The street where you live (8) - Sebert Road

Thursday, 16 February 2017

This is the eighth 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. 


Looking east about 1908
 from junction of Avenue Road

Sebert Road early 2017 looking west – a wintry
 scene the tower of the massive former congregational
 church  contrasted with the Manhattan Loft
 Corporation under construction in Stratford
and recently in the news for spoiling
 views from Richmond Park.
The origin of the name 

It may be the only such road name in the UK. Sæberht, Saberht or Sæbert (d. c. 616) was a King of Essex (r. c. 604 – c. 616), in succession of his father King Sledd. He is known as the first East Saxon king to have been converted to Christianity.


1863 Ordnance Survey map, published 1873 (here)

Hamfrith estate 

In 1787 Hamfrith Farm, the site today of the Godwin and Sebert Roads and of Manor Park Cemetery, belonged to John Greenhill, whose home was Hamfrith House. This was built about 1800 and demolished in 1891; it was known from the 1860's as West Ham Hall (see below), now the site of Woodgrange School in Sebert Road.

The land was sold in 1851 to Samuel Gurney, d. 1856 (see here), brother of Elizabeth Fry the prison reformer (see here). In 1872 his grandson John Gurney sold much of Hamfrith to the British Land Company who two years later sold it to the Manor Park Cemetery Company.


In 1877 a house in Sebert Road was 
constructed for just over £400 (here).

The Cemetery was established in 1874 (see here). Initially opened purely as a cemetery, the original chapels, lodge and main entrance were built in 1877.

Only the tower of the chapel survived when it was hit by enemy action on 23 July 1944 (see here). The rebuilt chapels, incorporating crematorium facilities, were opened on 2 November 1955.

Manor Park Cemetery has full records from 1875. The first internment being one William Nesbitt who was buried on the 25 March 1875. His grave can still be seen on the right hand side of Remembrance Road.

Manor Park has the honour of having the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross buried in the grounds. John Travers Cornwell VC (see here for a Pathe news clip of his funeral) was only 16 when he died of wounds received at the Battle of Jutland.

The memorial to Mary Orchard who died in 1906 was erected in grateful memory by some of Princess Alice's children whom Mary served for forty years (see here). These were Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenburg, Elizabeth, Grand Duchess Sergius of Russia: Irene, Princess Henry of Prussia, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, Alix, Empress of Russia.


Ordnance Survey 1898 (see here)
The area, in the map above, has now been almost fully developed but the cemetery is very prominent. The cemetery company originally wanted to use the whole area between Forest Gate station and Manor Park station for burial, but this was turned down by the West Ham vestry (effectively the local government body) and a compromise reached where they would develop about half the area for housing.


Institutional buildings on Sebert Road


West Ham Hall



In about 1890 this was acquired by the Tottenham and Forest Gate Junction Railway (see here), which was then building its line from Wanstead Park to Woodgrange Park. The company put it up for sale, together with other surplus land, and the house was acquired by West Ham School Board.

The Board later demolished the house, sometime after 1893. In 1966 the site was a depot belonging to Newham Council. It was then used to build the Woodgrange Primary school in 1986.

The wall of the old house survived at the front of the school until a redevelopment a few years ago. The coach house survives in Cranmer Road and is now a small workshop. The now demolished school house was Forest Gate Boys club in the 1950's.

Jireh Chapel , 133 and 244 Sebert Road



This is right next to the entrance to the cemetery but is nothing to do with it.

Jireh chapel, Sebert Road, originated in 1888, when Mr. Allen began to hold meetings in a small building attached to Jireh Lodge, no.133 Sebert Road (see below).

In 1921 the more recent one was built at no. 244 with materials from a chapel demolished at Woburn Sands (Bedfordshire); the membership was then about 20. In 1965 Jireh had a membership of a not very sustainable 2.

We don't know a great deal about the origins of this chapel, but Jireh Chapels elsewhere in England are Calavanist/Presbyterian places of worship.


244 Sebert became a refugee housing project till a few years ago.

The original Jireh Lodge (no 133) was sold after 1921 and later was used for a time by the Seventh Day Adventists. In 1965 it was occupied by a builder. 

It was destroyed in an early morning fire on 1 September 2010 – the extended family living there were cooking using a gas cylinder which malfunctioned. 


The wreck has remained like this ever since.
 The remnants of the old chapel can
 be seen protruding above the hoardings,
 on the left of the photo.
Here is the official London Fire Brigade account: 
Four fire engines and around 20 firefighters fought a fire in a two storey terraced house on Sebert Road in Forest Gate, yesterday morning.
Most of the ground floor, the first floor and a roof was damaged by fire. Around five people left the building before the Brigade arrived. A gas cylinder was found in the property and a temporary hazard zone was set up around the affected area as a precaution as some cylinders can explode when exposed to heat. Around 125 people were evacuated from the affected area as a precaution.
The Brigade was called at 07.25 and the fire was under control by 09.48. Firefighters from Leytonstone and Stratford stations were at the scene. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Fortunately nobody was seriously injured. In 2012 there was a planning application: “Demolition of fire damaged property and erection of three storey building with basement comprising 4 x 3 bedroom maisonettes with amenity space for each to the rear and parking to the front for each flat.” 

