Trams in Forest Gate: 1886 - 1940

Friday, 23 January 2015

We are deeply indebted to a group of tram enthusiasts for recollecting and recording, in detail, this fascinating part of Forest Gate's historic public transport past. See footnote at end for the sources of much of the information and how to get further details.

One of the earliest surviving photos of local trams.
It is of  horse drawn vehicles, from the 1880's
and was taken at the top of Red Post Lane,
in what is now Katherine Road. We are indebted
to local historian, Carol Price, for use of this rare
and unique photo.

Trams first came for East London in 1871, with a horse-drawn line running from Aldgate to Stratford, to provide cheap transport for East End City workers, for 1d per journey. The Manor Park to Stratford route - one of the most significant in the network - was added in 1886, after the completion of the Woodgrange estate, and other similar late-Victorian developments in the area.

Turn of century horse-drawn, open-top tram on Romford
Road. Note women using parasols, to keep off the sun

Each horse cost £8 per week to feed and stable. To cuts costs, experiments were tried, replacing them with steam-driven trams, compressed air locomotives and  battery driven vehicles, but these were all unsuccessful, at this time.

Trams became truly "public" transport in east London, from the late 1890s, when they became a local authority managed, operation, at a time when local councils played far more significant roles in shaping the life chances and social conditions of their communities than they are allowed today.

Tram outside Forest Gate Station c 1910

Civic pride soon featured and the trams were resplendent with highly polished wooden and brass exteriors, varnished paintwork, with local authority crests in evidence. The original colour scheme of the West Ham fleet was Munich Lake and pale cream, but was later changed to maroon and deep cream.

Incidentally, the first manager of the West Ham depot was Herbert Blain (later Sir Herbert), who was a founding member of NALGO - the former local government trade union.

Souvenir brochure, for the opening of the
West Ham Council tram depot, in Greengate
Street, Plaistow, 1906, built at a cost of £30,000

The life of a tram driver was not easy; they had to stand for all of their working hours, in all weathers. There were no windows on the front of the tram, so in summer they could get badly sunburned and in winter, snow and rain would beat into their faces as they drove the vehicles.

The drivers worked a 10-hour day, Monday to Saturday, and eight hours on Sundays. They were paid 7.25d (3p) per hour; and after a year's service, received 13 days holiday per annum.

Corner of Romford and Woodgrange Road (1905)

From the turn of the century the pressure was on the tram industry to replace the older horse-drawn trams with electricity driven, and so much faster and generally more reliable, vehicles. East Ham became the first local authority in London to adopt them.

West Ham Council entered the electrically-driven era in 1904 and trams were soon running from Wanstead Flats. In 1909 the Aldgate to Ilford route was opened; operated by three different authorities :the London County and West Ham and Leyton Borough Councils.

Tram outside Old Spotted Dog,
on its way to Wanstead Flats

West Ham Council ran trams 21 hours per day, starting at 3.30am, until 12.30am, every  day of the year. In 1912 the local transport department had 118 tram cars, operated on 11 routes and provided 41 million passenger journeys.

Plaistow to Wanstead Flats service, c 1910

By 1913, the following routes served different parts of Forest Gate:

• Route 4: Wanstead Flats to Victoria and Albert Docks
• Route 5: Wanstead Flats to Canning Town
• Route 8: Bakers Arms to Victoria and Albert Docks, via Forest Gate
• Route 10: Stratford Broadway to Boleyn via Forest Gate
• Route 63: Aldgate to Ilford

Trams became a vital transport link for those engaged locally in war work, between 1914 - 1918, travelling to and from the docks and munitions factories within the borough, and beyond.

Wanstead Flats tram terminus, 1905 in Woodford Road.
The trams stopped where the houses ended, just
at the borough boundary. The turning on the left
is Forest Road. When larger numbers of passengers began
to use the route, additional lengths of track were laid
in Forest Road and then to the western end of Capel Road

Women were employed on public transport to replace many of the men ("substitutionism" as it was often called)who enlisted or were taken up with other war work, both as "clippies" and, in a few cases, as drivers.
Unfortunately, we have no details of how this significant opening up of a traditional male job preserve to women impacted on the diversification of employment opportunities in our area at this time.

War activity clearly took economic and practical precedence during this time and few improvements were made to the tram rolling stock or network, apart from essential maintenance, for the duration of the conflict.

