E16: Out of the strong came forth sweetness


E16 is Victoria Docks and North Woolwich and I have to say this postcode is quite unlike any other I have visited. It is a strange mix of industrial dereliction and modernity. Even though there has been a lot of building going on, much of it is still rather a wasteland.

We start our walk at the North Woolwich Post Office which is at 17 Pier Road, E16. This is just along the road from King George V Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station. Turn right out of the Post Office and go over the cross roads. Head towards the Woolwich Ferry. Our first stop is just on the left.

Stop 1: Royal Victoria Gardens

The area is a bit run down but suddenly – and rather unexpectedly – you come across a proper little park with grass and trees. This is Royal Victoria Gardens.


According to the London Gardens Online site:

“Royal Victoria Gardens were opened by the LCC in 1890 on land acquired with funds raised through public subscription. The former marshland had been acquired by George Bidder’s North Woolwich Land Company in the 1840s and was rapidly developed for industrial use, encouraged by new rail and ferry links. In 1850 the proprietor of the Pavilion Hotel expanded his hotel and laid out tea gardens, which he opened in 1851 as the Royal Pavilion Pleasure Gardens. Crowds of visitors were attracted to its numerous entertainments but in the early 1880s it began to make a loss, but the site was saved from development. The public gardens were completely redesigned, with little remaining of the pleasure gardens apart from the riverside terraces and central walk. There were a series of cells of a different character or activity, and a bandstand in the centre of the southern terrace. The Gardens suffered bomb damage during 1940 and little of the Victorian layout remains today.”

There is more about these gardens on the attached link: http://www.londongardensonline.org.uk/gardens-online-record.asp?ID=NEW027

Now you will see a concrete ramp close to the entrance. Go up here. This leads onto the riverside walk.


From the riverside walk you have a great view over to new developments on the other side of the river to the east of Woolwich.


And go to the right and you will see another concrete walk way with our next stop peeking up beyond the flood wall.


Go up these steps and view the building over the road.

Stop 2: Former North Woolwich Station


This was once North Woolwich station.  And if you look closely you will also see the words (or at least many of the letters of the words) “Great Eastern Railway Museum”


The station first opened in June 1847 at the southern end of the Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway from Stratford.

The route became an extension of the North London Line in 1979 and the line was electrified in 1984. But this end of the line became in effect a single track. The original station building here ceased to be used and was replaced by something rather more basic just along the way.

The station and the line to Stratford closed in December 2006 to allow for conversion of the North London Line between Stratford and Canning Town to become part of the DLR. But the far end of the line through Silvertown to North Woolwich did not become part of the DLR and so was abandoned – though we shall see much of it (but not this far end) is going to get a new lease of life. The area was not left isolated as it was served by King George V DLR station which opened in December 2005.

For over twenty years (from 1984 to 2008), the original North Woolwich station buildings and one disused platform became the North Woolwich Old Station Museum which was dedicated to the history of the Great Eastern Railway.

But as we can see this too is no longer. Here is what the Great Eastern Railway Society had to say about the closure:

“The Society regrets that the North Woolwich Old Station Museum closed at the end of November 2008.

Although the Great Eastern Railway Society had a significant interest in the Museum, and had contributed much to its opening and some of its displays it had no involvement in the Museum’s management. This was in the hands of the London Borough of Newham who, unfortunately, were no longer in a position to financially support the facility.

The contents of the Museum have not been moved together, but have been dispersed to various other locations:

* Some items have been returned to their owners who had placed them there on loan.
* The bulk of the smaller artefacts have gone to the East Anglian Railway Museum at Chappel.
* The GER horse-drawn parcels lorry has gone to Mangapps Railway Museum at Burnham-on-Crouch.
* Many documents have passed to the GERS and have been placed on loan and deposited at the Essex Record Office at Chelmsford.”

Kind of sad that this did not survive, but perhaps there were just not enough people interested in the Great Eastern Railway to justify it having a dedicated museum.

Now turn and look over towards the river for our next stop.

Stop 3: Woolwich Ferry

The Woolwich Ferry is a strange kind of relic that ought not to be here in the year 2016.


There has been a ferry operating in Woolwich since at least the 14th century, and commercial crossings operated intermittently until the mid 19th century.

Today’s ferry operates as a free service under an 1885 Act of Parliament. Originally the service was operated by paddle steamers. New vessels came into use in 1923 and these in turn were replaced in 1963 by the present fleet of “Roll On Roll Off” ferries.

The three boats are named after prominent London politicians of the past:

*John Burns (1858 – 1943) – a Liberal politician who was at one time MP for Battersea.

*Ernest Bevin (1881 – 1951) a Labour politician who at the time of his death was MP for Woolwich East

* James Newman who was Mayor of Woolwich from 1923 to 1925.




Normally the service is operated by two boats and in recent years they have carried around 20,000 vehicles a week. This translates to about 2 million people when you count vehicle passengers and the odd traveller on foot.

The Woolwich Ferry is where the South and North Circular Roads meet in the east. The continued existence of a ferry here is because of the inability of successive Governments (national and local) to address the issue of building more road crossings across the Thames in the east of London.

Additional links such as the Thames Gateway Bridge and the Gallions Reach Crossing have been proposed as replacements, but the schemes have come and gone and nothing has been built. So there are no immediate plans to discontinue the Woolwich Ferry as long as there is a demand. But given the boats are now well over 50 years old, I guess there must come a time when a decision has to be taken to replace them or withdraw the service.

Interestingly Tolls cannot be levied on the ferry without changing the 1885 Act of Parliament, but that may be necessary if the ferry continues after new East London crossings have been created as these will have tolls in order to pay for them. And this means the ferry could not realistically be left as a free crossing.

Pedestrians do not have to wait for the ferry as there is also the option of using the Foot Tunnel – which is our next stop.

Stop 4: Woolwich Foot Tunnel


This tunnel opened in 1912 and was in part due to the efforts of East End politician, Will Crook who we heard about in E14. The surface building is now Grade II listed.

Inside there is a lift and a spiral staircase. The lift has been automated but still has the old wooden panels inside, even if it no longer has a lift attendant.


The number of people using the foot tunnel has declined particularly since the opening of the DLR service to Woolwich. It was eerily quiet when I was there.


Back on the surface, there is probably the most depressing bus terminal in London.


And just across the road is probably the most depressing riverside park in London. Clearly some money was spent on this once, as there are these various bits of industrial heritage artfully distributed.



But the area is strewn with litter and in many places it is overgrown. Have the authorities forgotten that this exists? Maybe once the vacant land near here gets built on, someone will find the money to rehabilitate this riverside garden.

Continue along Pier Road and then turn up Henley Road walking away from the river. Turn left into Factory Road.

As we walk along Factory Road we see indications of some Crossrail works, which are where the old railway line to North Woolwich used to be. Here the line is on the surface and about to go into a tunnel under the Thames to get to Woolwich and Abbey Wood.



As we head down Factory Road, a strange sight looms up. It is a chinese style canopy.


And it turns out to be announcing the entrance to a Chinese cash and carry supermarket. It looks like it is closed, though, judging by the signs.


There does seem to be quite a random selection of business down here. Just along a side road here there is a bus garage.


This is the home of Docklands Buses which is actually a subsidiary of Go-Ahead London.

Continue walking along Factory Road and you will see our next stop up ahead on the left.

Stop 5: Tate & Lyle Silvertown refinery

This is the Thames Refinery operated by Tate and Lyle and one of the largest sugar refinery in the world and possibly the largest in the European Union.

It was opened by Henry Tate and Sons in the late 1870s. They manufactured sugar cubes here. Tate had not invented the sugar cube. In 1872, Henry Tate purchased the patent from a German called Eugen Langen and it made Tate’s fortune. That year he built a new refinery in Liverpool and later he opened a refinery here at Silvertown which remains in production.


Curiously there is a sign for Lyle’s Golden Syrup. It seems odd to find it here as we shall see.



Stop 6: site of Silvertown station

Just here we are walking along side the old railway line that went to North Woolwich which was closed in 2006. As we saw this section is being reused for the Abbey Wood branch of Crossrail. There is a little gap in the wall where you can peek through to see the work in progress.


Ahead you will see a footbridge on the right. If you go up onto that you can look at the line below. The tracks are laid but the overhead power lines have yet to go up.


Just about here was the site of Silvertown station – no sign of this survives today. And there will be no station here when Crossrail opens in a couple of years. However there is what is called passive provision for a station, so one may get built at some point in the future – presumably once more of the land round here gets redeveloped.

And looking the other way (to the west) the line curves off to the right and heads towards the Connaught Tunnel, which has been rebuilt for Crossrail.


You can also see a strange looking building to the left that looks like it might have escaped from Disneyland. That is our next stop which you reach by returning to Factory Road, turning right and carrying straight on.

Stop 7: Brick Lane Music Hall

This was St Mark’s Church dedicated in 1862. It is in gothic revival style and was built to stand out amongst the docks and industry.

The church was declared redundant in 1974 and bought in 1979 by Newham Council, with the intention of turning it into a museum. A major fire in 1981 largely destroyed the roof, which was replaced between 1984 and 1989. Wikipedia says that “the building could have been destroyed by fire had it not been for the weight of pigeon-muck on the roof which fell and quickly extinguished the flames.”


On closer inspection this building is no longer a church but a venture called the Brick Lane Music Hall.

Their website claims it is “the only permanent home for music hall, we have a range of shows including traditional music hall bills as well as freshly devised production shows with more up to date and innovative material.”

As the name suggests it started life in Brick Lane – that was in 1992. It then moved to Shoreditch and ended up here in 2003/04. And what a good use for the building.

However it does feel quite out of the way for a place of entertainment. I am sure many people would not feel safe here at night, even today when the area is at last getting some new development.

Continue walking straight ahead. You will see the DLR viaduct coming in from your right. Past the roundabout the road continues as North Woolwich Road. Follow the DLR viaduct. 


Our next stop is just to the left.

Stop 8: Thames Barrier Park


The Thames Barrier is a movable flood barrier which has been operational since 1984. Its aim is to protect London wast of here from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up river from the North Sea. You first see the barrier in the distance along a road behind a gate..


But then you come to a park with great views of the Barrier. This park which dates from 1995 was apparently built on the site of a chemical factory and this land was highly polluted.



There is a visitors’ centre for the Barrier but it is on the other side of the River. but on this side there is a cafe and a rather lovely “Green Dock”


Now head away from the river towards the DLR viaduct and Pontoon Dock station.

Stop 9: Millennium Mills

Our next stop can be seen from  the station. This is the imposing Millennium Mills.


Apparently this area was important for flour milling. This particular building is one of the few reminders. It dates from the mid 1930s and was built for Spillers. There have been many plans to redevelop or reuse this site since the docks were closed in 1981, but it does look like something is finally about to happen.

Now continue along North Woolwich Road past Pontoon Dock Station and turn left down Bradfield Road. Ahead of you on the left you will see a little park.

Stop 10: Lyle Park

In 1924, Sir Leonard Lyle, a grandson of Abram Lyle (the Lyle of Tate and Lyle), donated the land to the local council to be used as a park for the benefit of local residents.

