The area between Maryland Point and Forest Gate was largely under-developed agricultural land, until the 1860's, after which it was slowly transformed into market gardens and gradually housing, as transport and population growth moved eastwards, with the rapid expansion of London.
The "market gardens" in and around what we now know as Dames Road were developed as leisure and commercial pursuits by people from the more traditional east-end, such as Whitechapel, and cabinet makers of Curtain Road in Hackney. The gardens provided recreational and trading activities for some adventurous people, many, perhaps, missing their own rural roots in earlier days, in Essex and Suffolk.
The "gardens grounds" offered weekend time away from inner city congestion, as five and a half day working became more common and the railway network reached out into areas such as Forest Gate. Many of those renting the land for the gardens would put up huts - for weekend stays - which soon developed into housing in the area.
The western part of Forest Gate, between Woodford Road and Tower Hamlets Road, belonged to the Dames family for much of the first half of the nineteenth century. Charles Richard Dames was a sugar refiner, probably born in the parish of St Mary, Whitechapel in 1793.
Like many city merchants, Dames bought property on the fringes of London, and became a substantial member of the local community. He was elected a churchwarden, for example, in 1855. By the time of his death, in 1862, he held land and had homes in both Whitechapel and Forest Gate.
He died at Forest House (see 1863 map, above), which was located approximately where Anna Neagle Close is, today - probably in a house similar to the one pictured below. He may have commuted from this rural home to the city in the years running up to his death.
|89 Dames Road, today - now split into flats,|
but one of the villa type houses that populated
parts of Dames Road at the end of the 19th century
|The sale of Forest House by the Dames|
family to the Conservative Land Society
- Essex Standard, 4 April 1866
|Another contemporary land sale for|
development, in the district
- Chelmsford Chronicle April 1886
|OS map 1895 shows the area largely developed,|
though the area south of Sydney Road
(named after the cottage formerly there), is
still not built on.There were still some market
gardens and allotments there until World War 1
It is likely that the Birkbeck Building Society, the Birkbeck Bank and Birkbeck Freehold Land Society were also active in and around the Dames Road area at this time. They were offering plots of land for 5/- (25p) per month "either for building or gardening purposes". Some of these may have been west of Dames Road. where there were garden plots owned by east Londoners who came out to them at the weekend.
These Birkbeck organisations were all vehicles for making loans to aspirational members of the working class who wanted to build their own homes, or at least acquire a plot of land in the suburbs, springing up on the fringes of London.
As Conservative Land Company chairman concluded in 1866; "The working man doesn't like being patronised. They don't like going into model lodging-houses, and prefer buying land and building their own homes."
He described the Conservative Land Company's acquisition of the Dames Road area site, in 1866, in glowing terms, as "one of the most valuable building properties ever acquired by the society in the suburban districts."
The site, he said, was adaptable both for villas (usually high quality, detached houses) and houses of "a superior class", but also for working class dwellings. It fronted the road leading to Wanstead Flats and Forest Gate station, offering a frequent service to London, at cheap fares.
Charles left £90,000 (almost £10m today, using the Bank of England inflation calculator) in property and cash to his three sons and his daughter, on his death. His son, George, died soon afterwards in 1878. He too was a sugar refiner and substantial property owner - some in the Forest Gate area - much, presumably, inherited from his father. He did, however, live in Stoke Newington, where three servants catered for his needs.
|Post Card showing Dames Road c 1906, featuring|
the Forest Glen on the left.
The tenants were builders, stonemasons and other artisans, and a few clerks. These properties were said to be much in demand in the early years of the twentieth century. Building in Dames Road ceased about 1880. Meanwhile, Field Road and Odessa Road (built in the 1850s) to the west of Dames Road were home to less well-to-do artisans, carmen (drivers of horse-drawn goods wagons) and labourers.
Fast forward to the post World War 11 period, and the re-development of the lower part of Dames Road. The photo below shows it under redevelopment early 1980s. This was in preparation for rebuilding for "slum clearance". This site was one of the last council housing developments carried out by Newham directly without the involvement of a housing association.
|Foot of Dames Road, c 1984, at time of|
"slum clearance", making way for one of
Newham Council's last housing developments
The last council development in Newham was Howards Rd E13 (done jointly with an association) until the direct development of council rented homes started again on a very small scale about 5 years ago. There have been a few small rented developments since.
