Park Ward in 1907

Friday 5 December 2014

This is the second in our three-part series looking at the Forest Gate area just over a century ago, through the eyes of social researchers, Howard and Wilson, who set out to describe conditions in an outer London area, in their highly-acclaimed  West Ham - a study in industrial problems

The book looks at the whole of the borough and painted pen portraits of each of the local authority's electoral wards, in 1907.

Below is their description of Park Ward (see map for the extent of the boundaries). Details of their portrait of Forest Gate ward can be found here.

Park Ward, 1907
In 1901, Park Ward had a population of 17,000 - the time of the census just before the authors conducted their survey. Howarth and Wilson described the ward, thus:

The southern part of the ward is occupied by West Ham Park, a space of 73 acres, which belongs to the Corporation of London.
In the Romford Road, which runs east to west through the ward, are large houses in which doctors, clergy, and prosperous business people live. Many of these houses are of the type built at the beginning of the last (19th) century, and till twenty years ago had long gardens with orchards. Gardens of the size of a tennis court remain.
The sites vary from 150 feet upward to 300 feet in depth, and there are back entrances in many cases. Such houses were numerous in Stratford twenty-five years ago, but most of them have disappeared to make way for smaller property.
To the north of Romford Road, near the Forest Gate station are five roads, which until ten years ago were the best part of the borough, and were inhabited by middle-class people, such as lived on the Woodgrange Estate in the Upton ward until a few years ago, when a great many people of this class moved to Ilford or father east. Westwards, towards Stratford, the houses are rather smaller, and the tenants are artisans and small tradespeople.  
Earlham Grove, 1911, one of the five roads
Howarth and Wilson descibe as formerly having been
"the best part of the borough", but now
suffering from an exodus to Ilford
This part of the ward contains the Central Free Library, which is a large building and the Technical Institute. The houses between Maryland Point Station and the Technical Institute are let at rents varying between 12s to 14s a week, and are inhabited by clerks, foreman shop assistants, and people of small means. In The Green are some old houses like those in the Romford Road, with rents ranging from £60 to £80 per year.
In the roads just to the east of this part, the rents run from £30 to £50, and the tenants are clerks, salesmen and managers of works, and retired businessmen; while towards Forest Gate some of the houses are more expensive, varying from £30 to £70 or £80.
The streets between the Park and Romford Road vary in character. Vicarage Lane, which forms part of the west boundary, contains several shops at the northern end, and at the southern houses let at 8s 6d to 11s per week.
The roads between it and the Park contain houses at about 12s per week for six rooms and a wash house, the majority being let by the agent in halves at 6s or 6s 6d. They have been divided within the last eight years, and are inhabited mainly by artisans and small tradespeople, with a certain number of clerks.
One of the large houses ( no 244) on Romford
Road, to which the authors draw attention
A group of three streets in the north-west of this contains houses rented at 9s for four rooms and a wash-house. They are inhabited by mechanics, regular labourers, dealers and others, who often take in a lodger, because they prefer a respectable neighbourhood, notwithstanding a rent which is high in proportion to their means.
Houses in the Matthews Park estate, which includes the houses to the north of the Park, are let at 14s a week, and have six rooms, a wash-house, and in many cases a bathroom. The roads between this estate and the eastern boundary of the ward contain houses of the same type let at 13s a week, and in most cases adapted for two families by the addition of a kitchener and water upstairs.
Two streets on the eastern boundary are occupied by business and professional men, and are of a better class. The houses are mostly let by the year and rents vary from £26 to £40. In the road which faces the north side of the Park, the houses are let by the year at rents varying from £30 to £36, exclusive of rates and taxes. Two of these, near the Upton Lane, are rented at £60. They are occupied by professional and business people, and contain seven rooms, a bathroom and a wash-house. A few have seven, eight, or nine rooms."
As we stated in our previous article in this series (see here for Forest Gate ward), the above description focuses mainly on male occupations, elsewhere in their book, however, Howarth and Wilson consider female employment, which would appear to have predominantly in the clothing industry.

Water fountain at West Ham Park -
controlled by the Corporation of London -
accounting for 73 acres of the ward, Photo c 1900 -
the time of the survey
They have a few observations that relate to the area,, for example:
Many women work to meet some definite part of the family expenditure, such as children's clothes or boots and a considerable number of girls in Forest Gate and Upton Park make underclothing in order to pay for their dress.
Looking as specific aspects of the rag trade, they have the following to report:
About 75 per cent of the workers employed in blouse-making live in the better parts of Plaistow, West Ham and Stratford, and in certain streets in Forest Gate and Upton Park where the rent is often 12s to 14s a week. It is noticeable that those who live in Forest Gate and Upton Park, a considerable number live with their parents, while others have several brothers or sisters living with them, who are occupied in various ways, often as clerks.
And finally on costume making, about half those employed in the trade were single women:
The majority were found in the better class streets in Stratford, Forest Gate and Upton. One or two rented their houses by the month; but on the other hand, one woman was living in a single room. The work is mostly of a good class, and is only entrusted to the superior type of home worker. All the workers in this group appeared to own their own machines. In some cases materials and models are sent by West End firms and the work is largely done by hand. The costumiers sometimes do private work, and are practically private dressmakers, who eke out their means by taking private work from shops.

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