They lie among us

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

 Forest Gate is, of course, surrounded and populated by cemeteries.  In the first of two pieces on the subject, we look at the City of London Cemetery - which although not in E7, dominates our borders - and some of its more famous occupants.

Four cemeteries were built in our area between 1856 (The City of London one) and 1890 (Woodgrange Park, on Romford Road). They sprung up in response to the rapid growth of London in the middle of the nineteenth century and the resultant chronic overcrowding of the old city church graveyards.  Added to this were public health concerns and legislation about disease being spread by putrefying bodies in the over-crowded city.

Forest Gate was an ideal location.  The area was developing rapidly, itself, because of the growth of railways and its proximity to the city.  Added to this, land was relatively cheap here and of course the Romford Road was one of the major highways out of London, having been the route of the Roman London to Colchester Road.

The Victorian buildings in the cemetery are still in good condition, in what is the second largest London cemetery, after St Pancras and Islington. (see photo).  The mastermind behind the cemetery was William Haywood, who earlier in his career had worked with the famous Joseph Bazlegette on the impressive Abbey House Pumping Station. His ashes lie in a Gothic mausoleum near the gates of the cemetery.
 


City of London Cemetery
The Corporation of London paid £31,000 for 200 acres of farmland near Epping Forest from Lord Wellesley in 1853 and began construction immediately.  They spent £45,000 on constructing the fine graveyard - £20,000 over budget, because of the splendid buildings, iron furniture and imaginative layout. They had planned on building a railway station to serve the cemetery, but couldn't find co-funders and had, in any case run out of money.

The first burial took place in 1856 and over half a million have taken place since. One of the major early tasks was to accommodate the re internment of bodies from 22 City churches, which had either been demolished or suffered from serious overcrowding.  A full list of these can be found in the splendid book London Cemeteries by Hugh Mellor, upon which some of this article relies.

Some of the noteworthy grave transfers include the communal plague pits, re interred remains from Christ's Hospital burial ground, Newgate Street, redeveloped by the Post Office in 1903 and the remains of Newgate prison burial ground, demolished in 1900 to make way for the Old Bailey.

Among the more striking constructions within the cemetery are the Haywood's monument, covering the re interred remains from Holborn churchyard, placed there in 1871.and the memorial to musician and music teacher Gladys Spencer (1931), with the figure draped over a piano.

Haywood's monument, over re interred remains from Holborn churchyard


Memorial to Gladys Spencer (1931)
The cemetery's more celebrated occupants include:

Lieutenant George Drewry VC (1894 - 1918).  George was very much a local boy, having been born at 58 Claremont Road, the son of Thomas and Mary.  He attended Merchant Taylors' School in the City of London. He was 20 years old and serving as a midshipman in the Royal Navy on HMS Hussar when he won his Victoria Cross, during the Gallipoli Landings on 25 April 1915.

George Drewry VC (1894 - 1918)
The citation in the London Gazette on 16 August 1915 reads: "Midshipman Drewry assisted Commander Unwin in the work of securing the barges under heavy rifle and maxim fire. He was wounded in the head, but continued his work and twice subsequently attempted to swim from barge to barge with a line. The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the grant of Victoria Cross to Midshipman Drewry, RNR for conspicuous acts of bravery mentioned in the foregoing despatch."

George Drewry's grave
Drewery later achieved the rank of Lieutenant, but on 2 August 1918 was accidentally killed while on active service on HM Trawler William Jackson, at Scapa Flow. A block fell from a derrick and fractured his skull. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Imperial war Museum.

Elizabeth Everest (d. 1895) had been Winston Churchill's nanny,who contributed to the construct of her monument. Churchill's parents hired her to care for the young Winston, who called her "Woomany" (!).
 
He was later to say: "My nurse was my confidante. Mrs Everest it was who looked after me and tended all my wants.  It was to her that I poured out all my troubles. She was his constant companion in childhood and they wrote to each other regularly while he was at school.



Elizabeth Everest d 1895
When Churchill learnt that Mrs. Everest was gravely ill he rushed to her beside. He was the only member of his family to attend to her, and upon her death provided the tombstone for her grave. "She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole twenty years I had lived.I shall never know such a friend again."

