Forest Gate and family history

Friday 30 October 2015

This site is often contacted with family history enquiries from genealogists tracing their Forest Gate roots.  We always try to assist, and where enquirers can provide a little bit of local background and flavour, we are happy to publish their requests here.

We will be happy to update this post, on a case by case basis, in future, when we get queries that offer the basis of a story and research already undertaken. Below is the first of these queries to be published.

Arthur Edington Williams (1845 - 1923)

One such enquiry recently came about a local turn of the century socialist, Arthur Edington Williams. It was from one of his great grandchildren, Anne Speight. We run her information and request, below.  If anyone knows more about the family concerned, we ask you to contact Anne directly by e.mail:

Anne writes:

Arthur Edington Williams was my great grandfather and born in Bethnal Green, but his married life was spent in Forest Gate. He was the son of a buhl and facet cutter (ed: craftworker specialising in inlaid work on furniture), but Arthur himself was a fancy cabinet maker. One of the things he made was portable writing desks.
Arthur Edington Williams (1845-1923)

His wife Hannah originally, come to London from Norfolk, to work as a servant. They had several children and lived variously at Dean Street, Odessa Road, Boleyn Road and at Keogh Road. Their offspring were variously members of the Clarion Cycling Club,  a ship’s wireless operator, elementary school teacher and two were railway telegraphers based at Stratford station.

Arthur’s daughter-in-law, Clara Williams, played violin at the Earlham Grove Music Academy c 1920.

I have the 1923 newspaper report of Arthur being knocked down in thick fog by a car on Romford Road. He died almost immediately, but his widow remained at Keogh Road till after World War Two.

Arthur was a keen socialist. I wonder if he appears in any trade directories or political hustings?

Sydney Frederick Williams (1884-1972), a son of Arthur Edington Williams, was a railway telegrapher and bachelor. He remained at the family home on Keogh Road until after World War Two.

1919 strike committee of West Ham branch
 of National Union of Railwaymen,
Sydney Williams third from left in middle row.

I believe he is the same Sydney Williams as identified in the attached group photo, which is of the National Union of Railwaymen, West Ham branch, strike committee in 1919. Third from the left, in the middle row is Sydney Williams.

Albert/Alfred Bartle c 1916 

I am looking for records about  an (Albert /Alfred) BARTLE  who was in France in August 1916 - but who died. 

He was my grandfather  and my grandmother gave birth to my mother in the Forest Gate Sick Home in August 1916 when he was in France -  according to hospital admission records....... 

I would like to see if he is commemorated on a memorial or listed in newspapers as a casualty as I have not been able to trace him through other sources  

I would appreciate your help.  Thank you.

The street where you live (3): Chestnut Avenue

Friday 23 October 2015

This is the third in an occasional series of articles by local historian, Peter Williams, who specialises in Newham housing, maps and local history. In each he looks, in detail, at the history of particular streets in Forest Gate.

Peter has complemented his own knowledge by accessing the increasingly digitised national newspapers' collection - which can be found here- and has added extracts from this that refer specifically to the roads he features. The reproduction isn't always clear, so we have transcribed sections of them.

They add greatly to an understanding of social circumstances of the time, and describe some pretty poor public health and social conditions.

Chestnut Avenue

Chestnut Avenue, especially the wider section, has been in existence since well before the Victorian houses were built. Its current shape may well be to do with land holdings going back to the 18th century and earlier – for example Chestnut Lodge a country house with orchards which lay immediately to the west of wide Chestnut Avenue. 

For details of the previous article on the nearby Woodford Road, the former Eagle and Child pub, Lord Lister clinic and cattle on Wanstead Flats, see here. That article also looked at the earlier Woodgrange farm and the original Forest Gate.

The 1863 Ordnance Survey map published 1873 (see below) shows the narrow and wide Chestnut Avenue, more or less on the current alignment, but with no housing development. 

  For an enlarged view of this 1863 map, click here
Trade directories of the time show that there was a pub at 40 Chestnut Avenue, The Globe, between 1871 and 1886.  There is currently a house at this address, which almost certainly replaced the former public house.

