man behind the Woodgrange Estate and Forest Gate’s iconic clock and water trough, followed by a Q& A with the film’s producer and a  historian of the estate.

Corbett, a Scot, was a housing innovator, a public health campaigner, very progressive Liberal M.P and generous philanthropist. 

A fascinating insight into the man behind the Woodgrange estate and much of Ilford, as well as impressive estates in south London.


Corbett - the man



Above and below, Corbett's public legacy
 in Forest Gate: the clock and drinking
 trough. The only local surviving reference 

to the  man behind the 700-house
 Woodgrange Estate




Guardian journalist, Lucy Mangan - the
film's narrator and former

 Corbett house resident
Contact Manor Park Library to book your place either in person or on 020 3373 0858

 6.30-8pm Manor Park Library

Friday 16 November

Newham Female Voices
A performance organised by Newham Music, this powerhouse group of female singers have formed a ‘pop-up choir’ for Newham Heritage Week 2018. The choir is made up of singers from several Newham schools and they will be performing a variety of songs exploring the intersection of Newham’s musical history and the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in the UK.

 1pm Forest Gate Library

Saturday 17 November

Forest Gate Heritage Walk - West to East
An illustrated walk that embraces: a site of championship boxing contests, the house of the last person convicted of witchcraft in Britain, the location of the Rolling Stones conviction for indecent behaviour, site of Forest Gate's Anglo-Saxon treasure find. 

There will be a site visit to the former Odeon Cinema (hosted by the Minhaj mosque). We will come across, serious WW2 bomb damage, with pictures and stories, the location of the first Rock Against Racism gig, home of Mr Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the childhood home of Small Faces’ Ronnie Lane.


"The Killer" plays West Ham baths
Witchcraft in
Forest Gate
Criminal convictions
for The Stones
Forest Gate's
Anglo-Saxon treasure

Site visit to the former Odeon cinema,
now Mosque, with access to the balcony
and views over Forest Gate
The bombed out Queen's Cinema
Muscle Mansion - one-time
home of Arnold Swartzenegger

Teenage home of former
Small Face, Ronnie Lane

Site of dreadful Victorian slums
Potato Hall - whose owners employed
 Irish farm labour, seeking
refuge from "the Hunger"
The walk will end at the site of a mid 19th century slum, condemned by Charles Dicken's brother, Alfred, Potato Hall and Irish Row, where some of those fleeing the famine found homes on local farms. 

Please note that this is a two-hour pavement walk. The site visit  will require climbing of stairs, from which a great views of the balcony of the former cinema (usually blocked off) and Forest Gate itself can be seen. Participants can sit this out.

 11am-1pm Meet just before 11am outside Atherton Leisure Centre, 189 Romford Rd, E15 4JF

Children’s Suffragette Sash and Community Rosette Making Workshop

Eastside Community Heritage will facilitate suffragette sash and rosette making workshops that will pay homage to this historic movement and help a younger generation learn about their vital role in political history. There will also be a selection of sound bites to aid discussion and learning from oral histories so children will find the topic truly engaging and inspiring.

Spaces are limited, so booking is advised but not essential, please contact the library.

 1-2.30pm Manor Park Library

Throughout the Festival

Exhibition: W.E. Wright: The Man and his Work
W.E. Wright was a late Victorian and Edwardian photographer of note. He had two studios in Forest Gate, and six others across East London and Essex. This exhibition - curated by his great-granddaughter, this blog and a number of local historians - features some of his extensive work, including many of his local photographs plus details of his family and business life.












There will be a slide show, on a continuous loop, detailing his life, his business and some of his fascinating photos, in addition to displays of his photographs in three separate galleries. The exhibition provides an excellent look back at Forest Gate 100 years ago - buildings, fashion and social history.

The exhibition is in Forest Gate library and runs until 30 November

Heritage Display Case:  Forest Gate Playing music in the 1960s

Objects relating to music of the era.

Thursday 8 - Sunday 18 - Forest Gate Library

Addresses and opening hours of venues


Forest Gate library (The Gate)
6-8 Woodgrange Road, E7 0QH
Open: Monday-Friday: 8am-8pm Saturday: 10.30am-8pm Sunday: Closed
Tel: 020 3373 0856, e.mail: CN.Forestgate@newham.gov.uk

 Manor Park library 685-693 Romford Road, E12 5AD
Open: Monday-Saturday: 10am-8pm Saturday: 10.30am-8pm Sunday: Closed.
Tel: 020 3373 0858, e.mail: CN.Manorpark@newham.gov.uk

Full Heritage Week programme 
Can be downloaded here

Smallholders - on countdown

Tuesday, 23 October 2018


Smallholders, the pets and garden centre of  113-117, Woodgrange Road, has had a brief reprieve from its impending closure.

