The Durning Hall story

Monday, 23 February 2015


Durning Hall in Earlham Grove is one of Forest Gate's most used "public spaces". Here we look at the background and history of this important local social and care facility.



Durning Hall, Earlham Grove today
The Hall is today run by Aston-Mansfield, a merger in 2000, of two local charitable organisations - the Aston Charities Trust and The Mansfield Settlement. Durning Hall was brought to the merger by the Aston part of the arrangement
.
The Aston Charities Trust began its formal life in the nineteenth century, co-ordinating  the philanthropy of the Durning, Smith and Lawrence families, whose charitable work was concentrated in London's East End from the late eighteenth century. Their work included the establishment of the Canning Town Women's Settlement and the first Durning Hall, which was built as a community facility in Limehouse, in 1884.



The original Durning Hall, in Limehouse.
 Thanks to Aston-Mansfield for use of photograph
The families' money originated from the carpentry trade in the City of London; and by the mid nineteenth century they had provided a couple of Lord Mayors of London, as well as other civic dignitaries, and had been awarded a couple of baronetcies.


Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence - charity
 founder -  who performed the opening
 ceremony of original Durning Hall, in 1884
The original Durning Hall, although Christian-inspired, was very liberal for its time and aimed to meet needs of impoverished people from all backgrounds and communities, with a minimum of evangelical work tied to its efforts. The Durning-Lawrence family were primarily of the Unitarian persuasion.

Their various charitable foundations operated a Sunday school, a savings club and a coal club. They offered food, clothing and shelter for the needy. They also provided a Barrow Club - aimed at supporting street traders (costermongers - who sold fruit, vegetables etc from hand carts, on a mobile basis) by helping them purchase their vehicles.


The charities attempted to help the young, by hosting Scouts, Guides and Boys' Brigade groups, together with a boys' brass band, and dressmaking and needlework classes for the girls.


The original Durning Hall hosted an orchestra and an amateur dramatic club, which doubled up as a reading class, helping actors to learn their scripts. The organisers of the Hall encouraged debating activities and hosted discussion and lecture sessions, for the erudition of its users.

The Scout group they encouraged survives today, in Forest Gate, and is known as the Busby Scouts, named after one of its founder members, William Walter Busby. He came from Sherrard Road in Forest Gate and helped establish the local scouts troop in 1908. 

Busby signed up to the "West Ham Pals" (13th Battalion, Essex Regiment - "The Hammers") in 1915 and was soon promoted to the rank of acting Captain.  We will feature the Forest Gate connections of this Battalion in a future blog.



William Walter Busby MC, founder of the scout
 troop who meet at Durning Hall,  who was
killed in action towards  the end of  the
Battle of the Somme, having been
awarded the MC for his  bravery on
the first day of the battle.
Busby was awarded the Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry" on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916), but was killed in action, as the Battle drew to a close in November that year. The local Scout troop was renamed the Busby Scouts, in his honour, and changed their neckerchief to khaki colour, in recognition of his distinguished army service. It remains so, today, almost a century later.

The Busby Scouts originally met in a building Forest Lane in the inter war period, which was paid for and supported by a Durning Lawrence family trust.


In 1930 the jumbled collection of trusts and endowments controlled by the Lawrence and Durning families was consolidated by Theodora Durning-Lawrence into the single Aston Charitable Trust.

Theodora Durning-Lawrence, under
 whom the work of the Aston Charities
 was co-ordinated, in the 1930s
Theodora herself, was a strange woman, who never married and despite her considerable wealth chose to live, alone in a single room in a seedy London hotel.

Forest Gate was badly hit by bombing during World War 11, which will be the subject of a future blog. Among the local bomb damage was the local YMCA, situated next to the railway station, and the Regal Cinema, next to that, on Woodgrange Road (see here for a history of local cinemas and that of the Regal, within it).




Durning Hall charity shop, Woodgrange
 Road today. Site of former Regal cinema
 and for a while HQ of local Busby
 Scouts (see door handles to the shop)
Upwards of half of the local population left the Forest Gate area for the duration of the war, many not returning. Among those fleeing were some of the owners of prosperous family homes, along Earlham Grove - including many attendees of the synagogue (for details, see here). Many of the larger houses were subsequently subdivided into a series of flats, and, thus, this once most prosperous part of Forest Gate soon began to appear down-at-heel. after the war.

The Aston Charities were on the look-out for a new premises for a Durning Hall, from which to operate their various activities, at the end of the war. They took over the site of the destroyed Regal cinema and adjoining shops in 1948.

One of the shops, number 59, still somewhat battered, became the new home of the Busby Scouts, with the Aston Trust as their landlords, and it remained a scouts shop until after the youth group formally moved into the new Durning Hall, in 1959. A relic of this part of the story remains on the door handles of the charity shop on Woodgrange Road - see above.



Opening ceremony of Durning Hall,
 Earlham Grove, 1959. Thanks to
 Aston-Mansfield for the photo
The ACT established one of the country's first Housing Associations in 1964 and raised funds to build a 45-bedroom hostel on its Forest Gate site. Princess Margaret opened the facility, which was later extended to provide 50-study bedrooms.

