Upper Cut Club, part 2 - hitting the deck

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Last week we featured the rise of the Upper Cut Club on Woodgrange Road, in 1966, as east London's premier popular music venue.  We focused on the splendid array of talent that graced the former public hall during its first six months.

Part of club's original signage

This week we look at the second half of its short life, featuring both the bands that played there and examining the reasons for its sad demise.

The talent on display hardly diminished in the final months, although problems began to emerge because of the club's unsuitable location and cavernous size.

Last week we showed that having seen the impact the club was having, other promoters and club owners tried to muscle in on the Upper Cut's act and reputation, and perhaps damaged its commercial success.

The club closed a year, to the week, after it opened, amid recriminations and with a sad inevitability was transformed into a bingo club - the latest "hot" entertainment on the high street.

Site of the Upper Cut club, on Woodgrange Road
The club continued to attract top national talent in May and June 1967, following its first successful six months of operation. 

So, May saw Wayne Fontana, whether with the Mindbenders or not isn't clear and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones on a record promotion visit.  This is likely to have been for the Beyond the Buttons album.

He was followed rapidly by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers and Scotland's answer to Bob Dylan, Donovan.  They all appeared on a free matinee gig, aimed at young teenagers, unable to drink alcohol  lawfully!

May also saw the Kinks, who had recently released Waterloo Sunset and Dave Davies' solo Death of a Clown. The Troggs post Wild Thing, but pre Reg Presley's crop circles obsession rounded the month off.

June featured Chris Farlowe, soon after both his chart topping singles Out of Time and Yesterday's Papers had been released.

July showcased "The Cream" (!), just as Strange Brew was being issued.  There was then the second appearance by local boys the Small Faces.  Ronnie "Plonk" Lane had just penned Itchycoo Park, which was released a couple of weeks later. 

Local boys, local venue and location: 
The Small Faces with Itchycoo Park
Whether it got its first public airing at this gig isn't clear; but it would have been highly appropriate, had it done so.  The inspiration behind the song is much disputed, but Wikipedia, at least, is happy to accord it very local origins.  The website says:

A number of sources claim the song's name is derived from the nickname of Little Ilford Park, on Church Road, in the London suburb of Manor Park, where Small Faces singer and song writer Steve Marriott grew up. The "Itchycoo" nickname is in turn attributed to the stinging nettles which grew there.  Other sources cite nearby Wanstead Flats (Manor Park end) as the inspiration for the song
The club then took a six week break, over the summer months, not surprisingly, perhaps.  But, the Stratford Express of 14 July offered an alternative explanation for the closure, when it announced: "Forest Gate police swooped on youngsters leaving Billy Walker's Upper Cut club and the Lotus dance hall on Saturday (the night of the Faces gig), in a bid to beat hooliganism."
Local shopkeepers had complained of vandalism and residents of noise and parking disruption caused by the club's patrons.  There was also chaos inside the club, as the Stratford Express continued:

After appearing at the Upper Cut on Saturday ... the Small Faces apologised to fans ... 'It was chaos on stage.  We couldn't concentrate', said leader Steve Marriott. Tough bouncers either side of the stage rushed across the front of the Faces to drag away screaming girls to safety.  In their rush, Plonk Lane's guitar was put out of tune and Steve Marriott's mike went dead. 
 Dozens of hysterical girls were treated by St John Ambulance men and one was taken to hospital after being trampled in the crush. 'We're very sorry for the kids who got hurt but it was so hot up the front that they fainted and had to be dragged to the stage to safety' said Plonk.
The club resumed activities in September, with some big names, notably The Tremeloes (just after Silence is Golden was released, but before Even the Bad Times are Good), "Sweet" Georgie Fame (after the release of Get Away and Sunny) and Unit 4 + 2 (post Concrete and Clay).

October saw massive US acts, Stevie Wonder (soon after I Was Made to Love Her) and Ben E King (for the first time).

November, however, really was the beginning of the end for the club; it suffered dwindling audiences and serious local competition. After the appearance of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers at the start of the month, the club was forced to offer cut rate "package" deals to draw the crowds.  So, tickets for the three gigs, featuring PP Arnold, Ben E King (second appearance) and the return of Eddie Floyd, could be had for just £1 - less than £16 at today's prices.

Local competition, meanwhile, was beginning to challenge the Upper Cut's hegemony in the area.  The Lotus club, on the opposite side of Woodgrange Road was able to offer the Moody Blues, the Foundations and Chris Farlowe, at cheaper prices, to challenge the Upper Cut around this time.

Leyton Baths got in on the act with reduced rates to see The Troggs and Georgie Fame and even the Railway Tavern in Stratford could offer competitive rates to see Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac and the Savoy Brown Blues Band over the coming weeks.

The Upper Cut staggered on, punch drink at the competition, with the Foundations (post Build me up Buttercup) as their last big gig; almost a year to the day after the exciting opening show, at the end of December.

The Stratford Express provided the Upper Cut's obituary in two parts.  Firstly, by way of editorial on 15 December, when it reported: complaining neighbours, parking problems, dwindling audiences and the departure of Billy Walker as its patron.  It announced:

The Upper Cut, East London's £200,000 'pop palace' may soon shut its door to beat fans - and it's their own fault. Disenchanted disc jockeys this week slammed the pop kids for their apathetic attitude towards top ten groups. ... Now the Upper Cut, once billed as 'the entertainment centre of the East End' may switch from catering for the mods ... to the mums!  Bingo is on the cards.
And sure enough, the final blow came in the next week's edition with the following advert:

Upper Cut, floored by Bingo
So, there it is - the sad demise of a short-lived local institution that can even today - 45 years on - stand proud in the history of British popular culture.

We'd love to hear from anyone who was lucky enough to experience any of this great local cultural heritage. 

If you were there - please either leave some thoughts in the Comments box below, or contact us and we'll be delighted to call, record and relay your recollections on this site.