His son, Randolph, wrote in the first volume of the biography of his father, "For many years afterwards he paid an annual sum to the local florist for the upkeep of the grave."


Elizabeth Everest's grave

Percy Thompson (1890 - 1922) the husband of Edith Thompson, who with her lover, Frederick Bywaters was hanged for his murder, in a case that became a cause celebre.  The Thompsons were married at St Barnabas Church, Manor Park in 1916.  Edith became infatuated with Bywaters, a younger man, who soon moved in with the couple, and an affair commenced.
 
Following a violent confrontation between Percy Thompson and Bywaters over the affair, Bywaters was thrown out of the home and returned to sea, as a sailor, during which time he continued a "love letter" correspondence with Edith.
On Bywaters' return from sea, Percy Thomson was stabbed to death.  Edith told the police that she felt Bywaters was the culprit and confided the details of their affair to them. Like Bywaters, she was arrested for the murder, but the only evidence against her was the love letters, which were offered as circumstantial evidence of her guilt.

Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters

The trial took place at the Old Bailey and Bywaters, while admitting his guilt pleaded the innocence on Edith. Ignoring her barrister's advice Edith gave evidence, where she proved to be an unreliable witness and was exposed for providing a tissue of lies. The couple were both found guilty and were sentenced to be hanged.

A million people signed a petition against her death sentence and she became the first woman to be executed in Britain since 1907, on 9 January 1923 in Holloway.  The pair were executed simultaneously - he at Pentonville.  Their bodies were buried in the respective prison cemeteries.

Press cutting announcing hanging of Edith Thompson

Thompson's executioner, John Ellis, later committed suicide, having claimed that Edith's execution had preyed on his mind and caused him to be depressed. Edith Thompson was one of only 17 women to have been judicially hanged in Britain.

Sgts Charles Tucker, Robert Bentley and PC Choate(all d. 1910). All three were shot dead by alleged Russian anarchists attempting a jewel robbery, in what became known as the Houndsditch Murders, in Aldgate, on 16 December 1910.  Two of the perpetrators were later cornered and died in the infamous siege Sidney Street, when Home Secretary, Winston Churchill was photographed leading the police raid on the house where they were holed up.


Memorial cards to Tucker, Bentley and Choate



PC Choate

The Houndsditch murders, and woundings of other shot policemen,  provoked national outrage and prompted a message from the King to the widows, reading: "The King has heard with the greatest concern of the murder of three constables belonging to the city Police, and he requests you to express to their widows and families his sincere sympathy and his assurance that he feels most deeply for them in their sorrow..."

Sgt Bentley


Sgt Tucker
The killed policemen were accorded a near "state" funeral,  as illustrated by the photograph, below, of the cortege leaving St Paul's Cathedral.


"State" funeral of murdered policemen at St Paul's

Sir Herbert Wilcox (1892 - 1977) and Anna Neagle (1904 - 1986) Wilcox was a film producer, several of whose most successful films starred his wife, Anna Neagle. She was born Florence Marjorie Robertson on 20 October 1904 in Glenparke Road, Forest Gate.  Her family later moved to Upton Lane.  She attended Park Primary school.  She became one of the biggest and brightest "film stars" of her day.


Anna Neagle - 1904 - 1986
Anna was a distant cousin of the Queen, via her descent from the illegitimate daughter of Queen Victoria's uncle. She lived in Brighton for many years with her film director husband, Herbert Wilcox.  She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1969.  She died in Surrey in 1986 after a long illness and is buried in the dame grave as her husband and parents in the City of London cemetery.

We will return to  more detailed accounts of the lives of some of the people in this feature in a later postings on E7-NowAndThen.

Residents' Parking Zone - Claremont and Windsor Roads

Monday, 24 June 2013

New scheme introduced from 9am today at western end of Windsor and Claremont Roads, following residents' consultation 18 months ago.  Early days (minutes!)yet, but a brilliant success, so far, as the following photos illustrate.

Claremont Road, 9am Monday 24 June 2013, as the Residents' Parking Zone comes into effect.


Claremont Road, c 1913
Conservation in action!  Well done to Newham Council for this. A long time in coming, but well worth the effort.