Forest Gate's old Whitehall School was knocked down, in the early 1960's, to be replaced by what is now the Forest Gate Community School. During the two years' of the new school's construction, Durning Hall provided temporary teaching accommodation for over 200 pupils.  The Hall later became a temporary health clinic, during the eighteen months it took to construct the Lord Lister Health Clinic, on Woodgrange Road.



Durning Hall used for emergency classrooms,
 while first Forest Gate Community school
 was being constructed, in the 1960s
In 1962 the Aston Charitable Trust bought a farmhouse in St Osyth, in Essex to provide holidays for "disadvantaged" Newham residents. This was destroyed by fire in 1970 and was replaced as a holiday home for local people by the Bridge House hotel, in Southend, which was purchased and opened the following year. This was sold off in 2002, as it was no longer felt to be an economic proposition for the charity.

Meanwhile, in 1967, the ACT acquired the old Canning Town Women's Settlement, whose premises had fallen into disrepair. They cleared the site and built Lawrence Hall, a 64-unit social housing complex and social centre. This was sold to Springboard Housing Association in 1990 and the proceeds were used to build the Froud Centre (with St Michael's church), on Romford Road, in Little Ilford.



Rev Jimmy Froud, Warden of Durning Hall
 from 1959 - 2002, after whom the
 Froud Community Centre
 in Manor Park is named
This Centre was named after Jimmy Froud, who had come to Durning Hall, itself, as its warden in 1959, and stayed until his retirement in 2002. Like Durning Hall, The Froud Centre continues the ACT tradition of hosting a multi-purpose Community Centre, open to all.

Footnote: For further information, including the current activities of the Hall, see the Aston-Mansfield website, here and The Aston Story book, by Evelyn Ray Keen.   






Forest Gate's 12 MPs

Friday, 13 February 2015


As an precursor to the forthcoming general election, this blog offers a pen portrait of the 12 MP's who have represented the Forest Gate area over the last 130 years.

Following a significant extension of the franchise in 1884, and the rapid growth of the West Ham area over the previous 30 years, the district became a Parliamentary borough for the first time, in 1885, with two seats: North and South. Forest Gate was firmly within the northern seat.

Edward Cook - MP, 1885 - 1886 (Liberal)

The victor in North West Ham in the 1885 election, and thus Forest Gate's first real MP, was the Liberal, Edward Rider Cook (1836 - 1898). He lost the seat in another election, a year later.

He was a soap manufacturer, who was a senior partner in his father's Bow based soap and chemical manufacturers, Edward Cook and Co.


Prior to becoming the area's MP he had been a member of the Metropolitan Board of Works (a predecessor of the GLC/GLA), was a JP and was described as a radical/progressive Liberal.

J Forrest Fulton - MP, 1886 - 1892 (Conservative)

Fulton had been the unsuccessful Conservative candidate in 1885, but took the seat in the following year's snap election.  He was a senior barrister, prior to entering Parliament.

He has been described as having "made no particular mark" in his six years in Parliament (not the only one of the area's MP's to have failed to impress), and was defeated after only one term.


Forrest Fulton (Cons) -
local MP 1886 - 1892
He returned to the legal profession, as a judge and was knighted after his narrow defeat in the 1892 election.

TN Archibald Grove - MP 1892 - 1895 (Liberal)

Although Grove won the election in North West Ham, the more historically important result, locally, that year,  was in West Ham South, which was won by James Kier Hardie. He became Britain's first Labour MP and leader (although the party had yet to be formed at this time).

Before entering Parliament, Thomas Newcomen Archibald Grove (1855 - 1920) launched and became the magazine editor of a low price "literary" publication (The New Review). He was defeated at the election three years after he was first returned to Parliament.


Archibald Grove (Lib) -
local MP 1892 - 1895
He tried to re-enter Parliament elsewhere and was successful in Northamptonshire in 1906, but stood down, and retired from politics four years later, due to ill health.

Ernest Gray - MP, 1895 - 1906 (Conservative)

Sir Ernest Gray (1856 –1932) was an educational reformer, one-time president of the National Union of Teachers and author of a number of education handbooks.

After an assortment of almost zero impact, one-term, local MPs, Grey became the first local MP to hold his seat for more than one election, serving 11 years, in total.


Ernest Gray (Cons) -
local MP 1895 - 1906
He lost the Parliamentary seat in 1906, tried and was unsuccessful once more in the first election of 1910. He eventually re-entered Parliament in 1918, for Accrington.  In the meantime he was elected to the newly formed London County Council and was for a while a councillor in Brixton (two positions he shared with a successor, a century later - Tony Banks).

He lost his Accrington parliamentary seat to Labour in 1922, and retired from politics soon after, being knighted in 1925.

CFG Masterman - MP, 1906 - 1910 (Liberal)

Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman PC ( 1873 –  1927) was  distantly related to the Gurney family, who were significant local land owners in the Forest Gate area in the nineteenth century.

He was a social reformer, and like his Liberal predecessor in the seat, Archibald Grove, a journalist (The English Review). In 1909 he published The Condition of England, a survey of contemporary society with particular focus on the state of the working class.