40 Chestnut Avenue today, 
location of The Globe pub,
 1871 - 1886
There is a very interesting plaque surviving on the wall of 48 - 50, in narrow section of Chestnut Avenue that records the role of the Spitalfields Investment Society in developing the houses in 1875.

Plaque on wall between 48 and 50 Chestnut
Avenue, reading: "This stone was laid on August
 5th 1875. Amos Sanders, John Newman and
 George Roberts, trustees of the Spitalfields
 Investment Society. Edward Brown,
 architect, C W Beale, builder
Below is an extract from a contemporary newspaper, which is the tender for painting 35 of these, cottages at Forest Gate.

Chelmsford Chronicle 11 May 1877

There were a number of these kind of societies in East London at the time, they were often known as Four Per Cent Societies. They were privately funded by non- exploitative investors/landlords, who wanted to build decent housing for working people, and in exchange were guaranteed a four per cent return on their capital - paid for from the rents. 

The idea was to provide good housing at reasonable rents, a far cry from much of the accommodation in the slums of East London, at the time (or, indeed, today). These, some of the original "building societies", were not totally philanthropic, but offered a fair rate of return on capital to the builders of decent houses. An idea that wouldn't go amiss, in helping address the housing crisis in London, today.

The need for good housing and sanitary conditions in this area was rather well illustrated twenty years previously. A number of concerned citizens called for an inquiry into poor environmental health conditions in the West Ham area in the early 1850's. The result was a very influential report, to which we will return at a later date, written by Alfred Dickens, the brother of the famed author.

His report, of 1855, had the rather clumsy title of Report of the General Board of Health on a Preliminary Inquiry into the Sewerage, Drainage and Supply of Water, and the sanitary Conditions of the Inhabitants of the Parish of West Ham in the County of Essex.

Its publication had far reaching local consequences, as we will show in a later blog.  Page 55 of it specifically referred to the area around what we know as Chestnut Avenue:

There is a well in Chestnut Walk, an open ditch flows into it and pollutes it. Near the Eagle and Child there is an open ditch, which is said to be very offensive.

The surrounding area had a number of market gardens and smallholdings, no doubt supplying the London Market. For details of some of the local market gardens, see here.

Chelmsford Chronicle  17 Jul 1896:

Partial transcript:

Lord Claude Hamilton, chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company is announced to open the fruit, flower and vegetable show which has been arranged by the salesmen of Stratford Market in aid of the funds of West Ham Hospital. Numerous entries have been received ... The entrance to Chestnut Lodge Paddock, Carnarvon road, Stratford is quite close to the tram cars running between Stratford and Manor Park ...

The press cutting, above, shows that even in the 1890s in Carnarvon Road, just this side of Stratford, there were active market gardens and horticultural producers. 

Originally some of the market gardens had wooden shacks occupied by residents from inner East London – Shoredittch, Hoxton – as weekend or holiday homes.

Stratford had a wholesale fruit and vegetable market developed by the railway company in Burford Rd. 

The cutting also shows the impact of the Great Eastern Railway (the current Liverpool Street line) in opening the area up to development, allowing rapid movement of people and goods to central London. It is comparable to CrossRail opening up Forest Gate again from 2018. 

The Great Eastern arrived at Forest Gate in 1839. The army of clerks in the City of London needed housing and new suburbs sprang up to meet the demand as shown on the next map.

For an enlarged view of this 1895 Ordnance Survey map, click here

This map shows more or less the current street pattern and the tree lined wide Chestnut Avenue. 

The map below also marks the arrival of the Tottenham and Forest Gate Junction Railway (now the Barking-Gospel Oak) with Wanstead Park station opened 1894. This is an example of blatant marketing by the railway company, since it is nowhere near Wanstead Park proper.

For an enlarged view, click here 
You can also see Angell Pond at the junction of Capel and Woodford Roads, developed by West Ham council engineer Lewis Angell to assist drainage on the Flats, which were very boggy. A bandstand soon appeared too demolished in the 1950s. 