Selected Upper Cut gig list - May - December 1967

Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders
Sat 6 May - Wayne Fontana - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sat 13 May - Terry Reid - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sun 14 May - "To celebrate their latest Columbia disc, a personal appearance by Rolling Stone, Bill Wyman" - gentlemen and ladies 5/-
Sat 20 May - matinee - 2pm - 5pm -  "For the 12's to 17's, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, with special guest Donovan" - "Absolutely free"
Sat 20 May - (evening) - Kinks - gentlemen and ladies 9/6d
Fri 26 May - Graham Bond Organisation - gentlemen and ladies 6/-
Sat 27 May - The Troggs - gentlemen and ladies 9/6d

Sat 3 June - The Turtles - gentlemen and ladies 9/6d
Fri 30 June - Chris Farlowe - gentlemen and ladies 8/6d

Sat 1 Jul - The Cream (sic) - gentlemen and ladies - 8/6d
Sat 8 Jul - "Return of" The Small Faces - gentlemen and ladies 8/6d

Sat 9 Sept - The Tremeloes - gentlemen and ladies 9/6d

Silence is Golden - self 
awareness from the Tremeloes?
Sat 16 Sept - "Sweet" Georgie Fame - gentlemen and ladies 9/6d
Sat 30 Sept - Unit 4 + 2 - gentlemen and ladies 8/6d

Sat 7 Oct - Stevie Wonder - gentlemen and ladies 12/6d
Sat 21 Oct - Ben-E-King - (no price shown)

Stevie Wonder
Lotus Club:  Sat 4 Nov -The Moody Blues - 7/6d,  Tues 7 Nov - Foundations - gentlemen and ladies 6/6d

Sat 11 Nov - John Mayall and the Blues Breakers - (no price shown)
Sat 18 Nov - PP Arnold - gentlemen and ladies 9/6d
Weds 22 Nov - Ben-E-King - gentlemen and ladies 7/6d
Sat 25 Nov - Eddie Floyd - gentlemen and ladies 7/6d
Special offer: all three of the PP Arnold, Ben-E-King and Eddy Floyd shows, above, for £1.  These were effectively the last big shows, but one.

PP Arnold, part of cut price, 
package deals, signalling end for Upper Cut

Ben E King - two local 
shows, in swift succession

Desperate cut price deals 
advertised in Stratford Express

Competition from Leyton Baths - Sat 18 Nov - The Troggs - gentlemen and ladies 7/6d; Sat 25 Nov - Georgie Fame - gentlemen and ladies 7/6d

"Sweet" Georgie Fame, appeared at both
 Upper Cut, and local competition
Competition from Bottleneck Blues Club, Railway Tavern -  Angel Lane Stratford (not to be confused with the recently shut down, and soon to be re-opened as Forest Tavern pub, by Forest Gate station) - Fri 22 Dec - Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac - (no price shown); Sat 29 Dec - Savoy Brown's Blues Band - (no price shown)

Competition from Lotus Club, Woodgrange Road - Sat 23 Dec - Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds - gentlemen and ladies 10/-

Out of Time? nearly was for Upper Cut,
as Chris Farlowe appears at
 the Lotus on 23 December
Sat 30 Dec - The Foundations - gentlemen and ladies 10/-
This was to be the last "big name" appearing at the Upper Cut club

Foundations - last big band at Upper Cut
Fri 29 December - advert in Stratford Express, announcing Upper Cut club to re-open soon as a Bingo hall

For conversions of some of the prices and some context for this listing, see last week's article, below.

Back catalogue

This site has published a number of articles on the history of the Upper Cut club: the first detailing the time when Otis visited it, in March 1967. This post was followed by two, recording the first six months and the final six months of the club's existence.

These posts were followed by almost monthy updates on who played at the club, that month, 47 years previously. The final blog is a record of a recent meeting with former boxer, Billy Walker, the name under whom the club exisited, on his memories of it and Forest Gate almost half a century ago.

Below is a list of those blogs: the hyper links are the titles of the articles, and when hit upon should give access to them. The dates (in italics) are the time covered by the blog and the date in bold are the months the blogs were posted.

Although the content, and some of the comments on the individual posts, is pretty definitive, we'd love to hear any memories readers may have of the gigs, or corrections they could make to the copy. Just post in the Comments box, below.

When Otis played Forest Gate (March 1967) May 2013

Upper Cut (1) - a summary of the emergence of the first six months of the club (December 1966 - July 1967) July 2013

Upper Cut (2) - a brief survey of the second, and final half year of the club's existence (August 1967 - December 1967) July 2013
Georgie Fame, The Tremeloes and Unit 4 + 2 - (September 1967 at the Upper Cut) October 2013

When Stevie Wonder played Forest Gate - (October 1967) November 2013

Mouthwatering musical fayre on Woodgrange Road - (November 1967) December 2013

Club bills for the Upper Cut's two Decembers - (Decembers 1966 and 1967) January 2014

The Upper Cut beds down - (January 1967) February 2014

Essex comes to Forest Gate - (February 1967) March 2014
Stax comes to town - (March 1967) April 2014

A mixed bunch at the Upper Cut in April (April 1967) May 2014

Upper Cut - May 1967 (June 1967) June 2014

Summer of Love in Forest Gate (Summer 1967) August 2014

Golden Boy, Billy Walker's Forest Gate memories September 2014

The Upper Cut Club, part 1 - the rise

Wednesday 24 July 2013

One of the most notable features of Forest Gate's history was the appearance, and rapid disappearance twelve months later, of the Upper Cut club, on Woodgrange Road; 1966-67. It hosted every big name British pop music band of the time, except the Beatles, and not a few huge American stars, during its brief existence.

The Upper Cut site, on Woodgrange Road,
 taken long after its demise - in 1991
England had just won the World Cup, thanks in large part to three West Ham stalwarts: captain Bobby Moore, goal scoring hero Geoff Hurst and mid field maestro Martin Peters; and local boy heavyweight boxer, Billy Walker, British and European title challenger, was at the top of his fame and fortune.

Walker, with his brother/manager George, and outside financiers, spent £200,000 on transforming the former skating rink in Woodgrange Road into what the Stratford Express in December 1966 called "a plush big beat palace" (see photo). The site, incidentally, had previously been that of the Pawnbroker's almshouses, local public hall and a few cinema manifestations, featured on this site over recent weeks.

