Forest Gate's early transport history

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

As construction works begins in earnest around Forest Gate station now, and next year on the Goblin line, to facilitate the next stage in the area's transport story, and future development, it seems worth a pause to look at how early road and railway construction helped make Forest Gate what it is today.

London's rapid population growth in the eighteenth century put a strain on the roads bringing foodstuffs and raw materials to the capital. One such road was the old Roman road from London to Colchester, which was, by this time, known as Essex (now Romford) Road. It  passed on its way through West Ham on its way to London, from the Eastern Counties
.
The road was described by Daniel Defoe in his 1720's publication A Tour Through The Whole Island of Great Britain as:


That great road from London thro' this whole county towards Ipswich and Harwich which is most worn with wagons, carts and carriages and with infinite droves of black cattle, hogs and sheep of any road in England.
It was the need to improve the road that lead the section between Whitechapel and Shenfield being created a Turnpike Trust (toll road) in 1722 - essentially what is now Romford Road. Defoe commented that:


All those villages are increased in buildings in a strange degree ... and the towns of West Ham, Plaistow, Upton etc. (so insignificant was Forest Gate in its own right at this time that it was bundled up in Defoe's etc!) in all which places above a thousand new foundations have been erected ... this increase is of handsome large houses ... being chiefly for the habitation of the richest citizens (see future articles in this blog featuring the development of Upton, and Upton Lane, in particular) ... there are no less than 200 coaches kept.
J Gibson's 1776 map of a road from  London to Great
 Yarmouth. The  original route of the A12 mostly  ran on
this alignment, particularly the  Roman Road from
 London to Colchester
 A survey of road traffic entering London from the East in 1830 showed that 494 wagons passed along the road each week, along with a thousand head of cattle, 8,000 sheep, 400 pigs and 150 calves.

In addition, private carriages had driven over 350,000 miles along the road and people on horseback rode over 700,000 miles along it during that year.

The road was struggling to cope, and ambitious plans for developing a steam locomotive along the route were drawn up. According to plans in the Essex Record Office, an 1803 proposal envisaged horse drawn locomotives being transported over railway lines, to their destination on the Essex coast.

In the event, the scheme, which would have seen an early "railway" rattle through Forest Gate, came to nothing.

It was over thirty years, 1836, before two railway schemes, each playing a major role in the development of Forest Gate, received the Royal Assent.

The first came from the Commercial Railway Company, built to improve the haulage of both goods and passengers between Brunswick Wharf, at Blackwall and the City. The second was the Eastern Counties Railway, promoted to transport coal from Great Yarmouth (a considerably more important port then, than today) to London.

The original proposed route  for the Eastern Counties line was to start at Shoreditch High Street and head eastwards, via Bethnal Green to Mile End.

Here the railway was to veer south, to Old Ford and cross the marshes to Stratford (see engraving, below). The preferred route from Strafford through Forest Gate was for a straight line running in parallel, north of the Turnpike.

On the plans submitted to Parliament, an alternative route, passing north of Forest Gate's Eagle and Child pub was shown. In the event, this was not adopted, and the original proposal was used for the route.

The surveyors recorded the following properties along the route as being in Forest Gate. From West to East: Prospect Place, containing 12 cottages and a small chapel, Chapel Place with six cottages with gardens, Pleasant Place, with 8 cottages with gardens and Whitehall Place, with 8 cottages.  All these places were owned by John Pickering Peacock.


Extract from 1867 OS map of Forest Gate,
 not location of original railway station,
 not on Woodgrange Road,
 but a hut on Forest Lane
Then came the Eagle and Child and two cottages, owned by the brewers Combe Dalafield and Company. Next was a series of properties including the houses and gardens of John Brown and William Leverton, buildings and yards owned by Joshua Pedley and the cottage owned by Richard Curtis (no, not that one!) Finally came a place called Hoppett by the Lane, a meadow with a cottage and garden and the Mansion House buildings and yard, all these being owned by John Greenhill.

John Braithwaite was appointed engineer of the Eastern Counties Railway and the Railway Magazine was quick to point out his inexperience, and woeful track record, to date. It, with a note of irony, predicted that it would take him until 1836 (i.e. a hundred years) to complete the construction to Great Yarmouth.

