|The building in question, in its most recent use|
It is, of course, the rather innocuous-looking building which until recently hosted the Angel's restaurant, at 79 Woodgrange Road. The building was then empty for some months, during which period a local catering company, Pyramid Pizza, thought they had a lease on the premises - only to be gazumped by the evangelical church.
The church had its name board up for about a month and began meeting, earlier this summer, before the planning challenge was made. As the photo at the end of this article shows, it is currently without a facia board, pending an outcome of the planners' investigation.
The building was constructed in 1830.
Jabez Legg was a Stratford-based Congregationalist minister in the early years of the nineteenth century (see here for details of his life and the almshouses he supported, locally). He took to preaching in a hut next to the old Eagle and Child pleasure gardens (later to become a pub), on what we now know as Woodgrange Road - previously Eagle and Child Lane - in the mid 1820's.
|Jabez Legg, the congregationalist|
minister (1786 - 1867),
the original chapel
|1851 sketch of the original Forest|
Gate, next to which Legg first
began to preach in the area
|Sketch of Legg's first local preaching|
spot - by the original Forest Gate.
See footnote for source
This new, purpose-built, church expanded to run a day school during the week, in the era before state provided education. It opened in 1832 - at about the time of the passing of the Great Reform Bill, and seven years before the railway - which provided the real spur to Forest Gate's development - arrived in town. The school started with 48 pupils, when the population of Forest Gate was barely 350 people.
|Sketch of the building in its original|
state as a Congregationalist chapel.
See footnote for source
|1863 Ordnance survey map, showing|
the building as a "British" school, and the
new chapel, around the corner, in
Chapel Street - see below
Samuel Gurney, the banker, relative of Elizabeth Fry, and local landowner, who prospered greatly from the sale of his holdings for the development of Forest Gate, donated £100 and land to the Congregationalist church, just behind what is now Forest Gate school, in the mid 1850's, for the construction of a much larger chapel (see map, above).
|Sketch of the Chapel Street chapel.|
See footnote for source
|Forest Gate photographer, Edward|
Wright's undated photo of the
Chapel (later Chapter ) Street building
|1880's constructed, fourth and final|
location of Forest Gate Congregationalist
church, Sebert Road
One of the first acts of the new School Board was to construct its own purpose built school, Odessa, with a roll of 703. This opened in 1874 and the National School closed. Its, then, 88 pupils transferred along the road to Odessa school.
We do not have a complete timeline for the subsequent fate of the building. Kelly's Directory of 1890, however, shows it as the headquarters of the Forest Gate and Upton District Liberal and Radical Association, confirmed by the 1895 map, below and the turn of the century photograph taken by prominent Forest Gate photographer, Edward Wright.
By 1908 the club had been renamed the South Essex Club.
|Turn of century Edward Wright photo,|
showing the building as headquarters
of the Forest Gate and Upton
Liberal and Radical Association
Between the two World Wars, the building was converted to become Max Fietcher's house furnishers (according to a 1925 trade directory), and subsequently Shenker Brothers, drapers (1938).
Following the second world war the premises housed WM John Biles, glaziers and glass suppliers, from at least 1949 until the 1990's, when it closed, having employed a dozen or so people. It was a well-known local landmark and boon to many a local builder and diy-er.
Since the 1990's the premises have been a restaurant, in a number of guises, most recently as Angel's - see photograph, below. For at least some of that time it functioned as Forest Gate's most notorious drug dealing premises!
Angel's closed last year, having acquired a pretty poor reputation, food-wise and in terms of the behaviour of its customers. Since that time Pyramid Pizza were on the point of acquiring it, then pulled out after a rent hike, and after a short period of continues closure it re-emerged as a meeting place for an evangelical church - apparently without permission for a change of use.
|In its current state. What next for|
but historic, local landmark?
NB. We are deeply indebted to the publication Hitherto, Henceforth, published in 1956, celebrating the centenary of the Chapel Street church for the sketches, showing the meeting places of the Congregationalists, in Forest Gate.