Don’t dump it, donate it

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Forest Gate has seen its fair share of waste problems in the past. From fly-tipping on Wanstead Flats to the latest insistence by the council that residents clear up their rubbish filled front gardens or face a fine . But there are better ways to say goodbye to your unwanted furniture than leaving it out to look forlorn on a Forest Gate street corner.

Maryland-based charity Homestore picks up good-quality used furniture such as sofas, wardrobes, chests of drawers, from your home and provides it at an affordable price to low-income families.  Now, as part of Newham Council’s Crisis and Community Support Scheme, Homestore is contracted to provide furniture and white goods, in a cashless system, to families in dire need referred by Newham Council. 

Homestore's catchment area
It’s a win-win situation. You have your furniture picked up for free, and it makes a massive difference to the lives of a local family. And it is a REAL difference. Your unwanted table could be a place where a local child can sit and do their homework for the first time, where a family can sit to eat a meal together. Your bed could mean a person no longer sleeping on the floor. Some 45% of low income families cannot afford to replace worn out furniture, any other way.

Can you help? These kind of goods, in the
storeroom, are needed and wanted by others

Faced with this situation, it is easy for families to resort to payday lenders, of which Forest Gate has its share, or enter into credit agreements whereby although they  pay weekly, the items they purchase end up costing  massively over the odds.

In 2012/13 drivers picked up 5,467 furniture donations from homes in East London.

Forest Gate resident Samia Bouraiou was herself a Homestore customer when she moved in to the area in 2004. “I bought a few things for my flat when I moved in. The people at the store are lovely and I got a really nice welcome, it made a big  difference. Homestore was the only place that was affordable to me at the time.

Picking up goods for Homestore - when its easy
Now, nine years later, Samia is in the position to give something back. “I am moving to Southwark, so I contacted Homestore to take my sofa and my glass-fronted wardrobe” she says. “I wanted to say Thank you”.

Unfortunately, things are never that simple. When Jim and Dave came round to pick up the sofa, it got jammed in the doorway! “They were holding it, half in and half out” Samia laughs, “and I was having to crawl underneath to go in to the house to find a screwdriver so that they could  take off one of the sofa’s  feet to get it out the door”. She says of Dave and Jim “they worked so hard, it is not easy, but I think that they will remember me at Homestore, even when I have moved away”.

Picking up goods for Homestore
 when its difficult!
Sonia's jammed sofa
In 2012/13,  some 1,881 low income households bought 5,926 items of furniture from Homestore

……… It’s freedom from debt

Delivering a sofa to a customer in Leyton, she tells us:  ‘I shop at Homestore so that I don’t get into debt. This sofa cost £40 so that is not problem for me’. Homestore pegs its prices to be significantly lower than any other second hand furniture available on the high street. This means that in 2012/13 our customers saved a total of £59,000 by using the service.

Unwanted by YOU, needed by others
………… It’s the difference between a successful and failed tenancy

A referral agent points out that Homestore can make the difference between a positive and a negative outcome for vulnerable new tenants: “Our service users […] would not be able to purchase essential furniture such as beds without Homestore support. This would increase the risk of tenancy failure and a return to homelessness.”

………… It’s 261 vans full of furniture saved from landfill last year

In 2012/13 Homestore delivered 130.5 tons of unwanted furniture to a new home. All this furniture would have gone to landfill in the seven boroughs in which we work.

One of 261 vanloads, saving unwanted
furniture from landfill tips last year
Homestore accepts most types of household furniture that is clean and in good condition and can be safely carried out of a property by two people.

Email a photo to:


Call: 020 8519 6264

Quaker Social Action (QSA) is an award-winning anti-poverty charity working primarily across east and north London offering a range of services to meet low-income Londoners’ needs. Founded in 1867 by Quakers, there is no religious element to the work; rather QSA works to deliver its vision of ‘a just world, where people put people first’.

The rise and decline of Forest Gate's Jewish community

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Anti-Jewish activity in Russia in the 1890s lead to a mass exodus of refugees, many of them coming to London's East End.  It is estimated that as many as 100,000 emigrated here in the quarter of a century preceding the First World War.