Charles Masterman (Lib) -
local MP 1906 - 1910
Masterman worked closely with Winston Churchill and Lloyd George on The People's Budget of 1909 and was responsible for the passage through parliament of the National Insurance Act of 1911, which introduced Old Age Pensions to Britain.

He was re-elected to the seat in both the general elections of 1910, but the second election was declared null and void, and he was returned to Parliament in Bethnal Green, in a by-election, the following year. He lost that seat in 1914, and dropped out of Parliamentary politics for almost a decade, as a result.

During World War 1 he was head of the British War propaganda Bureau (WPB), in the course of which he recruited authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, John Buchan and Rudyard Kipling to add their literary talents to the propaganda war on the home front, and in an effort to get the USA to join the war on the British side.

He re-entered Parliament, briefly, in 1923, as a Manchester MP, but lost his seat in the election the following year. His health declined rapidly, hastened by drug and alcohol abuse. He died in 1927, possibly having committed suicide.

Baron De Forest - MP, 1911 - 1918 (Liberal)

Maurice Arnold de Forest (1879 –  1968) was the son of a one-time circus performer. He was an early motor racing driver and aviator. His title was Austro-Hungarian, and so it did not disqualify him from membership of the British House of Commons.

He was immensely rich, and Winston Churchill spent much time on his yacht (including his honeymoon). He was, however, politically progressive and favoured Irish Home Rule, land nationalisation female suffrage and equality of religion, in education.


Maurice Arnold de Forest (Lib)
- local MP 1911 - 1918
Following the conclusion of World War 1, Parliamentary boundaries were redrawn and the two former West Ham seats became four (Stratford and Upton in North, Plaistow and Silvertown in south). Forest Gate was in the Stratford constituency.

CE Leonard Lyle - MP, 1918 - 1922 (Conservative and Unionist)

(Charles Ernest) Leonard Lyle, later 1st Baron Lyle of Westbourne ( 1882 –1954), was an industrialist whose family were major ship-owners who had diversified into sugar refining, and Leonard joined the firm in 1903, and became a director when his father retired in 1909.

When Abram Lyle & Sons merged with Henry Tate and Sons in 1921 to form Tate and Lyle, he became a director of the new company, then its chairman in 1928, and president in 1937.

His tenure as Stratford MP was short. Following his defeat in Stratford in 1922, he was elected MP for Epping the following year, only to stand down a year later to make the seat available for Winston Churchill. He was elected to parliament again in a bye-election, for Bournemouth, in 1940, where he remained MP until 1945.

In addition to his parliamentary career he was a significant British golfer and tennis player, but was perhaps best known for running the anti-sugar nationalisation campaign, following the election of the 1945 Labour government.

Tom Groves - MP, 1922 - 1945 (Labour)

Thomas Edward Groves (1884 – 1958) was the constituency's first Labour, and one of its longest serving, MPs. But he made little impact, and in a fate to be experienced by another long-serving successor (see below). was unceremoniously de-selected by the Labour Party, for his inactivity.

He successfully contested the division in the elections of: 1923, 1924, 1929, 1931, 1935 and 1939.

He wanted to stand again in the post-war election of 1945, but was deselected by the Labour Party as its candidate. Groves stood as an independent, and was both electorally humiliated and expelled from the Labour party for his troubles.

Henry Nicholls - MP, 1945 - 1950 (Labour)

Henry Richard Nicholls (1893 – 1962) was selected in place of Groves, but he was a one term MP, as the constituency was abolished, following  population decline during and post World War 11, and a subsequent boundary review.

West Ham reverted to having two MPs -one for the North (including Forest Gate) and the other for the south. Nicholls lost out in the selection to the other, former MP for the north of the then borough, Arthur Lewis, who had represented Upton since 1945.

Arthur Lewis - MP, 1950 - 1983 (Labour)

Arthur William John Lewis (1917 - 1998) was an official of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers when he was elected as MP for Upton, in 1945. He beat Nicholls for selection as Labour candidate for the now united North West Ham seat, which he represented until a further boundary review, and the formation of the Newham North West seat, in 1974, which he represented until 1983.

He was won the local seat at the elections of 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1974 (x2) and 1979.


Arthur Lewis (Lab)
- local MP 1950 - 1979
(photo taken 1947)
In 1983, after 38 years as an MP, Lewis was deselected as Labour candidate by his local constituency Labour Party, which he said had become "100 per cent Trotskyist, Militancy Tendency, Communist and IRA supporters". By this time he was refusing to attend local party meetings or hold "advice surgeries" for his constituents.

He was replaced as Labour candidate by Tony Banks. Lewis stood as an Independent Labour candidate at the 1983 election and was humiliated, coming fourth with 11% of the vote behind the winner, Banks.

Tony Banks - MP, 1983 - 2005 (Labour)

We have already given Tony Bank's parliamentary career a cheerful nod (here), but a little more formally, we'll recognise his time as MP here. Anthony Louis Banks, Baron Stratford ( 1942 – 2006) was an MP from 1983 to 2005, before being created a member of the House of Lords.

He was elected as the local MP at the general elections of 1983, 1987, 1992, 1997 and 2001.


