Donald Hunter House, Woodgrange Road.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Local historian and housing specialist, Peter Williams,  relates the interesting story behind one of Forest Gate's most prominent land marks: Donald Hunter House.


Most Forest Gate residents will be familiar with the tall building at the corner of Woodgrange Road and Romford Road above the Iceland store. Older residents will know it as Telephone House. Newcomers may know it as Donald Hunter House, and it has quite an interesting history.

That corner of Forest Gate suffered substantial damage in the Blitz, with the original Victorian Methodist church destroyed by bombs on 17 April 1941. It was replaced in the post war period by the current church. The Princess Alice pub was also destroyed and had to be replaced in 1950s.

Council flats were built to replace the Victorian villas of the Woodgrange estate. The council took the opportunity to provide a new public library for Forest gate. This was at first floor level above the council built shops with an entrance in Claremont Road. This was replaced in the last 15 years or so and the old library became a training centre run by a local charity.

The architects model below commissioned by Newham Council shows the vision for the area from Osborne Road to Romford Road. Not all of this was built but Telephone House can be seen to the right, and the low rise shops with library above to the left.

The current Forest Gate library occupies the ground floor of what was Telephone House. The library was originally branded The Gate, but has been recently rebranded the CNC or Community Neighbourhood Centre, reflecting the new role libraries have assumed in Newham. The book stock has been reduced and space created for a wide variety of community activities and events.

Telephone House, Woodgrange Road, was built in 1958 by what was then the Post Office, that ran both what we think of as post offices, but also Post Office Telephones, the forerunner of what became BT (British Telecommunications) when privatised by Mrs Thatcher.

The building was the headquarters of Post Office Telephones for the eastern area of the London. On the ground floor was a Post Office, which later moved across the road into a private shop. There was also a showroom on the ground floor of Telephone House displaying the latest telephone equipment for sale when you could only by your phone (landline) from BT. There was no choice in those days!

BT leave

Around about the year 2000 BT declared the whole building including the tower block redundant as they rationalised their offices. In recent years it has become commonplace to convert old offices into residential (not least because the Cameron government liberalised planning laws to help this happen, developers often no longer need planning permission). But in 2000 it was still relatively rare to convert office to residential.

The old Telephone House was bought by a company called Peabody Unite plc with the intention of converting it into housing for keyworkers. There was already a housing crisis in London and people like trainee nurses, social workers and teachers had a desperate need but cheap but accessible accommodation.

Donald Hunter House, today
In the 1980s Newham Council in fact had made some hard to let council flats available for teachers, social workers and other young professionals who they found hard to recruit into the borough to work for them and other public bodies, but by the late 1990s these schemes had come to an end as homeless pressures increased and the council could not spare flats. The Metropolitan Police also had small tower blocks of its own to accommodate young constables at Selsdon Road, Upton Park and another one behind East Ham police station, but these were sold off many years ago.

Peabody Unite plc was itself an interesting organisation, a joint venture between the famous Peabody Housing Association, founded in Victorian times by the great American philanthropist George Peabody, and Unite Group plc,  then a small private company specialising in key worker housing. As the press release put it:

London NHS workers gain new affordable homes with Peabody Unite's £33 million investment
                                                                                                                                                                                          2 August 2000
The UNITE Group plc, the UK's leading specialist provider of accommodation services for students and key workers, has today announced that its joint venture operation with the Peabody Trust, Peabody Unite, is developing two schemes in London, which will be worth £33.3 million on completion, and will create more than 500 quality, affordable bed spaces for Barts and the London NHS Trust homes workers in Whitechapel and Forest Gate, East London.

On completion the building was renamed Donald Hunter House after a well known doctor and according to the company “provided quality Peabody UNITE homes for 256 key workers.”

In 2013 the owners applied to vary their original planning permission which had said that they could only house ‘economically active’ people i.e. keyworkers in the dwellings but Newham Council refused to agree this change to the planning rules for the block. In 204 a different planning application allowed the building for the first time to be used as a hostel. (see below)
Quality was always an issue in the building as the faculties were fairly basic with small rooms and shared facilities such as communal kitchens. It was never hugely popular with the NHS staff it was targeted at and Peabody Unite began to market it to a wider audience of keyworkers, and by late 2013 when it closed in that form they were housing some students there.