The first twelve miles of the line were, in fact, opened in June 1839 - from Shoreditch to Romford. Two days later, the line experienced its first accident, when both the driver and his stoker were killed, when the locomotive "leapt off the track". The driver, John Meadows had been dismissed previously by another railway company for "furious driving".


East County Railways coming to  Stratford,
engraving 1837,  featuring  a bridge over
 the River Lee, on extreme left of picture.
River is foreground  is Bow Back river,
 on way to Bow Bridge
The first Forest Gate station was opened in 1841. It originally consisted of a small wooden structure, with an entrance on Forest Lane (see location, on Forest Lane, in the extract from the 1867 OS map, above). It was only, originally, served by two trains a day and so poor were the passenger numbers that it was closed, because of lack of trade, between 1844 and 1846.

In 1845 the shareholders of the Eastern Counties railway invited George Hudson ("The Railway King") to help bail them out. Hudson was a crook, but was the inspiration behind building the railway works and sidings in Stratford. 

In gratitude, part of West Ham was named after him.

The railway workers in Stratford needed homes, and soon housing was constructed by building societies in parts of Forest Gate, to accommodate them.

Although, under Hudson, trains began to service Forest Gate once more, the service was pretty poor.  As late as 1863, John Spencer Curwen, who was behind the Earlham Grove Musical academy (see here), wrote:


The trains were few and uncertain ... Ten or twenty minutes belatement we thought nothing of. Sometimes trains did not come at all ... I do not think there were more than seven or eight trains each way per day. On an average, about six people entered or left at Forest Gate.
"Railway Mania" was an appropriate term to describe the chaos created by rival companies, essentially serving the same area and competing furiously, and often unscrupulously for passengers and freight.


The second Forest Gate station, c 1900, when
 the roundel was incorporated into the station.


Early "tourism", rail day excursions and publications like Bradshaws were produced to cater for the rapid development of railways not just for business, but for leisure too. Bradshaws became almost a bible for travellers, providing early versions of what we, today, would call travel guides, offering lengthy descriptions of the key points of interest in and around railway towns and stations.

It's contributors were clearly not too impressed with what Forest Gate had to offer in 1863.  The extract, below is the totality of their description:



And so yet another railway came to service the area, this time in the 1890's, and actually featured Forest Gate in its title. This was called the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway (the core of what is now better known as the Gospel Oak to Barking - Goblin, or Chimney Pot - Line).

It was to link the Midland railway, at Tottenham, with the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway at their junction with the Great Eastern (formerly Eastern Counties Railway). (Confused? You aren't alone). See map, below, for clearer portrayal.
Simplified railway map, c 1914,
 showing stations, lines and features
The Tottenham and Forest Gate railway met much popular opposition, as over a hundred recently constructed houses in Forest Gate had to be demolished to make way for the viaducts that carried the railway through the district.

The railway opened in 1894 and was soon running, in conjunction with other companies, trains between St Pancras and Tilbury, via the newly opened stations of Woodgrange Park and Wanstead Park.

The company soon needed more rolling stock to cater for its expanding numbers of passengers, so in 1897-8 it commissioned the construction of 12 engines to service the line. Each was named after an Essex town, or place on its route, one of which was called the Forest Gate - see photo.  This, like the other in the series (LTSR 37-48), was in almost continuous commission until it was scrapped, in 1951.


The London, Tilbury and Southend
 railway's 1897 locomotive: Forest Gate
Forest Gate was now well served, and heavily dependent on railways, as a form of transport. The six or eight passengers a day of 1841, rose to over 10,000 immediately prior to World War One.


1909 Great Eastern Railway third
 class ticket: 1d (less than half of 1p!)
 for Forest Gate to Maryland
Yet another form of local public transport was being developed to help with the commuting needs of the Forest Gate and area's population from the 1870's: trams.  See our earlier post (here) on their history in the district.


Forest Gate's listed buildings (1)

Friday, 18 December 2015

In our recent feature on what may become Forest Gate's first £2m house (here) we noted that it was "listed", by English Heritage and gave the grounds for its status.

There are, in fact ten "listed" buildings in Forest Gate. We feature the other nine in a two-part series, of which this is the first.