Initially, the club was to open four nights a week, with heavyweight boxer, Freddie Mack and his group, as the resident support band. Anybody with even the most passing interest in 60's pop music, however, would today be amazed at the range of talent that passed through the Forest Gate club. 

We will be covering an edited list of the bands to appear there, over two parts - this week and next; together with some images of the artists and adverts for the club.

Little could anyone at the time anticipate the longer-term significance of the place and the acts it was to host. Certainly the Stratford Express did not appreciate its later importance, when it announced "Go-go girls, canned music, cine films, top beat groups and an amusement arcade" would be central features of the Upper Cut club.  "Promoter, George Boyle, said 'we want to cater for mums and dads as well, who just want to use the club for a quiet drink"!

The gig list for the opening week - reproduced - is stunning. 

The club was opened by The Who, who had recently released My Generation, and Substitute. The price was £17/6d for "gentlemen" and 15/- for "ladies" - £14 and £12 at today's prices - see later. 

Fabulous opening 
week's line up - 
December 1966
The Stratford Express reported the gig:

"To the frenzy and delight of more than 400 teenagers, The Who ended their act by smashing up their equipment and vanishing from the stage in a puff of blue smoke from amplifiers."

The Who, club openers - December 1966
The star-studied opening guest list included Billy Walker, former West Ham born boxing champion and Olympic gold medallist, Terry Spinks, England and West Ham football heroes, Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurts and young DJ Annie Nightingale.

Boxing Day, a few days later, had The Jimmi (sic) Hendrix Experience, presenting a matinee gig, for the princely sum of 5/- (£4 today) for both "gentlemen" and "ladies".  It was while waiting to appear on stage that Jimi wrote Purple Haze, a fact recently commemorated by Newham Council, by the erection of a memorial plaque (pictured) on gates outside the site of the former club. 

Jimi Hendrix's first Upper
Cut outing, for just five bob!

Recently installed Newham Council plaque,
 celebrating the birth of Purple Haze
Jimi was simply the warn up act for The Pretty Things, who are still producing remarkable performances today - were the headline act for Boxing Day night - at 10/- for the "ladies" and 12/6d for "gentlemen"!

Within 10 days, local band, the Small Faces made their first of two appearance at the Upper Cut (their recent hits had included: Whatcha Gonna Do About It, Sha-La-La-La-Lee, and All or Nothing).  The Stratford Express faithfully covered the occasion, which attracted 2,000 fans:

Girls screamed and burst into tears as the Small Faces came on to the stage and during their half hour act the stage was guarded by eight 'bouncers'. Over a dozen girls fainted.
We just kept playing said guitarist 'Plonk' Lane after the show. 'All we can see is girls and pretty underwear carried across in front of us'.
This was the group's first home-town appearance for more than six months.
They spent the afternoon rehearsing at the Woodgrange Road club and then went for a meal at Plonk's brother's Stratford cafe.
Below is an edited version of the first six months gigs, taken from adverts in the Stratford Express; the sections in quotation marks are taken directly from the adverts, themselves. 

Next week we will cover the remaining six months, together with an explanation of the demise, of the club.

It is difficult to know where to begin in outlining the highlights; but among them must surely be: TWO appearances by Jim Hendrix (one on 28 January, in the evening, following his better known Boxing Day gig), the great soul day already featured on this site (Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, Sam and Dave, Arthur Conley and Booker T and the MG's -matinee for 10/-, evening performance 17/6d - on 18 March), The Who (opening night), Animals (Christmas Eve), Small Faces (6 January) and  Jeff Beck (28 April).  The most surprising performer, perhaps, was "Top British comedian" Dick Emery (31 March).

From September we intend running a "This week in 1967 at the Upper Cut" section in the Arts and Ents pages of this website for a year, featuring an appropriate advert from the Stratford Express, a contemporary photo of some of the bands playing and a You Tube clip of one of the bands' more famous numbers.

Sit back, relax, get nostalgic - and enjoy the club's first six months' guest list!


Weds 21 Dec - The Who - gentlemen 17/6d, ladies 15/-
Thurs 22 Dec - Easybeats - gentlemen 12/6d, ladies 10/-
Fri 23 Dec - Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich - gents gentlemen 15/-, ladies 12/6d
Sat 24 Dec - Eric Burden and the Animals - gentlemen and ladies 20/-
Mon 26 Dec (matinee - 2.30 - 5.30) - The Jimmi (sic) Hendrix Experience - gentlemen and ladies 5/-
Mon 26 Dec (evening) - The Pretty Things - gentlemen 12/6d, ladies 10/-

Small Faces - 6 Jan act, 2,000 fans to see
 the local boys, who then popped down to
Plonk's brother's caff in Stratford for a bite to eat!
Fri 6 Jan - Small Faces - gentlemen 12/6d, ladies 10/-
Sun 8 Jan - The Mindbenders - gentlemen 7/6d, ladies 6/-
Fri 13 Jan - The Four Pennies ("The fabulous beat singers, with that special sound") - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sat 14 Jan - Terry Lightfoot's Jazzmen - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Fri 20 Jan - Sounds Incorporated ("The world's no 1 instrumental group") - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sat 21 Jan - The Fourmost" ("Vocal harmony at its best") - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Fri 27 Jan - Jimmy James and the Vagabonds - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sat 28 Jan - The Jimi Hendrix Experience ("American top soul singer and guitarist extraordinary") - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d

Fri 10 Feb - The Rockin' Berries ("The sensational TV and recording group") - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Fri 17 Feb - The New Pirates ("The late Johnny Kidd's group") - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sat 18 Feb - The Honeycombs - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Fri 24 Feb - David Essex - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d

Local heart throb, David Essex - just
 7/6d for the ladies on 24 February!
Thurs 2 Mar - "Radio London's top DJ, Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart" - gentlemen and ladies 6/-
Sat 18 Mar - Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, Sam and Dave, Booker T and the MGs and Arthur Conley - matinee show - gents and ladies -  10/-, evening show - gentlemen and ladies - 17/6d