Angell Pond, with bandstand, as described, above
The development process is spelled out in this piece from the 1907 publication West Ham, a Study in Social and Industrial Problems by Howarth and Wilson:

Chestnut Avenue and Avenue Road, which leads from Forest Gate Station to Wanstead Flats, were built about 1875. The houses are detached, or semi-detached, and are let by the year or quarter at rentals varying from £28 to £50 per annum. The tenants are chiefly business people and clerks, whose work lies in the City. A change has come over the Avenue Road property during the last five years (i.e. the early years of the twentieth century). The houses are difficult to let, and although the tenants are of the same class as formerly, they belong to a rather lower grade. On the other hand, some of the Chestnut Avenue property has largely increased in value. The reason for this is that several of the houses have very long gardens, and there is a demand in this district for houses with gardens.  The lease of one of these, with four rooms and a wash-house, was recently sold for £230, whereas it fetched £175 twelve years ago.
By way of explanation for the variations mentioned in the extract above, building started in the mid 1870s but the 1880s saw a major recession in Britain and speculative house building slowed down. The report says that there was an adequate supply of housing between 1892 -97, but from 1897 -99 demand outstripped supply and rents rose. Families took rooms not houses. 

By the early 1900s the area was in some decline but then bounced back with a house costing £175 in 1895 and £230 in 1907. House price volatility is not a new thing.

Chestnut Avenue in 1910
In 1910 Chestnut Avenue was a quiet leafy suburban street with only the occasional small cart to be seen on the road. Notice the trees on the left, in the photo above, are in the carriageway not on the pavement.

Chestnut Avenue achieved a less welcome footnote to history between the two World Wars.  It was the home of Millicent "Scat" Bullivant, a leading light in East London fascism.

Bullivant was the daughter of middle class conservatives from Norfolk and was employed as the secretary to the sales manager at Yardley, the cosmetics company, the core of whose iconic headquarters survives on the approach to Bow Bridge, in Stratford.  She lived at 94 Chestnut Avenue.

She was a long-standing doctrinal fascist, having joined the Fascisti, a forerunner to Mosley'e British Union of Fascists (BUF) in the 1920's. She, and her brother, Richard Alveston Bullivant, were active early organisers of the fascists in Forest Gate and established its bookshop/headquarters, just around the corner from their house, at 18 Woodford Road. 

Bullivant, centre, with a couple of
 fascist colleagues in their blackshirt
 uniforms, before they were banned

Their ultimate fate isn't known, but they recruited the local organiser, Arthur Beavan to the role of local organiser.  He was a thug, who was detained, without trail, in 1940, following the outbreak of war with Germany.

See here for a fuller account of Fascism in Forest Gate in the 1930's.

What the papers' say

Essex Newsman - 2 February 1895


Run over and killed in Forest Gate

Mr Lewis held an inquest at the King's Head Inn, West Ham on 24 Jan, on the body of George Gilbert, aged 68, lately residing at 10 Derby Road, Forest Gate, who was run over and killed by a horse and van in Chestnut Avenue. Albert Edward Perkins, of 81 Park Road, West Ham who was cautioned, said he was employed by the Forest Gate Steam Laundry Company as carman, and was collecting linen in Chestnut Avenue. He pulled up at No 89 and got out to pu the chain on the hind wheel. Before he could do so the horse bolted and galloped Chestnut Avenue towards Woodford Road. Witness could assign no reason for the horse bolting. The horse was sent to the company on trial. He was told not to leave it.  A boy went with him, but at the time he was in Capel Road collecting linen. The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death", but said that they considered that there was negligence on the part of the laundry servants, and that the widow be compensated.

Chelmsford Chronicle - 3 Aug 1900

Partial transcript:

Alleged artfulness of a servant

At West Ham police court on Tuesday Emily Taylor, 21, a servant of earl Street, Stratford, was charged with stealing a quantity of silver and other articles, a large quantity of household linen etc, valued at £!5, the property of William O'Reilly, of Chestnut Avenue, Forest Gate. The prisoner entered Mrs O'Reilly's employment on July 19 and the next day the family went away for a fortnight. ... The prisoner admitted that she had had a man in the house, and that she had helped him to pack up the things and to count the money, and that she had pawned some of the things. A remand was ordered.