As you approach the park, the first gate you come to may be locked but if you carry on to your right, there is another gate near the children’s play area and you can get in there.

It is worth a detour as there are a couple of interesting things to see.


As you walk in the park widens out and there is a single football pitch. Go to the right and in the far corner you will come across this little monument.


This is a First World War Memorial in the form of a water fountain.


And amazingly the tap actually works. When pushed it produces water!

Now walk the length of the football pitch and go up the steps. Ahead is another item of interest – a set of ornamental gates leading to nowhere.


The sign explains these gates stood at the entrance to the Harland and Woolf shipyard in Woolwich Manor Way – which confusingly is actually on the north side of the river in E16 and not in Woolwich.


Harland and Woolf is most famously associated with Belfast and their shipyard there was where the ill fated Titanic was built. I had not realised the company had a number of other locations, including here in North Woolwich.

You can walk over to the riverside here and see the odd mix of wharves and other industrial buildings with a sprinkling of new housing developments.



And there is a nice touch on one of the benches.


I guess a fairly recent addition, but frustratingly whoever sponsored the seat did not think to put a date or dates on the little plaque.

Now retrace your steps to the main road. Notice how this little park is hemmed in by industrial sites even today – in fact on the west side there is a construction waste processing plant which you can see in a couple of places looming over the boundary. You can also hear the noise of the operation with the odd boom shattering the otherwise tranquil park.


Stop 11: Tate & Lyle’s other works

Having left Lyle Park go back under the DLR and turn left. Follow the main road (with the DLR above your head) past the new housing developments going down to the river.


Ahead is West Silvertown DLR station and when you get to the station you can see on the other side of the viaduct the other Tate and Lyle factory here.

We are around a mile from the Thames Refinery and this is Plaistow Wharf. It is the home of Lyle’s Golden Syrup and was first opened by Abram Lyle in the 1880s. And it still makes Golden Syrup today.

In 1921 Lyle’s business merged with Tate, to become Tate & Lyle. In 2010 Tate & Lyle sold its sugar refining and golden syrup business to American Sugar Refining, although Tate and Lyle still exists as a business – it just does not refine sugar anymore.

What is so odd is that with all the closures and rationalisations that happen in business, the Tate and Lyle empire have kept the two factories here, even though they are so close together.


Lyle’s Golden Syrup tin bears a picture of a dead lion with a swarm of bees and the slogan “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. This is a reference to a Old Testament Biblical story (Judges – Chapter 14) This has Samson travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and when he passed the same spot on his return he noticed that some bees had colonised in the carcass.

Samson later turned this into a riddle: “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness”. Abram Lyle was a religious man, and it has been suggested that the use of this quote refers either to the strength of the Lyle company or the tins in which golden syrup is sold. But no one actually knows for sure.

And according to Guinness World Records Lyle’s Golden Syrup is Britain’s oldest brand, its imagery being almost unchanged since 1885.

While we are here do look ahead from the station.


You get a great view of Canary Wharf and also the cable car.


We are now at the end of our E16 walk which has proved a walk of contrasts. A new world is slowing emerging from the industrial dereliction but it still has pockets of working industry which makes for an interesting mix. But there is more to see in E16 – we did not manage to get to Canning Town or London City Airport for example.

We are right by West Silvertown station here for onward travel.


E15: Robert and the Railway Tree


E15 is Stratford, a place which grew because of the railway and more recently became the location of the 2012 Olympics – though the Olympic Park is now a separate new postcode (E20) which we shall come to in due course. But Stratford was here long before the railway, when there was an Abbey.

We start our walk at Stratford’s main Post Office which is at 26 – 28 The Broadway. Outside is one of those postboxes painted gold following the 2012 Olympics. This one is slightly different from most of the others in that it does not celebrate a particular athlete but rather the Games themselves. (The paint job hasn’t weathered too well though)


Walk as if you have turned right out of the Post Office and soon you will come upon the Langthorne pub.


I am sure the drinkers in here have no idea about where the name of this pub came from. It comes from the name of the medieval Abbey that stood nearby until the 1530s. Sadly there is nothing of the Abbey left to see, so far as I am aware.

Continue walking and ahead you will see a traffic island. Go onto that.

Stop 1: The Railway Tree

Here in the middle of the road is our first stop. It is an artwork made out of rail shaped metal and it is called “The Railway Tree”. This celebrates Stratford’s railway history as a major railway centre for both passengers and freight and also as the locomotive works of the Great Eastern Railway.


There is a plaque below which explains this is by Malcolm Robertson and dates from 1996. It was commissioned by Stratford City Challenge – City Challenge was a now largely forgotten scheme of the 1990s to encourage regeneration.


Keep heading away from your start point and cross the carriageway to your right.

As we head over the bridge, look out for this Meridian marker in the pavement on the bridge. We saw some different style markers when in E11. We also saw a building called Meridian House in E14 which turned out not to be on the Meridian at all!


Now look over the road.

Stop 2: Sync (former Rex Cinema and Borough Theatre)


The first theatre here was opened in 1896 as the Borough Theatre and Opera House. It seated 3,000 and was designed by Frank Matcham. Look up and you will see the name of the original theatre.


And now look down and you will see a little head.


This is apparently Beethoven, though quite why I have no idea. He did write a couple of Operas –  Fidelio being the best known. But I wouldn’t have thought he would be first choice on a building that called itself (however briefly) an Opera House.

The first incarnation of this building closed in 1933 and then well known cinema designer George Coles created a modern cinema here with a new corner entrance and a 1,889 seat Art Deco auditorium. It reopened as the Rex Cinema in 1934. In 1935 it was taken over by Associated British Cinemas who operated it until closure in 1969.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it was converted into a bingo club which remained until 1974 when it briefly became a cinema again for a few months, screening Asian movies. The building then lay empty and decaying for 21 years.

In 1996, the original stage house and dressing room block were demolished and a new high-tech unit was built. The rest of the building was restored to its 1934 condition and became a multi-use venue for concerts, live performances and a nightclub with a capacity of 2,500 patrons.

Since then it has had a somewhat chequered history having closed in 2007 and again in 2009. In late October 2012, it reopened as Sync, but it seems to be closed again now.

Now cross the main road. There is no actual crossing nearby but there seem to be big gaps in the traffic so it is quite easy.

Stop 3: Stratford High Street Station

This looks like a railway station and indeed it was. It also now appears to be the entrance a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station but all is not quite what it seems – as we shall see.


The first station here was built by the Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway in 1847 on the line from Stratford to Canning Town. The line was leased to the Eastern Counties Railway which itself became part of the Great Eastern Railway in 1862. Initially it was called Stratford Bridge station but it was renamed Stratford Market station in 1880 after the nearby fruit and vegetable market.

In 1892 it was rebuilt for the Great Eastern Railway, so that is the date of this building. The station closed in 1957 although the line however continue to function until 2006. It was rebuilt as part of the Stratford International extension of the DLR and a station was put back here which opened in 2011. But interestingly the station building did not get reused for the new station, as can be seen when one actually walks round.


The DLR station is completely separate from the old building.

Return to the High Street and turn right. Out next stop is a little way along on the right.

Stop 4: Stratford Town Hall

First you will see the old Fire Brigade building. Architectural expert Pevsner suggests that all that remains of the original 1860s building is the small section with the carved inscription. the rest of the building to the right is slightly later dating from the 1870s.


Note these old telephone boxes which I believe are of the K6 variety. They are available to let as very small shops!


But the main attraction here is the Old Town Hall itself. The first section was completed in 1868 and then it was enlarged in the 1880s. Pevsner describes this as a “confidently Victorian version of arched cinquecento”, in other words in the style of the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century,


By the way look over the road. In the middle you will see a plain obelisk.


This dates from 1861, and is dedicated to Sir Samuel Gurney who lived at Ham House. The grounds of that house are now West Ham Park as we saw when we were in E7. He was one of the many Quakers to contribute to the area’s civic and charitable life in the 19th century.

Keep walking along the main road.

Stop 5: King Edward VII pub

Just along here on the right there is an older interloper which is the two storey King Edward VII pub. Pevsner describes this as an 18th establishment remodelled in the 19th century with “ornate and bumptious doorcases”.


This is quite an unusual name for a pub and it turns out that this pub was called “The King of Prussia” until the beginning of the First World War. Obviously not a great name to have then so it got changed. But it did not get the name of the then current monarch but the previous one. Presumably it was felt it was not quite proper to name the pub after a living British King.

This is quite an interesting survivor of an old style pub and feels like it should be in some small country town and not in East London.

Continue walking along the main road. Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 6: Number 55 – 57 Broadway (site of Empire theatre)

This modern building was the site of the Stratford Empire theatre.


The Empire Palace of Varieties was opened on 3rd April 1899. Initially part of the London and District Empire Palaces it soon became part of the Moss Empire chain.

The building was designed by noted theatre architect W.G.R. Sprague, From 1906, the Empire Theatre was equipped to screen films as part of the variety programme and this continued for many years.

The building received a direct hit from German bombs in October 1940. The wreck of the building stood until it was demolished in 1958. At one point the office building here was named Empire House but that does not seem t be the case anymore.

Continue along The Broadway and cross over at the junction with the lights. This is the start of Romford road. Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 7: Stratford Library


This modern building, dating from 2000, need not detain us. The focus here is immediately outside the Library where there are a couple of memorials.

First is to the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889)


The reason for this stone is that he was born in a house near here and it was his childhood home until 1852. He was brought up in the High Anglican tradition but converted to Catholicism and became a Jesuit priest.


I do not know much about poetry but apparently much of Hopkins’s historical importance is about how he challenged what had hitherto been the conventional rhythyms of poetry.

The second memorial seems to have two dedications. The upper panel relates to a woman called Edith Kerrison (1850 – 1934) and below there is the inscription: “Erected by many friends in memory of a life of service to others”


She was the first woman councillor to be elected to West Ham Borough Council and was an advocate for women and children. Today there is a nursery school named after her in E16.

But below this is a reminder that there was at one time gardens here. According to this plaque they were damaged in the Second world War and were restored for the 1951 Festival of Britain.


No sign of these gardens now!

Cross the main road and head for the big church you can see ahead of you. Go past the church and into the driveway on the left to find our next stop.

Stop 8: The Martyrs Monument

Here in front of St John the Evangelist Church is a rather large Victorian memorial.


This commemorates the burning at the stake of 11 men and 2 women in the 1550s under Queen Mary. They were protestants who refused to recant their beliefs. . There seem to be a few more people who were killed for their protestant beliefs who get a mention on this memorial.

It is not exactly clear whether this was the site of the actual burning. It might have been at the Fairfield in Bow – we stopped by there when in E3. Even St John’s own website suggests that this bit of Stratford may not have been the actual location: http://www.stjohnse15.co.uk/fabric/martyrs.html



Although it says erected in 1878, it was actually inaugurated in a ceremony on 2 August 1879, presided over by the Earl of Shaftesbury.

Now return to the street and our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 9: Broadway shops

Long before the arrival of the Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford was once an important suburban shopping centre. It had a couple of department stores. One was called Boardmans which was at numbers 64 – 76 The Broadway and seemed to go round the corner into a side street built over by the Stratford Shopping Centre in the early 1970s.