Most settled in and around Whitechapel, but according to Howard Bloch, the sadly now deceased local historian and chronicler of Newham's Jewish community, in his book: Earlham Grove Shul :

Some with a burning ambition for a better future for their children and with a strong sense of adventure moved further eastwards to establish a new life amid the leafy lanes and fresh air ... from those pioneering few was born the Forest Gate synagogue.

London's Jewish community had already seen some of Forest Gate's benefits - close to the city, good transport links, opens spaces, cheap land etc - when they established a cemetery here in 1857, on land purchased from Samuel Gurney (see here).

Of the refugees who moved to the Newham area, Bloch noted that: "The more prosperous moving into the large houses in the pleasant suburbs of Stratford, Forest Gate, Manor Park and East Ham. Those who were poorer tended to move to the commercial areas, especially the street markets and small shops in and around Canning Town and Upton Park."

By 1897 Hebrew classes, catering for up to 120 children, were held in a house in Forest Lane.  In 1900 the local Jewish community resolved to spend £1,200 to build a synagogue at 95 Earlham Grove.  It was to become Essex's first and Newham's largest. The adjacent properties at 93 and 197 were bought soon afterwards, for an expanded facility.

Exterior of West Ham synagogue
 pre demolition, on Earlham Grove
The synagogue - following the Ashkenazi Orthodox tradition -was built behind the houses, rather than at the front, where it would have been a prominent feature on a residential street. As a result, services were frequently interrupted by noise from the railway line at the rear.  The synagogue accommodated 426 people and was consecrated in 1911 by the Chief Rabbi, Herman Adler.
The majority of the regular attendees, or "seatholders", came from Forest Gate, and many, according to the 1912 Kelly's Directory, were shopkeepers in Stratford and Green Street, as well as Forest Gate.

Plaque, from the former synagogue
 commemorating members of the West
Ham congregation who
 perished in First World War
There continued to be an influx of Jewish people into the local community until the start of the second world war.  Many of them became local employers and manufacturers - some of whom developed products that were to become household names.  The Ibcol brand, for example, was developed in a shed at the end of a garden in Romford Road, before being sold out to Jeyes.

In 1928 a Communal Hall was built, at a cost of £6,500, in front of the synagogue and in October of that year the Forest Gate and District Literary Society was established there, with 200 members.

By 1933 there were 336 male and 160 female "seatholders", when the building was further extended, at a cost of £2,000.  It was reconsecrated in 1935.
The emergence of Hitler in Germany and the rise of fascist activity in Britain in the 1930s, unsurprisingly, impacted on the local Jewish community.  A number of German refugees came to Forest Gate at the time. 

A hostel was opened at 51a Romford Road, accommodating up to 20 refugees, it later moved to 16 Earlham Grove.  This was supported by donations collected at the Earlham Grove synagogue; other families from the local community took in refugees who could not be accommodated in the hostel.

Mosley made his first appearance at a British Union of Fascists meeting in West Ham Town Hall in 1935. He described fascist policy and virulently attacked the Jews in his speech.  Those who interrupted were ejected by blackshirted stewards.

The British Union of Fascists opened a bookshop at 18 Woodford Road, held meetings every Sunday on Wanstead Flats and organised meetings in and around Woodgrange Road.  The Jewish population showed its opposition in many ways - often riding by on bicycles and catapulting the shop's windows.

18 Woodford Road - site of British
 Union of Fascists bookshop in 1930's
Local boy Bryan Forbes (see here), who was born in Cranmer Road, recalls one of Mosley's visits to the area in his youth, in his autobiography:

Mosley came to Wanstead Flats some Sunday evenings.  He came in a sealed truck with a wire cage let into the roof. Surrounded by a black garland of close-cropped, scrubbed and wax-like bodyguards, he stood within the cage and screeched his British upper class impression of Streicher to an audience that mostly consisted of children, derelicts and the police.
Forbes also recalled listening to Lord Haw Haw broadcasts during the blitz and him making derogatory remarks about the Forest Gate Jewish community:
We shan't be dropping bombs on Earlham Grove tonight, we shall be dropping Keating's power. (a disinfectant).
Unlike much of Forest Gate - to which we will return at a later date - the synagogue was relatively undamaged by the Blitz.  The worst incident affecting the building occurred March 1945, when a V11 rocket fell across the road, between Norwich and Atherton Roads and most of its windows were shattered.