Tony Banks (Lab)-
local MP 1983 - 2005
He was a trade union official and local councillor on both Lambeth and the Greater London Councils before being selected as Labour candidate, to replace the out-of-touch Arthur Lewis. Following a 1995 boundary review, Newham North West was expanded and renamed West Ham for the 1997 election and Banks represented that seat until 2005.

He was Minister for Sport from 1997-9, and then Tony Blair's unsuccessful "envoy" for England to host the 2006 World Cup for another couple of years. He gradually became disillusioned with life as an MP and retired in 2005.

Having been enobled after the general election of that year, he suffered a massive heart attack a few months later, and died in January 2006.

Lyn Brown - MP, 2005 - to date (Labour)

Lyn Carol Brown was born in Newham in 1960, and following university became a social worker. She was elected to Newham Council in 1988 and stood, unsuccessfully as the Labour candidate for the Wanstead and Woodford parliamentary seat in 1992.

She was elected as MP for West Ham in 2005, which she retained with an increased majority at the 2010 election.


Lyn Brown (Lab) -
local MP 2005 - to date
Following her election, as MP for West Ham, in 2005, Lyn Brown held a number of minor government positions, until Labour's defeat at the 2010 general election. She has attracted criticism for using unpaid interns, while campaigning for a living wage; for claiming expenses for a central London flat, despite having a constituency half an hour from Westminster on the Jubilee line; and for harassing a blind journalist in the precincts of parliament.

Prefabs and POWs on Wanstead Flats - more residents' stories

Monday, 2 February 2015


In September last year, as part of a blog on the archaeology and oral history of Wanstead Flats in World War 11, we reproduced some memories captured by the excellent Eastside Community Heritage project of life in the prefabs on the Flats, from the early 1940s until late 1950's (see here) and details of other war-related installations that stood on the Flats.

This blog should be read in conjunction with that earlier one, and provides more local memories of World War 11 on Wanstead Flats.


1950's street map, showing location
of prefabs, just off Capel Road


The City of London has published its own oral history of residents' recollections of Epping Forest, more generally, in which former Newham residents told their tales of life in the prefabs, of POWs  and other war activity on the Flats.  See footnote for details.  We are grateful to the Corporation, to Ms Holtom, the editor,  and in particular to those sharing their memories for the ability to paint a slightly fuller picture of the time.

As we have mentioned previously (here), prefabs were erected on the Flats, by  East Ham council, on land facing the Golden Fleece, towards the end of the second world war. They were built, often with German prisoner labour, to house bombed out East Enders (see photo).  They were mainly removed in 1957.

Their exact location is indicated on the street map extract (above).  Interesting to note that all the prefab streets were called "gardens", testifying to the allure these homes had as residences for people bombed out of more densely and less open space areas in the East End.

Elizabeth Hughes, recalled prefab life:

We were allocated a prefab on Wanstead Flats. We moved in on 4 November 1946 and our rent was 18s a week.  There were 200 of us living in prefabs on the Flats. I lived in one near the 'sand hills' as they called them, although a lot of the sand was used for sand bags.

 
My address was 56 Allanbrooke Gardens.  All the streets, or 'banjos' as they were called, were named after World War Two military generals.

We had everything we needed in the prefabs, and the council continued to add bits on to them, while we lived there. Everything was electric which was good except it took ages to get going. It also meant we were badly affected by power cuts. We were given one bag of coal a week, which just drove up the chimney in no time..

During the 'freeze up' of winter 1947 our prefabs were terribly cold and used to ice up inside. .. At that time there was road building going on. The German Prisoners of War were helping with this - and there were piles of fence poles stacked up for fencing. ...  We stole some for fires. ... Despite the difficulties I think we were happy in our prefabs.

Prefabs on Wanstead Flats in 1950s


The prefabs lasted until 1960, and Mrs Hughes remembers the camaraderie of living on the 'banjos'.
 
You could leave your keys under the mat without a worry ... My husband organised the coronation celebrations in 1953. Prince Philip once visited the area to open some playing fields ... There were also cows on the Flats every year and sometimes Gypsies with their horses. It was like living in the countryside and my daughters loved it. There was a pond right in front of our place and my youngest spent her days playing there.


Walter Barber remembered living on the Flats:
 
Our prefab was in the American style and it was even complete with a refrigerator, which the English prefabs did not have. ... We kept chickens and rabbits and grew vegetables in the back garden.

They took part of Wanstead Flats to build the prefab estate. It was opposite the Golden Fleece public house - between Whitta Road and The Chase. ... There must have been 350 prefabs there, they were all detached. All the prefabs were on their own concrete base, so they were all individually placed.


The last two families including the Barbers, left the prefabs in Dec 1960.

Walter recalled the Prisoner of War camp:
 
 It spread from the boating lake over by Dames Road to Centre Road. Centre Road was blocked off to normal traffic and that was the entrance to it. All traffic had to go round Dames Road, Lakehouse Road to get to Wanstead (is that the reason for the 308 route?).
 
Some Wanstead Flats' prefab residents
(Source: Echoes of Epping Forest)

Most of the prisoners were in huts, there were some tents over there and, when there was a raid on, the prisoners were all cheering the bombers on, you know! Some of the prisoners were marched to do jobs.