Otis promotes the 18 March soul gig
in a photo from the New Musical Express
Thurs 23 Mar - Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart - gentlemen and ladies 6/-
Fri 24 Mar - Eric Winston Band - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Thurs 30 Mar - Barron Knights - gentlemen and ladies 6/-
Fri 31 Mar - "Top British comedian" Dick Emery - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d

Sat 1 Apr - Dave Berry - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sat 8 Apr - Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds - gentlemen 8/6d, ladies 7/6d
Sat 15 Apr - Alan Price Set - gentlemen 9/6d, ladies 8/6d
Sat 22 Apr - Nina Simone - gentlemen and ladies 15/-
Fri 28 Apr - ("Singing his latest hit, Hi, Ho, Silver Lining") Jeff Beck - gentlemen and ladies 6/-
Sat 29 Apr - Prince Buster - gentlemen 9/6d, ladies 8/6d

Lotus Club - 22-26 Woodgrange Road

Across the road from the Upper Cut club was the Lotus Club, above what is now the 99p Stores. That had previously been a snooker hall and has housed a number of music/dance clubs subsequently, over the years.

The Lotus Club, itself, ran for over 40 years - from the early 1960s. In its time it hosted many big named groups. Doubtless spurred on by the Upper Cut's successes , it began to advertise its own gigs in the Stratford Express, intermittently, during the year of the Upper Cut's opening. It offered Mary Wells on 18 April, to be squeezed between Alan Price and Nina Simone, at the Upper Cut.

Mary Wells appears over the road,
 at the rival Lotus Club on 18 April
Tues 18 Apr - Mary Wells - gentlemen and ladies 6/-

Ready reckoner price guide!
The Bank of England offers an on-line inflation ready reckoner, which we have adapted to show the cost, in current prices, of visiting the club then.  Basically a £1 in 1966 would now be £16, taking on board inflation.  So today's cost of entry would be:
Then  Now
£1         £16
17/6d     £14
15/-      £12
12/6d    £10
10/-      £8
8/6d     £9
7/6d     £6
6/-      £5
5/-       £4

A bit of surviving club memorabilia
Back catalogue

This site has published a number of articles on the history of the Upper Cut club: the first detailing the time when Otis visited it, in March 1967. This post was followed by two, recording the first six months and the final six months of the club's existence.

These posts were followed by almost monthy updates on who played at the club, that month, 47 years previously. The final blog is a record of a recent meeting with former boxer, Billy Walker, the name under whom the club exisited, on his memories of it and Forest Gate almost half a century ago.

Below is a list of those blogs: the hyper links are the titles of the articles, and when hit upon should give access to them. The dates (in italics) are the time covered by the blog and the date in bold are the months the blogs were posted.

Although the content, and some of the comments on the individual posts, is pretty definitive, we'd love to hear any memories readers may have of the gigs, or corrections they could make to the copy. Just post in the Comments box, below.
When Otis played Forest Gate (March 1967) May 2013Upper Cut (1) - a summary of the emergence of the first six months of the club (December 1966 - July 1967) July 2013Upper Cut (2) - a brief survey of the second, and final half year of the club's existence (August 1967 - December 1967) July 2013Georgie Fame, The Tremeloes and Unit 4 + 2 - (September 1967 at the Upper Cut) October 2013When Stevie Wonder played Forest Gate - (October 1967) November 2013Mouthwatering musical fayre on Woodgrange Road - (November 1967) December 2013Club bills for the Upper Cut's two Decembers - (Decembers 1966 and 1967) January 2014The Upper Cut beds down - (January 1967) February 2014Essex comes to Forest Gate - (February 1967) March 2014Stax comes to town - (March 1967) April 2014A mixed bunch at the Upper Cut in April (April 1967) May 2014Upper Cut - May 1967 (June 1967) June 2014Summer of Love in Forest Gate (Summer 1967) August 2014

Golden Boy, Billy Walker's Forest Gate memories September 2014

New season approaches for the Tons

Saturday 20 July 2013

Clapton FC Supporters' Association, 
1937 - not an Ultra in sight!
Lew Listz, stalwart of the Friends of Clapton FC, looks forward to next season at the Old Spotted Dog.  What follows is an edited piece from the Friends website, to whom we are grateful for allowing us to reproduce it here.

The fixture list for the Tons will be published soon and we will bring it to this site, asap.  Another Tons fanatic, Andy Barr, has written a brief history of Clapton FC for us, which we will publish as a curtain raiser, here.

We hope to be able to cover the Tons progress closely next season, possibly with regular match reports. Other commitments permitting, we will endeavour to add to the Ultra's numbers at the Old Spotted Dog in the months ahead.

Lew writes:

The Clapton players and team management are back in harness, preparing for the new term and will undoubtedly be looking to better last season’s performance. As one would expect, there is no lack of effort and a good number of new faces, trialists, fringe players and some of last season’s regulars are being put through their paces.
For this season the Clapton team will need to set realistic and achievable targets. Last season was littered with set backs, but the players and team management staff ably negotiated this rocky path.
The 21 points were won with a lot of blood, sweat and tears but, let us not forget, that we took points at the home grounds of the Champions and their main rivals for the title. Thus there were many positives to be drawn from those efforts, upon which the team can build.
The first thing to establish is stability and this is certainly achievable when the only way is up. For the Tons to win 35 points this season would be a sound improvement and, when one reflects on those games we lost by a close margin and the emerging strength of the squad, this is totally achievable. To win 40 points would put everyone in Dreamland and would no doubt earn Chris Wood the freedom of Forest Gate.
In reality we are talking about a sizable target for a team with a budget of zero. But, if we aim high, you never know what the season will bring.
I am sure that the players and the playing staff can’t wait to see the Ultras in action again and I have no doubt that the ‘support from the scaffold’ will lift the squad ready for the battles ahead.

Upstairs, downstairs in Forest Gate - 1881

Tuesday 16 July 2013

The 1881 census provides us with the first chance to see a snapshot of how the recently developing Forest Gate was turning out, as a community.  As we showed in the Woodgrange estate - the early years (see here), the construction of this substantial middle class estate was begun in the 1870's.

Early photo of Claremont Road, 
c 1913, from Woodgrange Road
By the time of the 1881 census, the as yet unfinished estate occupied what is the western section of the area, from Woodgrange Road to just past Richmond Road.  There were a total of 66 houses in Claremont Road (1 - 67 and 2 - 64), then - 60 of them occupied.