The borough of Newham boasts 116 such buildings, many associated with the former Docks, Tide Mill in Stratford, Abbey Mills pumping station, churches or cemeteries. Three have Grade 1 listing (All Saints, Strafford, Tide Mill, itself, and St Mary's the Virgin, East Ham). The other 113 are Grade 11 listed.

"Listing", in lay terms, means that the conservation body English Heritage recognises that the building has features of architectural interest which are worthy of preservation. These are highlighted in the citation for listing and are included, in each case, in this article.

Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that, as far as possible, these features are preserved and will not, under normal circumstances, give planning permission to attempts to disrupt them. 

For their owners this can be a double edged sword: kudos of owning a listed building, but often real difficulty in changing its design or appearance which can cause difficulties if looking to sell - presumable an issue for the owners of ex-pubs the Spotted Dog and Earl of Essex - see next episode.

The text below is (slightly) edited from the English Heritage website and can, in places, be very architecturally technical. But even a lay reader can get the drift of what is being appreciated by those responsible for the listings, from their citations.


89 Dames Road - listed 1981


House probably circa 1840. Two storeys, four bays wide with asymmetrically placed entrance, all under hipped and slated roof set back from road frontage. Of stock brick, double fronted with additional bay to north.


89 Dames Road
Segmental headed ground floor sashes set in recessed semicircular stucco arched surround tied together at window head level by a profiled stucco string. First floor segmental headed sash windows lie below closed overhanging roof eaves.

Main entrance accentuated by entablature supported by Doric columns. Interior not seen.

Now residential flats.


Church of St Antony and Monastery, St Antony's Road - listed 1984


Church and Monastery 1884 (foundation stone) finished in 1891. Architects Pugin & Pugin (Of Houses of Parliament fame). Early English and Geometrical Gothic Church. Yellow stock brick with ashlar dressings. Slated roofs.

 Austere. 7-bay nave with tall clerestory. Lean-to aisle roofs, double to (liturgical) south, to incorporate confessionals. Gabled chapel to south. South-eastern apsed chapel. Rose window over High Altar. 6 light traceried window to west end above gabled entrance. Cuspless three-light clerestory windows. Lancets to confessionals.


Church and monastery of St Antony

Monastery 2-storeyed with transverse gable to left and smaller gables to centre and right. Similar materials to church, but blue, chamfered engineering bricks to window openings. Lower windows paired lancets with leaded lights.

Beneath gables three light tracery windows, pointed head to left, the others with stepped, square, heads. Walls buttressed. Building linked to church. Gabled entrance, porch to left, with Mother & Child statue in canopied niche above.


Duke of Fife public house, Stafford/Katherine Roads - listed 1984


Public house circa 1895. Frederick W Ashton. A richly ornamented corner public house. 2 storeys with slated mansard and attic storey. Yellow stock brick with painted stone or stucco dressings. Jacobean motifs. Balancing elevations to Katherine Road front and to Stafford Road flank with 2-storey wing on flank.

Front has two segmental arches to ground floor, two 3-light windows to first floor, and balustraded with buttresses gabled dormers above. Ornamental panels above and below first floor windows with panelled pilasters between. Octagonal corner turret, (dome now missing) with linked female caryatids to drum.


Duke of Fife, ex-pub, now 
restaurant and banqueting hall
Arched entrances between ground floor, windows and to corner, with carytid-ornament above. Chimney stacks have pilaster ornament, and those on south side are gabled and buttressed like attic window. Similar gabled window to slated wing. Later single-storey wing at back. Interior not seen.

Now Asian restaurant.


Emmanuel Church, Vale Road - listed 1984


Church 1852. Sir George Gilbert Scott. Decorated Gothic style. Kentish ragstone. Tiled roof to eaves. No clerestory.


Emmanuel church, 1907

Perpendicular north aisle of 1890, the same height and width as original nave. Short tiled broach spire over chancel arch. Lady Chapel to south side balances organ chamber to north. Lean-to south aisle. South porch. Aisles are buttressed. Low turretted north transept. Vigourously foliated columns to 6-bay nave arcading.


Former Congregational church (now Azhar Academy), Romford Road - listed 1984


Former Congregational Church of 1880 by T Lewis Banks with church hall of 1883. Later known as United Reformed Church. Converted in 2002-3 to a school, the Azhar Academy Girl's School. 