Just the street drinkers on Woodgrange/Claremont Roads to sort out now - if the "community" police officers get round to noticing something 200 metres from their office - and you will be listening to residents' concerns.

The Sound of Music from Earlham Grove

Wednesday, 19 June 2013





Do - a deer a female deer,
Re - a drop of golden sun,
Mi - a name I call myself,
Fa - a long, long way to run
So - a needle pulling thread
La - a note to follow so
Ti - a drink with jam and bread
That will bring us back to Do.

The music education system highlighted in The Sound of Music, and the introduction to music for so many - the Tonic Sol-Fa system - was pioneered in Forest Gate in the late nineteenth century.

The Revd John Curwen (1816 - 1880) originally from Workington, in Cumbria, moved to what is now Newham in May 1844, when he became the minister of the Congregational Church in Balaam Street, Plaistow.



John Curwen 1816 - 1880

By this time he was already a keen musicologist, with a particular interest in developing an easier method by which to teach Sunday School children to sing.  In 1840 he had met  Sarah Glover, and had been very impressed with the way in which she taught music at a school in Norwich.

Based on her work, he developed the Tonic Sol-Fa system, which allowed people to sight read music.  Details of his revolutionary new method were first published in the Independent magazine in 1842. He established the Tonic Sol-Fa Press in North Street, Plaistow in 1863 and began publishing huge volumes of literature and music, intended to raise standards of musical education, for both teachers and pupils.

The following year he resigned his ministry to devote more time to music.  In 1879 he opened the Tonic Sol-Fa College at what is now 175, Earlham Grove, Forest Gate.  John Curwen died in 1880 and was succeeded by his eldest son, John Spencer Curwen (1847 - 1916) who, like his father, was a passionate promoter of the Tonic Sol-Fa system.


Late 19th century artist's impression of the College/School of Music. Its lopsided appearance is accounted for because the original architects plans for the whole building were never completed.

In 1882 he established the Stratford Music festival, the oldest event of its kind in Great Britain (although now sponsored by neighbouring borough, Waltham Forest, as the East London Music festival).


John Spencer Curwen (1847 - 1916), who took over his father's baton, at the College in Earlham Grove
Harding Bonner, an associate of JS Curwen at the College, started private classes there in 1885 and in 1890, when the Tonic Sol-Fa College moved to Finsbury, in central London, he leased the Earlham Grove premises and turned them into the Forest Gate School of Music.



Harding Bonner 1853 - 1907

In 1897 at his suggestion, the owners erected the Earlham Hall, in front of the original buildings, as a local entertainment venue.



Artists impression of Earlham Hall, at the time of its construction, in 1897

The School of Music and newly built Earlham Hall proved to be huge successes.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the school boasted over 1,000 pupils, and in 1906 was renamed the Metropolitan Academy of Music.  Harding Bonner died shortly afterwards, and was succeeded by his son, Frank, who greatly expanded the Academy.  In 1916 it had 12 branches throughout London and Essex, with a membership of about 2,300 students. After World War I, this rose to 5,000.  It peaked at 5,600 in 1926. By then it was the largest music institution in the country. 


School of Music, 1897, with 700 students and 33 "professors"


The new Earlham Hall, meanwhile, could accommodate around 500 people and hosted regular soirees, as the advertisement and programmes for the events - below, at the end of the nineteenth century, show.



Handbill advertising a soiree at the Earlham Hall, 1899




Forest Gate School of Music c 1930

The Music School closed during World War II, and the premises are now occupied as a place of worship, by the Holy Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Church.


The Cherubim and Seraphim Church, as the building stands today, the remnants of the old School of Music remain behind this building


Remodelled and minus the tower and chimneys - what remains of the old Music School, today

John Curwen's legacy survives elsewhere in Forest Gate.  The house in Romford Road, in the photo below, was built around 1869, and its first occupant was John Curwen.  He called it Workington House, after his former home town.  He lived there until his death in 1880.

More recently the house was renamed Palmerstone House and it has subsequently been converted to the Imamia Mosque. 
. .