The local Jewish community declined a little in numbers during the war, but revived on its conclusion.  So, in 1946, for example, there were 579 male and 53 synagogue members, up almost 10% on the previous year.

However, a pre-war trend of Jewish people leaving the Forest Gate area soon resumed.  This was accelerated by the Central Line extension to Snaresbrook, South Woodford, Wanstead, Redbridge, Gants Hill and Newbury Park, in 1947, and the subsequent completion of the line to Hainault and Ongar over the next two years.

Site of former communal hall of
 the synagogue, while up for sale in 2004
The exodus was encouraged by local bomb damage and the growing aspirations of many young married couples to purchase modern houses in pleasanter surroundings. close to newly established synagogues. Local synagogue membership declined by over a third in the 1960s. 

Numbers of full time staff at the synagogue were reduced and a series of meetings were held to consider closing or amalgamating some or all of the synagogues in the Newham area. The Upton Park synagogue merged with it in 1972 and the East Ham and Manor Park synagogues in 1986.

In August 1984 a fire destroyed the main building of the Earlham Grove house of worship, and £500,000 was received in insurance compensation.  The congregation continued to meet in the Youth Synagogue, next door.  By the time of the synagogue's centenary, in 1997, it had 200 members - only 63 of whom still lived in Forest Gate.

The synagogue eventually closed in 2004. It was demolished after its sale and the rather pleasant Adler Court social housing development now occupies its site.  It incorporates a memorial to the former house of worship.

Memorial to the synagogue in grounds
 of Adler Court, including head
 stone of former communal hall
Bloch quotes one ex-member of the Earlham Grove community - Maurice Wayne - in an undated attribution, as saying:

The Forest Gate I remember as a teenager was a very Jewish area. It had three kosher delis and three kosher butcher's shops.  Walking up Woodgrange Road on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur was quite like walking in a ghost town. Nearly every shop was shut, quite a contrast to today.
This story of immigration, settlement and relocation in a part of London's east end is such a familiar one that fifty years down the road much of it could probably be convincingly retold substituting "Moslem", "African" or "East European" for "Jewish" in the text and amending the dates accordingly.

We are wholly indebted to Howard Bloch's Earlham Grove Shul - one hundred years of West Ham Synagogue and Community , 1979 for the contents of this article. We, of course, accept responsibility for any errors in the piece above.

We would be delighted to hear recollections of life within the Jewish community from any existing or relocated members.

Secondary schools report

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Last month we looked at the seven  local authority maintained schools and three independent schools  aimed at primary aged children (here).  We now turn to the local secondary sector.

What follows is a brief guide, based on a scroll through the schools' own websites and their Ofsted reports. This is not meant to be definitive, merely illustrative, and aimed at a general reader. Those seeking more comprehensive details about the schools are advised to visit theirs and the Ofsted websites.
As we said in the first part of our schools report, we invite comments on the content of this feature, on the box below, and will publish all relevant, and not defamatory, ones.

Local authority community secondary school

Forest Gate Community School, Forest Lane

There were 1,020 pupils aged 11 - 16 here at the time of the last full Ofsted inspection in 2009, when the school was judged to be "Good".  An interim report earlier this year confirmed that judgement.

Forest Gate Community School
The school is an average sized comprehensive, with considerably more boys than girls on the roll.  A quarter are from the Bangladeshi community and a third are of Indian or Pakistani origin. A high percentage of the pupils are entitled to free school meals and the school has "a very high proportion identified as having special needs an/or disabilities".  The school has specialised in business and enterprise since 2004.