Smallholders, today
Earlier this summer, Kevin Shaw, the shop's proprietor, was given three months notice to quit the premises, as his lease was nearing its end. Kevin was able to amiably negotiate a year's extension from the leaseholder, and is now on the look-out for new premises, from next September.

Smallholders - like Barry's, the butcher and Websters, the iron mongers - has been one of the fixtures on the Woodgrange/Woodford Road strip for decades, offering a retail plus professional advice and experience for relevant E7 and beyond shoppers.

The outlet was originally established by John Frost in 1948. His family still has the freehold on the property and  is looking to sell, as part of tidying up his business affairs.

Originally from Ridley Road, Kevin joined John, as a 13-year old "Saturday boy" in 1985, and has been working at the shop ever since - apart from an unsuccessful five month stint,  in the late 80's, as a pipefitter. Kevin took over as proprietor in 1999, and has since transformed the business.

Kevin at work
The shop's original main selling points were pets and plants, but times have changed and the business focus has changed with them. Kevin sells few live pets, these days - there isn't the demand, and only has a couple of busy times a year on the "plant" side now.

The sale of live animals is tightly controlled by legislation, and inspected regularly by local authority animal inspectors.  Kevin and his shop have never had problems on this front, but he says the demand for pet animals has declined locally because of the changing demographic profile of the area, and the fact that so many Forest Gate people live in flats, these days.

When plants were bigger business
He has a much greater turn-over of pet food and toys than he does for animals they are aimed at. But even here, he suffers from strong competition from pet supermarkets. He makes only pennies from packages of pet food, and a ruthless accountant would advise him to discontinue the lines - as they take up too much space for too little reward. He continues with them, though, mainly as a service to long-standing customers.

Pet supplies - not profitable lines; poor
financial returns on considerable shelf space
His plant business suffers now from competition from large garden centres, although his Christmas tree offers are good value and save a transport problems for local purchasers.  The quality of his  plant seedlings in the summer, provides him with a reasonable stream of business. As far as fresh flowers are concerned, he is squeezed at one end of the market by the cheap bunches from supermarkets and petrol stations and at the more exotic and high end, by florists, such as Molly and Bill's a little further along the road.

Kevin's major business, these days, is in the area of exotic fish - as a visit to his website will testify. He reckons it now accounts for 70% of his turnover. A visit inside, and you'll soon find out why.  It almost feels as if you have stepped into an aquarium!

From the website: some of the fish on offer
Such has been the success of the "fishy business" that Kevin has almost doubled the floor space of the shop, since he first took over, those 19 years ago, with most of the additional space occupied by tanks of exotic fish.

They have become fashionable, and Kevin is able to get them from almost all over the world - on demand.  Importing of fish is, of course, subject to animal welfare and health and hygiene restrictions - the fish have to go through a quarantine period having entered the UK, for example. And Kevin knows his way around these complexities.

Smallholders will be homeless in a year, unless Kevin can find another shop.  He admits he's been well treated by his former boss and present landlord, and is grateful for the support he has received.

 But rental of an equivalent space locally will cost in excess of £20k per year, before taking into account business rates, fuel bills and the other overheads.  Sums like this are simply unaffordable, even without taking into consideration the limitations on trade imposed by parking restrictions on shopping streets in Newham.

Almost an aquarium today:
exotic fish and supplies by the tank load
So - why doesn't Kevin go down the road of so many of Forest Gate's other innovative retailers - and get a railway arch? The problem, he says, would be the vibrations from the trains as they pass, they would disturb, frighten and in extreme cases, possibly kill the fish.

Kevin is having to look further afield for an affordable relocation. Further into Essex is an option - as Barry the butcher tried, before returning to Forest Gate. Kevin could offer a free delivery service on appropriate orders to local customers, should he move further east.  But, as Barry discovered, that can be easier said than done.

Hurry down - while stocks last!
If Kevin has less than a year to go, give him a good send off. A Christmas tree there, in December, perhaps? A new interest in exotic fish? Or planting out his seedlings next summer - as a fond farewell?