Other Dames Road snippets
This site has referred to Dames Road, in passing, in previous posts, some of which readers may be interested in revisiting.
Cycling The foot of Dames Road, at the turn of the twentieth century, was at the centre (or should we say hub?!) of a significant local small-workshop cycle industry, hosting at least half a dozen, manufactories - see here. A detailed account of life and work in one of them - Clark's - from 1897, appears here.
|One of the turn of the century cycle|
manufacturers at the foot of Dames Road
|Page, the boot makers, 1915|
|Junction of Dames and Pevensey|
Roads, site of 1943 Doodlebug hit
Anti- German riots We have not covered this before, but couple of postcards have recently appeared for sale on eBay, featuring a German baker on Dames Road, whose property looks as if it was targeted for anti-German riots during World War 1. See the photos of Gobel, the baker's, located at 74 Dames Road (site of a car workshop, today) and note from the second photo what appears to be riot damage suffered by it.
|Gobel's bakers, 74 Dames Road, in peaceful times|
|The same shop at time of anti-German|
riots, c 1915 - see window damage
|... and today|
Idris Elba's Dames Road connection Hollywood superstar actor, Idris Elba can claim a significant Dames Road influence on his life(see here). He worked at Uncle Tom's garage (see above for photo) as a youngster, having spent most of his youth growing up in Canning Town. He revisited the garage in November 2013, on a trip back to his roots.
It was doubtless this Dames Road experience that enabled him to play a strong role in the great American TV series The Wire and the Mandela movie, for which he was nominated for an Oscar!
We acknowledge the Newham Recorder's copyright of the photo, below, capturing the moment. Their report of the occasion can be found here.
|Idris Elba-revisiting Uncle|
Tom's Garage, on Dames
Road, where he worked
as a youngster - in
Copyright Newham Recorder
Chelmsford Chronicle - 15 April 1898
Bank Holiday on Wanstead Flats
by a Perambulating Pressman
Wanstead Flats have long been a favourite resort for the East London Bank Holiday crowd, and this Easter my curiosity led me to Wanstead to see how their amusement is catered for. ...
The streets were thronged with people and all were enjoying themselves with that absolute abandon which is so characteristic of the Easter holiday maker. ...
The young ladies ... sang with a gusto which only high spirits could produce, but "Marry the girl you fancy" was the popular refrain.
There are several railway stations "quite adjacent" to the Flats, and a good service of buses is capable of rapidly transporting visitors to the gay scene, but for the holiday traffic special brakes were put on the route from Stratford, and at: "Tuppence all the way", these command full complements of passengers. ...
The centre of the fun, I found, was on Dames Road, had by the Holly Tree Tavern. Here was a gigantic country fair, or rather twenty country fairs rolled into one, constituting a scene of startling splendour, which is difficult easily to describe. A gorgeous merry-go-round occupied a central position, rivalling in its gold and brilliant colours, its mirrors and dazzling lights, scenes depicted in the Arabian Nights.
... This elaborate piece of mechanism must have cost a small fortune, but it was providing a gold mine to its proprietors.
... A "wild Indian chief" emerged into the open, brandishing a sword and uttering horrible gutteral sounds. He was silenced in summary fashion by the proprietor, who gave graphic accounts of the sights to be seen inside. Meanwhile the "Indian Chief" had disappeared into the wigwam and I followed bent on investigations.
Answering a common-place remark, the wild warrior lapsed into unmistakable Cockneyese, and openly admitted he was a fraud. ...This extract came from Peter's posting on Woodford Road. There are other items in that post which relate to Dames Road - see below for link to it.
Footnote: Peter William's other local postings on The Street Where You live can be found by clicking on the relevant street: Woodford Road, Ebor Cottages and Chestnut Avenue.
Peter and Mark have written a number of booklets on Wanstead Flats: on Prisoner of War Camps during WW2, Post War struggles to prevent development and, most recently games and sports on the Flats at the end of the 19th century.
These can be bought, very reasonably priced, from Newham Bookshop, or from the Leyton and Leytonstone Local History Society, who published them, here.
Mark and Peter can regularly be found giving talks on their publications, which are totally absorbing and come very highly recommended.