Essex Newsman - 18 July 1896


Shocking death on Wanstead Flats: Something frightful

On Thursday an unknown wanderer was found in a dying condition on Wanstead Flats. He expired before medical assistance could be obtained.  The body was in a fearful condition, showing long-continued neglect. The coroner (Mr C C Lewis) held an inquest as soon as possible in order that the body might be buried. Constable Comley, 229K, who deposed to the poor man's death opposite Chestnut Avenue, said the clothing was of a very shabby description, and covered with vermin. Flies had also attacked his body and left live matter about. On the left leg of the deceased's trousers there was an appearance of blood, and the smell was "something frightful - you could hardly breathe". Witness loosened deceased's neckerchief and administered smelling salts, which he carried. He also blew his whistle, and thereby obtained assistance. Dr Boyton came, but the man was dead. The body was conveyed to the mortuary, where it was examined. The left leg was discovered to be one mass of mortification. Nothing was found in the clothing to lead to identification. The body was much emaciated, and live creatures were crawling over it. Deceased said nothing to witness. The Coroner adjourned the inquiry.
Bodies were regularly found on the Flats in the Victorian period, a reminder of the extreme poverty of the era.  There were also a number of suicides and the odd murder. 

FootnoteSee here for Peter's history of Woodford Road, and here for the Ebor Cottages article, posted earlier on this blog. Last week's blog featured the history of Brettell's, a firm of wood turners who have recently vacated their premises on Chestnut Road, after 30 years on the street.

End of an era – wood turners Brettell's leaves Chestnut Avenue

Friday 16 October 2015

- the last active member of a five-generation-firm dies

A piece of local industrial history slipped by, almost unnoticed, last month. The Chestnut Avenue factory of H Brettell & Sons Ltd, woodturners, stair and handrail manufacturers, closed for the last time.

Getting ready to close the doors for
 the last time at Brettell's in Chestnut Road

In a downsizing move, the company, now branded as 'Brettell's', transferred their local business to a railway arch in Winchelsea Road – just a couple of doors along from the Wanstead Tap – thus returning near to a previous Forest Gate location.

Busy workshop in Chestnut Road,
 just a few months ago

The company started life in Haggerston, around 1830, when Henry Brettell, a 14-year old descendent of Huguenot French cabinet makers, began to produce handles for tools and turnings for local traders, next to a sawmill.  He was able to use their off-cuts and scrap as the basis for his raw materials.

Eighty years after establishment, the firm – then run by the founder's son (also Henry) and grandsons – moved to larger premises in Bethnal Green, and soon began war work – making munition boxes and handles for trench periscopes for the army during World War 1. There was no electrically powered machinery -  everything was driven by wide leather belts from pulleys on overhead line-shafting and run from a neighbour's motor through a hole in the wall.
Henry Brettell with second son, Will
In the age before handles for almost everything were made of plastic, companies like Brettells' contributed to a bewildering range of products and supplied numerous occupations: jewellers, for their rosewood engraving tools' handles; glass merchant's cutter handles; handles for paint brushes and most hand tools; boxwood post office date stamps; publicans' beer pump handles; judges' wig stands; lighter bases for Ronsons; ceremonial sword scabbards for Wilkinson: chair legs for furniture.
Henry James Brettell, Rob's grandfather
 and third generation of the family
 to work at the firm
Lignum pucks for deck quoits on the great Cunard liners, were made by Brettell's, as well as mallets for croquet, fids for plaiting rope in the Royal Navy, collars for GPO transatlantic telephone cables, morticians mallets, police truncheons, floggers for hammering bungs into beer barrels, lemon cutting boards for pubs, stone masons mallets and lead dressers for roofers. The list is almost endless and in its heyday, extended to every part of British industry and enterprise.