There is a photograph on the Newham Council website which shows the store in 1971 when it was celebrating its centenary.


It was taken over by a Southend Department Store called Keddies later in the 1970s but closed down in 1984. The building was demolished and an office block was built on the site, called Boardman House, with a few shops on the ground floor.


Then just a little further east at Numbers 78 – 102 was another large store, the Co-Op. This is a 1950s building which has survived.


Today it is mostly taken up by Wilkos but there is also a Poundstretcher and a pub called The Goose.


Return towards the Library and before you get there, take a turn down Salway Place (Maplins is on the corner). It looks like just an alley but keep walking and you find yourself in Stratford’s “cultural quarter”. We pass an arts centre called Stratford Circus on our left, which opened in 2001. And on our right is the Picturehouse cinema dating from 1997.


Keep on and you get to a little piazza called Gerry Raffles Square. Gerry Raffles (1928–1975) worked with director Joan Littlewood on such productions as A Taste of Honey and Oh! What a Lovely War. But he was also her partner for many years. But we are jumping ahead.

Stop 10: Theatre Royal

We cannot come to E15 and not visit this veritable institution.


This theatre dates from 1884. It had a make over by renown theatre architect Frank Matcham in 1902. For most of its life it has been known as the Theatre Royal Stratford East, presumably to distinguish it from other Theatre Royals, notably Drury Lane and Haymarket.

It seems to have been a rather struggling enterprise, opening and then closing though the 1920s and 1930s. But its survival today is down to what happened after the Second World War when Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop company took a lease on the theatre in 1953.

Theatre Workshop had been formed in 1945 as a touring company.  They presented a mixed programme of classics and modern plays with contemporary themes. But the theatre they took on in Stratford was virtually derelict and no funds were available for renovation. The actors cleaned and painted the auditorium between rehearsals – and to save money the cast and crew slept in the dressing rooms, although Joan Littlewood had a home to go to – which she apparently did.

Many well known actors began their professional careers at Theatre Workshop under Littlewood. They included Harry H. Corbett, Richard Harris, Nigel Hawthorne and Barbara Windsor.

“Fings ain’t wot they used t’be” also started off here. Originally it was as a play about East End low life written by a man called Frank Norman but after Joan Littlewood read it, she asked Lionel Bart to write the music and lyrics. It was first performed by Theatre Workshop, produced and directed by Littlewood in February 1959. And the next year Bart produced his most famous work, the musical Oliver! based on the Dickens’ story of Oliver Twist.


This sculpture of Joan Littlewood outside the theatre is by Philip Jackson (1944 – ) and dates from 2015. We saw another of his works in our E13 walk – he was responsible for the World Cup statue near the old West Ham Football Ground.

I have to say though it reminds me of those real life “statues” you see in tourist places usually painted gold or else as a character from Star Wars or Tolkien. There is something decidedly odd about sticking the figure on a little pole like this.


Now head onto the main road and turn left, following the main road round until you get to the crossing. Go over that and ahead is our next stop.

Stop 11: Stratford Station

Stratford was an early railway centre and today it is one of the major transport hubs in London, with not only a major rail interchange but also a large bus station.




Outside there is an old steam engine called Robert.


But all is not what it seems. This engine has nothing whatsoever to do with Stratford’s railway history, so why is it here?


As the sign explains, it was built in Bristol for an industrial railway in Northamptonshire. It ended up in London because it was bought by the London Docklands Development Corporation as an example of a 20th century industrial steam engine. It was put on display in Beckton initially but was moved here in 2011 “to commemorate the area’s association with railways which began when the first station opened here by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1839.”

The railway has been an important part of the development of Stratford. But the story of the building of the various lines though Stratford is as tangled as the railway lines themselves and I cannot do justice to the story so here is a link to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratford_station

However I will just mention the eccentric platform numbering.


Platforms 1 and 2 were added in 2009 and are on the north side of the station, next to platform 12. They were built for the London Overground North London line which now runs from here to Richmond and Clapham Junction.

At one time the North London line ran between North Woolwich and Richmond via a pair of low level platforms which were numbered 1 and 2. But the DLR took over the most of route south from Stratford and these platforms after being rebuilt for DLR became numbered 16 and 17.

That is because they are next to the Jubilee line platforms opened in 1999 which were numbered 13 to 15. That meant all the low level platforms could be numbered in a single group. I guess the alternative would have been to keep platforms 1 and 2 next to platforms 13 – 15, but then the new London Overground platforms would have to be numbered 16 and 17 but next to platform 12.

But it does not stop there. If you then go on to the high level platforms you discoverpPlatforms 4a and b are not between platforms 3 and 5 as you might expect. As you enter from the main ticket hall, they are off to the left before you get to platform 3. This is because there used to be a little bay platform numbered 4 between platforms 3 and 5. This was taken over when the DLR first got to Stratford from Poplar. However the end of this line was all single track and when capacity had to be increased some of the single track was doubled and a two platform station created at Stratford.

The original platform 4 was abandoned and the new DLR platforms (which were no longer between platforms 3 and 5) were numbered 4a and 4b.

So hopefully should you be wandering round Stratford station and wondering why the platforms numbers are not in a logical order, that is the reason.

So that brings us to the end of our E15 walk – a bit of theatrical history, a bit of railway history, a bit of shopping history plus some monuments including one which is probably not in the right place. As we are at Stratford station, I hardly need to tell you about onward travel!

E14: Brutal reality


E14 is Poplar but also covers the Isle of Dogs, including Canary Wharf. As such it contains the huge contrast from post war social housing to flash offices of banks and other multinational companies, but there are some reminders of an older time.

We start our walk at Poplar Post Office at 22 Market Square in the heart of the Chrisp Street market area. Our first stop is here.

Stop 1: Chrisp Street Market

This was redeveloped in the 1950s and reminds me so much of Crawley New Town where I grew up and which has many shopping parades that looks rather like this.


It has a market area covered over by a later overall roof.


The shops are basic and at the cheap end of the range, but there are almost no chain stores here.


Within the market area is this mini museum called “Lansbury Micro Museum” which celebrates the development of this estate, which when it was being planned went by the glamorous name of “Neighbourhood Number 9”. Sadly it has been closed when I have been there, so I cannot vouch for the contents.


Neighbourhood Number 9 is better known as the Lansbury Estate, named after George Lansbury, local MP. The original part of this was designed to showcase post war reconstruction as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain.

It has a rather wonderful clock tower which dates from this time, and originally had open staircases and a public viewing platform. Sadly these are now closed, no doubt due to vandalism and anti-social behaviour.



The clock tower and the older part of the shopping area were designed by Frederick Gibberd. One of his first buildings was Pullman Court which we saw in SW2. He became the chief architect for Harlow New Town and went on to design the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool.

If you head out of the shopping area by the Clock Tower, then turn left (Chrisp Street) and then right (Willis Street). Go straight ahead and through the delightfully named “Brownfield Estate”.


You can see our next stop ahead. 

Stop 2: The “Goldfinger” towers

We now come to some housing blocks which were designed by Hungarian born architect Erno Goldfinger in the late 1960s, whose home we saw in NW3.

Here we have three different solutions to the issue of separating the lifts and services from the residential bits of the building. The first we see is the 15 storey Glenkerry House.


Here the lift tower is put to the side at one end of the tower. It has an external balcony only every third floor.

Then we have Carradale House, completed in 1969, where we have the service tower in the middle with residential bits either side.


And finally we come to the 27 storey Balfron Tower, dating from 1967, where the service tower is at one end. The access to the flats is only every third floor, so the front door next to yours will be a flat above or below you. This arrangement meant fewer stops for the lifts and in theory you were more likely to meet your neighbours as the balcony would be busier than if each floor of flats had its own separate access.


This is one of the best examples of 1960s Brutalist architecture. And if you think you have seen this before, well we did see its younger sister, the Trellick Tower by Westway in W10. Here Goldfinger had learned from the Balfron Tower – in particular Trellick Tower has three lifts rather than two which means the residents are less likely to suffer a complete loss of lifts – if one goes out there are still two to take the strain.

Two years ago I was lucky enough to be involved with the National Trust doing tours of the area including the flat in Balfron Tower where Goldfinger stayed. I wrote about this on my other site. Here is the link if you would like to read more of the story of this fascinating building and the National Trust opening in 2014.


Walk alongside the Balfron Tower. You will see the slip road between the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach and the East India Dock Road on your left and ahead is East India Dock Road which you should cross over. Turn right and go a little way along. Then head into the housing estate to your left. Beyond the thin veneer of new building is another iconic social housing estate.

Stop 3: Robin Hood Gardens Estate

Here we have the sad sight of Robin Hood Gardens estate. This is slightly later than the Goldfinger buildings, having been finished in 1972. It was designed by Alison and Peter Smithson who were advocates of the idea of the building as a street. The layout of this estate is two massive blocks with high level walkways and bedrooms looking inward onto a green space, so as to protect the residents from the noise of traffic on the nearby main roads.


The resulting estate has its fans but also its detractors.


Today it is rather forlorn with most, if not all, of its occupants having moved out. This estate is destined to be redeveloped, whereas the Goldfinger towers have been or are being renovated.


Curiously there is a sign showing that here was a Millennium Green (We saw one of these in New Southgate).


Not sure that this green has much of a future unless it gets revamped and swept up into the new development.

Now retrace your steps to East India Dock Road and turn left. Pass by All Saints Church and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station of the same name. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 4: Poplar Baths

This massive building was built by Poplar Borough Council in the early 1930s as public baths.


It does look more like a factory, but impressive nonetheless. The side street has the name “Poplar Bath Street” which does show rather a lack of originality.


Outside is a statue of a man called Richard Green.



Richard Green (1803 – 1863) was a shipowner and philanthropist. Son of shipbuilder George Green, he entered the business which specialised in ships for whaling and the East India Company. He had a concern for the welfare of his ships’ crews and this led to his large contributions to the Merchant Seamen’s Orphan Asylum, the Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital and the Poplar Hospital. He was popular and this is I guess why there is this statue to him.

If you look closely at the dog, you will see his right ear is missing, Apparently this is because a boy got stuck behind it when climbing the statue and it was damaged in his rescue.

Now continue along East India Dock Road. By the by across the road was George Green School (now part of Tower Hamlets College)


He was Richard Green’s father and had founded the school in 1828. This building though dates from the 1880s with a clock tower added in the 1920s.


Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 5: Poplar Park

This was originally called Poplar Recreation Ground and was created by the Poplar Board of Works in 1866 on the site of a group of East India Company Almshouses.


It has this unusual monument just in from the road.


This commemorates 18 children who were killed nearby by a German bomb in June 1917.


Little did the local population know that just over 20 years later bombing of this area would be so commonplace that there was no way such events could have this kind of monument.

Head out of the park to the left of the monument and turn right in the rather lovely old side street (Woodstock Terrace) dating from the 1850s. Our next stop is on the right (but you will also have seen this from the park)

Stop 6: St Matthias Old Church

This church has an interesting history.