Unite plc (not with Peabody) went on to be a major provider of private sector student housing in London building many new blocks all over central London. Their rents are not cheap, and now they attract a huge number of foreign students with rich parents who can afford their market rents.

They have massive new-build schemes in Stratford, notably the thousand home red building with a stepped profile that towers at 28 floors over the Olympic Park behind John Lewis, (called Stratford One and opened in 2014) and the 750 room scheme at the corner of Angel Lane by Stratford tube station opened 2015. East London has been a success story for them.

Donald Hunter House was less of a success and was put up for sale around 2014. On 15th October that year 4-20 Woodgrange Road was acquired by an offshore company Stratos Holdings, Martello Court, Admiral Park, St Peter Port, Guernsey. It is the only property owned by the company in the UK and the holding includes both The Gate library and Iceland stores.  So, Newham Council are paying rent to Stratos in order to run a library there.

This information is drawn from public Land Registry data that has featured on this site before in an article showing links of Forest Gate properties to tax havens (see here).

Stratos was specially created offshore to hold the building but the actual owner are Saudi Arabian oil interests. When it became clear that Forest Gate was to become a beneficiary of the opening of a Crossrail station, Donald Hunter House was snapped by this Saudi company, sensing a good return on the investment would be pretty much guaranteed.

The Saudis decided they did not want to demolish and redevelop straight away so they looked round for an interim use. They got in touch with one of a number of private sector companies that have developed over the last decade or so specialising in providing homeless temporary accommodation to London boroughs.

Homeless accommodation

London councils have always wanted to try to avoid the use of so called Bed and Breakfast hotels, which in reality are simply another form of private rented accommodation where the council is paying a premium for its immediate availability. Central Government introduced a target a few years ago saying councils must not leave families in B&B for more than 6 weeks, and this forced councils into the hands of a different kind of private landlord, offering short term lets in the private sector at a price below a hotel price but normally above rents for ordinary self contained private accommodation. Often it was the same businessmen involved in both kinds of accommodation.

Nevertheless this new style of homeless temporary accommodation was often of a slightly better standard than the traditional B&B with a higher degree of self containment, some being small flats or studios. Councils entered into longer term contracts to secure a better overall price.

One such private property company was TANDO who did business with Newham council in Canning Town to put back into use some empty council flats that were awaiting a more comprehensive redevelopment. However they ran into some difficulties there outlined in a story in the Newham Recorder early in 2017.

This story was also covered in the Guardian. Another of these specialist companies was Theori:

A Freedom of information Act (FOI) request to Newham in 2015 sought to tease out the relationship between Newham Council and the following companies:

·         Tando Homes Ltd and associated companies
·         Theori Investments
·         Omega Lettings - and associated companies; and
·         Mears Group

All these companies have links. Tando in fact is a shortened form of Theori  AND Omega, T and O. To quote from a council report online in the context of Canning Town and Custom House:

Theori Property Services Ltd has a stated environmental policy that demonstrates a commitment, wherever practical to use environmentally friendly products (such as condensing boilers). They have a waste management strategy designed to deal with refurbishment and build waste. Both the environment policy and waste management strategy will be adopted by TANDO Property Services Ltd.

Donald Hunter House was under the Omega lettings brand and in recent period has been block booked by Tower Hamlets Council for their homeless families. Newham Council had used it briefly in 2014/15 but Tower Hamlets were able to pay a better price due to the quirks of the Housing Benefit system – the rent allowance is higher in Tower Hamlets than Newham. Many of the social care and education costs of these families of course fall on Newham, though some families travel back to their home borough for schooling. Omega operates as a Registered Provider, regulated by a government bod,y but unlike a housing association it makes profits for its shareholders.