Inter- war price list from Brettells

 The third generation Henry, and his brothers, continued to run the business after the death of their father, in 1921 – although closed briefly during the depression of the early 1930's.  By the end of that decade they were back in business, concentrating on “war work” and their employees were designated to be in a “reserved occupation”, and thus exempt from military service.

War damage in Bethnal Green

Although bombed, the company survived the blitz and continued working from their Bethnal Green base on civilian work, post war, until its premises was CPO'd by the London County Council in 1955, to make way for housing.

And, so began its almost 60-year relationship with Forest Gate.  James Brettell moved the business to four railway arches and 10,000 square feet of space at 350 Winchelsea Road - where it would remain until 1980.

Surviving company documents show that Brettell's took over an existing Forest Gate firm of wood turners – H Oliver and Sons Ltd, when they moved in. Not only did it acquire their arches' lease from British Rail, it also took Oliver's wood turning machinery – some of which was still in use, until recently, in Chestnut Avenue. The buy-out cost Brettell's a mere £500.

Goldstein hand turning lathe being put
 through its paces, in Brettell's heyday

Brettell's website describes the local setting soon after their move:

Winchelsea Road during the 70’s was surrounded by a fascinating mix of interesting characters with a variety of occupations with, it seemed, the woodturning factory at its heart. There was the car mechanic; the blacksmith; the women bottle washers; the sprayer; the seed merchant; the tinsmith and the stone masons. We all got sandwiches from Alec’s corner cafĂ© (ed: now a Caribbean Cafe)with a juke box, Bev coffee and a pin ball machine jacked up on wooden blocks to make the ball run faster. There was the corner shop; the brush makers; the clothing factory and the printers. The street seemed to be full of cars all tied together with string.
When a free coffee machine was installed outside the office this often became a focal point and an excuse for people to visit and of course at some point everyone needed a piece of wood or some wood chips. The company supplied the whole road with wood chips for their chip burners. Every so often they would bring back some charred spanners that had been swept up and bagged with the chips. A lot of trading went on within this small community under the barter system and it became known as “The Mill”.

Jim Brettell, James' son and the last surviving member of the family, who has never played an active part in its production, says that his father was well known for giving local characters in search of work, or who had fallen on hard times, a break and a job at the company. He employed many a released prisoner on the advice of Probation Officers, together with one of the first black immigrants in the area from the Dominican Republic.
James Brettell, fourth generation
 family member and father of Rob,
 the last in the active line
The business continued to prosper, under family control, and in 1980 moved to more convenient freehold premises,  8,500 square foot of industrial space in the midst of the otherwise residential Chestnut Avenue, less than a mile away. These premises had been vacated by Messrs Westgate Grafton, dealers in woodworking machinery. Control of the firm had passed successively through the third and fourth generation Brettells, until fifth generation, Rob (Jim, above's brother) took over in 1995.

Rob, as a youngster at the workshop
The company began to diversify in the early years of the present century, moving into production of large turnings for staircases and complex hand-railing in order to supplement general woodturning which was becoming less profitable as demand fell.
It has been from Chestnut Avenue that highly skilled craftsmen, using a variety of machine tools and lathes have been able to produce bespoke products to the very highest of standards for a wide range of customers – from building merchants to high-spec jobs in some of the most prestigious locations in Britain, such as Mayfair and Knightsbridge (see photographs).

Chestnut Road workshop, recently, as it
 is cleared out, before house building
commences (above and below) 

At its peak, the company employed up to 20 people. With the departure of some of them, and the move away from woodturning, we have lost some of the most skilled turners and woodworkers in the country, whose craft and techniques have been forever lost.

Recently deceased Rob Brettell,
 last in the family active in the company

With the fifth generation, Rob's, death this Spring, there is no longer an active member of the family employed on the manufacturing side of the business.  The company has decided to downsize and move back to its former stomping ground in Winchelsea Road railway arches – just occupying one, this time, about 50 yards away from its earlier base.

Back home? inside the new
premises in Winchelsea Road
So much for the history, what of the practice, and present?

