Upton Ward in 1907

Sunday 28 December 2014

This is the third 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 Upton Ward (see map for the extent of the boundaries). Details of their portraits of Forest Gate and Park wards can be found here and here.

Upton ward in 1907

In 1901, Upton Ward had a population of 19,000 - the time of the census just before the authors conducted their survey.

Howarth and Wilson describe the ward, thus:
The two main roads in the Upton Ward are the Romford Road, running from west to east and Upton Lane, from north to south. In the Romford Road are large houses with gardens, many of them old, similar to those mentioned in the Broadway and Park Wards. Many old houses with gardens, fields, and orchards, were formerly to be found in Upton Lane, and one or two still remain, though much of the land round them has been used for building.
Their place has been taken by houses let at £25 to £50 a year. The southern part of this road faces West Ham Park, and in the northern end are good class shops similar to those in Woodgrange Road, which lies to the north of the ward across the Romford Road.
Most of the roads are broad and straight, and in addition to the part of West Ham Park, which lies within the ward there is a football ground at the Spotted Dog Inn, and a large open space round a convent in St George's Road.

Clapton FC, whose ground is the oldest in London,
at the Old Spotted Dog pub, on Upton Lane,
in the Upton Ward at the time of the survey
. This Clapton team won the amateur cup in 1909 and
boasted war hero. Walter Tull, second from right,
front row, as an inspirational member

Practically the whole population of the ward belongs to the middle-class, and a large proportion has some unearned income. The few artisans and labourers are for the most part in constant work, and live chiefly in four-, five- or six-roomed houses, the rents of which range from 7s 6d to 10s 6d a week. Such houses are to be found in various parts, and chiefly in Neville, Upton Park, Belton, Stukeley and Wellesley Roads, which however, contain some businessmen and a considerable proportion of clerks.

Claremont Road, 1913, in Upton ward in 1907,
but surprisingly, along with the rest of the
Woodgrange estate, not mentioned
in Howarth and Wilson's book

Chestnut Road contains self-contained flats with separate doors, two rooms, kitchen, and wash-house; these are let at 7s. The houses at Sylvan Road, one of the oldest in the ward, are rented at 8s and 8s 6d, and contain four rooms and a wash-house; while at the roads to the north-east of the ward the accommodation is five rooms and a wash-house, and the rents vary according to the designs of the fronts. Where there are no bay windows the rent is 9s; other rents are 9s 6d and 10s; and six rooms with a wash-house can be had for 10s 6d and 11s.
In one of these roads houses of a good class have been put up, where five rooms, a bath, and a portable copper in a small wash-house are to be had for 11s 6d. These let well and are occupied by foremen and men in business in the City. Ferndale, Oakdale and Elmhurst Roads, and St George's Square contain six roomed houses at 10s or 11s a week, with concrete fronts. The tenants are mostly artisans or shop assistants, a few only go to business in the City.
The same is true of Beauchamp Road, where half the houses are let at 6s 6d; the rent for the whole house being 12s or 12s 6d. Even in Khedive Road some houses produce 6s 6d per half-house, while others let at £30 a year, but in general the tenants are well-to-do people.
Between this road and Upton Lane is an estate of a superior character, comprising Lancaster, Kingsley, and neighbouring roads, in which eight-roomed houses are let at 13s a week; and a similar neighbourhood, lying north of this, where seven rooms and offices are rented for 14s a week of 33 a calendar month. These houses are seldom unoccupied if they are in good repair. An old estate with larger gardens comprises Palmerstone, Westbury and Victoria Roads.

Undated photograph of Upton Lane

Westbury Road was formed before 1860, but the first houses were built in 1861-62. The remainder of the state was developed in 1865. Here the rents vary between 11a a week to £30 per year, and the tenants are well-off middle class people. In Glenparke Road, which is close by, rents vary from 11s to 14s a week.
As we stated in our previous articles in this series (see here for Forest Gate and Park wards), 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.
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.
Pre World War 1 photograph of Upton Park Road
 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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