According to the architectural fount of all knowledge, Pevsner, this started as a chapel built in the 1650s, modelled on the now lost Broadway Chapel in Westminster. It became a parish church in 1866 when it was remodelled and given a Kentish ragstone exterior.

There is a little plaque on the wall as you approach the church.


This signifies a stop on the Poplar Heritage Trail – it is actually stop 7 on a trail of 13 stops. Here is a link:


This trail runs from St Vincents estate in Limehouse to Blackwall steps in Virginia Quay. There are 13 plaques which highlight points of historical significance and celebrate the rich diversity of Poplar and Tower Hamlets. Each plaque was developed with the help of the community during free events and workshops.

I am not sure they thought through the design of these plaques very well as they are really hard to read. The writing is etched into the metal of the plaques and does not stand out. Plus the picture is quite small.

Go to the end of Woodstock Terrace and turn right into Poplar High Street. Just at the corner by the way is a rather lovely high Victorian building, which is being renovated at present.


This was built by the Poplar Board of Works in 1869/70.


Our next stop is just next door on the right.

Stop 7: Meridian House (115 Poplar High Street)


This modest little building is, according to Pevsner, the surviving part of an alms house development by the East India Company and was the Chaplain’s house. The East India Company acquired this land on the north side of the High Street in 1628 and this house was the centrepiece of what Pevsner calls “an almshouse composition of 1801-02”. This presumably extended up to where the park now is.


Curiously the building is now called Meridian House. I know we are close to the Greenwich meridian here so I checked exactly where it goes. I was slightly disappointed to find that it actually goes somewhat to the east of this spot.

Here is a link if you should ever want to check whether somewhere is actually on the meridian.


There are more Tower Hamlets College buildings on the left and just after them is an access to Poplar DLR station. Go down there.

Stop 8: Poplar DLR station

As you approach the station you get a good view of the Canary Wharf development over the tracks.


And here is a view from the station platform.


Canary Wharf is a business district employing over 100,000 people. It vies with the traditional City of London as a major financial centre. The tower at the centre (known as One Canada Square) was built in 1991 and was the tallest building in the UK, until it was overtaken by the Shard in 2012.

Canary Wharf was built on the old West India Docks and takes its name from No. 32 berth of the West Wood Quay of the Import Dock. This was built in 1936 for Fruit Lines Ltd, a subsidiary of Fred Olsen Lines for the Mediterranean and Canary Islands fruit trade. At their request, the quay and warehouse were given the name Canary Wharf.

And from the bridge you can see the tangle of lines here as they cross over the Limehouse Link road. The Limehouse Link was built between 1989 and 1993 at a cost of £293 million and was at the time by far the most expensive road scheme per mile ever built in Britain. I suspect it still holds that record.


Then looking away from Canary Wharf you see the main depot for the DLR.


Poplar was one of the original stations on the DLR. The initial system opened in 1987 with just two routes, from Tower Gateway or Stratford to Island Gardens. Most was elevated on disused railway viaducts or new concrete viaducts, whilst the stretch from Poplar to Stratford was a disused surface railway line.

The trains were fully automated, controlled by computer, and needed no driver. But there is a staff member on hand checking tickets, making announcements and controlling the doors. This staff member could take control of the train in case of equipment failure and emergencies.

The junction at the centre of the original lines is just over the Limehouse Link road from Poplar. It was originally a flat triangular junction, which was known as the Delta junction.  As part of the 1994 extension to Beckton, one side of the original flat triangular junction was replaced by a grade separated junction. Poplar station was rebuilt to give cross-platform interchange between the Stratford and Beckton lines. East of Poplar station a new grade separated junction was built where the Stratford and Beckton lines diverged.

In the early 2000s it was decided the trains needed to be expanded to three cars and as part of an upgrade to allow three-car trains, strengthening work was necessary at the Delta Junction. The opportunity was taken to have further grade separation to eliminate the conflict on Stratford and Bank services. A new grade-separated route from Bank to Canary Wharf was created in 2009 but it bypasses West India Quay station because of the gradient needed to get the line under the Stratford route. However trains run on the old route in the evening when there are fewer trains.

Retrace your steps to Poplar High Street where you turn left. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 9: Will Crooks Estate


I am stopping here not because there is anything particularly special about the estate buildings.


Rather it was to mention Will Crooks (1852 – 1921). He was another local politician and he was known for his campaigning work against poverty and inequality.

He was elected to the London County Council (LCC) for Poplar in 1892. On 3 August 1895, he opened Island Gardens, which is the south end of the Isle of Dogs (and which is in E14 but sadly too far to go from here). He also campaigned for the first Blackwall Tunnel, and as Chairman of the LCC Bridges Committee in 1898, he was instrumental in the building of the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels (which were completed in 1902 and 1912 respectively). He continued on the LCC until 1910.

In 1900 he became the first Labour mayor of Poplar, and in 1903 he was elected to Parliament as MP for Woolwich. He remained an MP until a few months before his death in 1921 apart from a short period in 1910.

He is commemorated in this mural which sadly is imprisoned behind bars.



Just as we leave the Will Crooks Estate there is an unusual survivor in terms of street signs.


Most of the signs round here have been replaced with ones with the Tower Hamlets name and logo. But this one is from the predecessor borough here and I guess it survived because it was set back off the road on the side of a block of flats.

Continue walking along the High Street.

Stop 10: The White Horse

At the end of Poplar High Street is a statue of a White Horse on a column.



This is a reminder of a pub which stood hereabouts. It originated in the 17th century and was last rebuilt in the 1920s, according to Pevsner. I assume the pub was lost in the Blitz.

Keep walking straight ahead, following Cycle Superhighway Number 3.


Cross the road and go under the DLR. Ahead you will see some remnants of the old dockyard.

Stop 11: Dockmasters House and West india Dock warehouses


Here we have a Dock office building which started off as a single storey building in 1804 which was remodelled and enlarged by Sir John Rennie in 1827.

Across the way is a range of early 19th century warehouses which formed part of the West India Dock.


Today they have been repurposed as restaurants, offices and as an outpost of the Museum of London.

Also just here is an interesting panel from when the construction of these docks was started in 1800.


I like the end part which says:


Which under the favour of GOD shall contribute




Now just go a little further into the dock area. Look back and you will see the other side of the warehouse range.


But our next stop is to your right.

Stop 12: Cannon Workshops


The domed building was a guard house built 1805 for the dock’s Military guard. The other old buildings ahead were built by Rennie in 1825 and were stores and workshops.


Today they are small business units. The buildings were converted in 1980/81 as one of the Port of London Authority’s early attempts to introduce new employment opportunities in the docks after they had closed in 1980. They could hardly have foreseen how much of the old West India Docks would eventually develop as a financial centre. That would have just been unthinkable back in 1980.

So that brings us to the end of the E14 walk where we have heard about some East India Company connections, seen some of the post war housing redevelopment of Poplar and dipped into the brave new world of Canary Wharf with a sprinkling of old dock buildings.

We are close by to West Ferry DLR station. To get there retrace your steps back to Cycle Superhighway 3 and turn left. Follow this to the station trying not to get run down by speeding cyclists.





E13: A place for playing


E13 covers West Ham, Upton Park and Plaistow. E13 comes between Manor Park (E12) and Poplar (E14) in the numbering system so it must be Plaistow which set the number.

According to Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable: “It has acquired the cockney pronunciation of “Plarstow” but the name probably derives from “play-stow” a place of recreation, although a link has been suggested with a former lord of the manor Hugh de Plaitz. So it may or may not be a place for playing.

We start our walk at the Royal Mail sorting office in High Street E13. Turn left and go along the High Street. You can see our first stop looming ahead on the railway bridge.

Stop 1: Plaistow Station



The station was opened in 1858 by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway (LTSR) on a new direct route from Fenchurch Street to Barking that avoided Stratford. The station was first served by the District Railway from 1902 and first electric trains arrived here in 1905. And that is the date of the main station building with its rather strange partly blocked in arched windows.

The Fenchurch Street–Southend service was withdrawn from Plaistow in 1962 and the platforms used by that service were abandoned but can still be seen beyond the fence on the westbound platform for District and Hammersmith and City line trains..


You can see the initials of the LTSR in the canopy brackets and also a little more unusually under the seats on the platform.


If you are in the station do have a look at the City skyline you can see from the internal footbridge looking west.


And finally another little survivor of an earlier railway age is in the lobby.


Here we have a blue and white enamel sign in the colours of the Eastern Region of British Railways, so dating from the 1950s or early 1960s.

Now retrace your steps along the High Street and our second stop is on the left.

Stop 2: Black Lion Pub



Architectural commentator Pevsner describes the Black Lion as “one lonely reminder of Old Plaistow”… “a concatenation of buildings with an appealingly varied facade and roofline. It was recorded in 1742 but refaced in 1875 and later altered in 1892”. What Pevsner does not comment on is the fact that this is a still a pub – an increasing rarity in this part of London. And a fairly handsome one too.

Wikipedia says The Black Lion “was frequented by West Ham United football players especially such as Bobby Moore in the 1960s and 70s”. We will hear more about West Ham United in due course.

Continue walking along the High Street. It broadens out and on the left you will see just down North Street is our next stop.

Stop 3: Plaistow Library

This Library building dates from 1902/1903 and this handsome structure is still in use.


It was funded by John Passmore Edwards, who we have come across before in Acton and Shepherds Bush.


This is one of 24 libraries he funded. There is a stone which records it was laid by H H Asquith amongst others.


At the time Asquith’s party (the Liberals) were not in Government. Prior to this he had been Home Secretary in the 1890s. When the Liberals regained power in 1905 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. He rose to become Prime Minister in 1908, a post he held until 1916 when he was replaced by David Lloyd George.

Continue along the main road which has now become Greengate Street. Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 4: site of West Ham Bus Garage/Tram depot

The name of the street on the right gives us a clue to the previous use of this site.


This was built on where the main structure of West Ham Bus Garage stood. And this street is named after the Routemaster bus which operated at this garage from November 1959 until 1985.

But this site has a much longer transport heritage as can be seen as we walk along Greengate Street.


After the modern housing comes this building.


This was built by the County Borough of West Ham in 1906 as the headquarters of its tramway operation.

The date is on a stone up high.


Note the motto is “Deo Confidimus” which translates as “In God we Trust”. Not a great motto for a tramway operator maybe.

There is also a little stone which you just about see from the street.


Between 1903 and 1905, West Ham corporation had taken over all of the North Metropolitan Tramways company lines within the borough.

The North Metropolitan Tramways Company started off as a horse tramway from Aldgate to Leytonstone Road, via Stratford, in 1870 and had expanded its lines through the latter part of the 19th century.

After the take over, the Corporation extended and electrified the tramways and continued running them until the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933.

With the demise of the tram, West Ham Depot became a trolleybus depot, operating from June 1937 until April 1960, and then it housed motorbuses until October 1992 when the garage closed.

Of course this garage was not actually in West Ham. In fact there is today a bus garage called West Ham which is right by the Jubilee line near to West Ham station. This opened in 2008/9. It can house 350 buses making it one of the largest, if not the largest, bus garage in the UK. But sadly it is not on our route today.