The company still produces staircases and fittings to the highest order and maintains the tradition of hand-crafted production, spurning the growing use of computer-controlled 5 axis CNC machines.

Fork lift truck entering the new premises
They continue to believe  that it's only by the use of old-style techniques that the very best results can be achieved and when required, especially in sensitive historic locations. A look at their website: shows the high quality workmanship and range of products and customised goods made and supplied.

A recently produced and  customised staircase
Although the closure of Chestnut Avenue feels like the end of an era, the firm is still producing locally. If you have specialist joinery needs, why not pop in, have a chat and see if they can match your specification?

'The Wanstead' - one of the
company's standard products
The vacant premises on Chestnut Avenue will become the site of six new houses and the bulldozers will be in soon to demolish the old (and frankly crumbling) workshops currently standing there.

For details on the fascinating  history of the rest of Chestnut Avenue, see next week's blog, when local historian Peter Williams produces another of his historical Forest Gate street guides.

Footnote. There is a great selection of photographs of Brettell's, as a small woodworking factory, in an edition of Spitalfields Life from June 2014 (see here), to whom we are indebted for the use of some of the photographs in this article (as indicated). Brettell's own website (see here) provides more information and photographs about the firm, to whom we are also indebted for their use.

Councillor/landlord interests in Forest Gate

Friday 9 October 2015

Great detective work by the local Green Party has thrown up an interesting story about the property interests of some of our local councillors, which we examine, below.

This blog also provides a timely update on  matters relating to our previous article on overseas companies' interests in Forest Gate properties - following comments from a couple of our followers/readers.

After an examination of the Greens' work, you might conclude that as far as some local representatives are concerned, they could as well be described as representing the local Landlord Party, as the local Labour Party.

The Green Party has established that - between them - 46 Newham councillors own or control nearly 100 properties in Newham. A charitable observer may conclude that 43 of those properties are effectively owner occupied by councillors.

Which leaves the interesting story of the remaining 56 (that we know of).

Nine Newham councillors (about one in 7 of the total) are, by any standards, significant local landlords - and all elected as Labour members.

Beckton councillor, Ayesha Chowdhury is queen of the group, with 19 properties in the borough, which have a combined estimated value of in excess of £4.5 million, and a collective monthly rent of over £20,000. 

The capitals gains on these properties since their original purchase (using Land Registry and Zoopla figures) exceeds £1.5million. She built up her property empire from her home - a Newham council flat (!) - until exposed by the national press four years ago.

Cllr Ayesha Chowdhury - property queen, who built her empire while living in a Newham council house and her Forest Gate interest - 21 Eric Close

Second in the local landlord/councillor stakes is Royal Docks member Antony McAlmont, whose registered properties (mostly controlled by limited companies, including Ashbel UK) total seven, with a value of almost £3.5 million.

Cllr Antony McAlmont, whose local
 property interest is wrapped up
 in limited companies
Third placed is Ahmed Noor (Plaistow South), with at least five properties in Newham, conservatively valued at £3million. He has provoked considerable controversy because of his property dealings in Forest Gate (see below).

Next on the local landlord/councillor list is Unmesh Desai (East Ham, Central), who has recently been selected as Labour candidate for the Greater London Assembly seat of City and East London, in next May's election.

The Greens have tracked down five properties in his ownership, with a combined Zoopla estimated value in excess of £2million, and a hypothetical capital gain of almost £1million, since their original acquisition.

Step forward Green Street East Councillor Mukesh Patel, as next in line. There have been five Newham properties registered to his name, two of which have subsequently been transferred to Piyush Patel (his wife?).

Green St East's Mukesh Patel,
 with five Newham properties
Next our very own, former absentee Mayoral adviser on Forest Gate, Rohima Rahman (Green Street East). She is registered as the beneficial owner of three Newham properties, with a combined value of £1.25 million. One of these properties is a leasehold one, with Newham Council owning the freehold.

Forest Gate South member, Mas Patel, owns two properties in Newham and at least one other in Ilford, while neighbouring, Green Street West councillor Idris Ibrahim is the registered owner of two Newham properties.