Given the estate's recent construction and the relatively large size of its houses, not surprisingly its residents were predominantly middle class families with fairly young children (36, or 60% of the houses had under 10 years olds living in them).

Some interesting features emerge from the census details, of the 60 occupied:

Fifty  (83%) of them included domestic servants as part of the household (see below for details).  This was, of course, the main female paid occupation in the late Victorian period.  The "servant" would generally have been accommodated in the side annexes that are such a distinctive feature of the houses at the western end of the estate.  These female, as they all were, servants were all single, or at least lived without their husbands in the "master's" house.

The Forest Gate News, a decade and a half later, offered free adverts for "female domestic servants requiring situations".  The opportunity was taken up largely by young women, from Essex, who sought positions as "domestic servants" or "maid of all works", for an average pay of £16 per year. They would also receive free board and food and a uniform, for their six day week.

The indomitable Mrs Beeton in her best selling and legendary Book of Household Management, published two decades earlier painted a very vivid picture of the role of the female domestic servant:

The general servant, or maid-of-all-work, is perhaps the only one of her class deserving of commiseration: her life is a solitary one, and in, some places, her work is never done. She is also subject to rougher treatment than either the house or kitchen-maid, especially in her earlier career: she starts in life, probably a girl of thirteen, with some small tradesman's wife as her mistress, just a step above her in the social scale; and although the class contains among them many excellent, kind-hearted women, it also contains some very rough specimens of the feminine gender, and to some of these it occasionally falls to give our maid-of-all-work her first lessons in her multifarious occupations: the mistress's commands are the measure of the maid-of-all-work's duties.
 By the time she has become a tolerable servant, she is probably engaged in some respectable tradesman's house, where she has to rise with the lark, for she has to do in her own person all the work which in larger establishments is performed by cook, kitchen-maid, and housemaid, and occasionally the part of a footman's duty, which consists in carrying messages.

Maid of all works, from 
Illustrated London News 1875
Thirteen (22%) of the households had both a domestic servant and a "nurse", or similar, living in them. This generally speaking, is what today would be called a live-in nanny, although they had a variety of slightly different job titles/descriptions given them in the official record. 

Once again, Mrs Beeton provides a, slightly earlier, insight into what the role may have entailed:

The nursery is of great importance in every family, ... (the nurse/maid) washes, dresses, and feeds it (the young child); walks out with it, and regulates all its little wants; and, even at this early age, many good qualities are required to do so in a satisfactory manner. Patience and good temper are indispensable qualities; truthfulness, purity of manners, minute cleanliness, and docility and obedience, almost equally so. She ought also to be acquainted with the art of ironing and trimming little caps, and be handy with her needle.

In smaller families, where there is only one nursemaid kept, she is assisted by the housemaid, or servant-of-all-work, who will do the rougher part of the work, and carry up the nursery meals. In such circumstances she will be more immediately under the eye of her mistress, who will probably relieve her from some of the cares of the infant.
 A nurse should endeavour to make her room as cheerful as possible, and always keep it clean and tidy. She should empty the chamber utensils as soon as used, and on no account put things under the bed. Soiled baby’s napkins should be rolled up and put into a pan, when they should be washed out every morning, and hung out to dry: they are then in a fit state to send to the laundress; and should, on no account, be left dirty, but done every morning in this way. The bedroom should be kept rather dark, particularly for the first week or ten days; of a regular temperature, and as free as possible from draughts, at the same time well ventilated and free from unpleasant smells.
There was a mash mash of middle class occupations held by the principal breadwinners on the street, overwhelmingly male, of course.  But there were a few interesting exceptions.

Three of the four women who were heads of households were widows, or pensioners.  The only "economically active" woman householder was Elizabeth Lollard of number 48.  She was a school mistress.  A later edition of the Forest Gate News (see advert shown) suggested that the house (today's incarnation, pictured below) was, in fact, an academy for girls.

48 Claremont Road, today. 
 1880's and Academy for Girls
For the most part the heads of household had respectable middle class positions as merchants/commercial travellers or clerks in worth City institutions.  There were a few self made and business owning traders.

Woodgrange Academy for Girls, 48 
Claremont Road, one of only few 
houses in the street with female 
head of household in 1881

Residents of Claremont Road, 1881

Key to the listing below: @ = household with young children; + = household with domestic servant; * = household with "nurse", or similar.

Postcard of Woodgrange Road 
end of Claremont Road c 1900
Odd numbers
1. Clare Lancaster - a "wife" with two scholar/children and two teenage domestic servants. @ +

3. William Mallinson - master timber merchant, plus wife, two children one domestic servant and a nursemaid. @+*

5. John Akers - wholesale clothier and local Methodist preacher, plus wife, 83 year-old mother-in-law, one scholar/daughter and one domestic servant. @+

7. Charles Gassett - a house steward, plus wife and seven young children, a pupil/teacher niece and one domestic servant. @+

9. John Faucort - clerk at the Bank of England, plus wife and two children and one domestic servant. @+

11. Alfred Hardy - railway clerk, plus wife and three children, plus two in-laws and a clerk/boarder. @

13. Richard Colliyear - wine, spirit and beer merchant, plus wife, two children and one domestic servant and a nursemaid. @+*

15. Andrew Stephenson - chemical agent, plus wife, four children and one domestic servant. @+

17. Ebenezer Maxim - merchant tailor, plus wife and four children and one domestic servant ("lady help"). @+

19. Henry Bishop - furrier warehouseman, plus five children and two domestic servants (one housekeeper and one governess).@+*

21. William Thorpe - traveller to a brewer, plus three children, a visitor and one domestic servant. @+

23. Ebenezer Button - commercial traveller, plus wife and two children and one domestic servant. @+

25. Edwin Whitby - skin merchant, plus one child and one domestic servant and one nursemaid.@+*

27. John Radcliffe - clerk Colonial Brokers, plus wife, daughter and one domestic servant. +

29. Eliza Sherwin, widowed pensioner, plus sister-in-law and one domestic servant. +

31. John Allen - master manufacturing chemist employing 19 men and 3 boys, plus wife, four children and one domestic servant.@+