Materials: Knapped flint with red stone and red brick dressings, tiled roof.

Exterior: Early English Gothic style. Externally the former church is largely as constructed, having an nave with lean-to aisles, south-eastern vestry and 3-stage buttressed and pinnacled tower with short spire to the south-west; the former church hall abuts the church's east end.


Former Congregational church,
 now Azhar Academy
The tower has triple arcading to top stage with a gabled centre panel of louvres and blind arcading below. To Romford Road, the west end has two gabled, porched entrances with arcades between on the ground floor above which are three lancets with brick mullions flanked by trefoil arches and single lancets; the uppermost portion of the gable has triple lancets, flanked by blind single lancets, and a decorative cross set into panel of red stone at the apex, the pinnacle of which is missing.

To the right of the entrance is a projecting vestry, which resembles a short tower at the lower levels with arcading to ground floor and buttresses to corners, triple mullioned windows to first floor, and parapet above. It is surmounted by a steeply pitched, curved-hipped, tiled structure, almost semi-circular, with continuous timber mullioned glazing with leaded lights. Twin gabled transepts project to either side of the nave with round-arched, stepped lancet windows, moulded brick mullions and stone pilasters.

The two-storey, gabled former church hall to the rear of the building has gabled porches facing west. The lancet windows to the west and north have all been infilled with breezeblocks. The single bay joining the former church to the hall has been converted into a stair and heightened with glazed clerestory and a modern roof.

A two-storey former clergy house with gables to north and south abuts the rear of the hall to the east. It is of flint with brick quoins, chimney stacks and window dressings, and the gable to the north is rendered. The window to ground floor has been blocked which is adjacent to a small brick porch with pitched roof. 

Interior: None of the original fixtures and fittings remain. Classrooms and offices have been inserted into the former nave, arranged across two mezzanines, fronted with glass to the central hall areas. The upper floors are reached by a stair and lift in the tower and the stair at the rear between the school and old hall.

The nave arcading - large sandstone pillars - and aisle and clerestory window mouldings remain exposed and the contrast between modern and historic materials means the old arrangement is roughly readable, assisted by the use of glass partitions. The windows have red brick and red stone arched dressings with red stone pilasters and moulded motifs, some have stained glass in the upper sections.

At first floor the timber wall posts, hammer beams and arched braces on stone corbels are visible in the modern classrooms. A floor inserted at the impost level of the roof vault has created a large prayer hall in the roof space where the impressive original hammer-beam roof is visible.

A second prayer hall is accommodated in the former church hall to the rear; a suspended ceiling has been inserted here but window openings and wall posts to the roof structure are visible. The former clergy house is used for utilities.

History: The building was constructed in 1883 to designs by T Lewis Banks for the Congregational Church. The foundation stone was laid by Henry Wright Esq JP, and the builder was Charles Sharpe. It abutted a church hall, built by the same congregation and architect, dating from 1880 which survives to the rear of the former church.

The building became known as the United Reformed Church in the second half of the C20 and in 2002, having become redundant as a church, was granted listed building consent for conversion to a school. The Azhar Academy Girl's School opened in 2003. 

Reasons for designation: The former Congregational Church is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* it is a landmark on Romford Road, in particular its impressive tower with pinnacled buttresses and short spire;
* good composition and detailing in the Early English style;
* the use of materials is good, including knapped flint, sandstone and red brick dressings (the former untypical in this area);
* an interesting ensemble of buildings, as was common in non-conformist churches, including a slightly earlier church hall of 1880 and a clergy house.


Carnegie Library, Plashet Grove (in Plashet Park) - listed 1994


Public library, now Newham's registry office. 1898-9 by Silvanus Trevail. Red brick with stone dressings, slate roof with three-stage cupola bearing clock. Two storeys, with gabled attic over entrance bay.

Three bays, the outer bays with five-light mullion and transom windows under parapets sporting trefoil headed panels. Central entrance composed like a Diocletian window, pair of blue marble Ionic columns carrying arch, spandrels with bas-reliefs of seated figures with scroll and book. Aprons of first-floor windows inscribed in raised letters 'Passmore Edwards Public Library'.
Carnegie Library, Plashet Park

Gabled two-storey returns with windows at first and attic storey. Lower rear section contains reading room (low projecting bay on east side originally contained the ladies' bay). Interior contains a hammer-beam roof to rear reading room. The first and attic storeys originally housed the chief librarian. 
Opened by Herbert Gladstone, MP, 30 November 1899. Largely paid for by John Passmore Edwards, philanthropist and proprietor of the Building News, who promoted libraries in the poorer parts of London. This is an uncommonly richly decorated example of his patronage in a suburban area.