John Curwen's former residence: Workington/Palmerstone House, Romford Road. Now the Imamia Mosque

(Based on the Victoria History of Essex vol V1 and East Ham and West Ham Past, by Jim Lewis, and articles from The Forest Gate Weekly News)

Booming Woodgrange Road

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

This week we offer two perspectives on the recent transformation of Woodgrange Road 


The revival of our town centre

by Lloyd Jeans
 
After weeks of hard graft Forest Gate’s latest independent entrepreneurs, Jeff and Andrea, finally opened to the public at 9am on Saturday 1st June 2013. ‘Number 8 Forest Gate’ is located next door to Coffee7 and opposite Kaffeine on what is fast becoming E7’s version of a traditional village green – the public space at the junction of Woodgrange and Sebert Road. This small area has been developing into a focus for connected local activities – economic, social and cultural – ever since the Woodgrange Market first set up its stalls there eighteen months ago on Saturday 10th December 2011.


June 2013, Number 8 opens for business

The market, initially sanctioned to operate on a trial basis for one Saturday a month for a period of six months, has grown from strength to strength. It was established by a small group of neighbourhood activists. Their aim was to try and revive the centre of Forest Gate by providing a showcase for its army of artists, designers, photographers, and traders in all sorts of healthy produce and original products.

Andrea checks opening day stocks

Prominent in this small group of original traders at the planning stage were its chair Laura Glendinning and Alicia Frances, who were on 1st November 2011 elected as, respectively, the president and secretary of Forest Gate’s wildly successful branch of the Women’s Institute. In February this year Laura wrote to the Recorder to explain what had motivated her to act. She said that “we need to have more diversity in the high street and we should be encouraging a variety of small business so that people can shop locally ... since the development of Woodgrange Market many people ... now come not only to shop, but to socialise and have lunch. It has also allowed local people to have a go at trading, selling things they have made, or setting up a small business ... I think the regeneration of areas can come from the community itself.”





WI cake stall, regular feature of Woodgrange Market



The WI stall, with its wonderful displays of home baking, has been a prominent feature of the market throughout its short history – a story of grass-roots effort that does appear to bear out the theory that revival is possible if it grows organically from below, but success is far less likely with regeneration schemes imposed from above by politicians and developers.


Market has gone from strength to strength


Also in this pioneering group of marketeers were Mic and Mary Clarke, subsequently the proprietors of Coffee7, another neighbourhood hub which has to recognised as an important agent in the remarkable rebirth of our town centre. Along with the complementary Kaffeine coffee shop, it has provided a place for people to meet and co-operate in a wide range of interesting (and hopefully profitable) ventures and enterprises. Cllr. Kay Scoresby – at the time the mayor’s choice as the representative for Forest Gate – was helpful in smoothing the way with the powers-that-be in the council, and the seeds were sown.

With the media full of Mary Portas and the government wailing about the death of the high street, it is incredible that there are only two shops boarded up in Forest Gate town centre. Another factor must be the amazing diversity of the local population, which opens up a wide variety of opportunities for independent traders and incomers who might prefer to work for themselves.




Woodgrange News - home to five separate independent traders


Woodgrange News is a good example in that it hosts no less than five other businesses. Adam the newsagent says that he could easily fill another floor given the number of people walking in every week asking for space for yet another niche enterprise.

‘Number 8 Forest Gate’ goes a long way towards fulfilling the hopes of the original marketeers in that all the twenty or so traders who fill its every nook and cranny live and work in Forest Gate. Managers Jeff Levi (Panda Jewellery) and his partner Andrea (Vintage Uber Glitz) negotiate costs on an individual basis, and there is a small percentage on every item sold. But otherwise all the proceeds go to the individual trader. E7 N&T will certainly be returning to the emporium’s other entrepreneurs in the future, but time and space allow brief profiles of two only - Jason Christopher and Antonietta Torsiello.

Jason Christopher is a Forest Gate artist who founded jsmART Designs (www.jsmartdesigns.com) to offer customers a “unique, personal and bespoke creative service.” He has hired space at the back of ‘Number Eight Forest Gate’ to display examples of his paintings and other original works (pictured) which he creates freehand, using traditional methods. He specialises in acrylics on canvas, murals, sketches and traditional sign-writing, and offers to replicate any picture or photograph.