Green St West's Idris Ibrahim
 - just the two local properties

2 and 21 Westbury Road, in Forest Gate, for local councillor, Idris Ibrahim

Manor Park councillor Salim Patel rounds up this part of this survey - he, also, directly owns two Newham properties. He is, however, involved with a complex web of property companies, which between them own a further 10 properties in the borough.

The Forest Gate interest

32 councillor-owned properties are located in Forest Gate and at least four councillors with a direct interest in the area feature in the lists, above.

Property queen Ayesha Chowdhury (see above) has an interest in the E7 postcode, with the ownership of 18 Eric Close, from which she receives £1,000 rent per month. She has overseen a capital gain of £75,000 on this property, since she took ownership of it, which is now valued by Zoopla with a value of £264,000.

Four of Ahmed Noor's five properties lie within the E7 postcode; and the fifth is in East Ham. Two of the Forest Gate properties (218 and 230 Green Street) are shops. A third is 46 Windsor Road, from which he collects a monthly rent of £3,500.

Cllr Ahmed Noor (left) - suspended  from the Labour Party nationally  and locally after breaching planning  permission. 238 Romford Road, the controversial  building in question, whose flats, additionally  provided "poor quality accommodation" (see below for details)

Noor's two Green Street Shops - 218 and 230

46 Windsor, another of Noor's Forest Gate
 portfolio, delivering a monthly rental of £3,500

Most controversially Cllr Noor also owns 238 Romford Road. Forest Gate resident, Martin Warne, in his excellent blog: has tracked his relationship with this premises. The building (see photo, above) has planning permission for commercial, not residential use. It was, however, sometime recently converted into a rooming house, or more officially a "house in multiple occupation", without appropriate approval.

Cllr Noor was issued with an enforcement notice this Spring, following its unauthorised conversion, which not only highlighted the unlawful refurbishment, but drew attention to its shoddy state. The notice said:
The conversion of the property to a house in multiple occupation provides a poor quality of accommodation, which is to the detriment of the persons who live there, and at a neighbourhood level, harms the objective of creating healthier neighbourhoods. It is therefore contrary to the policy ... and requirements of the Lifetime Homes Standards. (our emphasis).
Cllr Noor quickly said that he complied with the notice and returned it to commercial usage (see photograph suggesting that it is the headquarters of a plumbing company). He was, however, suspended from the Labour Party, locally and nationally, pending an investigation into his actions surrounding it.

Cllr Noor's excuse was that it was rented out to a third party which was responsible for the conversion, without his knowledge. It is not clear whether Newham Council has conducted a subsequent inspection to determine that the premises are actually commercial now, or that the unsightly advertising is simply a smoke screen for continued unauthorised domestic occupancy.

Would-be Greater London Authority member and Newham Councillor, Unmesh Desai's local property portfolio includes 115 Tower Hamlets Road, in Forest Gate. He receives a monthly rent of £1,300 for this and has benefitted from a capital gain from it of in excess of £200,000, since he first purchased the house. His other E7 acquisition is 34 Rothsay Road.

Would be Greater London
 Authority councillor, and
 close associate of Mayor
 Robin Wales, Unmesh
 Desai with two Forest
 Gate and five
Newham-wide properties

34 Rothsay and 115 Tower Hamlets Road - part of local the Desai property collection

Rohima Rahman, Forest Gate's now deposed former mayoral Advisor on Forest Gate owns 21 Dorset Road, as one of her three Newham properties. She has seen a capital gain on it of almost £200,000, since her original purchase of it.

Familiar face? The former absentee "mayoral advisor" on Forest Gate. Too busy looking after her property interests (one of which, 21 Dorset Road, shown right) to be an active Forest Gate advisor?

Being a Councillor for Green Street West is handy for Idris Ibhrahim. It means he can keep an eye on the interest of the two properties he owns on Westbury Road (2 and 21) - see above for photos.

Forest Gate South councillor, Mas Patel is similarly well-placed to look out for developments regarding to his properties at 23 Vale Road and 74 A - C Upton Lane.