Car 15 in Forest Road, looking towards
Wanstead Flats, 1927

Extensive fleet renovation and upgrading were therefore necessary at the end of the war, and were introduced, locally, in the 1920's. These included the replacement of open top trams as the main priority.  Motor buses soon emerged as serious competition for trams; and later, trolley buses joined the more mixed economy of local public transport.

In 1925 East Ham Council proposed to replace the tram service with a trolleybus route from Wanstead Flats to the Royal Docks. The transport authority, however,  soon backed off  after protests from service users, who feared the replacements would mean the end of cheap workman's fares. Both West and East Ham councils consequently refocused their transport development efforts into upgrading the tram rolling stock.

Route map for West Ham Corporation trams,
dated 1925. It gives the fares for the various
routes, expressed in route miles and yards covered

An integrated, co-ordinated,  London-wide public transport network was mooted in the late 1920's, and  the London Passenger Transport Board (London Transport) was created, as a result, in 1933.

Tram approaching Princess Alice on Romford Road,
about to cross, what is still a nightmare off-set
junction, into Upton Lane, in 1930s. The crossing
had previously featured a "grand union" curved
junction, much loved by tram enthusiasts!

The Board compulsorily purchased the rolling stock and routes of the West and East Ham corporation transport departments - with West Ham contributing 134 vehicles to the new company.

The new London Transport Board began to rationalise routes, and by 1934, the following tram services operated in the Forest Gate area:

• Route 10: Circular - Stratford, Forest Gate, Green Street, Plaistow
• Route 63: Ilford Broadway to Aldgate
• Route 73: Royal Docks to Wanstead Park
• Route 95: Canning Town to Wanstead Flats
• Route 95a: Upton Park, Boleyn, Wanstead Flats.

This is a former West Ham corporation tram,
shown resplendent in London Transport livery
- still working local routes - after the establishment
of the London-wide transport operation.
It was built for West Ham Corporation in 1900

In 1935 London Transport began to replace trams with trolley and motor buses, across the whole of the metropolis. As a consequence, by 1937 trams had disappeared from all local routes, except those that continued to run to Aldgate.

Car 211 by the ponds and trees of Wanstead Flats
- October 1936, waiting to leave one of the last 73
services. Unusually, this route was not converted
to trolleybus

By 1940, even those two routes - the 63 and 67 - were replaced by motor buses. The last trams trundled through West Ham in June 1940.

Model of car 119 on the Wanstead Flats to Canning Town
route. This model was exhibited at the Wembley Exhibition
in 1924, was at the Science Museum in Kensington and
later at the Old Station Museum, in North Woolwich,
until its sad closure

One or two of the old local trams survive today at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden.  Most, however, were sent to the scrap yard in 1952.

Tram on Romford Road c 1936. The route was
replaced by a trolley bus the following year.
The tram is passing the West Ham Municipal baths,
recently demolished. The baths were opened
in 1934.

Trolleybuses, themselves, began to be withdrawn in 1959 and electric street transport finally ended in 1960, locally, with the closure of the West Ham Depot. This will be the focus of a later blog.

This old West Ham tram can still be seen
at the London Transport Museum, in Covent Garden

• Footnote. Further information on this topic can be found in East Ham and West Ham Tramways, by Robert J Harley.  The book is published by the Middleton Press and is available priced £17.95. Thanks also go to the Newham Story, and Robert Rogers, in particular, for memories and some fine photographs and images.

A nod at our neighbours: chronology of Wanstead House and Park

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The delights of Wanstead Park, just beyond the Forest Gate borders are one of the real, little appreciated, joys of living in this area.

They and the buildings that have stood within them have a fascinating history, laden with riches, royal scandal, landscape and architectural splendour and infamy that should fascinate any historian.

Below we produce the flimsiest of chronologies, hoping it will arouse enough interest for you to delve further into the pleasures of this part of our locality.

1042 - Wanstead Manor, conferred by Edward the Confessor.

1078 - Held by Bishop of London, and let for 40/- per year to Ralph Fritz Brien.

1217 - Let to Sir Hugh de Hodeing.

1271 - Let to Sir John Huntercombe.

1368 - Death of Sir John Huntercombe, junior.

1446 - John Tattersall, who had purchased the Manor, died and house remained in his family, until ...

1457 - William Keene became lord of Manor.

1487 - Sir Ralph Hastings becomes Lord of the Manor. Succeeded by Sir John Heron, who was followed by his son, Sir Giles Heron - son-in-law of Sir Thomas More. The Herons created  the Park's Heronry - which remains - as a pun on their name.