Source: Building News, 11 November 1898.

We are deeply indebted to English Heritage for their efforts in attempting to preserve key aspects of our architectural history.  We acknowledge and are most grateful for their Listed Buildings website (here), from which we have taken most of the material (though not the photos) in this article.  We recognise their copyright of the material.

The Princess Alice - gone, but not forgotten

Friday, 11 December 2015


So, the ground floor of one of Forest Gate's most recognisable buildings has finally closed as a drinking/eating establishment.  The Princess Alice, and its supping and catering heirs, is no more, as the space is now occupied by the latest national chain-store addition to Woodgrange Road area - Superdrug.


From Alice to Superdrug
Below is the briefest of histories and a photographic trip down memory lane, to mark its passing.


One of the earliest surviving photos,
 in first decade of 20th century
It is commonly thought that the pub was named after the Thames pleasure boat of the same name that crashed in the river and sunk, with the loss of 650 lives. In fact the ship went down in 1878, over a decade after the pub was opened.


Undated, but first decade of 20th century
The pub began business as Forest Gate opened up as a residential area, following the appearance in the district of the early railways. Careful research by Pubshistory.com has traced all the landlords, and those living on the premises, from when it opened in 1868 until the outbreak of World War 11.


1907

Advert - 1907
The first landlord was Charles Bansback, who had been the landlord of the Seven Stars in Brick Lane prior to moving to Forest Gate. He remained until 1874 and was succeeded by a rapid turnover of governors, until 1917, when Percy Thomas Cole took the reins. He held the job for almost the whole inter-war period. We have no details of post WW2 landlords.


Above and below, two
inter-war photos of the pub

The major event in the pub's 140 year history was the bombing it suffered on 19 April 1941. As the photo below indicates it was totally destroyed.

Surprisingly, only one man, out walking his dog, was killed by the blast.


Princess Alice as a bomb site, after April 1941

The Alice was rebuilt after World War 11, with some vaguely Art Deco features, and an overall appearance not dissimilar to that of the bow of an ocean-going liner - perhaps a mistaken reference to the ill-fated Princess Alice pleasure boat, referred to above.


Vaguely art deco, with ship's bow
 references in post-war design
The pub had its ups and downs in the post-war era, but, offering nothing special by way of attraction, it almost inevitably fell to the fierce competition from the Wetherspoon's Hudson Bay, barely a hundred yards away, when it opened. The Alice finally closed, as a pub in 2007.


In its most recent former glory
 - before closure as a pub
Since that time it's had a number of make-overs and name changes as bars, buffet restaurants and banqueting suites, without ever really seeming busy.

It finally gave up the catering ghost, at least on the ground floor, when its latest transformation saw it established as a Superdrug store.  Banqueting has been banished to the upstairs.


One of its recent manifestations,
 as a ground floor buffet restaurants

Not forgotten? 


Well Princess Alice remains the official name of the bus stop outside the premises, and it doesn't seem to be a changing to "Superdrug, Forest Gate" any time soon. 

Should it do so, it would be interesting to see whether it began to carry a rather different selection of curious passengers.


Who was the Princess Alice after whom it was named?


There have been a number of Princess Alices attached to the British royal family, over the centuries. The one whom the pub was named after, however, was Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (1843 - 1878), the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria. She was the first of Victoria's children to have died.

Princess Alice in 1861 - seven years
 before achieving fame in Forest Gate
She married Prince Louis of Hesse and was the mother of the last Tsaritsa of Russia (Alexandra). She was also to become the grandmother of Lord Louis Mountbatten, great-great grandmother to Prince Phillip and g x 3 grandmother to Charles etc.

Alice in 1875 - eight
 years after the opening
 of the eponymous pub
Of more significance, perhaps, she was a prolific patron of women's causes - an uncharacteristically progressive position for a member of a mid nineteenth century European royal family to take. She shared an interest in nursing, particularly the work of Florence Nightingale and of field hospitals in European wars (inevitably fought in the names of members of her family).