When it comes to homelessness there is a ‘dog eat dog’ attitude amongst London boroughs as they are all competing for scarce housing resources, and landlords are able to profit from this lack of cooperation in London. London has 32 housing authorities; New York is just 5 boroughs and with a Mayor across the whole city with stronger strategic powers than London’s.  In London councils have been forced into the hands of highly profitable property businesses specialising in homeless temporary accommodation due to the lack of affordable supply. Donald Hunter House is held offshore in a tax haven pending re-development by Saudi oil money.


This article uses publicly available sources: here, here, here, here and here 

Planning applications can be seen online at Newham planning portal. FOIs are here:

Claremont Road temporary WW2 fire station

Thursday 18 January 2018

During research for a book on West Ham Fire Brigade, it emerged that a temporary WW2 fire station had been constructed on Claremont Road, Forest Gate. The book's author and E7-NowAndThen stalwart, Peter Williams, writes:

The station was designated 36 D15 (station D15 of fire force 36), National Fire Service - see later. This is shown on the plan below -

The diagram clearly locates it between the Methodist church, Woodgrange Road, destroyed in a bomb blast on 17 April 1941, (see photo, below) and No. 23 Claremont Road which survives - as the first house on the road, after the Kebbell Terrace flats. The  bomb was clearly a large one, which not only destroyed the church, but also killed 5 people, living at numbers 3, 5 and 6 Claremont Road - thus creating a substantial bomb site.
Above and below, Woodgrange Methodist
 church after 17 April 1941 bomb
It seems there was a originally a plan to put an allotment next to the station and 23, no doubt as part of the huge ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign to boost wartime food production (see poster used during the era).
One can see on the plan the (fire) engine room, a separate dormitory, and office /store and a watch room, where telephone calls were received about incidents and a fireman or firewoman was on duty or watch.

These buildings were temporary and could have been quite flimsy huts made of corrugated iron, or they may have been brick built.  EWS on the plan means ‘emergency water supply’ and that would have been some kind of tank, possibly in the cellars of the bombed out buildings.

There were many of these kinds of temporary fire stations in huts, or evacuated schools, or empty garages. After the Blitz on London, from September 1940, preparations had to be made for further mass aerial attacks on cities. Local fire services were struggling to cope so in spring  1941 the fire service was nationalised by the wartime coalition government, on a promise that it would return to local authority control post war.

Many of these temporary stations were commissioned by the National Fire Service (NFS), or, prior to that being formed, the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS). The AFS was created in the late 1930's by all local authorities. Volunteers joined up and were trained by professional fire-fighters. They had little to do in 1939-40 (the so called phoney war) and many left the service.

The AFS was issued with all kinds of rather improvised equipment – rather like Dad’s Army – and one can see in the photo below that taxis were commandeered to tow what were known as trailer pumps.

These were more effective that they might seem, and many serious wartime fires in the West Ham blitz were fought by multiple trailer pumps towed by a wide variety of cars and lorries commandeered by the government.

Sadly no known photograph of Claremont Road fire station survives,  but it would have looked like this.
A similar scene Brockley, South London,
 note the hut like temporary fire station
 to the rear. Source, here
To get a very good view of this kind of fire station, see the wonderful wartime documentary, ‘Fires were started’ by Humphrey Jennings. See here

Cyril Demarne, a West Ham fire officer, assisted the film director, as technical adviser, during his NFS days in Whitechapel 1942-1943. Cyril later became chief of the post war West Ham Fire Brigade.
From Fires were started.
Below is a photograph of the former station's location today, on the entrance land between 23 Claremont Road and Kebbell Terrace.
The flats, themselves, were built post war by the council to occupy the space between the church and 23 Claremont Road. Below is an architect's model, dated July 1954, for the area discussed in this article.

1. Source for plan: NFS/AFS file number/box 7984 titled ‘fire service’ kept in the basement archive, Newham council archives, Stratford library.

2. Fire Force 36 covered West Ham and neighbouring boroughs. Its HQ was in Gants Hill Ilford.

The criminal landlords of Forest Gate named and shamed

Sunday 7 January 2018

The Mayor of London and London Assembly have recently published a list of private sector housing landlords and agents convicted of crimes related to the management of properties they own and rent, and their failure to comply with legislation aimed at protecting tenants' rights (see here).