What they did I don't really know, but you could see them under escort being marched along Capel Road, to various places where a bomb had dropped and they cleared the debris and things like that.
 
RAF photo of Wanstead Flats, Aug 1944.
To right of pond are huts and tents, used to house PoWs

It (the POW camp) was behind barbed wire with high fences and we used to go and make faces at the prisoners and they retaliated by cheering the bombers on when there was a raid! It was all good fun really, you know there were no hostilities. We didn't treat them as hostile, they were prisoners in another country.


Beryl King recollected the POWs:
 
The camp was quite an attraction to these girls ... I think they (the prisoners) were mainly Italians. .. Our own men of our own age were all away and I know two girls who actually married Prisoners of War, after all they're human beings, just the same as us.
 
"Italian" POW goalpost, still secured
on the Flats, until the mid 1990s


Peter Reeve recalled Allied Troops being stationed on the Flats:
 
Towards the end of the war, just before D-Day a lot of Americans were stationed there in tented accommodation, just before the D-day landings and they used to get their gum out ("have you got any gum, chum?") and they used to roam around. Apparently they were good lads in the pub, they would always buy drinks because the Americans were flush with money, and that was another aspect the Flats were used for.

They were more the Aldersbrook Road end, there was another entrance at the Aldersbrook Road end into the encampment, so the Americans went in that end and the prisoners went in at the Forest Gate end.

Bill Embling told of the Anti-aircraft guns:
 
During the war there were V1 and V2 machines located on Wanstead Flats. We called these 'Chicago pianos' and they were a series of rocket launchers which went off in rapid succession. During the day they were hidden in the bushes, and were brought out at night, to be operated.

 
Ack-Ack guns, of kind deployed on Wanstead Flats,
as anti-aircraft deployment in WW2


Allan Hughes spoke of other war-related activities:
 
The main idea of the barrage balloons was it held up the wire which stopped low flying aircraft with precision bombing and also to stop the strafing (machine guns shot with precision from low flying aircraft), which was a hobby of the German pilots.

 
Barrage balloons on the Flats


If they had run out of bombs, they used to come in low and machine gun everything in sight. The barrage balloons prevented that by having wires up that would ensnare the airplanes.

Also, criss-crossed over the Flats were ditches about 3 feet deep to stop planes landing on there, and the soil from the ditches was in big Swiss rolls along the edge of the ditches, so it sort of created a ditch and an obstacle above the ground to prevent the landing. The Swiss roll bits of earth were a joy to us youngsters to jump from one to another!

Another use that the Flats went to was that sand was evacuated from the ponds and this was used for sandbags. The sand hill ponds had big mountains of sand around them, they were a real lot higher than they are nowadays. Just down from Wrigley Road there was a big pit dug and that was used to fill the sand bags and they were distributed six to a road just in case you had a fire, or an incendiary device dropped on you.

These sand hills were used for despatch rider training. They used to ride up and down over the steep side and over the top and they used to spend hours doing it as part of their preliminary training.

There was a bandstand up on the corner of Capel Road and Centre Road and all the wood from the bombed out houses was put in there and people could go and take it for fuel or repairs to bombed houses and children used to delight in brining a few bits of wood home to put on the fire to eke the coal ration out.

Footnote:

Echoes of Epping Forest - Oral history of the 20th century Forest, edited by Rachel Holtom, published by City of London , 2004. Copies available from Epping Forest Information Centre, High Beach, Loughton, IG10 4AF.

Trams in Forest Gate: 1886 - 1940

Friday, 23 January 2015


We are deeply indebted to a group of tram enthusiasts for recollecting and recording, in detail, this fascinating part of Forest Gate's historic public transport past. See footnote at end for the sources of much of the information and how to get further details.


One of the earliest surviving photos of local trams.
It is of  horse drawn vehicles, from the 1880's
and was taken at the top of Red Post Lane,
in what is now Katherine Road. We are indebted
to local historian, Carol Price, for use of this rare
and unique photo.


Trams first came for East London in 1871, with a horse-drawn line running from Aldgate to Stratford, to provide cheap transport for East End City workers, for 1d per journey. The Manor Park to Stratford route - one of the most significant in the network - was added in 1886, after the completion of the Woodgrange estate, and other similar late-Victorian developments in the area.







Turn of century horse-drawn, open-top tram on Romford
Road. Note women using parasols, to keep off the sun

Each horse cost £8 per week to feed and stable. To cuts costs, experiments were tried, replacing them with steam-driven trams, compressed air locomotives and  battery driven vehicles, but these were all unsuccessful, at this time.

Trams became truly "public" transport in east London, from the late 1890s, when they became a local authority managed, operation, at a time when local councils played far more significant roles in shaping the life chances and social conditions of their communities than they are allowed today.

Tram outside Forest Gate Station c 1910

Civic pride soon featured and the trams were resplendent with highly polished wooden and brass exteriors, varnished paintwork, with local authority crests in evidence. The original colour scheme of the West Ham fleet was Munich Lake and pale cream, but was later changed to maroon and deep cream.

Incidentally, the first manager of the West Ham depot was Herbert Blain (later Sir Herbert), who was a founding member of NALGO - the former local government trade union.