One point of interest here in Plaistow is the First World War memorial sitting at the front of the building.


The building today looks abandoned which is sad given its history.

Our next stop is right across the road

Stop 5: Former YMCA building, Greengate Street

What you may ask is this strange looking edifice looming over the two storey buildings on either side of it. It looks like it does not belong here.


This was built by the YMCA in 1920/21.


It is a steel framed building clad in pale brick and glazed tiling. Pevsner describes it as “Vaguely Art Nouveau detail but with lavish ornament more American in spirit, explained by [the architect] Thomas Brammall Daniel having spent most of his early career there.”


Inside Daniel included a concert room and theatre, which had direct street access. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, It opened as the Little Theatre on 3 June 1921. Soon afterwards, while the nearby Greengate Cinema was closed for enlargement, the trustees of the YMCA opened this hall as the Red Triangle Cinema.

It remained open after the Greengate Cinema had reopened. It closed in April 1931. It reverted back to its original use as the Red Triangle Theatre until around 1948.

The building became offices for an insurance company in 1956. In 1976 it was converted to become a College of Art. Today it has been rebuilt as apartments and is called Pegasus House.


Continue walking along Greengate Street. Our next stop is on the right. There are two possible entrances – one small and one large. It does not matter which you choose.



Stop 6: Plaistow Park

This is Plaistow Park


It started out life as Balaam Street Recreation Ground when it opened in 1894. It was rechristened Plaistow Park in 1999.

Walk through the park and you will come to some roses and a little fountain.


Go past that and you will then come out on Balaam Street. Turn left and walk a little way along (to just past First Avenue)

Stop 7: The Greenway

Our next stop runs across Balaam Street and is known as The Greenway.


This is a long thin strip of green with a wide path along it.


So why you might wonder build a such a green space.

The reason lies below. We are standing on top of the Northern Outfall Sewer. This is a major sewer leading to Beckton sewage treatment work. Most of it was designed by Joseph Bazalgette after an outbreak of cholera in 1853 and the “Great Stink” of 1858.

The eastern end of the Northern Outfall Sewer, running some 4.5 miles from Wick Lane, Bow to Beckton has been landscaped to form a public footpath/cycleway called The Greenway with access points along its length.

Signage was apparently made from old sewerage pipes.though they are looking the worse for wear.


Now turn left off of Balaam Street. Walk along the stretch of the Greenway to the next road, which is Barking Road where you should turn left.

Keep walking along Barking Road.

Stop 8: site of Greengate Cinema, 525-529 Barking Road

Right at the corner with Greengate Street was the Greengate pub, now a Tesco Express.


Pevsner talks about a triangle of Plaistow’s old street hereabouts “with a handful of notable buildings. The Green Gate pub, long established but rebuilt 1953/54, is not one”

But just next door to the Green Gate Public House, there used to be a cinema. This opened as the Green Gate Electric Theatre in January 1911. Cinema Treasures says “The facade of the building was decorated with plaster swags of bunches of fruit over a series of four round windows, with a central rounded pediment over the main entrance which had the theatre’s name in the stonework. The facade was off set at an angle to the main auditorium block and there was a small tower feature located on the roof of what would have been the projection box behind the entrance pediment.”

It seems it was always independently operated although it had other names. In 1921 it was the New Electric Theatre but became the Greengate Cinema in December 1930. From 1953 it was called the Rio Cinema and finally closed in March 1953.

After laying unused for several years, the building became an independent bingo club from the early 1960s. It later became a snooker club which lasted until 1994 when the building was again closed and became derelict.

Around 2003, it was taken over by the FourSquare Gospel Church.


Today the building’s facade is now totally plain so it is hard to imagine how it might have looked in its heyday years ago. But you can just make out how there might have been an auditorium behind.

Keep walking along Barking Road.

You can see a future point of interest looming up ahead, beyond that block of flats.


Our next stop is where Green Street meets Barking Road, and ahead on the corner if the Boleyn pub.

Stop 9: The Boleyn pub


This dates from around 1900 and is a splendid “gin palace” type pub, so much grander the rest of the area. It still retains some of its etched glass.


Now right behind this pub was until recently the home ground of West Ham United football club. They have played their last game here, but the Boleyn has put up a valiant effort to keep some trade from the home crowd.


So where does the name come from. Well there was a big house here called Green Street House, which was known as “Boleyn Castle” because of a supposed association with Anne Boleyn. It was reportedly one of the sites at which Henry VIII courted his second queen, though there does not seem to be any factual evidence for this.

But we cannot leave here without mentioning the very visible Footballing statue standing opposite the Boleyn.


This is called the “World Cup Sculpture” and is a bronze statue of the 1966 England World Cup Final. It depicts the famous victory scene photographed at the old Wembley Stadium, featuring Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson. It was the first and only time England had won the World Cup, and England captain Moore is pictured held shoulder high, holding the Trophy aloft.

It was jointly commissioned by Newham Council and West Ham United and is here because it commemorates West Ham’s contribution to the victory. Moore, Hurst and Peters all having been West Ham players at the time of the 1966 World Cup.

It was sculpted by Philip Jackson and unveiled in 2003 by Prince Andrew, who was president of the Football Association between 2000 and 2006. Prince William now has the role.


Just before we leave this spot, I have to mention the cinema building across the road (which is technically over the border in E6). This was built by Odeon on the site of an earlier cinema. Dating from 1938, it must have looked super modern when it opened. It survived as an Odeon until 1981.

After laying unused for 14 years it was taken over by an independent operator who sub-divided the auditorium into three screens and reopened it as the Boleyn Cinema in late 1995 screening Bollywood films. It was closed in early 2014 to convert two of the three screens into a banquetting hall. The former balcony has now been converted into two screens.

Now go along Green Street.

Stop 10: former West Ham United football ground (Boleyn ground)

Look down the first side street and you will see the massive stadium lying back from the road.


Then you come to a catholic church.



The church is called “Our Lady of Compassion” which no doubt has led to all sorts of jokes when West Ham United has not been doing so well.

And so as we walk along Green Street, we get to see the full scale of the stadium.



West Ham United Football Club competes in the Premier League, England’s top tier of football and until the end of the 2015/16 season played home games at this ground known as the Boleyn Ground.

The club was founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks FC and reformed in 1900 as West Ham United. They first played here in from 1904 but no more as they are moving to Olympic Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The castle features on the building do look a little fanciful to say the least, making it a little disneyesque. Supposedly these reference Boleyn Castle, which was not really that kind of castle and was probably not even connected to Anne Boleyn.

Continue walking along Green Street. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 11: Queen’s Market



This is a mixed market with some food and some general goods.


The street market originated in Green Street in the late 19th century when the area started to be developed. The traders were pushed into Queens Road in 1904 to stop them obstructing the main road and to allow for the passage of trams. The current building I believe dates from the late 1960s but has been “updated”. Pevsner does not like this saying “An unappealing tall slab of flats rises behind the dismal Queens Market and multi storey car park, the latter not improved by the borough’s garish cosmetic reclading of 1992, reminiscent of cheap bedroom furniture”

In November 2006, Newham Council proposed to redevelop the market site to include a supermarket and luxury housing above a much smaller covered market. Following the local campaign, in May 2009 Mayor of London Boris Johnson directed Newham Council to refuse planning permission to redevelop the market. Not sure what has now happened to this idea.

Our next stop is right next door.

Stop 12: Upton Park Station

And so we have reached the end of the walk at Upton Park station – the next station out from the City after Plaistow.


This station opened in 1877 somewhat later than nearby Plaistow. It was built at the behest of a local property developer called Read and originally it fronted a square (called with stunning originality – Queen’s Square) which was on the corner of Green Street and Queen’s Road. However as so often happens in suburban development, the developers liked to have the name Park in there somewhere but they omitted to provide an actual park.

The first station was swept away in 1903/04 when the line here was widened to four tracks and the original two platform station was replaced.


It is not the prettiest of station but at least it has a proper booking hall and the platforms are almost completely covered with canopies.

If you go down the westbound platform you can look over and see the disused fast line platforms. Note also the LTSR initials in the canopy brackets.


They have not however got around to changing the signing on the platform regarding West Ham United.


And there was one more curiosity on the platform – the train indicator.


This sure is a museum piece – especially as it describes the train via Liverpool Street as Metropolitan. This section of the Metropolitan line was became a separate line – the Hammersmith and City line – in 1990.

So that brings us to the end of our E13 walk. This area has some interesting buildings from around the turn of the 20th century which seem a little out of keeping with the uninspiring surroundings. We saw an unexpected use of a sewer pipe corridor and of course we saw some West Ham United connections.

We are now at Upton Park station for onward travel.


E12: It’s all too beautiful…


E12 is Manor Park whose very name seems to point to a nondescript nowhere/anywhere place. As ever we will search out some interesting stuff as we walk the street hereabouts. But we will not get to Manor Park. Although there is a Manor Park cemetery, there does not seem to be an actual park called Manor Park.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 667 Romford Road, Manor Park. Turn left out of the Post Office and then left into Station Road. Our first stop is ahead a little way on the left.

Stop 1: Manor Park Station


The station was opened in 1873 by the Great Eastern Railway on a line which had opened in 1839 between Bishopsgate and Romford.


Normally trains use platforms 1 and 2 on the slow tracks. Platforms 3 and 4, on the through lines, are usually only used during engineering works. But there is an additional unnumbered, platform face south of platform 1. This is not in operation, although the track behind it is used as a passing loop for freight traffic.

The service here will become part of Crossrail in due course. The new Crossrail trains are 200 metres long but the platforms 1 and 2 are both shorter at 168 metres and 185 metres long respectively. They cannot be physically extended to accommodate the new trains so a system called selective door operation will be used, meaning that either some of the front or rear doors will not open here.

The freight loop around platform 1 is due to be removed and replaced by a new loop line further down the line to the west of Chadwell Heath.

I think the station here was rebuilt when the line was first electrified in the late 1940s and the staircases to the platforms look like they date from then as does the bits of tiling on the platform.


If you look closely, you can see how TfL did not replace the signs when they took over running the trains in 2015. They simply covered over the old signs with their new style ones.

Now take a right out of the station into Station Road and take the first right (Manor Park Road). As we walk along here, you can see the staircase more clearly and see how it is typical of that rather dull late 1930s/1940s style.


Continue following the road round and go straight ahead past the bollards. Manor Park Road goes to the left but you should carry on. Take the second turning on the left (Albany Road). Our next stop is on the right side of the road.

Stop 2: Number 25, Albany Road


This house was the birthplace of Stanley Holloway (1890-1982), stage and film actor and singer,  He was named after Henry Morton Stanley, the journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and for his search for fellow explorer David Livingstone.


He is today best known for his role as Eliza Doolittle’s father, Alfred, in the musical My Fair Lady, which he played on Broadway, in the West End and in the movie.

But he did so much more than that. In particular he was also renowned for his comic monologues and songs which he performed and recorded throughout most of his career, which spanned some 70 years.

Continue along Albany Road, turn left at the end (Clarence Road) and then right into Carlton Road. Note the unusual planting in the roadside beds.