This website has often been critical of Newham Council about the way it behaves over a number of matters locally. But in this instance, it emerges with considerable credit in being at the forefront of prosecuting rogue landlords.

Using the Mayor of London's database, we give details of 17 Forest Gate properties, whose owners/agents have been prosecuted 45 times for offences related to the management of those properties over the last year, bringing a total yield of a little under £135,000.

Newham has, in total, achieved 128 successful prosecutions against rogue landlords and their agents over the last twelve months - almost a third of the total of only 296 achieved London-wide. The council is to be congratulated for its vigilance. The great pity is that other councils are not as pro-active, in defence of private sector tenants and that the fines available to the courts are not stiffer.

The reality for many rogue landlords, however, is that the fines they receive are little more than minor financial inconveniences to their business and amount, often, to little more than a month's rent from the properties that they benefit from mismanaging. There is little real incentive- via large fines and company suspensions -  for bad landlords to change their anti-social practices.

Below, we list the Forest Gate properties at the centre of the criminal offences committed by the landlords/agents  and give details of the successful prosecutions and those convicted of the offences.  Some patterns emerge in this analysis and details are given at the end of the blog.

The properties are listed in alphabetical order of street names.

124 Capel Road

An interesting property! Its owners/controllers/agents received a total of five fines on 17 March 2017 in relation to its management. A company called Rentify, of Long Lane, London EC1 was fined £1,500 for failing to obtain a Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence, as required by Newham Council, and was fined a further £250 for each of two offences for failing to provide the council with documentation related to the property, as required.

124 Capel Road
A second firm of estate agents, Life Work Study, London was also fined £1,000 for failing to apply for an HMO licence. That company's sole director, Omar Patel was fined £750 on that day for the same offence.

Life Work Study throws an interesting light on a complex web of local property ownership/management arrangements, which are considered towards the end of this article. It was previously (2013-2015) known as YLR (Whitechapel), see below for similar sounding named companies, and trades out of the offices of another estate agent appearing in this article, Filton's, at 190 High Street Stratford.

Any would-be tenant considering using Filton's is advised to search its Facebook presence. Its services are rated by 10 people - seven of them giving the firm only one star out of five.

51 Clova Road

Mohammed Jawad Hussain of West Ham Lane Stratford was convicted of three offences in relation to this property on 24 January 2017. They were: failure to carry out improvements, as instructed by the council (fined £2,000); failure to provide documentation in relation to the property when requested to do so by the council (fined £1,000) and failure to comply with licence conditions, to ensure that the property is in a safe and good condition (fined £1,000).

51 Clova Road
51b Clova Road

The same landlord was also convicted of three similar offences relating to this property, on the ground floor and at the rear of number 51.  The fines were £1,800, £1,000 and £1,000, respectively.

4 Dunbar Road

A company called YLR Ltd of High Street Stratford ( see Life Work Study - above) was fined £1,500 on 17 March 2017 for failure to apply for an HMO licence for this property.

4 Dunbar Road
Barclay Estates, letting agents of 86 Upton Lane (see photo) was fined on two accounts of offences of failing to provide Newham Council with details relating to this property, as required by law,  on the same day. They were fined £500 for each offence.

Barclay Estates, Katherine Road
Fiaz Mahud Khan also of Upton Lane was also fined £500 on each of two counts of failing to provide Newham Council details of the property, as required, on the same day.

SM Property, 468 Katherine Road

This estate agent was fined £4,000 on 13 September 2017 for a failure to display its letting fees appropriately, within its premises, in a separate piece of consumer protection legislation.

SM Property, Katherine Road
36 Osborne Road

YLR Ltd (see 4 Dunbar Road, above) , but this time operating via Filton's of 190 High Street Stratford, was fined £1,500 for failure to apply for an HMO licence relation to this property on 17 March 2017.