33. Louisa Craddock - wife of photographer, plus three teenage children and one domestic servant. +

35. David Thomas - drapery commercial traveller, plus wife one child, a nurse/visitor, plus one domestic servant and a nursemaid. @+*

37. Unoccupied.

39. George Booth - insurance clerk, plus wife, lodger (porter in trading firm) and one domestic servant. +

41. John Aitken - customs clerk, plus wife, son (commercial clerk), mother and one domestic servant. +

43. Hamilton Guernsey - fire insurance clerk, plus wife, two children and one domestic servant. @+

45. Alfred Whitby - manager drapery, plus wife, four sons and one domestic servant. @+

47. Thomas Barnes - ironmonger merchant, plus wife, six children, one cook and one domestic servant/nursemaid. @+*

49. Rouse Larter - certified schoolmaster, plus wife, five children and two domestic servants (sisters).@+

51. Gideon Gould - jeweller, plus daughter, two grand-daughters, one governess and two domestic servants. @+*

53. Anne Duckell - "income from railway dividends", plus one domestic servant.+

55. William Turner - linen draper, plus wife, two sons and one niece (companion/domestic servant).+

57. William Oryer - certified schoolmaster, plus wife, two sons and one daughter.

59. Robert Colbert - master cooper, plus wife, six adult children (two sons, coopers and four daughters, no occupations).

61. Hamlet Palmer  - pensioner, plus two daughters, two sons (an auctioneer and an analytical chemist) plus an architect/visitor and one domestic servant.+

63. Robert Wyatt - stockbrokers clerk, plus wife one daughter and one domestic servant.@+

65. William Bevan - brewery clerk,  plus wife and one domestic servant.+

67. Unoccupied.

Even numbers
2. Frank Edinburgh - wine merchant,  plus wife and four children, one nurse and one domestic servant.@+*

4. Peter Sharp - accountant in marine insurance,  plus wife and three daughters and one son.

6. Unoccupied.

8. Mathew Sumner - general superintendent accident assurance,  plus wife and three children and one domestic servant.+

10. Ralph Storey - solicitors' clerk, plus two children and one domestic servant/nursemaid.@+*

12. William Curlayne - colonial merchant,  plus wife and four children and two domestic servants.@+

14. Unoccupied.

16. Unoccupied.

18. Anna Baines - domestic servant.+

20. Robert Symington - cashier clerk,  plus wife and one domestic servant.+

22. Harry Main - clerk woollen trade,  plus wife and mother-in-law (visiting).

24. William Imray - commercial traveller paper trade,  plus wife, five children and one domestic servant.@+

26. John Paterson - member British insurance company,  plus wife and one domestic servant.+

28. Unoccupied.

30. John Cooper - commercial traveller,  plus wife and 76 year-old retired tanner uncle,  plus one domestic servant.+

32. Elizabeth Jones - supported by merchant seaman,  plus mother and three children and one domestic servant.@+

34. Thomas Taylor - commercial iron and scrap trade,  plus wife, three clerk sons and one daughter (apprentice dressmaker) and 81 year-old mother-in-law.

36. Samuel Dowsett - traveller, paper trade,  plus wife, two children, one nursemaid and one domestic servant.@+*

38. John Paulin - corn merchant,  plus wife, two children, one nursemaid and one domestic servant.@+*

40. James Stewart - commercial clerk, plus wife, two children one visitor and one domestic servant.@+

42. George Smith - commercial clerk, plus wife and six children.@

44. Edward Ivimey - master tailor employing four hands,  plus wife, six children, including a music-teacher daughter, plus one housekeeper.@+

46. Unoccupied.

48. Elizabeth Lollard - school mistress, plus one school mistress daughter, one drapers' assistant son, three younger children and one domestic servant.@+

50. Robert Clegham - artificial florist,  plus wife, two daughters one nursemaid and one domestic servant.@+*

52. Unoccupied.

54. Mary Albert - widow, income from railway shares,  plus son (insurance clerk) one daughter and one domestic servant.+

56. Charles Berry - general shipping agent,  plus wife, son, sister-in-law, one nursemaid and one domestic servant.@+*

58. Grice Mercer - stockbrokers' clerk,  plus wife and one domestic servant.+

60. Thomas Dowey - surveyor with H.M. Customs,  plus wife, two daughters one son (commercial clerk, china merchant), two grandsons and one domestic servant.@+

62. James Radcliffe - iron merchant,  plus wife, two daughters and one son (accountant).

64. Frank Harwood - retired draper,  plus wife, daughter and one domestic servant.+

Next week - the first of two exciting episodes of the life and times of the Upper Cut in Woodgrange Road (1966 - 67).  Not to be missed!!

The Pawnbrokers of Forest Gate

Wednesday 10 July 2013

The opening of H&T Pawnbrokers on Woodgrange Road last year wasn't the first presence by that trade in our area, by a long way.

In 1849, at about the time the railway arrived in Forest Gate, The Pawnbrokers' Charitable Institution built almshouses on the developing Woodgrange Road.  The institution, which still survives, existed then and now to provide pawnbrokers and their dependents, in need, who had been in business for at least five years and are generally over the age of 60, with assistance. 

1867 Ordnance survey map, showing
 location of Almshouses on Woodgrange Road
The rather splendid houses they built (pictured)accommodated upto eight occupants and their immediate dependents.  The impressive buildings were constructed in what has been described as the Elizabethan style. They occupied the land that was later to be turned into a public hall and range of cinemas (see last week's edition), a skating rink, the Upper Cut club etc and is now a ventilation shaft for the channel tunnel rail link.

As Forest Gate began to take off, economically, at the very end of the nineteenth century, the Pawnbrokers body cashed in, knocked them down and developed the land for more commercial purposes.

Pawnbrokers almshouses, Woodgrange Road
 soon after construction c 1850
We are very fortunate to still have contemporary records of that period available to us, in the form of the short-lived Forest Gate News.

