7 Es of E7

Sunday, 19 October 2014

As Forest Gate continues to interest the property supplements of national and regional papers, it seems appropriate to offer an eclectic glance of what E7 has to offer, through 7 Es.


Engine


Forest Gate's transformation, from a predominantly rural settlement to a London suburb, in the middle of the nineteenth century, was driven by the accommodation needs  of the rapidly expanding metropolis' population,  and the coming of the railways, which offered ease of access to workplaces for the new aspiring middle class residents.




Forest Gate station (c 1890) - engine
for economic growth then and now
Now, after almost half a century of decline and stagnation in the area, the same forces are at work today, and account for the current boom-town nature of the area. People priced out of once affordable areas like Islington and Hackney now look to cheaper housing within our community - with the added bonus of fast speed transportation, in the shape of Crossrail, to come, within four years.

These economic drivers have been responded to socially and commercially; and it is perhaps no co-incidence that the hub of this renaissance lies within the market place area facing the railway station.

So, a bit of not-for-profit enterprise by a small number of local women three or four years ago founded a local branch of the Women's Institute, which in turn kick-started the weekly Woodgrange Market.

Weekly Woodgrange market - one of the
early shoots of recent Forest Gate growth

This has become the centre of local community activity, and within a short time, CoffeE7 and the Emporium - a pot pouri of crafts, and vintage goods - popped up, to re-enforce the initiative. Artistic, music and food tasting events have followed, in due course, at frequent intervals on the site.

By co-incidence, Forest Gate's best - by a long way - estate agent  just so happened to be located in a nearby shop.  Wilkinson Estates is local, supportive of community  initiatives and has a feel for the area. Unsurprisingly then, they top local sales figures and get very good customer feedback.  They add to the mutual re-enforcement of the market place as the engine of social development within Forest Gate.

The Forest Gate Tavern and other local eateries, featured below, add to this customised appeal for local people, and are clustered around the same dynamic social hub.  All of which will benefit further, and dramatically when Crossrail visits the train station.


Education


Many Forest Gate dwellers have traditionally hit hand-wringing angst as their children approach secondary school age.  A rapid departure from the district, in search of better schools, has traditionally been  a route chosen by many families.
 
Quite how well founded the reasoning behind this flight was in the past is difficult to know, but Ofsted now, does provide some guidance to how good local schools are, today. Every family will make their own choices and have their own criteria, of course, but the local educational "offer", does seem to have improved considerably, over the last 30 or so years.

This site offered a run-down of the Ofsted and other inspection ratings for all local schools last year (primary schools here, secondary schools here).
A quick, up-to-date, summary of the position, with regard to Forest Gate local authority schools, according to their latest Ofsted rating (here, for full details) is:

Primary

Earlham: Good
Elmhurst: Outstanding


Elmhurst Primary -
outstanding local school

Godwin Junior: Good
Odessa: Requires improvement
St Antony's: Good
St James: Good
Sandringham: Good
Shaftesbury: Requires improvement
William Davies: Good
Woodgrange Infants: Good

Secondary



Forest Gate: Requires improvement
St Angela's: Outstanding
St Bonaventures: Outstanding
Stratford: Good


St Bon's - one of Forest Gate's two
"Outstanding" Catholic secondary schools

Energy

West Ham FC currently sits just outside Forest Gate, to the south, and next year will be moving just to the west of it, as the club relocates to the Olympic stadium - thanks, in part, to a generous hand-out from we local taxpayers, via Newham Council.

But Forest Gate is, itself , home to a fine, energetic, football heritage - in both the north and south of the district.

Wanstead Flats plays host to many football teams each weekend (many of whom could improve their contribution to the local environment/ecology - see next E, by taking their rubbish and water bottles away with them at the end of their matches).

Football has been popular on the Flats for at least a century, and many dozens of teams have taken advantage of this fine open space.  But none has been quite as significant as Senrab, a club whose various teams use the space as their home ground. As we pointed out, last August, that team has been the nursery for at least 18 future international footballers,  including 10 with almost 450 English caps between them (see here for details).