36 Osborne Road
Filton's is an estate agent, which is currently advertising 20 properties on its website - the vast majority in Newham.  The company clearly has a cavalier attitude to its business and social responsibilities. To quote its website:

We are an estate and property management group run by some of the most disruptive minds in the industry ... We .. play hard, without the bureaucracy (ed: like abiding by Housing legislation, apparently). ... We don't do uppity suits and fake smiles. That's why we're turning the industry upside down ... And we're pushing boundaries for clients with new revenue streams, managed short lets and award winning marketing .

Filton's of High Street, Stratford - cavalier
The company's intolerance of the niceties of the law got them into further trouble on 7 June 2017, when they were fined £5,000 for a failure to display accurately display their letting fees on their premises, as required by consumer protection law.

117 Osborne Road

YLR Ltd, operating via Filton's of 190 High Street Stratford, was given two fines in relation to this property on 17 March 2017, one of £1,500 for failure to apply for an HMO licence, and one of £800 for failure to ensure that the property is in a safe and good condition (for company details, see 4 Dunbar Road, above).

117 Osborne Road
168 Osborne Road

This innocuous looking property on the Woodgrange estate has a complex ownership/management arrangement,  whose principals were subject to four, separate, prosecutions last year. Azher Iqbal of near-by Windsor Road was fined £3,250 on 11 May 2017 for a failure to comply with a property licence, to ensure that the property is kept in a safe and good condition. He was also fined £1,100 on the same day for a failure to apply for a licence to run the property as an HMO.

168 Osborne Road
A company called City Lord Ltd, of 25 Burdett Road, Tower Hamlets was fined £1,000 for a failure to register the property as an HMO on the same day, and Sidra Butt, also of Burdett Road, was fined £500 that day on an identical charge.

City Lord Real Estate, Burdett Road
McCreadie Hotel, 357-363, Romford Road

This large, four triple-fronted house,  hotel is used as bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families by boroughs outside of Newham; for a while, certainly Tower Hamlets was a major customer. It is in a poor state of repair and the landlords have clearly done well over the years from the public purse. 

McCreadie Hotel, Romford Road
It is a sign of how profitable this business has been that they have chosen not to cash in and sell the property for the £5m plus it could get on the current property market from a developer wishing to turn it into 20+ flats.
The hotel currently looks very run down and under-used, perhaps change is on the cards, accelerated by the prosecutions, below?

 Osman Ahmed Dakri of Holcombe Road, Ilford was fined £14,500 on 2 August 2017 on two charges, for a failure to comply with the rules for large private rented properties, which ensure the property is in a safe and good condition.
A company, which looks as if he controls, bearing the name, A Dakri Ltd of Romford Road (the hotel's address), was fined £38,000 for similar offences, on the same day.

5 Sandringham Road

Abdul Malik of Shrubland Road, E8 received two fines relating to this property on 2 March 2017, one of £1,000 for failing to apply for an HMO licence and one of £2,000 for failing to comply with licensing conditions.

5 Sandringham Road
32 Sandringham Road

Faizul Hoque of Osborne Road, Forest Gate, was fined £210 on 3 August 2017 for failing to comply with licence conditions in ensuring that this property was in a safe and good condition.

32 Sandringham Road
269 Sprowston Mews

Tariq Khan of Halley Road Manor Park was fined £500 on 3 November 2017, for failing to take action to control pests, after instructed to do so by the council, on the first floor flat of this property.

269 Sprowston Mews
9 Sprowston Road

An interesting property, to say the least.  Six different people and bodies have been found guilty of criminal offences about its letting status.  See at the end of this article for some analysis.

Firstly, Barclay Estates of 86 Upton Lane (see 4 Dunbar Road, above) was fined £3,000 on 17 March 2017 for a failure to apply for an HMO licence. Faiz Mahmud Khan, also of Upton Lane was fined a similar amount on the same day for the same offence, as was Maqhood Khan, also of Upton Lane. They were both also fined £500 on the same day for failing to provide details about the property to Newham Council, when asked to do so.

9 Sprowston Road
Shahid Khan of London Road E13 was fined £3,000 for failing to apply for an HMO licence on 17 March 2017, and Life Work Study of 190 High Street Stratford (see 124 Capel Road, above) was fined £1,000 for the same offence on the same day.  Making a total of £13,500 fines on the day, although probably only representing 4/5 months rent for the property.