1531 - Sir Giles Heron - accused of treason by Henry V111, and had his estate confiscated, because of his adherence to Catholic faith.

1549 - Manor granted by Edward V1 to Lord Richard Riche, who rebuilt the Manor House, (then called Naked Hall Hawe).

1553 - Queen Mary stayed there on her way from Norwich to London, to assume the crown. She received Princess Elizabeth, who rode out from London to meet the queen, attended by 1,000 knights, ladies and gentlemen, on horseback, at Wanstead.

1578 - Queen Elizabeth paid a five-day visit to Wanstead Hall, as it was known at the time, then owned by the Earl of Leicester, who had purchased the house from the Riche family. Leicester was widely assumed to be a lover of the so-called "virgin" queen. He greatly enlarged and improved the house, and married the Countess of Essex in this year.

Robert Dudley, later 1st
Earl of Leicester, Wanstead Hall
owner and royal lover 1

1588 - Earl of Leicester died and Wanstead passed to his widow, who the following year married Sir Christopher Blount. An inventory of the house, contents and grounds, at the time valued the estate at a mere £1,120.

1603 - Sir Charles Blount created Earl of Devonshire.

1606 - On the death of Earl of Devonshire, the manor passed to the crown.

1615 - James 1 stayed at Wanstead.

1617 - James 1 revisited the house, which was purchased and occupied during his reign by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham - widely rumoured to be the king's lover - the second royal lover to occupy the house. Is there something in the river Roding?

George Villiers - 1st Duke
of Buckingham,
Wanstead Hall owner
and royal lover 2

1619 - Wanstead estate sold by Duke of Buckingham to Sir Henry Mildmay (after whom parts of modern Islington are named), one of the judges by whom Charles 1 was subsequently condemned. Sir Henry was succeeded by his son, Sir John, from whom the estate was taken by Charles 11.

1662 - Wanstead sold by James, Duke of York, to whom it had been given by Charles 11, to Sir Robert Brooke, who held it until 1667.

1667 - Pepys writes:

Sir William Penn (Quaker, and founder of the US state of Pennsylvania) did give me this afternoon an account of his design for buying Sir RW Brooke's fine house at Wanstead, which I so wondered at; and did give him reasons against it, which he allowed of, and told me that he did intend to pull down the house and build a less, and that he could get £1,500 for the old house, and I know what fooleries. But I will never believe he intended to buy it, for my part, though he troubled Mr Ganden, to go and look upon it, and advise him in it.

The manor was however, bought in this year by Sir Josiah Child, a goldsmith, Governor of the East India Company and founder of Child's Bank, which was taken over by William and Glyn's in the 1920s and is now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Child greatly improved the house and grounds. In another piece of local punery around Wanstead House names, the Child name may have been incorporated in Forest Gate's former pub, the Eagle and Child.

Sir Josiah Child (1630 - 1699)

1678 - Josiah Child created baronet.

1683 - John Evelyn wrote: "I went to see Sir Josiah Child's prodigious cost in planting walnut trees about his seate and making fish ponds many miles in circuit in Epping Forest, in a barren place, as oftimes these suddenly monied for the most part seate themselves."

Pre 1715 Wanstead Hall, residence of Sir Josiah Child

1699 - Sir Josiah Child died.

1715 - Sir Richard Child, son of Josiah, pulled down Wanstead Hall and built the mansion, in the Palladian style, that remained until 1822, which a contemporary writer , of The Complete English Traveller, described as "more magnificent than Blenheim", and "one of the most elegant in England - both for the building and the gardens".

Fortifications, Wanstead House, 18th century

1718 - Sir Richard Child created Viscount Castlemaine.

1732 - Viscount Castlemaine created Earl Tylney (hence Forest Gate street name).

1748 - Peter Kalm, a Swedish botanist, having visited the house described it: "My Lord Tylney's magnificent house resembles a royal palace rather than a private man's home ... many rooms furnished in the most costly way ... one room was not like another".

1749 - Earl Tylney died and succeeded by his second son, John, who brought many art treasures from Italy to Wanstead.

1764 - House guests included George 111 and Queen Charlotte, escorted by the Light Horse cavalry.

1775 - Horace Walpole wrote: "I dined at Wanstead. Many years had passed since I saw it. The disposition of the house and prospect are very fine".

1784 - Earl Tylney died, succeeded by his nephew, James Long, who became the second Earl, Tylney-Long.