John Terry, former player and
financial benefactor of Senrab FC
The opposite, southern, end of Forest Gate is home to Clapton FC, at the Old Spotted Dog ground. This is a club with a fine history, stretching back 140 years (see here).
It has seen some large crowds and famous victories, over the years and for a while was the home club of Walter Tull - the first Afro-Caribbean  player to play in English football's top division, and the first person of that heritage to  receive a commission in the British infantry - during World War 1 (see here, for details).

The club has spent many years in football's doldrums, but has undergone a remarkable upsurge in energy and activity over the last two or three.

Performances and results have improved on the pitch and attendances are up - thanks largely to the emergence of the club's Ultra's.  This is football fanaticism rarely seen in the lower leagues.

The fans, complete with banners and pyros (flares etc), provide a fanatical support for the club, commented, enviously upon, by other non-league clubs, in their own division - and further afield. You can follow some of them on Twitter via @ClaptonUltras, @LewListz and @andylangais53, @Real_Clapton
The Ultras support goers beyond the terraces, however. 

There are some strong social messages coming from these supporters.  They are avowedly anti-racist - which is shown at its strongest - and appreciated most - when playing against local teams with players of Romanian and Bengali heritage.

Walter Tull, former Clapton FC
player, and notable Black Briton
Their social activism and energy goes beyond the terraces, however - often taking on board what many would consider to be responsibilities of Newham Council.  They have done a splendid job in clearing up much of the fly-tipping around Forest Gate's historic, and sadly boarded up, Old Spotted Dog pub, and they have been active and vocal supporters of the Focus E15 mums, in their sit-ins, to get decent accommodation, following council inactivity.

Despite this energy, and improved results and performances on the pitch, Clapton FC has a sorrier tale to tell.  There is a breakdown of communications between many of those closest to the football at the club and those who control the ground - the two sides eye each other with suspicion and distrust.

This tension, compounded by tight financial times for both Clapton FC and Senrab highlight one of the great longer term shames of British football - the almost complete disregard of football at its grass roots, by national authorities who are awash with untold billions in TV revenues and plutocrats' investments.
Energy at grass roots - cynical disregard at the top.

Newham Council's financial support of the Premier league team and apparent neglect of the minnows, unfortunately, does nothing to address this imbalance.




Ecology


Another south/north  issue.

To the south of Forest Gate sits West Ham Park: 77 delightful acres of open space, managed by the City of London since 1874. It had previously been owned by the Gurney family and prior to that John Fothergill, about both of whom, much more in future blogs.

The park features a botanical garden and an array of sporting pitches.  It is also home to one of the largest horticultural nurseries in the UK, producing over 200,000 spring and summer bedding plants each year, for the parks, gardens and churchyards managed by the City Corporation. Plants from the nursery are also used to grace state occasions and large events hosted by the City government.

The City Corporation is building on the work of John Fothergill (1712 - 1780), who developed an extensive botanical garden there - where he grew rare plants obtained from various parts of the world - at the end of the eighteenth century.

One of Fothergill's protégé's, John Lettsom, was so impressed with the glasshouses and botanical collection gathered at the site, that he said  "the sphere seemed transposed, as the Arctic Circle joined with the equator."  Lettsom published a catalogue of the plants of Fothergill's garden "Hortus Uptonensis, or a catalogue of the plants of Dr Fothergill's garden at Upton, at the time of his decease anno 1780".


West Ham Park - a botanical delight
for almost two and a half centuries
West Ham Park managers continue to honour the tradition and example set by Fothergill, though in very different circumstances today. They keenly protect the habitat of local wildlife, and to this end operate two wild life gardens and conduct annual monitoring surveys of the activities of birds, spiders, bats and bees within the park.

To the north of Forest Gate, of course, sits Wanstead Flats.  Like it's southern ecological haven, West Ham Park, it is also managed by the Corporation of London. We've dealt on this site before with a little of the history of the Flats (see here for a general history and here for details of life on the Flats during World War 11).


Wanstead Flats is a real lung for north-east London and host to a wide array of birdlife.  We hope to cover this in a latter post, but in the meantime there are some very good local twitching tweeters, often with accompanying websites who are well worth a follow.  Among them are: @WansteadBirder (www.WansteadBirder.com), @TheCowboyBirder (www.TheCowboyBirder.com), @WFNaturePost and @JubileePond.