This was refused but then the following one was approved in 2013 “Demolition of fire damaged property and erection of 2 x 6 bedroom dwelling houses with amenity space.”  This has never been built.


A large London Fire Brigade aerial ladder platform
 capable of reaching 32m. makes its way carefully
 along Sebert Road outside Woodgrange infants
 school on 1 September 2010, to attend the above
 incident and deal with the fire in the roof timbers.


Congregational Church


See here for a history of this church, perhaps
 the most significant building on Sebert Road

A collection book from the late 1890s
 to get donations from local residents
 to pay off the debt on the new church.
 For more on this church see here 

Individual houses on Sebert Road


The house, above, looks like a terraced house, in fact, it is detached. If you look very carefully there are gaps on both sides. Notice the chimney breast.  It is not clear why houses were built like this but there are several in Sebert Road. It must have been a considerable building feat to construct the second house - as its outside wall would have had to have been built from the inside.

234 Sebert Road


An advert from the 1890s placed by the
Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway selling
 off dwellings surplus to their requirements.
 This was after they completed construction
of the overhead railway.
234 Sebert Road today backing 
on to the Barking Gospel Oak line

The Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway, built on a huge brick viaduct despite substantial local opposition, opened on 9 July, 1894. It was a joint project between the Midland Railway and the London,Tilbury and Southend Railway, the Midland contributing by far the bulk of the capital.


Some houses were left extraordinarily close
 to the viaduct like this example in Sebert
 Road. Building of the line provoked controversy
 and protests.

The line left the Midland and Great Eastern joint line at South Tottenham and ran via Walthamstow and Leyton to Barking. It joined the Forest Gate to Barking line at Woodgrange Park. The railway (which is now part of the London Overground Barking to Gospel Oak line) provided connections into Moorgate and St. Pancras and confirmed Forest Gate as a haven for City workers.

The junction with Woodgrange Road


Sebert Road at the junction of Woodgrange
Road (on top of the current dentist).
This sign “Market Place” is clearly original
and about to be restored by Newham
Council. It is not clear why this wording
was here, as contemporaneous photos
show no sign of a market on the site.
About 5 years ago a community market was initiated by Forest Gate Women’s Institute. For more on this market (see here).


Forest Gate fire station Sebert Road,(see here)
6 Sebert: In 1915 was Joseph Borheim's
 furriers, who were victims of anti-German
 riots in the area, following the sinking
 of the Luscitania on 7 May 1915. See
 here.


Picture showing on the extreme  right 
Coffee7 (no 10)when a florist 1900's. 
The same view today


14 Sebert: John Bassett had a music
 studio there in the 1970's - 80's, and
 it was there that Depeche Mode
 did their first recordings. See 
here.
16 Sebert: 1896 a bootmaker and repairer

1 Sebert Road

 At the turn of the nineteenth/twentieth centuries Forest Gate was a cycle manufacturing locality of some significance (see here and here). One of the more prominent local manufacturers was J Elston, whose Rose Cycles company was based there - see cover of 1899 catalogue, below.



The address later became the studio of Forest Gate's premier Edwardian studio photographer, see backing from a family portrait from the first decade of the twentieth century.



Former residents of Sebert Road and their occupations

The Commercial Directories like Kelly’s reveal what was going on in any particular road: most of the records below are from the late 19th century:

2 Sebert Road - Thomas Hood, ham and beef dealer
3 Sebert Road - Fanny Lane, dressmaker
6 Sebert Road -  insurance office (and, see above)
8 Sebert Road -  Hobbs, builder (now The Emporium)
16 Sebert Road - Charles Ward bootmaker
18 Sebert Road -  Hollands sisters, grocers and wine merchants
20 Sebert Road - James Phillips, plumber
21 Sebert Road -  bookseller in 1920s.
29 Sebert Road -  Henry Homever, decorator
31 Sebert Road - Occupied in 1927 by James Lansbury brother of the famous George Lansbury MP. Previously it had been occupied by Ernest Goodwin, hop merchant in 1890s (see press cutting, below).
36 Sebert Road -  Lily Hopkins, dressmaker
115 Sebert Road - Richard Jones, insurance agent
125 Sebert Road - Whistler - boys private school
155 Sebert Road -  was sold for £750 in 1933.
183 Sebert Road - Thomas May, stonemason
236 Sebert Road - James Remmington, land and estate agent
242 Sebert Road - Elizabeth Wilson, laundress


This house on the corner of Lorne Rd was
 refurbished about 3 years ago and the
 owners erected this high fencing at the
 front. Enforcement action by Newham Council
 meant they had to take part of it down,
 as 2m high fencing like this is not
 permitted at the front of dwellings.

Press cuttings featuring Sebert Road


Sad Sebert Road - related suicide - 1883


Essex Herald 25 June 1883
Libelous comments about an affair - 1886


Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper,
 1 Aug 1886

 Suicide on railway line - 1890


Essex Newsman 1 November 1890

Practical joke goes horribly wrong - 1898

Chelmsford Chronicle, 25 March 1898

Grisly death of George Lansbury's brother - 1927


Dundee Evening
Telegraph 31 Jan 1927
 Footnote – If you have any suggestions for new streets to tackle contact Peter at pows.wanstead@gmail.com. 

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