Souvenir brochure, for the opening of the
West Ham Council tram depot, in Greengate
Street, Plaistow, 1906, built at a cost of £30,000

The life of a tram driver was not easy; they had to stand for all of their working hours, in all weathers. There were no windows on the front of the tram, so in summer they could get badly sunburned and in winter, snow and rain would beat into their faces as they drove the vehicles.

The drivers worked a 10-hour day, Monday to Saturday, and eight hours on Sundays. They were paid 7.25d (3p) per hour; and after a year's service, received 13 days holiday per annum.


Corner of Romford and Woodgrange Road (1905)

From the turn of the century the pressure was on the tram industry to replace the older horse-drawn trams with electricity driven, and so much faster and generally more reliable, vehicles. East Ham became the first local authority in London to adopt them.

West Ham Council entered the electrically-driven era in 1904 and trams were soon running from Wanstead Flats. In 1909 the Aldgate to Ilford route was opened; operated by three different authorities :the London County and West Ham and Leyton Borough Councils.


Tram outside Old Spotted Dog,
on its way to Wanstead Flats

West Ham Council ran trams 21 hours per day, starting at 3.30am, until 12.30am, every  day of the year. In 1912 the local transport department had 118 tram cars, operated on 11 routes and provided 41 million passenger journeys.


Plaistow to Wanstead Flats service, c 1910

By 1913, the following routes served different parts of Forest Gate:

• Route 4: Wanstead Flats to Victoria and Albert Docks
• Route 5: Wanstead Flats to Canning Town
• Route 8: Bakers Arms to Victoria and Albert Docks, via Forest Gate
• Route 10: Stratford Broadway to Boleyn via Forest Gate
• Route 63: Aldgate to Ilford

Trams became a vital transport link for those engaged locally in war work, between 1914 - 1918, travelling to and from the docks and munitions factories within the borough, and beyond.

Wanstead Flats tram terminus, 1905 in Woodford Road.
The trams stopped where the houses ended, just
at the borough boundary. The turning on the left
is Forest Road. When larger numbers of passengers began
to use the route, additional lengths of track were laid
in Forest Road and then to the western end of Capel Road

Women were employed on public transport to replace many of the men ("substitutionism" as it was often called)who enlisted or were taken up with other war work, both as "clippies" and, in a few cases, as drivers.
 
Unfortunately, we have no details of how this significant opening up of a traditional male job preserve to women impacted on the diversification of employment opportunities in our area at this time.

War activity clearly took economic and practical precedence during this time and few improvements were made to the tram rolling stock or network, apart from essential maintenance, for the duration of the conflict.


Car 15 in Forest Road, looking towards
Wanstead Flats, 1927

Extensive fleet renovation and upgrading were therefore necessary at the end of the war, and were introduced, locally, in the 1920's. These included the replacement of open top trams as the main priority.  Motor buses soon emerged as serious competition for trams; and later, trolley buses joined the more mixed economy of local public transport.

In 1925 East Ham Council proposed to replace the tram service with a trolleybus route from Wanstead Flats to the Royal Docks. The transport authority, however,  soon backed off  after protests from service users, who feared the replacements would mean the end of cheap workman's fares. Both West and East Ham councils consequently refocused their transport development efforts into upgrading the tram rolling stock.


Route map for West Ham Corporation trams,
dated 1925. It gives the fares for the various
routes, expressed in route miles and yards covered

An integrated, co-ordinated,  London-wide public transport network was mooted in the late 1920's, and  the London Passenger Transport Board (London Transport) was created, as a result, in 1933.


Tram approaching Princess Alice on Romford Road,
about to cross, what is still a nightmare off-set
junction, into Upton Lane, in 1930s. The crossing
had previously featured a "grand union" curved
junction, much loved by tram enthusiasts!

The Board compulsorily purchased the rolling stock and routes of the West and East Ham corporation transport departments - with West Ham contributing 134 vehicles to the new company.

The new London Transport Board began to rationalise routes, and by 1934, the following tram services operated in the Forest Gate area:

• Route 10: Circular - Stratford, Forest Gate, Green Street, Plaistow
• Route 63: Ilford Broadway to Aldgate
• Route 73: Royal Docks to Wanstead Park
• Route 95: Canning Town to Wanstead Flats
• Route 95a: Upton Park, Boleyn, Wanstead Flats.


This is a former West Ham corporation tram,
shown resplendent in London Transport livery
- still working local routes - after the establishment
of the London-wide transport operation.
It was built for West Ham Corporation in 1900

In 1935 London Transport began to replace trams with trolley and motor buses, across the whole of the metropolis. As a consequence, by 1937 trams had disappeared from all local routes, except those that continued to run to Aldgate.


Car 211 by the ponds and trees of Wanstead Flats
- October 1936, waiting to leave one of the last 73
services. Unusually, this route was not converted
to trolleybus

By 1940, even those two routes - the 63 and 67 - were replaced by motor buses. The last trams trundled through West Ham in June 1940.



Model of car 119 on the Wanstead Flats to Canning Town
route. This model was exhibited at the Wembley Exhibition
in 1924, was at the Science Museum in Kensington and
later at the Old Station Museum, in North Woolwich,
until its sad closure

One or two of the old local trams survive today at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden.  Most, however, were sent to the scrap yard in 1952.