Wanstead Flats - a lung for
a congested East London
Local residents and the local Woodcraft Group (@newhamwoodcraftfolk,
www.newhamwoodcraft.org.uk) are active in Flats' conservation and in running regular clean ups, in collaboration with the City of London - often disposing of mess left behind by some of the football teams playing there (see above).

A little to the south of the Flats, almost at the corner of Woodgrange Road and Earlham Grove, is the site of what, hopefully, will become a community garden.

A local support group has worked with the council and is about to get a medium term lease for the site. The group has an impressive website:
www.forestgate-community-garden.org.uk and a Twitter feed: @FGCommGarden. 

So, follow their progress - and watch that space!


Entertainment


Forest Gate has hosted a range of very special entertainment offers in its century and a half of existence, as this site has dwelled upon, on a number of occasions.

At the turn of the nineteenth/twentieth centuries the district was home to six cinemas, for a history of them, and their eventual fates, as locations, see here.
 
One of those cinema buildings had a host of functions and different names, over its years of existence: as a public hall, night club and roller rink, in addition to its flicks-house existence.

We will return to its role as a premier roller rink in a future blog, but the building is perhaps most famously known - and celebrated - for hosting Billy Walker's Upper Cut Club (see here
). Just opposite the building was the far longer established and thriving Lotus club, run by Forest Gate impresario, Kenny Johnson (see here, for details).

Public hall, cinema, roller rink, night club,
and so much more - before becoming a
railway ventilation shaft!
Forest Gate has hosted its fair share of Cinema greats, including Bryan Forbes, who was born here (see here) and Anna Neagle (see here).

More recent Hollywood hits have come from Chiwetel Ejiofor (Twelve Years a Slave) and Idris Elba (Mandela, and The Wire), both of whom have firm Forest Gate roots.

Hampton Road Boy, Ben Drew, aka Plan B, has also had considerable cinematic success with Ill Manors (set in Forest Gate), to accompany his music success, with the top selling Defamation of Strickland Banks album and its hit single Stay Too Long (see here for details of Forest Gate as the new Hollywood for
details).

Ben Drew, aka Plan B, part of the modern
 entertainment output of Forest Gate
One, international, non-local entertainment star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, owes much of his early muscleman and Mr Universe success to his stay with Wag Bennett on Romford Road in the mid 1960's - see here for details of
his time locally, working out in Forest Gate.

The fine tradition of top class, innovative entertainment continues today, in the shape of Swing Patrol, mentioned in last week's blog. Since that recent posting, we learn that they have added to their achievements, with Scottie Cupit becoming a dancing coach to Judy Murray, for the current Strictly Come Dancing TV series.


Epicurean delights


Recent postings on this site (here and here) suggest that Forest Gate hosts some pretty grim food shops and restaurants.
One advantage of the food shops, locally, however, is that given the incredible cosmopolitan nature of the local community, it is possible to buy food from almost every culinary tradition in those shops,  and so be able to experiment with delightful and tasty menus at home.

By a quirk of the way in which food hygiene assessors work, they have omitted - for the time being at least - some of the more recent and interesting eateries in the Forest Gate area.


An early addition to the emerging Cafe culture
We featured them in our recent 24-hour Forest Gate Gourmet train here.
The last couple of years have seen a number of greatly improved dining options for local people. The earliest newcomer on the block, that set the trail running was the small Kaffeine coffee shop, facing the railway station, facing the clock.
Although it doesn't attract the attention of near-neighbour CoffeE7, its coffee and cakes, in particular, are a delight.

Coffee7  is a popular, vegetarian cafe, specialising in very good breakfasts and cakes.  It also hosts a range of social events (games nights, book readings) and proving to be a real community hub and meeting point for locals. You can catch up with them, on-line here (www.coffee7.co.uk, @CoffeeFG).
The Artemis coffee stall, in the rotunda outside the railway station, is the third recently opened coffee retailer in the area. A fresh £1.70 coffee on your way into the station is good value. The stall doesn't have the same social media presence of its bigger rival, but provides a very good service to thirsty commuters.