The edition of 25 September 1896 tells us that:

A scheme has been sanctioned by the Charity Commissioners, under which the Almshouse buildings on Woodgrange Road may be sold and other buildings erected on the vacant site and the grounds surrounding.  The existing 'almspeople' will each receive additional yearly pensions of £25 to compensate for disturbance together with the sum of £2.10s to defray the expenses attendant on removal.
The Pawnbrokers Charitable Institution had some property clout, locally, at the time.The News tells us  that their total local landholding:

Embraces the almshouses buildings and the vacant land adjoining; the land on which stand the Princess Alice and seven shops eastwards along Romford Road; the ground and shops Nos 1 - 13, Woodgrange Road; and the ground on which stand the nine shops in front of the Almshouses (probably including what is today H&T Pawnbrokers). The present yearly revenue from the estate is close upon a thousand pounds, and when the new buildings are erected it will be very much larger ... The revenues will continue to be devoted to the payment of pensions of aged and destitute pawnbrokers and their assistants.
The paper described the occupants and their circumstances at the time:

In these five houses there are eight persons of the average age of 79 or 80 years. .. (namely) ... Mrs Sarah Emmaretta Lawes, aged 88; Mrs Martha Campion (widow of the ate Mr HH Campion, formerly an inmate), aged 76; Mrs Mary Anne Poole (widow of the late Mr F Poole, formerly an inmate), aged 73; Mrs Harriette Jones, aged 84; Mr James Corbridge, aged 83; Mrs Mary Ann Mackie (widow of the late Mr G Mackie, formerly an inmate), aged 76 and Mr Richard M Clarke, aged 73.
A dozen strides out of Woodgrange Road, through the gateway just above Messrs Lush and Cook's, and I was already in another world ... You would hardly credit the extent of those grounds at the rear of this little Elizabethan group of houses. I am told that presently it will form the site of a crescent of twenty or more new buildings.  Just now it is a site for little besides weedy paths and straggling plants

Sketch of almshouses, 1896, just before demolition
At the back of the Almshouses is  a paved courtyard, with nine wash houses ranged around it, all neat as you please. These were intended for nine tenants, but at present there are only (counting Mr and Mrs Corbridge the only married couple as one) seven.  Mr and Mrs Corbridge occupy the two back rooms in the centre house and are the only inmates in the row to go upstairs to bed. In each of the other four houses the sitting room and the bedroom are on the same floor.
These houses, then, were knocked down in 1898 to make way for further commercial development along Woodgrange Road.

Now, fast forward 115 years, to the appearance of H&T Pawnbrokers, within the footprint of the Pawnbrokers' charity's old land holding. Just who, and how useful are they?

Booming business, unfortunately.  By a strange co-incidence the firm was first established in 1897 in Vauxhall, as the Almshouses were being demolished, by Walter Harvey and Charles James Thompson (hence H&T).  They trundled along as small scale British high street pawnbrokers for almost a century.

New rip-off kids on the block - H&T
 pawnbrokers, Woodgrange Road, 2013
In 1992 the company was taken over by Cash America, the US's second largest pawnbroking firm, and developed rapidly.  By the millennium they had 41 UK outlets. They were subject to a management buy-out in 2004 and now boast over 180 shops, nationwide, including four in Newham.

Recent legislation requires pawnbrokers to be upfront about their charges.  We will let their website speak for the company, as other words fail us.

Just the 820% APR for a payday loan then - no, thanks!
The typical APR quoted on their website for pawnbroking with them is 137%

A typical payday loan, illustrated on their website, would set the borrower back an 820% annual rate of interest.

There was a time when pawnbroking activity in Forest Gate was concerned with providing cheap housing for poor, old folks, now it's just content to rip them off.

Coming soon - upstairs and downstairs in Claremont Road, in 1881!

Every Picturehouse Tells a Story

Wednesday 3 July 2013

The seven cinemas of Forest Gate

Cinema was very much a novelty in the early years of the twentieth century, when the silent movies held sway, and over the years there have been seven functioning cinemas in Forest Gate, with upto 7,000 seats, at any one time. 

The seven cinemas had, confusingly, 18 separate names between them over the sixty odd years during which some or all of them operated in what is now E7.

All are now sadly gone, and only the most recent of the Forest Gate seven still stands in a recognisable form - having been through a considerable change of use since the lights were dimmed for the final time in 1975.

In what follows, we present a brief survey and are very much indebted to Bob Grimwood's 1995 book Cinema in Essex and the superb website www.cinematreasures.org for our information. If you can add more - particularly old photos, and offer memories, we'd love to hear from you, via the comments box, below.

Bijou Theatre This was one of Forest Gate's oldest, but shortest lived. It opened prior to 1908 and was owned by Gale's Bioscope Theatres. It was compulsorily closed by the council in 1909, and apparently never re-opened. The Co-op on Woodgrange Road now occupies the site from which it briefly screened.

Co-op, Woodgrange Road, - site of Bijou Theatre
Forest Gate Cinema, also known as The Forest Lane and The Splendid. Like the Bijou, it was close to the railway station. It was opened in 1912 and seated 570 patrons. It was owned by AE Neary and J Lewin. It had been renamed The Forest Lane Cinema by 1922 and after a brief closure for modernisation, in 1932 reopened as The Splendid Cinema. It closed for the last time in 1939/40 and was later demolished. Its site is now occupied by Forest Gate Community School.

Forest Gate Community School, 
site of former Forest Gate Cinema

Forest Gate Public Hall, also known as The Grand Theatre, The People's Picture Palace, The Public Hall, The Grand Cinema and The King's Cinema This was opened as the Forest Gate Public Hall, on Woodgrange Road on 1 November 1902, set back from the road, with its own wide entrance road. It had seating for 1,000 in the stalls and balcony and also had its own stage and ballroom. By 1907 it had become The Grand Theatre and in March 1908, after redecoration, it re-opened as The People's Picture Palace. 

Forest Gate Public Hall, Grand Theatre, 
People's Picture Palace, Grand Cinema, 
King's Cinema, Woodgrange Road
The venue hosted variety shows as well as cinema and by 1910 it was once again known as The Public Hall, still showing films, with its own orchestra pit. It closed early in 1932 and reopened later in the year as The Grand Cinema. By 1932 it was controlled by London and Provincial Cinemas, but closed in December 1932 until January 1935. 