Tram on Romford Road c 1936. The route was
replaced by a trolley bus the following year.
The tram is passing the West Ham Municipal baths,
recently demolished. The baths were opened
in 1934.

Trolleybuses, themselves, began to be withdrawn in 1959 and electric street transport finally ended in 1960, locally, with the closure of the West Ham Depot. This will be the focus of a later blog.


This old West Ham tram can still be seen
at the London Transport Museum, in Covent Garden

• Footnote. Further information on this topic can be found in East Ham and West Ham Tramways, by Robert J Harley.  The book is published by the Middleton Press and is available priced £17.95. Thanks also go to the Newham Story, and Robert Rogers, in particular, for memories and some fine photographs and images.

A nod at our neighbours: chronology of Wanstead House and Park

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


The delights of Wanstead Park, just beyond the Forest Gate borders are one of the real, little appreciated, joys of living in this area.

They and the buildings that have stood within them have a fascinating history, laden with riches, royal scandal, landscape and architectural splendour and infamy that should fascinate any historian.


Below we produce the flimsiest of chronologies, hoping it will arouse enough interest for you to delve further into the pleasures of this part of our locality.


1042 - Wanstead Manor, conferred by Edward the Confessor.


1078 - Held by Bishop of London, and let for 40/- per year to Ralph Fritz Brien.

1217 - Let to Sir Hugh de Hodeing.

1271 - Let to Sir John Huntercombe.

1368 - Death of Sir John Huntercombe, junior.

1446 - John Tattersall, who had purchased the Manor, died and house remained in his family, until ...

1457 - William Keene became lord of Manor.

1487 - Sir Ralph Hastings becomes Lord of the Manor. Succeeded by Sir John Heron, who was followed by his son, Sir Giles Heron - son-in-law of Sir Thomas More. The Herons created  the Park's Heronry - which remains - as a pun on their name.

1531 - Sir Giles Heron - accused of treason by Henry V111, and had his estate confiscated, because of his adherence to Catholic faith.

1549 - Manor granted by Edward V1 to Lord Richard Riche, who rebuilt the Manor House, (then called Naked Hall Hawe).

1553 - Queen Mary stayed there on her way from Norwich to London, to assume the crown. She received Princess Elizabeth, who rode out from London to meet the queen, attended by 1,000 knights, ladies and gentlemen, on horseback, at Wanstead.

1578 - Queen Elizabeth paid a five-day visit to Wanstead Hall, as it was known at the time, then owned by the Earl of Leicester, who had purchased the house from the Riche family. Leicester was widely assumed to be a lover of the so-called "virgin" queen. He greatly enlarged and improved the house, and married the Countess of Essex in this year.



Robert Dudley, later 1st
Earl of Leicester, Wanstead Hall
owner and royal lover 1

1588 - Earl of Leicester died and Wanstead passed to his widow, who the following year married Sir Christopher Blount. An inventory of the house, contents and grounds, at the time valued the estate at a mere £1,120.

1603 - Sir Charles Blount created Earl of Devonshire.

1606 - On the death of Earl of Devonshire, the manor passed to the crown.

1615 - James 1 stayed at Wanstead.

1617 - James 1 revisited the house, which was purchased and occupied during his reign by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham - widely rumoured to be the king's lover - the second royal lover to occupy the house. Is there something in the river Roding?

George Villiers - 1st Duke
of Buckingham,
Wanstead Hall owner
and royal lover 2

1619 - Wanstead estate sold by Duke of Buckingham to Sir Henry Mildmay (after whom parts of modern Islington are named), one of the judges by whom Charles 1 was subsequently condemned. Sir Henry was succeeded by his son, Sir John, from whom the estate was taken by Charles 11.

1662 - Wanstead sold by James, Duke of York, to whom it had been given by Charles 11, to Sir Robert Brooke, who held it until 1667.

1667 - Pepys writes:


Sir William Penn (Quaker, and founder of the US state of Pennsylvania) did give me this afternoon an account of his design for buying Sir RW Brooke's fine house at Wanstead, which I so wondered at; and did give him reasons against it, which he allowed of, and told me that he did intend to pull down the house and build a less, and that he could get £1,500 for the old house, and I know what fooleries. But I will never believe he intended to buy it, for my part, though he troubled Mr Ganden, to go and look upon it, and advise him in it.


The manor was however, bought in this year by Sir Josiah Child, a goldsmith, Governor of the East India Company and founder of Child's Bank, which was taken over by William and Glyn's in the 1920s and is now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Child greatly improved the house and grounds. In another piece of local punery around Wanstead House names, the Child name may have been incorporated in Forest Gate's former pub, the Eagle and Child.


Sir Josiah Child (1630 - 1699)


1678 - Josiah Child created baronet.

1683 - John Evelyn wrote: "I went to see Sir Josiah Child's prodigious cost in planting walnut trees about his seate and making fish ponds many miles in circuit in Epping Forest, in a barren place, as oftimes these suddenly monied for the most part seate themselves."