Forest Gate South's Mas

Mas of property in Forest Gate: 74 a-c Upton Lane and 23 Vale Roads

Manor Park's Salim Patel's local property empire is difficult to fully establish, given the complex property-owning structure of companies he benefits from.

But he certainly has an interest - possibly controlling - of five Forest Gate properties, through these arrangements, being those at 278 Shrewsbury and 6 Lincoln Roads, together with 113a and 115 Godwin and 12 Stafford Roads.

Manor Park's Salim Patel,
with five Forest Gate properties

Salim Patel's five Forest Gate properties: top: 6 Lincoln, 113b - 115 Godwin, second row: 278 Shrewsbury, 12 Stafford Roads

Many would argue that there is nothing intrinsically wrong about landlordism, or being a "buy-to-let" landlord in the complex property jungle that is London. Nor should it simplistically be assumed that "all landlords are Tories".

However, in the one-party state that is Newham, pretty much the only way to guarantee election to the Council - and to keep a watching eye over the fate of your property portfolio - is to stand as a Labour candidate.

How many of these landlords would be Tories, if Newham were less loyal to Labour? How many of them use and stand for Labour as a "flag of convenience", while having no regard to the party's policies about providing decent, reasonably-priced, homes for people?

In a one-party-state, with an autocratic mayor, it is particularly important to s/elect strong candidates, who will stand up for local people, rather than simply party hacks, or those flying under flags of convenience.

It is difficult to conclude that all of Labour's councillors fall into the category of candidates who will always stand for the interests of local people.

N.B. If any of the councillors above feel we have misrepresented, or indeed under-estimated, their property interests in this article, we will be happy to correct the detail, all of which has come from publicly available sources.

Overseas ownership update

There is progress to report on the building that we described as "prestigious" and "iconic" in the 'Offshore Forest Gate' post, last month (see here): BCP City Gate, on Romford Road.

We recorded this property, you may recall, as being registered in the Isle of Man in July 2005 to  BCP City Gate Ltd, with a recorded value - then - of £3,658,840.

The Isle of Man company which
 owned this local landmark -
 City Gate House - went into
liquidation in the Spring of this year

We have subsequently learned that the company was put in the hands of liquidators on 10 April this year. Quite how a company with that level of assets could sink into insolvency is unclear, unless the property concerned has been moved on to the ownership of yet another company.

We do not know why this should have happened, but will not be shedding any tears of sorrow for the fate of the liquidated company. It is difficult to believe that there are not ulterior motives at play, which will further enhance the position of the beneficial owners of the building - all firmly out of the sight of the British tax collector - of course!

Meanwhile, one more significant local building can be added to the list of the foreign owned, and largely exempt from British tax liability.

When it became clear that Forest Gate was to become a beneficiary of the opening of Crossrail, Woodgrange Road's Telephone House was snapped by a Saudi company, sensing a good return on the investment would be pretty much guaranteed.  

Although Saudi Arabia is not a tax haven, in the way that some of the countries mentioned in the original article are, there is no doubt that the British exchequer will not gain the same benefit from increased rents or values that it would have experienced had the building remained in UK ownership.

We also mentioned the cluster of properties around 50 Avenue Road, in our post, as being beneficially owned by Isle of Man based Dominion Ltd.

The property was formerly a hostel owned by the London and Quadrant Housing Association.  We understand from someone who knew the project well that the building was home to many of Forest Gate's "characters".
50 Avenue Road, forming housing
 association hostel, sold to Isle
 of Man based landlords, following
 unresolved dampness problems
Persistent, unresolved,  dampness problems with the premises, however, lead the housing association to sell the premises and move the residents on elsewhere. Thus explaining the sale of the property - but not providing an explanation for it coming under tax haven Isle of Man ownership.

Footnote. If you are interested to know more about our local Green Party, to whom we are greatly indebted for the bulk of the information in this blog, please follow @rachel_shares (chair of Newham Green Party, @newhamgreens on Twitter, or Like them on Facebook: http//