Antonietta Torsiello is a young and again local visual artist and textile designer who had previously taken a market stall to sell her greetings cards and larger pictures (pictured). Now she has taken some space on the side wall of ‘Number 8  Forest Gate’ to showcase her work, which is starting to attract interest outside E7 as well as within. She has exhibited widely over the past three years, and is currently developing her print and textile patterns.





Anonietta Torsiello's market stall



 

No Portas Blues in Woodgrange Road

by John Walker
 


The activity at the junction of Sebert and Woodgrange Roads as a busy market mirrors the significance of the spot a century ago - when as can be seen from the photo from above the Woodgrange Dental surgery, the area was adjacent to Forest Gate's market place. As a busy market place, this had its own mobile coffee stall - see illustration below (reproduced courtesy of the Newham archives).
 

Market Place, Woodgrange Road


 

 


 To some local people the new buzz around the area is dismissed as part of the "yuppification" of the Forest Gate. In an odd kind of way, however, it offers a perfect complement to the rest of the retail offer of the booming area. The secret is simple: local shops succeed where they meet local needs, and Forest Gate's enormous ethnic mix provides a considerable opportunity to a huge array of ethnic retail entrepreneurship.

Coffee stall at Forest Gate clock tower, early years of 20th century

While other high streets wither on the vine, dominated by the usual dreary mixture of national outlets, where the shopping experience is identical to that in dozens of identikit high streets, which customers reject in favour of out-of-town shopping malls and massive supermarkets and internet purchases, Forest Gate's reflects the rich cultural mix of the local population.
                                          


Woodgrange Road, 1985, a time of local decline



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Just like other high streets, Woodgrange Road has its public service outlets: with a post office, police and railways stations, nursery, doctors surgeries, dentists, chemists, opticians and a recently re-opened library/customer service centre etc. We have the usual array of local convenience shops too: newsagents, grocers, greengrocers, cafes, dry cleaners, bakers, a rather good local butcher, pound and value household goods shops and a token charity shop.  The professions are also out in force: lawyers, accountants, estate agents, together with the jobbing traders found everywhere: barbers and hair stylists, outfitters and three national supermarkets (Tesco, the Co-op and Iceland).
 
 

Customer self-service at the recently re-opened Gate, Woodgrange Rd

On the downside we have too many bookies for many people's liking - 5 (William Hill, Jennings, Ladbrokes, Betfair and Paddy Power) and fast food outlets (10) - Pizza Hut, KFC, Papa's Chicken, Favourite Chicken, Royal Fried Chicken, Chicken Inn, Charcoal Grill plus a Greggs and a Percy Ingle. These, of course meet a real need, often as social and meeting centres for many local people cooped up in bedsit land and shared rooms, predominant in much of our patch.
 
But what makes Woodgrange Road so very different from many another high street, however, and explains its high retail occupancy rate is its ability to cater for our very diverse local population, with its mix of international food and travel-related businesses.

What other golden half mile of British high street (from Romford Road to Wanstead Park railway station) could boast a thriving?:
• Afghan restaurant (number 52),
• Chinese restaurant (56),
• Indian/Chinese/Thai buffet (Dhoom, former Princess Alice),
• Turkish restaurant (43),
• African restaurant (77),
• Thai cafe (101),
• Afro-Caribbean cafe (108),
• Halal butchers (30),
• Bangladeshi food bazaar (45),
• Asian fish shop (97)
• Polish delicatessen (79),
• Romanian supermarket (99),
• Bangladeshi cash and carry (93),
• Chinese herbalist (50),
• Haj travel agent (Station Approach),
• 3 other travel agents (36, 104 and Station Approach),
• Travel goods shop (39),
• Western Union international money transfer shop (11),
• Pak money transfer shop (Station Approach),
• Global cargo company (52 - 54),
• International postal service (Station Approach),
• Two photographers specialising in passport photos (Station Approach and the Post Office),
• An immigration and legal services company (95),
• An Afro hair and nail bar (15),
• and, of course, a mosque (98).
 

Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisine at Dhoom

So, there you are, Czarina Portas - the real clue to local retail success: a plethora of shops that meet a profusion of local needs in a thriving culturally and ethnically diverse and vibrant community.

It is perhaps fitting that in the week of Tom Sharpe's death that we are able to proclaim that there are no Portas Blues in Woodgrange Road!


 


 


Black war hero and football pioneer, Walter Tull, kicks off in Forest Gate

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

One of Britain's earliest and most successful black footballers, and war hero - Walter Daniel Tull (1888 - 1918) - first established his sporting credentials at Forest Gate's Clapton FC, in the years before the first World War.

Tull was born in Folkestone to a Barbadian man and local woman in 1888, but soon lost both of his parents. By the age of ten he was living in an orphanage in Bethnal Green , when he played for the orphanage football team. He joined Clapton FC, aged 20, in 1908. Whilst with the Tons he won winners medals in the FA Amateur Cup, London County Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup. The photos below shows him (second from the right, front row) as part of the Amateur Cup winning team of 1909.


1909 Clapton FC Amateur Cup winning team, Walter Tull - front row, second from right

Later that year he signed for Tottenham Hotspur, to become Britain's second Afro Caribbean professional footballer. While at Spurs he experienced spectator racism for the first time, in an away fixture in Bristol, in "language lower than Billingsgate". In 1911 he moved to Northampton Town, where he scored nine goals in 110 appearances, as a half back.


Walter Tull, in his Spurs days

He enlisted when the war broke out, to join the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and was posted to France in November 1915. He was soon promoted to sergeant and took part in the Somme Offensive of July 1916. He developed trench fever later that year and was repatriated, to recover. Despite military regulations forbidding "any negro or person of colour" being an officer Tull received a commission in May 1917. He became the first black officer in the British army and led his men at the Battle of Piave, in Italy. He was mentioned in dispatches for his "gallantry and coolness" under fire.

He came under German fire, in the Spring offensive in France in March 1918 and is assumed to have sustained a fatal wounding, although his body was never recovered.


Lieutenant Tull

His record as the first British-born black army officer was recognised in Northampton in 1999, when a memorial plaque to him was unveiled at Northampton Town's Sixfields Stadium, and the approach road to the ground was renamed Walter Tull Way.

So, as a footnote to British Black history, it should be remembered that war hero and football pioneer, Walter Daniel Tull first made his mark on football at Forest Gate's Old Spotted Dog ground, with Clapton FC.

With thanks to www.friendsofclaptonfc.info for the material

The Woodgrange Estate - the early years


The history of 110 acres that comprise the Woodgrange Estate can be traced back to the middle ages and E7 - Now and Then will return to this at a later date.

The origins of the estate, itself, however begin in 1877, when Thomas Corbett purchased Woodgrange Farm and part of Hamfirth Wood from the Gurney family (prominent Quakers and bankers to whom we, again, will return in future) for £44,000. The land, at the time, was a market garden, on which stood a solitary home - Woodgrange Manor House, with its outbuildings, which could be dated back to 1594.




Woodgrange Manor House, as it was in 1861
Between 1877 and 1892 Corbett and his sons oversaw the construction of more than 1,160 houses on the land. It was a perfect site for commuters, being served by the Forest Gate train station, built by the Eastern Counties Railway company, in 1839. The population of Forest Gate at the time construction started was less than 5,000 - by the time it was finished it was about ten times that size.

Houses on the estate were sold on 99 year leases.  The Forest Gate Weekly recorded the attractiveness of the estate as having "the three great essentials to the average city man of easy access, reasonable rentals and a first class local market."

1867 Ordnance Survey

The estate was built during a time of great expansion of the West Ham area generally, of which it constituted part.  In 1851 the district had a population of a mere 19,000, mainly in small settlements. Forty years later this had soared to 267,000.  Around 30,000 houses were built in the period, to accommodate the dramatic growth.
Forest Gate Weekly of 9 July 1897 described the Woodgrange development:

"An effort of imagination is required to realise the Forest Gate of twenty years ago. A stranger emerging at the time into Woodgrange Road from the old wooden railway station would see market gardens directly in front of him as far as the eye could reach, and on his way to Romford Road would have these same market gardens on his left and only a few private houses on his right."

