The street where you live (5): Earlham Grove

Tuesday 31 May 2016

This is the fifth in an occasional series of articles by Forest Gate resident, 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 Earlham Grove.

Earlham Grove is named after Earlham Hall, near Norwich, seat of the Gurney family; now part of the University of East Anglia. 

Gurneys' ancestral home - Earlham Hall, today
The Gurney family was a major landlord in Forest Gate in mid Victorian times and with other Quaker families, like the Frys (of chocolate  and prison reform fame) and Barclays, were merchants and bankers in the City of London.

As we have shown in previous posts, Samuel Gurney, perhaps the most famous of the family, owned up to half the land that constitutes Forest Gate. He lived in what is now West Ham Park, until his death in 1865.

1863 Ordnance Survey map, showing vacant
 land behind Pawnbrokers' Almshouses on
 Woodgrange Road, up to the railway line,
 where Earlham Grove would soon be built.
 The open spaces to the right of the
 almshouses is what later was to become
 the Woodgrange estate
The Great Eastern Railway was built in the 1830s opening the Forest Gate area up to development. Work on the Woodgrange estate started in the late 1860s. 

Earlham Grove started a little later. The houses are larger than the typical terraces developed by speculative builders for the army of clerks in the City of London in the later nineteenth century. They were more like what the Victorians and Edwardians called villas – for the better off middle classes; solicitors; business people.

Same area in 1895 Ordnance Survey map - now
heavily built over.  Orange arrow points to site of
modern Community Garden (see below) on Earlham Grove
On the map, above, the Almshouses have gone, and in this 30 year period between the publication of the two maps hundreds of houses were built, including Hamfrith, Atherton, Norwich, Sprowston, and Clova Roads, and Earlham Grove, which were part of the Gurney estate (c. 1870–90), on the north side of Romford Road. These houses, many of which survive, include detached, semi-detached, and terraced types.

Earlham Grove - 1911

Buildings of interest

16 Ex Jewish refugee hostel. With the rise of Hitler to power in the 1930's, many Germany Jews sought refuge elsewhere in Europe, mainly within existing Jewish communities.  Forest Gate played its part. A hostel was opened at 51a Romford Road, which accommodated 20 people.  This later moved to 16 Earlham Grove. It was supported financially by the Earlham Grove synagogue (see below). Other families within the local community took in refuges who could not be accommodated there.

16 Earlham Grove today - a refuge
 for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930's
The article below, from 1933, suggests that Forest Gate may not have been the anti-semitic haven that those fleeing persecution from Nazi Germany many have hoped for. A magistrate, in 1933, telling a clearly Jewish immigrant from Earlham Grove that: "There's more trouble in this country through people like you than all the others put together. I wish we could throw you out neck and crop".
Chelmsford Chronicle 19 May 1933
93 - 95 Formerly West Ham Synagogue and Shul (1897 - 2004). See here for a post on the 20th century Jewish community of Forest Gate, whose focal point was this building.  It was the first synagogue in Essex and became the strongest in Newham. The foundation stone of the building in the photo was laid in 1910.

The synagogue, up for sale in 2004
The site is now a four-storey block of flats called Adler Court - named after a prominent rabbi at the former synagogue - owned by East Thames Housing Association.

Adler Court today - on the
 site of the former synagogue
128 Earlham Grove - A house, whose occupant, Francis John Fitzgerald, hosted a quite remarkable event in the struggle for Irish independence in 1921. We will outline some extraordinary Forest Gate connections with the birth of the Irish Free State in the next blog on this site. Watch this space!

128 today, Francis John
Fitzgerald's home in 1921
136 - Site of the Community Garden was occupied until a few years ago by a very large detached Victorian villa. Originally it had been a doctor’s surgery. It was converted to a hostel for homeless families, probably in the 1980s, and was known as Earlham Lodge. It was run by Newham Housing Department.

136 Earlham Grove, when it
was an LBN homeless hostel
136, when it was a homeless hostel,
 showing, behind, the former vicarage
Thanks to "Kevin" from Facebook
 for this photo and the one above
Community Garden hoarding, designed
 by local artist Jim Valentine and painted
 by upwards of 70 local volunteers
There was no resident warden, but a mobile member of staff looked after a number of Housing Department hostels. There were 9 rooms of different sizes and it was targeted at small families such as a single parent with a young baby.

Families typically stayed there for a few months before moving onto another form of homeless temporary accommodation. They were given a licence agreement, not a tenancy. Bathrooms were shared and each room had basic cooking facilities Following a review in the mid 2000's, the Housing Department decided to close its directly managed hostels.

The site is still owned by Newham Council who hope for a housing development on the site in the longer term, but meanwhile, have given the Community Garden a short-term lease, so that it can be used as a community facility rather than remain an unsightly piece of waste land. 

There continue to be a number of other large houses in the Earlham Grove that are used for some form of supported housing for vulnerable people including children’s homes, homeless hostels, cheap B&Bs and accommodation for people with learning disabilities.