The plants include Gladioli,and (I think) Crocosmia. Not what you usually find in these kind of beds. The explanation is perhaps connected to our next stop – which is a notice board at the end of Carlton Road.

Stop 3: Manor Park Village


So this is Manor Park Village then. Not a village in the traditional sense but rather it is a “branding” of the Durham Road Conservation Zone. They have their own website: https://manorparkvillage.com/

This small enclave of late-Victorian terraced houses was designated a Conservation Area in 1984 to retain its original charm and character with additional planning controls introduced in 1998.

The area was originally developed in the 1880s on farmland that formed part of the Gurney estate. It was built by one builder to an overall plan, with a limited range of house styles giving the area a distinctive character and unity. The developers were the Corbett family who built several suburban estates including the adjacent Woodgrange Estate in Forest Gate.

But it a bit of a stretch to call this a “village”.

Turn right into Romford Road. Our next stop is a short way along on the other side of the road.

Stop 4: Woodgrange Park Station


So here we have another station. But this is on the orbital Gospel Oak – Barking line – we have seen some of its other stations as we journeyed through E7, E10 and E11.

The track was laid in 1854 as part of the first section of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway from Forest Gate Junction on the Eastern Counties Railway to Barking. In 1894 the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway opened a new railway to Tottenham beginning at a junction just north of the station site. And the station dates from this time.

As with the other stations on the Gospel Oak – Barking route, it has been denuded of its buildings, so it looks a bit forlorn.



The line here is already electrified as it is used when the Southend and Tilbury trains run to and from Liverpool Street rather than Fenchurch Street. But the trains that stop here have until recently been diesel units running between Gospel Oak and Barking. The station is closed at the moment for the upgrade of that line and so soon there will be new electric trains on this route.

There does not seem to be a Woodgrange Park. There is Woodgrange Park Cemetery but no actual Woodgrange Park as far as I can see..

Retrace your steps back along Romford Road. Our next stop is at the junction with High Street North.

Stop 5: Earl of Essex pub


This majestic building was the Earl of Essex pub. Architectural commentator Pevsner calls this “A jovial Barque composition … typical of the complex pub design of this date”. And the date is shown on some interesting stones on this building which indicate that this building harks from 1902, the time of the coronation of King Edward VII.



Sadly this pub is currently closed and has been since 2012. But it seems its fate is not to be another Tesco Metro or Sainsbury Local, because there was an application for drinks and entertainment licence earlier this year. So it may survive as a pub for a little longer at least.


Head down the side of the pub into High Street North. Our next stop is right next to the pub.

Stop 6: former Coronation Cinema, Number 501, High Street North



Now this building is not named after the 1902 coronation but the next one, that of King George V in 1911. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it was originally called the Coronation Electric Theatre. It closed in 1920 and was substantially enlarged reopening as the New Coronation Cinema in May 1921 There were full stage facilities with three dressing rooms to provide for variety performances to accompany the film programmes.

It was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in 1929. The Coronation Cinema, as it was by then known, continued under the ownership of ABC until it was closed in November 1968. It was converted into a Mecca Bingo Club which opened in January 1969. In July 1985 it was converted into a snooker club. The snooker club only used the former stalls area and a false ceiling was suspended over from the front of the circle to the stage.

The snooker club closed in around February or March 2008, and the building was empty and unused. In December 2009, the building was reopened as the Royal Regency banquet hall. Inside the auditorium, the false ceiling and sub-division have been removed to reveal the original ceiling and decorative balcony front. In 2012, the circle was brought back into use.

It is a Grade II Listed building and having survived against the odds, seems to have found an appropriate modern day use.

Continue along High Street North for quite a way until you reach Strone Road on the right. Go down here.

Stop 7: Number 308 Strone Road


According to the site Notable Abodes this was the childhood home of musician Steve Marriott (1947 – 1991). He lived here from 1947 until 1961.

He was the frontman of two notable rock and roll bands over two decades – . Small Faces (1965–1969) and Humble Pie (1969–1975 and 1980–1981). Although he was of slight build, he had a powerful singing voice. Marriott was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

Maybe one day this house will get a plaque.

Retrace your steps to High Street North and turn right. Our next stop is just across the road at the next junction. 

Stop 8: Ruskin Hotel

This building dates from 1901 and is another example of an ambitious Edwardian pub building.


It is not just a pub. Its also a Hotel, as can be seen in the side street, Ruskin Avenue.


This is a modern building dating from 2012 fitted in behind the historic pub. This seems to be an independently operated business. It is fascinating that someone felt there was enough business here in E12 to justify building a new hotel. But it is a short walk to East Ham tube station and is at the budget end of the market, so maybe it has found a niche.

Go down Ruskin Avenue. Follow it right along until you get to Browning Road where you turn left. Go along Browning Road. Our next stop is almost at the end of Browning Road on the left.

Stop 9: Sri Murugan Temple

Now this is a surprising sight looming up over the dull suburban streets of E12.


This is a Hindu temple. According to Wikipedia, “A Hindu temple is a symbolic reconstruction of the universe and universal principles that make everything in it function. The temples reflect Hindu philosophy and its diverse views on cosmos and truths.”

There is a dead pub at the corner which seems to have been incorporated into the temple site.


Now here is a curious thing. The roads off of Church Road are named First Avenue, Second Avenue, Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, Harcourt Avenue and Sixth Avenue.




What happened to Fifth Avenue, you may wonder. Well Fifth Avenue exists at the other end of these streets (Romford Road) but does not go all the way through to Church Road because of a school. So the road that should be Fifth Avenue at the Church Road end has another name.

With names like this, you think of grand American thoroughfares, but we are in Manor Park and these avenues look like this.


Our next stop is on the other side of Church Road.

Stop 10: St Mary’s Church


Pevsner describes this as a surprising survival. A tiny medieval church in an ancient churchyard which Pevsner describes as “not impressive but lovable”. The fabric of the nave dates from the 12th century with chancel being rebuilt in the early 17th century and a chapel added in he 18th century.


Pevsner devotes almost two pages to this church – but sadly it seems to be rarely open to see. And it appears to only have one service a week and that is not even on a Sunday


In its way, seeing this little old church here is just as surprising as finding a Hindu temple in the back streets of E12.

Continue walking along Church Road and at the corner of Gainsborough Avenue you will see the entrance to Little Ilford Park. Go in.

Stop 11: Little Ilford Park


It is not much to see but it has been said that this is the park that inspired the 1960s pop song Itchycoo Park written by local band the Small Faces. As we have seen the lead singer Steve Marriott lived nearby as did the other main driving force of the band, Ronnie Lane who was their bass guitarist. He was actually mostly responsible for the song Itchycoo Park.

Here is a link to a clip of the band performing the song. Given the unusual aural tricks used on this recording I somehow doubt they could have replicated this live so they must be miming. And oddly this seems to be a German recording.

Now there seems to be some doubt about whether this park is indeed Itchycoo Park because Steve Marriott also said that it was Valentine’s Park in Ilford. And there have suggestions that it might have been Wanstead Flats.

The BBC banned the song because of what they regarded as overt drug references. But according to their manager, Tony Calder “We scammed the story together, we told the BBC that Itchycoo Park was a piece of waste ground in the East End that the band had played on as kids – we put the story out at ten and by lunchtime we were told the ban was off.”

And then there is some doubt about whether the itchy bit was caused by stinging nettles, brambles or the seeds from rose hips. Who knows. Anyhow, here is a picture taken in Little Ilford Park of what might be described as itchycoos.


But I have to say looking over this rather dull park it is hard to see how anyone called describe the scene as “It’s all too beautiful” because self evidently it is not!

And so to our final stop. Return to Church Road go along the side of the Park and you will see a street called Walton Road. This is a dead end to vehicles but continues on and just past Jack Cornwell Street you will see our next stop on the right.

Stop 12: Ronnie Lane

Yes you saw right, there is actually a street called Ronnie Lane. Someone at the council obviously having a little joke. Apparently this was done in 2001.


Ronnie Lane (1946 – 1997) as we have heard was a member of the Small Faces. After Steve Marriott left, the group became the Faces, with two new members added to the line-up (from the Jeff Beck Group).

In the late 1970s he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and after suffering from the disease for 21 years, he died in 1997 aged 51.

For his work in both Small Faces and Faces, Lane was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

So that brings us to the end of our E12 walk. We are in the middle of a housing estate not very close to anything. If you head along Jack Cornwell Street past the shops and turn right into Dersingham Avenue you will find a bus stop for route 147 towards East Ham. Alternatively you could carry on along Wolferton Street and get the 147 the other way towards Ilford.

So E12 was not the most inspiring of areas but there was still some interest from Stanley Holloway to the Small Faces via an old pub and cinema commemorating two different coronations and a Hindu temple and ancient church.


E11: All a bit of a Blur


E11 is Leytonstone. This is a distinct and separate place from Leyton which is E10. Today most people see Leytonstone (if they see it at all) as a bit of a blur as they go along the new A12 road.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 21 Church Lane, Leytonstone, E11 1HG. Turn right out of the Post Office and walk towards the High Road. Our first stop is on the left.

Stop 1: St John the Baptist church

This church dates from 1832 and is by Edward Blore. It replaced a chapel of ease and was an indication of how Leytonstone was growing even before the arrival of the railway in the 1850s.


It was partly financed by William Cotton of Wallwood House, which used to be one of the big houses locally. And if you go into the churchyard almost the first thing you see is the family plot of the Cottons.


The church authorities have put up a number of little plaques, some of which give historical information; others about the plants and wildlife.


If you keep walking round on the far side of the churchyard you will find the family plot of another prominent local family, the Buxtons, which includes Thomas Fowell Buxton social reformer and anti-slavery campaigner, whose blue plaque we saw in E1, by the Truman brewery.


The Churchyard lost many graves in a Second World War bombing raid and one information board describes the war damage and casualties in Leytonstone.


Now go out of the churchyard, turning left into Church Lane and then left into the High Road. Our next stop is immediately to the left.

Stop 2: Site of Bearman’s Department Store


Today there is a Matalan store but once this was an independent local department store called Bearman’s, as noted on the Waltham Forest blue plaque.


This is another example of how once thriving suburban centres are now shadows of their former selves.

The store had been started in 1898 by Frank Bearman, a 27-year-old draper.  By 1906 the store had expanded into a nearby furniture shop, and in 1910 opened an arcade. It was known as “The store with the personal touch”.

Frank Bearman had died in 1956, and in 1962 the business was sold to the London Co-operative Society. The Co-operative closed the store in 1982, hardly surprising because at the time the High Road was the main road out of London to get to East Anglia, so not an attractive place to shop..

The building was demolished and replaced by this rather dull modern store.

Here is a link to a local newspaper story about Bearman’s: http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/localhistory/10112446.Bearman_s_department_store_remembered/?action=complain&cid=11070983

Just here was also the site of a cinema, originally called the Rink but later the Granada. As the name suggests it started life as a roller skating rink. But after a couple of years it was converted to a cinema in 1911.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it had two entrances, one on the High Road which was adjacent to Bearman’s Department Store that was reached by a long arcade, with an entrance at the rear on Kirkdale Road. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1927 as the Rialto. Although run for most of its time by Granada, it only got renamed in 1967.