Although the inspectors' overall judgement of the school was "Good", it was found to be "Outstanding" in two respects, those of the management of teaching and learning and in the moral, spiritual and cultural development of its pupils.
The percentage of children achieving A-C grades in English and Mathematics was above the national average. The recent major rebuild/refurbishment looks very good.

Overall inspection judgment: Good


Locally-controlled academy secondary school

Stratford School, Upton Lane

There are 900 pupils at the comprehensive academy school - 70% boys, 30% girls. For 90% of the pupils English is not the first language and 30% pupils are entitled to free school meals.

Stratford School Academy, Upton Lane
The school was assesses as "Good" by Ofsted during its last inspection, in 2011.  62% of its pupils achieved 5 A-C's at GCSE (including English and Maths) in 2012, which was exactly the Newham-wide average - both exceeding the national average level of attainment for the first time.

The school does not have a very informative website, a matter which it could address as it seeks a new intake for the next academic year.

Overall inspection judgment: Good


Voluntary aided (Catholic) secondary schools

St Angela's Ursuline Convent, St George's Road

This popular Catholic girls' school had 1394 students at the time of its last Ofsted inspection (2009), when the school was assessed as being "Outstanding". It has had Technology College status since 1995. It is a larger than average secondary school and has a large sixth form - 436 pupils then - which it shares with nearby St Bonaventure's boys catholic school.

St Angela's Ursuline Convent, St George's Road
The majority of the pupils are Catholic and 90% of students are from ethnic minority groups, about a third from black African backgrounds. About a fifth of students are eligible for free school meals and the number of pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities is broadly average.

Ofsted have been very complimentary about St Angela's, describing both the school and its sixth form as being "Outstanding". The "Outstanding" judgement was applied to almost all the criteria examined, including: personal development and well-being, teaching and learning, curriculum and other activities, care guidance and support and leadership and management.

"When students join the school, they start with standards that are average. They make excellent progress, so by the time they leave Year 11, the standards they reach are exceptionally high."

Overall inspection judgement: Outstanding


St Bonaventure's RC school, Boleyn Road

This popular Catholic boys' school had 1303 students at the time of its last Ofsted inspection (2009), when the school was assessed as being "Outstanding". The school has held specialist status for technology since 1994, in 2006 it gained a second specialism, for languages and in 2008 for applied learning.  It is a larger than average secondary school and has a large sixth form - 361 pupils then - which it shares with nearby St Angela's girls' school.

St Bonaventure's RC school, Boleyn Road
The school has a higher than average number of pupils entitled to free school meals and just over a a quarter of its students have some form of learning difficulty and or disability, predominantly moderate learning difficulties, or behavioural emotional and social difficulties.

Ofsted said: "St Bonaventure's continues to be an outstanding school ... students enter the school in Year 7 with broadly average levels of attainment. During their time at school, they make outstanding progress, particularly in mathematics.".

Ofsted has applied the description of "Outstanding" to the school's: curriculum, leadership and management and approach to community cohesion. It is judged to have a good sixth form. The vast majority of students progress to higher education
Overall inspection judgement: Outstanding


Independent Islamic primary and secondary school

Quwwatul Islam Girls School, Chaucer Road

This is a primary and secondary Muslim day school for girls (aged 4 - 16), which opened in 2003.  There were 282 girls on the roll at the time of its last Ofsted Inspection, in 2010. The school's mission is to:"empower the children with the highest academic standards environment to enable them to make a positive difference to society", to this end it teaches an Islamic as well as National Curriculum subjects.

Quwwatul Islam Girls school, Chaucer Road
Ofsted inspectors assessed the school as being "Good", having made progress from its previous judgement of being "Satisfactory" in 2007.

The fees are £2,150 p.a. for secondary school students and £1,900 for primary school pupils.

Overall inspection judgment: Good


 Independent Islamic secondary school

Azhar Academy, 235a Romford Road

The school was established in 1996, under the management of qualified Islamic scholars, as a secondary girls school aged 11 to 19, at a cost of £2.4 million. The school started its first academic year in September 2003, and at the time of its last Ofsted inspection (February 2012)it had 285 pupils.