175 Built as Earlham Hall in the 1870s, for full details, see here. Briefly, it was established in 1879 by John Curwen, the Congregational minister, for his Tonic-Sol-Fa College. The Metropolitan Academy of Music followed on from 1906 until World War II, and then London Co-operative offices preceded the arrival of the Cherubim and Seraphim congregation in the 1970s.

An 1890's sketch of Earlham Hall,
when it was in its prime
It is still occupied by the church. Now The Holy Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church has its UK headquarters there. Arriving in the 1970s it is one of the earliest African congregations to settle in Newham. As the first African instituted church, it was originally established among the Yoruba people in Western Nigeria in 1925.

African Church of Cherabim and Seraphim, today
The 'Aladura', or African indigenous tradition, combines teaching and practices learned from western missionaries with elements of traditional African traditions. In Forest Gate the church is led by Pastors and Apostles, worships in distinctive white robes and emphasises prayer-including night vigils.

The church's worshippers in full regalia
Behind the church you can see is an older building the Tonic Sol Fa college, where this system of musical notation was taught.

193 - The Jive Dive. Kenny Johnson, who went on to successfully manage the Lotus Club on Woodgrange Road for over 40 years, began life as an impresario here. In 1960 he took over what had previously been the Earlham Grove Dance Academy (next door but one to the Royal Mail sorting office) and turned it into a pop music venue. See here for further details.

193 - location of 1960's
Jive Dive, now an HMO
The Jive Dive originally opened as a coffee bar, but soon obtained an alcohol license.  The ground floor was converted into a bar, and the basement a dance hall. It was imaginatively decorated, for the time - with bamboo partitions, film and gig posters on the walls and with plants, real and artificial, adorning key areas.

Kenny Johnson, outside the Jive Dive, in the
sixties, proudly displaying his recently acquired Jag
Eddie Johnson, in his book Tales from the Two Puddings, says this of the place:
The Jive Dive seemed to fulfill a real need in young people; it was the time of the 'mod', and young East Enders were, in those days, the most fashion conscious in the world; rendezvousing in Forest Gate every weekend and going to our club, they would have a few drinks and then dance their socks off in the basement. There was no trouble and the customers were a lovely crowd.
The venue proved a great success, but the resultant crowds were understandably less popular with the residential neighbours, and so the brothers closed it as a venue and looked elsewhere for music promotional opportunities. They took on the floor space above what is now the Poundland and the Lotus Club, on Woodgrange Road was born.

Kenny (bearded) and Eddie Johnson, relaxing
 with a pint at the entrance to the Jive Dive
193 Earlham Grove is now a house in multiple occupation.

Durning Hall Christian community centre replaced an earlier Durning Hall, founded about 1885 at Limehouse (see here for fuller details). The premises in Woodgrange Road were registered for worship in 1953 (what is now the Aston Mansfield charity shop)  and in 1959 the main buildings of the centre were opened in Earlham Grove, containing a church, hall, offices, gymnasium, and chaplain's flat. A hostel, with shops below, was later completed on the Woodgrange Road frontage.

Durning Hall, which is non-denominational, is administered by the Aston Mansfield charities trust, founded in 1930 by Miss Theodora Durning-Lawrence. It caters for all age-groups. The church of the Holy Carpenter, designed by Shingler and Risden Associates, has a fine altar wall of stained glass.

Durning Hall today, featuring the stained
glass window referred to in the text

Odd ecclesiastical event 

In the 1890s there was a strange bit of church history when some people from Emmanuel parish church (corner of Romford Rd and Upton Lane) started a rival church in Earlham Grove called Christ Church, because they felt the services at Emmanuel were becoming 'too Roman'. A small (corrugated) iron building had been erected, seating about 200 and continued until at least 1903, see cutting, below.

Essex Newsman - 2 December 1893
Rivalry between the two places of worship ended up in a court case in 1903 (see cutting, below), where the parties promised to behave, or the police would be called!

The dispute between Emmanuel and
 Christ Church reaches the courts,
as this 1903 cutting shows

Significant deaths in Earlham Grove

Other press cuttings (below) show a slightly more tragic side of life for some Earlham Grove residents.

1. A suicide of an Earlham Grove resident, in 1907
Chelmsford Chronicle 22 March 1907
2. A life of a motorist fatally injured by a council tram, in 1906, just £250

Chelmsford Chronicle 29 March 1907
3. An air accident death for an Earlham Grove resident, and early member of the RAF. N.B. initials in article below: RFC = Royal Flying Corps (a fore-runner of RAF) and HAC = Honourable Artillery Company. 

Chelmsford Chronicle, 6 July 1917

4. Another suicide

Essex Newsman 21 February 1920

5. WW2 bombings

Two of the biggest bombing hits in Forest Gate during World War 2 fell on Earlham Grove.  See here for full details. Nineteen people were killed on 6 March 1945, by a Doodlebug when nos 56 - 62 were destroyed.  Ten people were killed just six months previously, when a bomb destroyed numbers 3 - 7. See link, above, for all the names of those reported killed by those bombings.

Doodlebug of the kind that inflicted
 damage on Earlham Grove during WW2

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