1794 - Second Earl died and succeeded by his daughter, Catherine - a minor, with an estimated wealth exceeding £1m and an annual income of £80,000. Some Bourbon aristocrats, fleeing the French Revolution, took up temporary residence in the house.

Catherine Tylney-Long

1810 - John Britton wrote:

From the entrance to the park in the west, through the main gates, the road to the house is skirted by rows of fine elms, and winds round a circular piece of water, extending considerably beyond each extremity to the mansion, from which this approach has an aspect of much grandeur ... Near the River Roding is a curious grotto, constructed by the second Earl of Tylney, at an expense of £2,000, independently of the cost of materials.

The grotto was constructed of shells, pebbles, rare stones, fossils, looking glasses and fine painted windows, with a domed roof.

1909 postcard of the ruins of the grotto

1812 - Marriage of the very eligible Catherine Tylney-Long to the feckless William Pole-Wellesley (son of Lord Maryborough, later Earl of Mornington; nephew of Duke of Wellington).

Wanstead House and gardens, looking east

1813 - Pole-Wellesley makes an abortive attempt to close a public footpath through Wanstead Park. He was a profligate playboy, who soon ran up considerable debts.

The feckless William
Pole-Wellesley (1788 - 1857)

1815 - Pole-Wellesley holds a grand fete in Wanstead House and its gardens to celebrate his uncle, the Duke of Wellington's victory over Napoleon. The Prince Regent attends along with a number of other royals and over a thousand leading dignitaries.

Wanstead House, c 1820

1822 - Sale by auction of the furniture and contents of Wanstead House, in over 6,000 lots - which lasted thirty-two days - for £41,000, for the benefit of Pole-Wellesley's creditors.

Catalogue for sale of Wanstead
House furniture, 1822

1823 - Wanstead House pulled down, and sold piecemeal, for £10,000, for the further benefit of Pole-Wellesley's creditors. After the house was pulled down, the grounds were leased for shooting. The grounds were allowed to grow wild, to improve the habitat of the game.

1825 - Catherine Pole-Wellesley died, aged 35.

1851 - Sale of Tylney-Long family portraits by Christies (including some by William Hogarth).

1859 - Earl of Mornington (formerly Pole-Wellesley) died, aged 69, not before marrying for a second time a "noble" woman who ended up in the workhouse, as a result of his reckless ways. One obituary described him thus:
A spendthrift, a profligate, a gambler in his youth - he became a debauchee in his manhood. Redeemed by no single virtue, adorned by no single grace, his life has gone out, even without a flicker of repentance.

1882 - The 184 acre grounds of the house were purchased by the Corporation of London, for £8,000, and turned into Wanstead Park, which was opened to the public. The Corporation then built roads to connect the park to Leytonstone and to Forest Gate railway station (Centre Road).

1884 - The grotto was burned out.

Unemployed relief, dredging Lake in
Wanstead Park, 1909. Grotto ruins in background

Today - Some remnants to be seen:

• The two stone pillars at the entrance to Overton Drive - facing Bush Road on Blake Hall Road were originally the entrance gates to Wanstead House. The monogram RC that remains on the pillars, refers to Richard Child, who had the 1715 house built, at a cost of £360,000.

Gatepost with Richard Child's monogram,
at entry to Overton Drive, today

• Sir Josiah Child's memorial can still be seen in the chancel of Wanstead church.

Monument to Sir Josiah Child,
still in chancel of Wanstead church

• The stables of the estate survive today, to the east of Wanstead church, housing Wanstead Golf Club.
• The Temple - built c 1760, has recently been refurbished in Wanstead Park and acts as a visitors' centre.

The Temple, built c 1760, recently
refurbished and now visitor centre for Wanstead Park

• The ruins of the Grotto, now being renovated.

Ruins of the grotto, today

• The lakes and waterways and eco-systems within Wanstead Park (see below, for details).

For more information about Wanstead House and Park, including publications, videos and events, contact the excellent Wanstead Parklands Community Project 

Crossrail and Forest Gate

Monday, 5 January 2015

 Crossrail is Europe's largest construction project, currently employing 10,000 people, on over 40 sites, along its route from Reading in the west to Shenfield in the east. It will deliver a major new, heavy-duty, suburban rail service for London and the south-east.

It will connect the City, Canary Wharf, the West End and Heathrow airport to commuter areas to the east and west of the capital.  See maps, for the routes and the table at the end of the blog for the projected journey times to each of the other 39 stations, from Forest Gate.