22 Sprowston Road

Rameschander Patel of Ashburton Avenue, Ilford was fined a total of £25,000 for three offences in relation to this property on 5 January 2017. They were: a failure to comply with licence conditions to keep it safe and in good condition (£9,000), failure to comply with HMO regulations (£14,000) and a failure to provide Newham Council with documentation relating to the property, when requested to do so (£2,000).

22 Sprowston Road
23 Tenbury Close

Ahmedl Khan of 84 Romford Road was fined £1,050 on 3 August 2017 for failing to comply with a property licence condition, that this property was in a safe and good condition.
Tenbury Close
98b Upton Park Road

Mechella Fiona Jones, also of Upton Park Road was fined £1,500 on 22 June 2017 for a failure to comply with licensing conditions that ensure the property is in a safe and good condition.

98b Upton Park Road
43b Woodgrange Road

This property is one of the flats behind the now defunct NUR takeaway on Woodgrange Road.  Its owner Mohamed Sadfar of Cecil Road, E13 was fined £5,000 on 2 March 2017 for his failure to carry out improvements on the property, as instructed to do so, by the council.

43b Woodgrange Road

Some of the same companies and individuals appear on a number of occasions in the listings above, showing how a tight knit, close web of associations plays a significant part in the criminal activity listed above.

So, for example, Faiz Mahmud Khan, of Upton Lane has been fined for two offences in relation to 4 Dunbar Road and one in relation to 9 Sprowston Road. Other organisations also fined for offences in relation to these two properties include Barclay Estates (three offences) and Lifework Study (one offence), with an additional offence in relation to 124 Capel Road - see above for details.

YLR Ltd has also been successfully prosecuted for offences concerning 4 Dunbar Road - and in addition has convictions in connection with 117 Osborne (two) and 36 Osborne (one). YLR, itself, operates from the premises of Filton's in Stratford, which prides itself on its cavalier operating style and has been fined £5,000 for failure to comply with regulations relating to estate agency.

As we said at the start of this piece, Newham Council is to be commended for the way in which it has proactively prosecuted the rogue landlords and agents featured in this article. It has had to fight hard to obtain the right to defend private sector tenants via this legislation. The government wishes to reduce the powers of local authorities such as Newham, in this regard.

For the sake of the many thousands of private sector tenants in Newham and elsewhere, these powers need extending and strengthening, not weakening to the benefit of rogue landlords and agents, who are able to exploit their position at a time of chronic shortages in the housing market.

Additional properties, as of May 2018

In a further search on the database, mentioned above, the landlords of two additional Forest Gate properties have been found guilty of criminal charges in relation to their management of those properties.  The details are:

561 Romford Road (ground floor flat)

Kris Obariase of Walthamstow was, in October 2017, found guilty of failing to ensure that this property is in a safe and good condition and fined £3,000 for the offence.  He was fined an additional £1,500 for being obstructive to Newham Council when it was investigating the case.

42 Skelton Road

Miah Khan of London E1 was fined £1,540 on 3 August 2017 for failing to ensure that this property is safe.

A survivor's tale - 1889 Forest Gate Industrial School Fire

Monday 1 January 2018

It is always a great delight to get feedback on articles that appear on this website - particularly from families of people whose stories are affected. It is even more so, when the responses move the story on a little and add further detail to it.

What follows below is an account by one of the great-grandchildren of a resident of the Industrial School on Forest Lane, who was a hero on the night of the tragic fire that killed the 26 boys on the night of New Year's Eve, 1889.

We have written of that fire before, see here, here and here.

The Industrial school ablaze, New Year's eve 1889
Reader, Peter Norton, contacted this website, and said:

Below is an excerpt from a short essay I wrote about my great-grandfather, for my great grandmother, who mourned his death from 1918, until she died in the mid 1960's.
"Charles George Hipkins was born in 1877 in Poplar, to Joseph Hipkins and Sarah Creamer. Joseph was born in the Midlands and by the time Charles was born, he was a boiler maker in London.
Unfortunately, he died when Charles was 10 and the family fell apart, with no money and ended up in workhouses and schools for the poor.
At the age of 12 Charles Hipkins was a boarder at the Forest Gate District School, – the parish charity school for the poor of the Whitechapel and Poplar Union.  He was there when a fire burnt the building down on the night of the 31 Dec 1889.