Pre 1715 Wanstead Hall, residence of Sir Josiah Child


1699 - Sir Josiah Child died.

1715 - Sir Richard Child, son of Josiah, pulled down Wanstead Hall and built the mansion, in the Palladian style, that remained until 1822, which a contemporary writer , of The Complete English Traveller, described as "more magnificent than Blenheim", and "one of the most elegant in England - both for the building and the gardens".


Fortifications, Wanstead House, 18th century


1718 - Sir Richard Child created Viscount Castlemaine.

1732 - Viscount Castlemaine created Earl Tylney (hence Forest Gate street name).

1748 - Peter Kalm, a Swedish botanist, having visited the house described it: "My Lord Tylney's magnificent house resembles a royal palace rather than a private man's home ... many rooms furnished in the most costly way ... one room was not like another".

1749 - Earl Tylney died and succeeded by his second son, John, who brought many art treasures from Italy to Wanstead.

1764 - House guests included George 111 and Queen Charlotte, escorted by the Light Horse cavalry.

1775 - Horace Walpole wrote: "I dined at Wanstead. Many years had passed since I saw it. The disposition of the house and prospect are very fine".

1784 - Earl Tylney died, succeeded by his nephew, James Long, who became the second Earl, Tylney-Long.

1794 - Second Earl died and succeeded by his daughter, Catherine - a minor, with an estimated wealth exceeding £1m and an annual income of £80,000. Some Bourbon aristocrats, fleeing the French Revolution, took up temporary residence in the house.


Catherine Tylney-Long


1810 - John Britton wrote:

From the entrance to the park in the west, through the main gates, the road to the house is skirted by rows of fine elms, and winds round a circular piece of water, extending considerably beyond each extremity to the mansion, from which this approach has an aspect of much grandeur ... Near the River Roding is a curious grotto, constructed by the second Earl of Tylney, at an expense of £2,000, independently of the cost of materials.


The grotto was constructed of shells, pebbles, rare stones, fossils, looking glasses and fine painted windows, with a domed roof.


1909 postcard of the ruins of the grotto


1812 - Marriage of the very eligible Catherine Tylney-Long to the feckless William Pole-Wellesley (son of Lord Maryborough, later Earl of Mornington; nephew of Duke of Wellington).


Wanstead House and gardens, looking east


1813 - Pole-Wellesley makes an abortive attempt to close a public footpath through Wanstead Park. He was a profligate playboy, who soon ran up considerable debts.


The feckless William
Pole-Wellesley (1788 - 1857)


1815 - Pole-Wellesley holds a grand fete in Wanstead House and its gardens to celebrate his uncle, the Duke of Wellington's victory over Napoleon. The Prince Regent attends along with a number of other royals and over a thousand leading dignitaries.


Wanstead House, c 1820


1822 - Sale by auction of the furniture and contents of Wanstead House, in over 6,000 lots - which lasted thirty-two days - for £41,000, for the benefit of Pole-Wellesley's creditors.


Catalogue for sale of Wanstead
House furniture, 1822


1823 - Wanstead House pulled down, and sold piecemeal, for £10,000, for the further benefit of Pole-Wellesley's creditors. After the house was pulled down, the grounds were leased for shooting. The grounds were allowed to grow wild, to improve the habitat of the game.

1825 - Catherine Pole-Wellesley died, aged 35.

1851 - Sale of Tylney-Long family portraits by Christies (including some by William Hogarth).

1859 - Earl of Mornington (formerly Pole-Wellesley) died, aged 69, not before marrying for a second time a "noble" woman who ended up in the workhouse, as a result of his reckless ways. One obituary described him thus:
A spendthrift, a profligate, a gambler in his youth - he became a debauchee in his manhood. Redeemed by no single virtue, adorned by no single grace, his life has gone out, even without a flicker of repentance.

1882 - The 184 acre grounds of the house were purchased by the Corporation of London, for £8,000, and turned into Wanstead Park, which was opened to the public. The Corporation then built roads to connect the park to Leytonstone and to Forest Gate railway station (Centre Road).

1884 - The grotto was burned out.



Unemployed relief, dredging Lake in
Wanstead Park, 1909. Grotto ruins in background


Today - Some remnants to be seen:

• The two stone pillars at the entrance to Overton Drive - facing Bush Road on Blake Hall Road were originally the entrance gates to Wanstead House. The monogram RC that remains on the pillars, refers to Richard Child, who had the 1715 house built, at a cost of £360,000.

Gatepost with Richard Child's monogram,
at entry to Overton Drive, today


• Sir Josiah Child's memorial can still be seen in the chancel of Wanstead church.

Monument to Sir Josiah Child,
still in chancel of Wanstead church


• The stables of the estate survive today, to the east of Wanstead church, housing Wanstead Golf Club.
• The Temple - built c 1760, has recently been refurbished in Wanstead Park and acts as a visitors' centre.


The Temple, built c 1760, recently
refurbished and now visitor centre for Wanstead Park

• The ruins of the Grotto, now being renovated.


Ruins of the grotto, today

• The lakes and waterways and eco-systems within Wanstead Park (see below, for details).

For more information about Wanstead House and Park, including publications, videos and events, contact the excellent Wanstead Parklands Community Project