The complete Crossrail route - source: the company's website
It will, of course, be stopping at Forest Gate, which is one of the reasons for the upsurge in interest in E7 as a des res area, and accounted for the preposterous, and thankfully rejected, Obsidian proposals to build a 19 story block of flats adjacent to the local railway station, a couple of years back.

Forest Gate will be one of the first areas to benefit from the new rolling stock to be introduced to the line - with the Shenfield to Liverpool Street section likely to become fully functional in May 2017, two years ahead of the completion of the whole 100 km project.

What else can local residents expect from this huge transport development?

Property prices will continue to boom, as the completion date approaches, and doubtless there will be further attempts to resurrect plans to build on the projected Obsidian footprint - Earlham Grove and parts of Woodgrange Road - including the almost planning blighted row of shops between Forest Gate station and the hideous Durning Hall sprawl.

Forest Gate Plaza (1) - an artist's impression - source: December Newham News
The new properties, and incomers ,will doubtless accelerate the changing social profile of the area, as young, middle class commuters displace recent, poorer, immigrant communities who found the area attractive because of its relative cheap, and often rather poor, housing stock.

So, gentrification will continue, and with it more upmarket food and shopping options, no doubt.

Environmental changes

The £15bn Crossrail construction costs includes a proposal to make Forest Gate Station disabled-friendly - by offering step-free access to platforms, and will almost certainly spruce up the rather shabby and dull appearance of the platforms and current staircases.

The project is also investing £2.3m in transforming the open space around the station, before the Crossrail becomes fully functional in 2019.

Consultations on what the upgraded station environs should look like will begin later this year (2015). Crossrail's environmental architects and designers have come up with a couple of sketches of what the area could look like - to assist with the consultation process, and these are shown in this blog.

Their current thoughts are to:

• Improve pavement width, outside the station;
• Remove the slip road to Woodgrange Road, from Forest Lane and replace it with a revised, raised, signalled T junction, with improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, and create a new public space; and
• Introduce a 20 mph speed limit in the area, to slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety

Forest Gate Plaza (2): source: Newham Council website

Service improvements

Passenger levels at Forest Gate have increased enormously over the last few years, as Stratford has expanded and train frequencies have increased.  Six trains an hour is now the norm, for all but very off-peak times.

This level of service will more than double, once the new rolling stock is introduced.

Crossrail trains will be 200 metres long and carry 1,500 passengers, about twice the number catered for on existing London Underground services.

There will be 12 Crossrail trains per hour (every five minutes) in peak periods, and six per hour in off peak times, going through Forest Gate station.  There will, additionally, be four non-Crossrail trains per hour stopping at Forest Gate - presumably the longer distance trains on the main rail network, by whichever company has the franchise, then.

Journey times

Below are the projected travel times to each of the 39 stations on the Crossrail route, from Forest Gate.  All journeys are direct, except the four stations on the south-eastern spur (Custom House, Canary Wharf, Woolwich and Abbey Wood), when a change of train is required at Whitechapel.

Crossrail's north-east spur - source: the company's website

The time of the Whitechapel change would need to be added to each of those four journey times, set out below:

Abbey Wood - 25 mins  (plus Whitechapel change)
Acton - 28 mins
Bond St - 20 mins
Brentwood - 26 mins
Burnham - 54 mins
Canary Wharf - 14 mins (plus Whitechapel change)
Chadwell Heath - 12 mins
Custom House - 17 mins ( plus Whitechapel change)
Ealing Broadway - 31 mins
Farringdon - 15 mins
Gide Park - 19 mins
Goodmayes - 10 mins
Hanwell - 33 mins
Harold Wood - 22 mins
Hayes and Harlington - 40 mins
Heathrow (terminals 1,2,3) - 46 min
Heathrow (terminal 4) - 52 mins
Ilford - 5 mins
Iver - 45 mins
Langley - 47 mins
Liverpool Street - 13 mins
Maidenhead - 62 mins
Manor Park - 2 mins
Maryland - 2 mins
Paddington - 23 mins
Reading - 72 mins
Romford - 15 mins
Seven Kings - 8 mins
Shenfield - 31 mins
Slough - 50- mins
Southall - 37 mins
Stratford - 4 mins
Taplow - 57 mins
Tottenham Court Road - 18 mins
Twyford - 66 mins
West Drayton -  42 mins
West Ealing - 33 mins
Whitechapel - 10 mins
Woolwich - 10 mins (plus Whitechapel change)

For regular progress reports on Crossrail developments , see here. We will provide further updates on significant Forest Gate -related proposals.