Forest Tavern, good food and drink under
 one roof; pretty much a first in the area!
Then there is the Forest Tavern (www.foresttavern.com, @ForestTavern). It has just celebrated its first birthday and offers a good selection of interesting food, on its daily and bar menus. Having overcome a wobble in the food offer a few months ago, it is now providing an interesting offer, and is clearly popular with local diners. 

Next door is the recently opened Aromas Tandoori, North Indian Restaurant (@aromasfoods and
www.aromasrestaurant.co.uk). A fine local Indian sit-in and takeaway restaurant that has certainly added significantly to the local eat out choice.


The area's most unlikely food delight, however, is found under a railway arch, at 352 Winchelsea Road: TheWansteadTap (www.thewansteadtap.com, @TheWansteadtap). Although specialising in a wide range of craft beers and ciders, it offers a regular supper club, when local Masterchef semi-finalist Michael Saunders @invitetosupper (www.invitetosupper.com) serves up a delightful menu for about 30 diners, for the bargain price of £30.

Michael also supplies some delightful sounding pies for a Friday pm feast at the Tap, offers to cook for your dinner guests in your own home and hints that he will soon be offering his own restaurant, soon.


The Tap, itself,  also hosts a range of other social activities - book launches, poetry readings, jazz evenings and film shows, to name but a few.


End


At the very time Forest Gate was developing into a built-up area in the mid nineteenth century, public health legislation demanded the construction of burial grounds, away from crowded London city areas.  This, plus the abundant availability of cheap land in this area, meant that Forest Gate had it all as a location for cemetery development!



West Ham Jewish cemetery - now closed,
but reminiscent of an era when Forest Gate
hosted a large Jewish population
There can be few urban areas, as small as Forest Gate, in the world, with such a concentration of nineteenth century cemeteries that survive until today.

In addition to the small graveyard plots around churches, such as Emmanuel's on Romford Road, Forest Gate hosts a local authority cemetery: West Ham, a Jewish cemetery; the once thriving, but now rather down-at-heel Woodgrange Park cemetery - now, overwhelmingly Moslem; and a smart private cemetery: Manor Park Cemetery. Adjacent to the district is the City of London Cemetery, - London's second largest.

City of London cemetery, last resting
place for many a famous East Ender
These cemeteries, between them, have a host of interesting occupants.  For details of many, see here and here . (see here and here, for fuller details).

So, once again Forest Gate offers plenty of choice - for your final resting place!

Footnote

Postings on this blog will take a short break; but we'll be back by the middle of November.  Hope to see you then! If you miss us, in the meantime, have a look at some of our previous posts, hyperlinked above, or anticipated some of our promised goodies for the future!

Forest Gate swings

Thursday, 16 October 2014

 
The founder lives in E7. The operation is very much - now.  And the dance and music is from - then. So, what's not for this website to like?

Scottie, outside his
regular breakfast haunt
Scottie Cupit lives in Clova Road and is the driving force behind Swing Patrol, the dance school teaching Charleston, Lindy Hop and related dance to 1200 students, in over 30 venues in London.

Swing Patrol is probably the biggest swing dance company in the world and featured in a recent edition of BBC's Dragons Den. "Dragon" Deborah Meaden showed her faith in Scott and his project to invest £65,000 in it, for a 20% stake in its equity.



Scottie facing the Dragons, on Dragons Den.
Click here to view the clip (about 10 mins)
The company and  founder have rapidly become part of the Forest Gate fabric. Scottie is a regular breakfaster at CoffeE7, put on a short performance at the recent Women's Institute sale and is working with the Forest Tavern, and the Woodgrange Market, to put on events and displays with them. The Australian-born, ex-banker feels very much at home in Forest Gate, since his move here a couple of years ago.

The day after the night before. Scottie explaining
 how it felt being on Dragon's Den, and
 how his feet haven't touched the ground
 since. Click here to view You Tube clip
He came to London six years ago, and has danced his socks off ever since, to establish his highly successful company. Its website gives a good indication of what to expect, and where you will find the classes and other functions they organise.

The offer is Swing dancing - crudely the Charleston and related routines - delivered with all the enthusiasm and energy of Zumba classes.