It was again closed, from October 1935 until January 1937, when it re-opened as the King's, but it closed for good - as a cinema- around the outbreak of war. Over the years the building was used as a roller skating rink, a clothing factory and The Upper Cut club and finally an electrical store, until 2000. It was demolished in 2005, to provide a ventilation shaft for the cross channel rail link, on its way to central London.

Site of old Grand Cinema etc, 
Woodgrange Road, today
The Imperial Playhouse, also known as The Regal and The Rio. This was opened at 55 Woodgrange Road (now the site of the Durning Hall charity shop) by Woodgrange Estates, at the rear of existing shops, with one of them now acting as its entrance hall, in 1910. It was owned by London and Provincial Cinemas by 1922 and was closed for alterations in 1932. 

55 Woodgrange Road, 
site of Imperial Cinema
It reopened as the 600 seater Regal cinema in 1935. It closed in March 1938 and reopened as the Rio later that year, under new management. It closed as a cinema in 1944.

Kings Hall (not to be confused with the King's!) This had a short life, opening in 1910 on the former site of the Forest Gate British School. It closed within four years, around the outbreak of World War 1. The much altered site now houses Angel's restaurant, at the junction of Woodgrange Road and Forest Lane.

79 Woodgrange Road, site of King's Hall Cinema
Odeon This, last surviving local cinema building, was opened in 1937 with a seating capacity of 1,806 - complete with stage facilities and two dressing rooms. It opened on 1 March that year with a showing of Max Miller's Educated Evans. It was hit by enemy bombing in April 1941, when the almost adjacent Queen's was destroyed (see below), but it reopened later, in August that year. It passed to the Rank Organisation in 1948 and remained structurally unaltered until its closure, as a cinema, in November 1975 - with its final show Sean Connery's The Wind and the Lion.

Odeon Cinema, Romford Road 
- in better shape and days
It was converted into a bingo hall. After this failed it became semi derelict until the stalls areas were refurbished and a false ceiling erected and it reopened as a snooker club. The building retained its Odeon sign, probably because it was too costly and difficult to remove, until it closed for snooker in 1994. 

The building has subsequently been converted into an Islamic centre, whose new owners sanctioned the crude hacking off and vandalism of the art deco relief panels and figures of Pan on the exterior. The Odeon name has also been removed. Since 2001 it has become the Minhaj-Ul-Quran Mosque and Adara Minhaj-Ul-Quran Muslim Cultural Centre. With its dirty, scruffy, defiled exterior it is now, like many of the shops opposite it on Romford Road, a significant eyesore within the district.

Former Odeon Cinema, now 
Minhaj-Ul-Quran mosque, Romford Road
Queen's Cinema also known as New Queen's and ABC Queen's This opened in June 1913 and was originally owned by Forest Gate Estates. It had seating for 1,750, stage facilities, three dressing rooms and its own generators. By 1926 it had come under the control of Suburban Super Cinemas and in 1928 closed briefly for a major refit, during which time its seating capacity had been increased to 2,000. A Christie organ was installed and it reopened in September 1928 as the New Queens. 

Queen's Cinema, Romford Road, pre 1928
The following year it was acquired by Associated British Cinemas and was subsequently renamed the ABC Queen's. It was completely destroyed by a parachute mine on 21 April 1941 and has subsequently been redeveloped as a block of flats/shops between the former Odeon Cinema and Barclays' Bank on Romford Road.

Queen's Cinema, Romford Road, 1930's

Site of old Queen's Cinema, Romford Road, today

Post Script
In November 2014 we added the following posts script to this blog:

A Cinema Miscellany no 24 (2003) by Brian Hornsey has provided valuable additional local material about a few of the local cinemas covered in our history of them in our Every Picturehouse tells a story feature, of July 2013.

We thank him for his painstaking research.

The Imperial Palace (also known as the Regal and Rio) was for a while, around the outbreak of World War 1 known as the Forest Gate Electrical Theatre ( shortened to The Electric).

The Forest Gate Public Hall etc. In its early days had 1,000 seats, but following refurbishment around the outbreak of World War 1 they were reduced to 750 - suggesting that the earlier seating was on benches, replaced by single seats after the refit. Prices for show around the start of World war were from 5d to 1/3d (depending on sitting within the cinema).

The Queen's. Millionaire A E Abrahams had had such success with his Manor Park Coronation Cinema (built, nor surprisingly in 1902) that he built this - a sister cinema to it, near his Forest Gate home. Following its 1928 refit it became one of the first cinemas in the area to show talkies (introduced that year) and full length feature films.

Queen's Cinema
Poor reproduction of photograph
of interior of Queen's Cinema
Another poor reproduction photo
of Queen's Cinema exterior

The Odeon. It was opened on 1 March 1937 with Thank Evans, when prices ranged from 6d to 1/-, with continuous showings from 12.30pm, daily. After the emergence of Odeon the two main cinemas in Forest Gate were it and the Queen's - operated by two of the country's major cinema chains. 

From this time, these two cinemas tended to show the major recent releases and the other local cinemas were left showing re-runs and 'B' movie feature films.

World War 11 and local cinemas. 

All places of entertainment - in Forest Gate, and nationwide - were closed on 3 September and all but essential staff were laid off (without compensation). When it became clear that the threatened invasion was not about to happen, cinemas reopened gradually, after about two weeks. 

There were four local cinemas operating by October 1939: The Odeon (1,800 seats), The Queen's (1,700 seats), The King's (600 seats) and the Splendid (550 seats). The Kings closed first, in 1940 (the circumstances are not clear). The Splendid, dropped its curtain for the final time, around then. The Queen's was badly bombed on 21 April 1941, and its near neighbour the Odeon less severely hit. The Odeon was repaired, but the Queen's was now gone for good.

So, by the end of the war the Odeon was the sole surviving local cinema, brining to an end a frantic half century of openings, closures, name changes and mergers locally. The Odeon was fully restored and operating at its peak level by 1950. It was fitted with a Cinemascope screen in 1954.

Original article, with these notes and photos added as a post script, can be accessed here.