"All there was on the opposite side of Woodgrange Road were Mr Fisher's house, the block of which Dr Miller's house forms one, the Almshouses, the houses behind the shops now occupied by Mr Hussey and others and the Princess Alice. To this last named building, considerable additions have however, since been made.  There was not a single shop on this side of Woodgrange Road, so recently as ten years ago, or even less than that."
One of the unusual features of the estate, when developed, is that it was built under the supervision of a single leaseholder/developer (Corbett), which led to the unusual uniformity of design for such a large estate at this period. So, despite the repetitive house styles, Corbett was able to incorporate a number of minor features, that offered variety within a theme. These details included the use of different types of brick, iron front railings and gates and other ornamental ironwork, stucco and artificial decorative features.  One distinctive aspect was the glazed canopies, with their ornamental iron columns, which provided an architectural link to the railway stations at Forest Gate and Manor Park, which the Corbetts did much to foster.

Thomas Corbett was a non conformist Scot with a deep interest in social problems and mass housing.  He had already built houses in his native Glasgow - to replace some of the overcrowded tenement blocks, aimed at alleviating deprivation, before he became involved in Forest Gate. His non-conformist religious beliefs led him to designate the estate "dry", which explains why, to this day, it does not feature a public house, or retail alcohol outlet.

Deed of covenance 1879, between Thomas Corbett (signature included) and the Church Commissioners

He began planning and building as soon as he bought the land, but died in 1880, having overseen the construction of houses in Windsor, Claremont, Osborne and Hampton and Romford Roads, to the western side of Richmond Road. On his death, the task of completion fell to his two sons Cameron and Archibald Corbett, who were in their 20's at the time. 
Archibald gradually left the management of the estate to Messrs Strachan, Kydd and Donald, while he pursued a political career, as an Liberal MP for Glasgow, until 1911, when he was created Baron Rowallan. He was succeeded to the barony by his son Thomas, who married Liberal Leader Jo Grimond's sister and was in turn succeeded by his son Archibald. He was best known for his second marriage being annulled in 1970 on the grounds that his wife, April Ashley, was transsexual and thus, under then current British law, a man.

Cameron, meanwhile, went on to become one of London's most prolific property developers, building other large estates in Ilford, Goodmayes, Seven Kings, Hither Green and Eltham.

The Woodgrange estate building was completed by 1892, having survived a house building recession in the mid 1880s.  The houses were sold, many on 99 year leases to private buyers and some organisations such as the Church Commissioners. 
The larger houses, to the west, had servants' quarters attached, set back slightly from the main frontage. The Corbetts also attempted to landscape the villas, by providing traffic islands in Richmond Road planted with trees and front gardens with hedges and lime trees.  Added to these, 50 street trees were planted in Balmoral Road.  Some of the shops on Woodgrange Road were also built as part of the development.

One of the larger houses, typically, would have cost £530 for a 99 year lease, with an annual ground rent of £8.80, and a typical smaller house would have fetched £330 for the lease, with a ground rent of £6.30 p.a.

Street directories suggest, unsurprisingly, that the estate was occupied by residents in business, or of one of the middle class professions (E7 Now and Then will return to this, over the coming weeks).
Corbett built the Woodgrange estate for very early middle class commuters and he recognised the importance of the railway to it, so he was responsible for securing new and improved road bridges over the railway, the rebuilding of Forest Gate station in the 1880s. This provided a ready means of access to the centre of London, via Liverpool Street and Moorgate, and at one time Fenchurch Street. As part of his service to commuters, Corbett negotiated with the Great Eastern Railway for special "workmen's fares" from Manor Park station, for those living on the eastern end of the estate.

Two of the eight cottages in Romford Road
 that predate the Woodgrange estate
During World War II, the south west corner of the estate was badly damaged by aerial bombing (about which, more in future episodes!), with houses in Windsor and Claremont Roads having to be demolished and cleared.  They were replaced in the 1950s by council houses and flats.  The Woodgrange Estate was designated a conservation area by Newham Council in 1976.
Thanks to Newham Planning Department and The Newham Story  for much of the information here.