Letting his feet do the talking
 - Scottie in action
As well as the Dragon's Den appearance - see You Tube clip, above - Scott has appeared on the Australian version of Strictly Come Dancing and on breakfast TV in the U.K.

Highly successful Swing Ball, at Wilton's Music Hall. 
You Tube clip featuring Scottie, putting
Deborah from Dragons Den through
her paces, click here to view the video
With a sharp eye for a photo-opportunity and publicity, Scottie and his colleagues have danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, to the delight of the Evening Standard, performed at Buckingham Palace and picked up a number of Swing and Lindy Hop dancing awards and trophies, across Europe.

Scottie dancing the light fantastic on the fourth
 plinth in Trafalgar Square, earlier this year

To celebrate the company's fifth anniversary, Scottie organised a free Swing Ball, and whisked all his teachers off to Paris for a surprise party. So, it's fun, all the way - as it should be operating in this branch of the entertainment/leisure industry.

One I made earlier! Spot some familiar faces
from an early Swing Patrol class in Forest Gate

The company is now so well established that it has branches in Berlin, Melbourne and Sydney, in addition to its highly successful London operation.
We went to one of their weekly sessions at Durning Hall (Wednesdays 7.15 - 8.15 pm), and became instant converts. Despite displaying two left feet, each, there was nothing but encouragement from teachers, Scott and Judith and the 20 or so fellow foot tappers.

Durning Hall - centre of the local action
practice and fall over their own feet in the privacy of their own homes, between classes.

In full swing - a packed auditorium,
dancing their feet off at a recent Swing Ball 
in the fabulous Wiltons Music Hall
Scottie's enthusiasm shines through and he and his company are adding to the rich cultural fabric of our neighbourhood.  They deserve our full support.

Food for thought from Forest Gate restaurants

Friday, 10 October 2014

 
This is the third, and final, blog looking at the most recent food hygiene ratings for Forest Gate. It features results from the 49 restaurants and takeaways, six hotels and three pubs that currently have a rating.

As explained in our first blog (see here), the listing is far from comprehensive, so, for example a cluster of eateries around Forest Gate station, such as Forest Gate Tavern, Aromas, Artemis, and Kaffeine have yet to be rated.  Their time will, doubtless come!

The results are, frankly, pretty poor., and may give as much food for thought, as for stomach, for potential diners.

The headline findings are quite shocking:
  • Only 3 of 49 restaurants and takeaways (6%) received a 5 star rating - two local branches of fast food chains ( Papa's Chicken and Pizza Hut, both of Woodgrange Road), and Khan Khazana of Green Street
  •  10 restaurants achieved 4 stars (20% of the total)

  • 13 restaurants achieved 3 stars (26%)
  • 23 assessed restaurants and takeawys achieved 2 or fewer stars. That is over 46% of all surveyed
  • 4 restaurants (8%) were given zero stars (Pakhtoonkwha and Aghan Kebab House, both on Green Street, the New Sea Garden of Katherine Road and Abu Bakar's of Upton Lane) - a worryingly high number
  • Only 3 of Forest Gate's 6 pubs have so far been assessed. Again a local branch of a national chain (Wetherspoons), The Hudson Bay, comes up trumps, with 5 stars
  • Of Forest Gate's 6 assessed hotels, two (Daken House on Romford Road and Sahara Lodge on Earlham Grove) achieved 5 stars

Restaurants and takeaways


Field Road



Jui Hui Chinese Takeaway
64 Field Road
December 2013
1 star



Green St




Hyderabad Darbar

60-62 Green Street
October 2011
4 stars


 
Pakhtoonkhwa Restaurant

76 Green Street
September 2013
0 stars

 
 
Lahori Baba

78 Green Street
September 2013
2 stars

 
 
Zu's Sizzlers

83 Green Street
April 2013
3 stars

 
 
Afghan Kebab House

89 Green Street
April 2013
0 stars

 
 
Lahore Express

99 Green Street
July 2014
1 star
 
 
 
Kebabish Original/KO Grill
1
32 Green Street
December 2013
2 stars

 
 



Khana Khazana

249-251 Green Street
March 2014
5 stars


 
 
Margalla Grill

255 Green Street
September 2013
1 star

 
 