With her husband and children at
 about pub opening time - 1867
By co-incidence, May Orchard, nanny to her children, is buried locally in Manor Park cemetery.  See here for details.

The ups and downs of Forest Gate schools' Ofsted judgements

Friday, 4 December 2015


Ofsted has produced its annual report this week, summarising the findings of its 5,000 school inspections, nation-wide, over the last year (here). This brief blog summarises the inspectorate's findings and judgments of Forest Gate's mainstream state-funded schools, based on its latest assessment of them.

None of the local schools, in fact, would appear to have had a full inspection over the last year. What follows is their current status, together with the date of their most recent inspection and a brief comment on the ups or downs in judgement ratings.

Gone are the days when Newham's main concern on the publication of national schools league tables, was whether the borough was able to climb out of the bottom half dozen of all local authority providers or not. 

Newham's performance, according to the latest Ofsted report, put the borough's secondary schools at 25th place, out of the 147 English local authorities. Primary performance was not quite as good, coming in at ranking 99th place.

Forest Gate schools performance, applying the Ofsted criteria, would have placed the area at 31st place in the national primary league table (out of 147). 

In the secondary table, the ranking would have been 99th (out of 147). If Forest Gate Community school were able to push its rating of grade 3 ("Requires improvement"), up a single grade to 2 ("Good"), Forest Gate secondaries would have come in at joint first place in the country. Not much pressure on FGCS there, then!

The schools, with their most recent Ofsted judgment are are listed in alphabetical order.


Secondary schools


Forest Gate Community school - overall assessment 3 - Requires improvement

The school had its last full inspection in December 2013, when it dropped a grade from "Good" to "Requires improvement".


Forest Gate Community school:
 Requires improvement

St Angela's Ursuline school - overall assessment 1 - Outstanding

The school had its last full inspection in 2005, when it achieved "Outstanding" status.  A light touch interim inspection in 2009 confirmed this judgement.


St Angela's: Outstanding

St Bonaventures - overall assessment 1 - Outstanding

The last full inspection took place in 2009, when the "Outstanding" rating was secured.
St Bonaventures: Outstanding

Stratford school - overall assessment 2 - Good

The "Good" rating was achieved in the March 2014 inspection.


Primary schools


Earlham Primary school - overall assessment 2 - Good

The last full inspection, awarding a "Good" status, took place in November 2013.

Elmhurst Primary school - overall assessment 1 - Outstanding

Elmhurst achieved an "Outstanding" status at its last full inspection, in 2010.


Elmhurst: Outstanding


Godwin Junior school - overall assessment 2 - Good

Godwin was last inspected in June 2014, when it was judged to be a "Good" school.

Odessa Infant school - overall assessment 3 - Requires improvement

Odessa slipped from "Good", awarded in 2006, to "Requires improvement" at the time of its last full inspection, in October 2013.


Odessa: Requires improvement

Sandringham Primary school - overall assessment 2 - Good

Sandringham was judged to be "Good" in its last, July 2013, inspection.


Sandringham: Good


St Antony's RC Primary school - overall assessment 2 - Good

St Antony's improved from "Requires improvement" to "Good" at the time of its most recent inspection, in February 2013.

St James C of E Primary school - overall assessment 2 - Good

St James' improved from a 2010 judgement of "Requires improvement" in 2010 to one of "Good" during its last, February 2013, inspection.

William Davies school - overall assessment 2 - Good

William Davies was judged to be a "Good" school in its latest inspection report, April 2012.


William Davies: Good
Woodgrange Infant school - overall assessment 2 - Good

Woodgrange's last inspection was in May 2014, when it was acknowledged to be a "Good" school.


Woodgrange infants: Good


In summary, three of Forest Gate's secondary schools, when last inspected, were judged to be "Good" or "Outstanding", the fourth, Forest Gate Community school "Requires improvement"

In the primary sector, all except two have been judged to be "Good" schools, the exceptions being the "Outstanding" Earlham Primary school, and Odessa Infants school, which "Requires improvement"
.
The full, current, report on each of the schools mentioned can be accessed here

Previous articles on this blog on Ofsted reports on local schools can be accessed here, here and here.