Fire in the dormitory - source
Illustrated London News
 According to the Illustrated London News 26 boys aged between 7 and 12 died and 58 were rescued from 2 locked dormitories.  There were 636 children in the school that night. 
Memorial to the 26 fire victims,
West Ham cemetery
Charles was awarded a Silver Medal from The Royal Society for the Saving of Life from Fire and was given 5 guineas.  Only 4 others got this highest award for that incident and they were all adult workers at the school.  Already Charles was proving his bravery! 
The silver medal Charles was awarded
for his bravery on the night of the fire
The fire in Forest Gate lead to the government taking urgent action.
It issued a binding circular to all Boards of Guardians urging the importance of leaving dormitory doors unlocked at night, conducting fire drills and establishing voluntary workhouse fire brigades, maintaining telephonic communications with fire stations wherever possible and providing fire escapes.
A second illustration of destruction in the
dormitories - from the Illustrated London News
By the 1891 census Charles Hipkins was a Houseboy at ‘The Brigade Institution’,  147-153 Ebury Street, St Georges Square – another charity school. 
He worked as a coachman and aged 17 he joined the Army Service Corps working as a driver in the 5th Battalion East Surrey ‘Queens’ Regiment.    He married Edith Croxson in 1899 in West Ham. How they met, as she was from  Kirton in Suffolk, I do not know.  
They then lived in South Wimbledon and had a son Charles William George Hipkins, in 1900. Just one month before his son was born Charles senior went to South Africa with his Regiment for two years for the 2nd Boer War (where was awarded the South African campaign medal).  When he returned Charles and Edith had their second and final child Edith Hipkins (ed: author, Paul Norton's grandmother) in 1903.  
Charles was working as a house painter when the Great War started and voluntarily re-enlisted ‘for the duration of the war’ on the 29 September 1915.  The attached photo shows him in the East Surrey’s uniform proudly showing his Forest Gate and South African Medals.  On the back of the photo, he wrote ‘ for mum’.

Charles, proudly wearing the medal,
twenty five years later, when he
re-enlisted into the army, to fight in WW1
I  (ed: Paul Norton) have also researched the others who won awards that night but still cannot find out exactly what Charles did. He was certainly the only boy to be awarded the highest award - the silver medal.
The London papers listed all the awardees, they, their status and award are listed, below.

Distraught parents at the inquest into the
Industrial School fire-deaths - source: The Graphic
The lists shows: Name of recipient (details about the person) - nature of award:
 Charles Hipkins (12 year old pupil) - Silver Medal
 Thomas Jones Oakley (Neighbour to school, who helped in the rescue) - Silver Medal
 Henry Elliot (Yardman* , staff) - Silver Medal
 George Hare (Assistant yardman*, staff, aged 22) - Silver Medal
 Charles Duncan (Superintendant of school) - Illuminated Testimonial
 Miss Maria Julia Bloomfield (Wardrobe woman) - Illuminated Testimonial
 Herbert John Roe (Staff?) - Illuminated Testimonial
 Miss Laura Terry (Head sewing mistress) - Certificate
 Mrs Eliza Roe (Staff ?) - Certificate
John Malcolm (Neighbour to school, who helped in the rescue) - Certificate
 Walter Edmond Crisp (Unknown) - Certificate
Frederick William Roe (Staff ?) - Certificate
John Blagdon (Police constable) - Certificate

* N.B., Yardsmen slept in the dormitories, with the boys." We would like to thank Peter for his contribution, and as ever, would be delighted to hear from other descendants of survivors who could provide further details to the tragic story of the fire and its aftermath for the individuals concerned.

We would be delighted to hear other stories of survivors from the fire that night, or indeed any details of any residents of the Industrial School.