Himalaya

9-10 Carlton Terrace
Green Street
May 2014
1 star

Katherine Road




Lahoori Spicy Biryani House

342 Katherine Road
February 2014
4 stars


 
Chicago 30's Pizza

369 Katherine Road
March 2014
2 stars

 
 
Khan Restaurant

379 Katherine Road
July 2014
2 stars

 
 
New Sea Garden

396 Katherine Road
January 2014
0 stars

 
 
Daily Fry and Spice

426 Katherine Road
June 2014
1 star

 
 
Alnuur Cafe and Restaurant

466 Katherine Road
January 2013
2 stars

Romford Road


 
Eastern Palace

278 Romford Road
May 2012
3 stars
 
 
Ronak Restaurant

317 Romford Road
February 2014
3 stars

 
 
McDonalds

322 Romford Road
December 2013
4 stars

 
 
Everest

327 Romford Road
January 2014
3 stars

 
 
Palm Tree Chum Chums
329 Romford Road
April 2013
3 stars
 
 
Perfect Fried Chicken

506 Romford Road
July 2012
3 stars

 
 
 
St George's Road




East Africa Restaurant

14-16 St George's Road
May 2012
3 stars



Sebert Road




CoffeE7

10 Sebert Road
May 2013
4 stars



Upton Lane




Best Kebab House

20 Upton Lane
March 2012
1 star


 
Wenty's Kitchen at Rear, Taste of Caribbean

26 Upton Lane
January 2014
2 stars



Abu Bakar


47 Upton Lane
May 2014
0 stars
 
 
Cafe @ 48

48 Upton Lane
April 2014
4 stars

 
 
Papa Shafs Oriental

50 Upton Lane
May 2013
4 stars

 
 
Al Farooq Kebabish

84 Upton Lane
May 2014
3 stars

 
 
Madina Kebabish

85 Upton Lane
January 29014
2 stars

 
 
Euro Fried Chicken and Pizza

90 Upton Lane
March 2014
1 star
 
Indiano Pizza
126 Upton Lane
December 2013
4 stars
 
La Kinoise Restaurant

132 Upton Lane
May 2013
4 stars

 
 
Elsha Delight

173 Upton Lane
May 2013
4 stars

 
 
Fredor African and Caribbean Restaurant

177 Upton Lane
November 2012
3 stars

 
Spice Gate

183 Upton Lane
December 2013
1 star

Woodgrange Road




Eat More

8-10 Railway Station Bridge
Woodgrange Road
November 2013
1 star


 
Papas Chicken
37a Woodgrange Road
May 2014
5 stars

 
 
NUR Restaurant

43 Woodgrange Road
December 2012
3 stars

 
 
Charis Tikka
50 Woodgrange Road
February 2014
1 star

 
 
Moon House
56 Woodgrange Road
March 2011
4 stars

 
 
Pizza Hut
60 Woodgrange Road
November 2013
5 stars

 
 
Forest Cafe
61 Woodgrange Road
November 2012
3 stars

 
 
Angels Kitchen in the Hut of Stone

79 Woodgrange Road
June 2012
3 stars

 
 
Siam Cafe
103 Woodgrange Road
October 2011
3 stars

 
 
Charcoal Grill and BBQ
105 Woodgrange Road
July 2013
1 star

 
 
Golden Grill

107 Woodgrange Road
January 2014
1 star

Hotels


Earlham Grove




Sahara Lodge

143 Earlham Grove
June 2013
5 stars

Romford Road




Manor House Hotel

235 Romford Road
April 2014
3 stars


 
Daken House

240 Romford Road
April 3013
5 stars

 
 
Newham Hotel

349-353 Romford Road
November 2013
1 star

 
 
McCreadie Hotel

357-363 Romford Road
February 2014
3 stars

 
 
Hartley Hotel

365 - 367 Romford Road
October 2012
4 stars
 


Pubs


Dames Road




The Holly Tree

141 Dames Road
June 2013
4 stars


Godwin Road




Forest Gate Hotel

105 Godwin Road
May 2013
2 stars



Upton Lane




Hudson Bay

1-5 Upton Lane
March 2012
5 stars