The Granada closed in 1972 and was soon demolished. The site was used as a car park for Bearman’s Department Store which was later built over.

Now keep walking along the High Road. Our next stop is on the other side of the road

Stop 3: Numbers 694a – 698a High Road

Just behind the Natwest Bank, off Aylmer Road, is an odd survival of an older Leytonstone.



This late 18th century terrace was built for wealthy merchants and businessmen. Their extensive grounds were largely developed in the 19th and early 20th century. But interestingly the original houses were far enough back from the main road for a whole row of new buildings to be inserted in between. Number 694a once the home of Benjamin Cotton, whose family plot we saw in the churchyard.


Return to the High Road and keep going. Just a little way along the High Road, at the junction with Grove Road is a curious art work called “Leaf Memory” by Stephen Duncan dating from 2001.


I do not know much more about this except to say this use of leaf is a signature feature of this sculptor. When I first saw this I thought it was a depiction of a Green Man which would be fitting here, as just up the way is (or rather was) the Green Man pub – which gave it name to a road junction and subsequently the intersection on the A12. The pub is now a branch of the Irish pub chain, O’Neill’s.

Retrace your steps along High Road and back along Church Lane. Our next stop is right ahead.

Stop 4: Leytonstone station


The original station was opened by the Eastern Counties Railway in August 1856 on the same branch line to Loughton as Leyton. Just before the Second World War, work had begun to incorporate this line into the Central Line.

As part of the works, the station here was reconstructed as a junction with a new branch heading off towards Newbury Park, mostly in tunnel under the Eastern Avenue. The level crossing at Church Lane was replaced by an underbridge.

Work stopped in May 1940 due to wartime priorities; further delays were caused by the station buildings being hit by a German bomb in January 1944.

The station was first served by the Central Line on 5 May 1947. Initially it was a temporary terminus of the line from central London, with passengers changing on to a steam shuttle onwards to Epping. With the opening of Underground services on the new branch towards Newbury Park in December 1947, it became a through station again.

This station lacks the presence of the stations that had been built in the 1920s and 1930s, an indication I guess of post war economies. But it does have nice tiled walls in the subway entrance and an interesting survival of a couple of old advertisements one of which is for Bearman’s store.


It also has a sequence of mosaic murals to commemorate local boy made good, film director, Alfred Hitchcock.


They were commissioned the London Borough of Waltham Forest apparently to honour the centenary of the birth of Alfred Hitchcock on 13 August 1899 in Leytonstone. Work was started in June 2000. The mosaics were unveiled 3 May 2001, so they were a bit late!.

This is my favourite one – Psycho


And just by the entrance to the station ticket hall is this one of Hitchcock directing.


At this point it is perhaps worth a quick peek at the station platforms.


Like the entrance buildings these are less than inspiring – not a patch on what London Transport had been building before the war.

Go under the railway. On the other side there is a bus turn round.

Here you will find another artwork. This is called Time Terminus by Lodewykin Pretor. It is made of brick and features various forms of transport.


What is not immediately apparent is that you are actually standing above the A12 road here. We saw this newish road in E10 also. This was a really controversial road scheme in the late 1990s. However I do think this was a necessary evil. The alternative is that all traffic for East Anglia would be trundling along Leytonstone High Road.

And the fact it runs for a long way along side the Central Line and is below the local ground level for much of the way makes it a lot less obtrusive that say Westway. But you do hear the traffic noise.

As a nod to what was here before, the artist apparently inserted a kitchen sink and a roll of wallpaper into his piece. They were taken from the site of one of the houses demolished in order to make way for the new road.

There is nice planting and some bollards which spell out the name Leytonstone, just here.


Cross over the road. Ahead, you will see Fairlop Road. Go down that. Our next stop is on the right just before Wallwood Road.

Stop 5: Site of Apthorp, Fairlop Road

Today there is a block of flats called Fairwood Court but once this was the site of a house called Apthorp.


This was the birthplace and childhood home of Phyllis Nan Sortain Pechey (1909 – 1994), better known as Fanny Cradock.


Note the mis-spelling of her name.

She was a restaurant critic, television cook and writer who mostly worked with her partner Johnnie Cradock. She was married four times but she was unable to marry Johnnie as her husband at the time refused a divorce as he was a catholic. So she changed her name to Cradock, but eventually she was able to marry Johnnie in 1977.

Fanny Cradock became a household name in the post-war years, trying to inspire the average housewife with an exotic approach to cooking, even if it did involve dying food with green colouring or having purple piping as a decoration. She is said to have popularised pizza in England and is also credited as the originator of the Prawn Cocktail.

She and Johnny worked together on a touring cookery show, sponsored by the Gas Council, to show how gas could be used easily in the kitchen. This show transferred to television, where she enjoyed 20 years of success.

Her television career came to a sad end in 1976 on a show called The Big Time where her put downs of a contestant caused great offence. The BBC terminated her contract and she never presented a cookery programme for them again.

Continue along Fairlop Road. At the end do a right into Hainault Road then a left into Essex Road South. Our next stop is soon on the right.

Stop 6: Number 2 Essex Road South


This was the birthplace of actor and director Sir Derek Jacobi (1938 – ). The Notable Abodes site says he spent his entire childhood here only leaving when he went to Cambridge University in 1956. He attended Leyton County School for Boys. Maybe one day this will get a plaque of some kind.

Retrace your steps to Hainault Road and do a right.

Stop 7: Meridian Marks

If you look outside number 84 Hainault Road, you will see this – a ghost of a marker, which indicates the location of the Greenwich meridian.


This is one of over 60 similar marks which were placed along the length of the borough of Waltham Forest as part of the millennium celebrations. They were in the form of compass roses which were on preformed thermoplastic sheets.

They were originally intended to remain in place for the millennium year only, but were never formally removed. Their current condition varies considerably from mark to mark. Indeed there is supposed to be one in the next street Bulwer Road, outside number 5. But that seems to have gone.

But if you carry on down Hainault Road and turn into Cavendish Drive, you will find one in better condition outside number 111.



There is a website where you can check out the locations (or in some cases former locations) of these markers.


Continue along Cavendish Drive. At the end turn left into Grove Green Road, then left into Drayton Road and then right into Fillebrook Road.

Stop 8: Number 21 Fillebrook Road


This was the childhood home of Damon Albarn (1968 – ) a musician and singer-songwriter who is frontman of the Britpop band Blur as well as co-founder of the virtual band Gorillaz. He lived here until 1977. It is marked by a Waltham Forest blue plaque.


Continue to the end of Fillebrook Road. At the end turn right and continue until the pedestrian crossing.

Stop 9: Bridge over the A12

The A12 is well hidden here behind a brick wall but you can hear it.


You will see a path and cycleway across the road which leads you to a bridge over the road and also the Central line. Go down here.


From this bridge you can see Canary Wharf towards the left.


And if you look to the right you can see the City. The view is not straight on but to the right of the road which somehow seems wrong. I guess the road is heading more south than west here.



Go down the steps at the end of the footbridge. Turn left and then go right along Vernon Road. At the end of Vernon Road you will find yourself at the High Road. turn right here. You will see the railway bridge going over the road. Go under that and take the first turning on the right.


Stop 10: Leytonstone High Road Station

Leytonstone High Road station is on the modern day Gospel Oak to Barking Line, between Leyton Midland Road and Wanstead Park. Like the other stations on this line it has lost its old buildings and has little more than a metal shelters on the platforms.


Although the railway crosses over the London Underground’s Central line almost immediately north west of the station, there is no direct interchange – Leytonstone tube station is about a 10-minute walk away. But this is another of those “out of station” interchanges recognised by the Oyster system so you are charged for a single journey even though you leave one station, walk down the street and go in another. I somehow doubt many people would make this particular change.

I should have mentioned the odd history of this line when we were in E10. The station opened on 9 July 1894 as part of the Tottenham & Forest Gate Railway and was built as joint venture between the Midland Railway and the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway.

The line was authorised at the request of Sir Courtenay Warner (1857 – 1934) who was an MP and a property developer who owned land in Walthamstow. He later became the first mayor of the Municipal Borough of Walthamstow after its incorporation in 1929.

The route crossed many existing roads and already developed areas, so the line was built on top of a long brick viaduct. Many houses were demolished to make way for it and there was considerable local opposition to the railway.

But of course the usefulness of this line was somewhat limited by the fact it was an orbital route rather than a line that went into central London. It proved more useful for freight than passengers.

Until recently it also had rickety old diesel trains that only ran every half hour. However TfL has transformed the line with new trains and increased frequency to a train every 15 minutes. And now there is more investment in the form of a long overdue electrification which is why there is a temporary closure.

Retrace your steps to the High Road and turn right. Our next stop is a little way along the High Road on the right.

 Stop 11: Former State cinema 615 High Road


Surviving as a banqueting hall, this was a cinema which started out life in June 1910 as the Premier Electric Theatre.

Noted cinema architect George Coles was employed to reconstruct in the modern Art Deco style, and it re-opened in December 1938. At some point it was renamed the State.

The State Cinema closed in July 1961 and it was converted to a bingo club. In 1979 it became a snooker club which lasted until early 2006. It was unused for time but found a new use in 2008 as a banqueting hall, now known as Imperial Venue.

Continue walking along the High Road.

Stop 12: Site of Number 517 High Road, Leytonstone

Number 517 High Road was the birthplace of film director Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980). The house no longer stands but his connection to here is remembered in this Waltham Forest heritage plaque.


But just before at the corner of Lynn Road is this rather wonderful decoration on Numbers 527 – 529 High Road – a nod to his 1963 film “The Birds”.


We saw his “proper” blue plaque when we were in Cromwell Road SW5 where he lived from 1926 to 1939. And of course there are the mosaics at the tube station here in E11.

Well that brings us to the end of our E11 walk. It is a place that perhaps is somewhat better for having the long distance road traffic taken off its High Road. And we found some interesting connections from film director Alfred Hitchcock to pop star Damian Albarn via actor Derek Jacobi and cookery writer and broadcaster Fanny Cradock. Plus the site of an old Department store and a couple of old cinemas.

For onward travel you can get a bus along the High Road back to Leytonstone or on to Stratford.

But as a postscript I should just mention we are round the corner from the childhood home for footballer David Beckham (1975 – ). According to the Notable Abodes site, this was Number 155 Norman Road, E11. If you go back along the High Road and turn left down Southwell Court Road. Go to the end and turn right into Mayville Road and right into Norman Road.


David Beckham has retired from playing professional football but he has played for Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, A.C. Milan and Los Angeles Galaxy, as well as the England national team. He is of course married to former Spice Girl Victoria.

So that really does bring us to the end of E11. If you do not want to retrace your steps to the High Road, you can take a little footpath which is just along Norman Road. This takes you over the Central Line and the A12 and gets you to Grove Green Road where you can pick up local buses.




E10: Not Eton


E10 is Leyton.