Azhar Academy, Romford Road
Admission is by examination and the annual fees are £2,400.

The school received a "Satisfactory" judgement from its 2010 Ofsted inspection.  There were a number of shortcomings recorded, particularly around health and safety issues, which the school has subsequently addressed.  The latest Ofsted assessment (February 2012) is that "the school has made good progress and now meets all regulatory requirements".

Azhar Academy Sixth
 form annexe, Romford Road
It started a Sixth Form college for girls at the Academy from September 2007. It is also in preliminary discussion with the University of East London to start undergraduate courses for Muslim girls at its premises.

Overall inspection judgement: Satisfactory


When Stevie Wonder played Forest Gate

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

In our second monthly glance back at the golden year of the Upper Cut's existence, we feature some of the acts that appeared at the Woodgrange Road club 46 years ago -  in October 1967. (see here for the September 1967 feature).

1991 photo of the former Upper Cut
 premises, before they were demolished
 to make way for Channel Rail tunnel link
The adverts, below, from the Stratford Express, promoted the gigs, whose biggest names of the month were undoubtedly Stevie Wonder and ex-Drifter, Ben E King.

Rescued memorabilia from
 original Upper Cut club premises
Blind since birth, 13 year old Stevland Hardaway Morris broke on to the world music scene as twelve year old Little Stevie Wonder, with his US  Motown hit Fingertips, in 1963.  He was still only 16 when he appeared at the Upper Cut Club on 7 October 1967, with UK hits Uptight, the Bob Dylan classic, Blowin' in the Wind and A Place in the Sun already under his belt.

He had just issued his biggest UK hit, to date I Was Made to Love Her, and dropped the "Little" from his name by  the time of his Forest Gate gig on 7 October.

Stevie Wonder, soon after
his Upper Cut appearance
Tickets were 12/6d per head, about £10 at today's prices!

Stevie Wonder, playing Fingertips
 in 1963 in a Motown gig - four years
 before his Upper Cut appearance

He has recently chalked up his fiftieth anniversary in show business and was most recently seen at the Jubilee concert, outside Buckingham Palace, in 2012.  Although he has not published an album for eight years, two are scheduled for 2014.

Two weeks later, on 21 October, Ben E King made his first appearance in Forest Gate.  His greatest successes were probably already behind him by the time he appeared at the Upper Cut. 
The Ben E King advert,
 from the Stratford Express
Born in 1938, he joined the Drifters - where he made his name, twenty years later, before striking out as a solo singer in 1960. It was with the Drifters that he cut classics like There Goes My Baby and Save the Last Dance for Me.

A 60's publicity shot of ex-Drifter, Ben E King
King is perhaps best known for his solo versions of Spanish Harlem, Stand by Me and Don't Play that Song - all of which he recorded five years before his Forest Gate date, but which he would have undoubtedly played on Woodgrange Road.

Ben E King, performing one of his
 biggest hits, Stand By Me, in 1961

He has continued singing since, without ever rescaling the heights of his 60's fame.

October 1967's main offerings at the Upper Cut featured the Orlons, an American R&B outfit from Philadelphia.  In 2010 they became the first US Top-100 charting group to have a career spanning 50 years.  Quite what this means, however, is unclear in a business with frequently changing band line ups.  By 2010, three of the original line up of four were dead!

Advert for
 the Orlons gig

The original Orlons line-up,
 three of whom are now dead
The group had a number of hits with, even by pop music standards, odd titles, including Bon-Doo-Wah, Shimmy, Shimmy and perhaps their biggest seller: The Wah Watusi.  All had been recorded by the time of their Forest Gate appearance, and would doubtless have featured in the 28 October performance.

The Orlons, performing the
 Wah Watusi, during a 60's gig

We would love to hear from anyone who was at these gigs, or indeed at any of the Upper Cut's great occasions.  Drop a line in the comment box, below, or contact us, via e.mail, if you'd like to contribute.

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