It seems Leyton was mentioned in the 1086 Doomsday Book. According to a sign I came across near the station, “In the Doomsday Book Leyton is entered as Leintun at which time the population was numbered at 43.” What an odd turn of phrase to use.


Anyhow, we start out walk at Leyton Post Office which is at 244 High Road, Leyton. Turn left out of the shop and walk along the High Road. Soon on the right you will see some warehouse style out-of-town shops and then there is a bridge. This crosses the near motorway now called A12. Built as the Hackney – M11 link, originally it was going to be the southern end of the M11 (which is why the M11 starts at Junction 4!)

You can see the city skyline from here. Plus you can just see the distinctive roofline of the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park


Our first stop is just on the left after we have crossed the bridge over the road.

Stop 1: Leyton Underground station

Although the Underground only arrived here in the late 1940s, there has been a station here since 1856.

It was opened by the Eastern Counties Railway. Originally called “Low Leyton”, it was an intermediate station on a branch line that ran to Loughton. It was renamed Leyton in 1868 by which time it was operated by the Great Eastern Railway. The station was rebuilt in 1879 when the original level crossing replaced by a bridge.

If you walk a little over the bridge and look back, you will see a road way at the level of the railway.


There was apparently a ticket hall on the northern side which was added in 1901 but removed when the M11 link road was built in the 1990s. You can see how the buildings have been altered if you look from the bridge.

Stand to the left of the station building on the bridge and you can see the backs of the buildings on the eastbound platform or in some places the lack of buildings


The line became the eastern end of the Central line in May 1947.


It is worth popping down to see the platforms, which were designed with full size trains in mind but are now served by the smaller tube trains.




But look at the eastbound platform near the stairs and you will see windows to a building that is no longer there, the back of which we saw earlier.


And if you look along the platforms under the bridge you get a view of the link road and the Aquatic Centre.


Return to the street, turn right out of the station and head back towards where you came from.

Our next stop is ahead on the left on the corner of Ruckholt Road.

Stop 2: Leyton Library and former Town Hall

Here we have a pair of civic building which are much larger and grander than the rest of the High Road here. First comes the Library.


This was built in 1883 as offices of the Leyton Local Board, established in 1873 it was a forerunner of the Borough Council. The area became an Urban District Council on 1894.


And it was during this time it became clear this building was too small, so they built a rather grander Town Hall next door which was completed in 1896.


Architectural bible, Pevsner describes this as “Fussy but enjoyable, in an eclectic and enriched Italianate style.”

The Urban District Council  became a Municipal Borough in 1926 and lost its independence in 1965 when the area became part of London Borough of Waltham Forest.


Continue walking along the High Road and soon on the left you will see our next stop.

Stop 3: Coronation Gardens

This was laid out in 1902, and was named in commemoration of the coronation of King Edward VII.


The first thing you see from the road is a triple decker fountain. This looks old but in fact only dates back to 2000 – though it is a replica of one that was here in the 1920s.


Not looking too good either with the weed dangling off it.

Just nearby there is a sign as a reminder of the old borough.


It looks old but may be isn’t. By the way the motto of the old borough council was “Ministandi Dignitas” which translates ad “Dignity in Service”

Leyton Council clearly had ambition as it also had its own trams. This started in June 1905 when the then Urban District Council took over ownership of the Lea Bridge, Leyton and Walthamstow Tramways Company lines which were within the council’s area. Then in June the following year they took over the North Metropolitan Tramways services within the boundary of the council.

In June 1921 an arrangement was reached with the London County Council that they would work and manage the urban district council’s trams. But Leyton Council retained responsibility for overhead equipment and the trams continued to be branded Leyton.  I guess this was because Leyton was at the time in Essex and so outside the boundary of the County of London.

When Leyton became a borough in 1926, the undertaking was renamed Leyton Corporation Tramways and the borough’s coat of arms was applied to the tramcars. This lasted until 1933 when London Transport was formed and took over all the tramways in what we now think of as Greater London.

Walk into the gardens and ahead you will see a real old item – a bandstand which although renovated dates from the early years of the gardens.


Now take the exit to the right of the bandstand as you approached it. This leads you opposite Brisbane Road. Our next stop is ahead on the left, a football ground tucked away in a suburban back street.

Stop 4: Leyton Orient Football Ground


Note the sticker on the street name plate!


The ground itself cannot be seen from the street and in fact the whole thing looks like an ugly industrial shed.




The team play in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system, and are known to their fans as the O’s. Even though they are not in the top flight, this must get pretty busy on match days. It seems kind of crazy to have a football ground like this in a residential area.

Now here’s a funny thing. Julian Lloyd Webber, the rather less famous brother of composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, is a fan of Leyton Orient. In the late 1970s, the two brothers had a bet on a Leyton Orient match. Andrew lost and so was forced to write a cello work for his brother. Andrew chose the theme of Paganini’s 24th caprice and added 23 variations for cello and rock band. This became the album, Variations. And the introduction is the tune that was used to open the television arts programme, the South Bank Show.

Continue down Brisbane Road, turn right into Windsor Road and left into the High Road. Our next stop is opposite the junction of Grange Park Road

Stop 5: Former Co-Op shop

Right at this corner, is an old stop dating from 1909.


Look up and you can see the date and also a relief of a beehive.


The use of the beehive has a long history in the Co-operative Movement. The symbolism of the Beehive is that one bee cannot survive alone, but a hive full of them (and co-operating) thrives. And of course the beehive is often seen as a symbol of industriousness.

Lower down, there are two panels to show this was a branch of the Stratford Co-Operative and Industrial Society.



This was formed in 1862 and so was well established by the time this shop was built.

The Stratford Society merged with the Edmonton Co-operative Society in 1920 to form the London Co-Operative Society which went on to be the dominant Co-Operative Society in London north of the river.

Although there seems to be a large number of Co-Op food stores still around today, the Co-Op used to be much more important in terms of other retailing. There even used to be department stores but none of these are left.

Now head down Grange Park Road and at the cross roads turn left. Our next stop is just a little way along on the left.

Stop 6: Number 28 Church Road

According to the Notable Abodes site, the writer and broadcaster Frank Muir (1920 – 1998) lived at Number 28 as a child.


Although he was born and spent his early years in Ramsgate Kent, he lived in Leyton as a child and went to Leyton County High School for Boys.

Despite that, he did always sound a bit posh and when he became a broadcaster, people used to assume that he had been to a public school. Muir had a great response to this. He would say: “I was educated in E10, not Eton”.

That was very much his style as a comedy writer, radio and television personality, and raconteur. He had a writing and performing partnership with Denis Norden which last most of their careers. He was also well known on television as a team captain on the long-running BBC2 series Call My Bluff. And his distinctive tones were heard in voice-overs for advertisements.

Retrace your steps and keep going along Church Road until you reach the High Road, where you will turn left. Keep walking along the High Road. Our next stop is on the left, starting at the corner of Crawley Road.

Stop 7: Leyton Sports Ground

Today Leyton Sport Ground is used by local schools and community groups.


But it was once the home of Essex County Cricket Club. The club purchased Leyton Cricket Ground in 1886 and it became their headquarters. In 1921, the ground was sold relieving the club of a £10,000 mortgage  But the headquarters remained until the expiry of their lease in 1933. They returned to play matches in 1957 and continued to play here until 1977. The rather lovely pavilion is Grade II listed.


Stop 8: site of “The Great House” (544/546 High Road)

Now about halfway along the side of the Sports Ground on the other side of the High Road, I spotted a little plaque on a terrace of houses.


Look closely and what it says it a bit unexpected.


It says:

“The site of The Great House erected by Sir Fisher Tench Bart.circa 1700. Thomas Oliver lived there 1758 – 1803. Erected by L.U.D.R.A 1909”

My research tells me that Fisher Tench was a City of London financier and also a Member of Parliament. His father Nathaniel passed property at Leyton to Fisher and his wife Elizabeth in 1697. He inherited the rest of his father’s estate in 1710, and probably soon after began to build the Great House at Leyton. According to Wikipedia (which cites “A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973)” as its source) ,

“It was a large mansion of two storeys, basement, and attics, built in the ‘Wren’ style of the period. The walls were of dark red brick with dressings of lighter brickwork and stone. The entrance front faced the high road and consisted of a central block flanked by lower and slightly recessed side wings. The main block had full-height Corinthian pilasters and a central pediment, while the wings had rusticated stone quoins. The whole façade, of thirteen bays, was surmounted by a modillion cornice, a panelled parapet, and hipped roofs with dormer-windows; six large stone vases broke the line of the parapet. The garden front was of similar size and character. The cupola from the house (demolished in 1905) is now on the tower of St. Mary’s church.”

The House had passed out of the Tench family and on to the Olivers in the mid 18th century. But why mention Thomas Oliver. Well there is a whole lot more information about the Great House in “The Survey of London Monograph 4, the Great House, Leyton. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1903.” which I found on British History Online: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/bk4/pp11-22

Thomas Oliver seems to have been a part the campaign to get the proceedings of Parliament published, if one follows the rather convoluted story from the Survey of London Monograph. I have not been able to establish who or what was L. U. D. R. A.

So here is a little reminder of Leyton before it was built over by terraces of working class housing.

Continue walking along the High Road. Ahead you will see a bridge over the road, which is by our next stop

Stop 9: Leyton Midland Road station

This station opened on 9 July 1894 as part of the Tottenham & Forest Gate Railway and was originally just called Leyton.

Fascinating fact (according to Wikipedia). On 17 August 1915, three explosive bombs from the German Zeppelin L.10 landed on or near the station, destroying the ticket office, a billiard hall in the arches under the platform and damaging several houses nearby; four people were killed.

The station got its current name on  1 May 1949. It has lost all its buildings but at least now TfL are in charge of the station, it looks bright and clean.



Today it is served by trains on the Gospel Oak – Barking line, although at present there are no trains here because the line is being upgraded and electrified.

Now go under the bridge and turn right down Midland Road and take the first left. Our next stop is a ahead on the right.

Stop 10: Number 14 Wesley Road


Number 14 was the birthplace of Harry Beck, who designed the iconic diagrammatic London Underground Map. We came across him in N2 where there is a plaque put up by The Finchley Society and mention of him at Finchley Central Station. But this one is a “proper” English Heritage plaque.


Note the type face is slightly different from the usual. That is because like the Frank Pick plaque in NW11 and the Edward Johnston one in W6, they use a Johnston type face. This of course is the distinctive typeface used by the Underground and then London Transport and its successors.

Retrace your steps to the High Road and turn right. Continue along the High Road past the bus garage. Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 11: Former ABC cinema, Number 806 High Road

So here at Number 806, High Road there is a building that looks very much like an old cinema.


And it was. It was built as the Ritz Cinema by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) and opened in July 1938. The street facade hid the fact that there was quite a large cinema auditorium behind seating over 2,400 people (1,532 in the stalls and 886 in the circle, according the wonderful Cinema Treasures site)

It seems to have had an uneventful life. It was renamed the ABC in October 1962. It was taken over by an independent operator and re-named Crown Cinema in December 1978. This lasted a year or so and then it closed completely. The auditorium was converted into a B&Q DIY store, which later became a KwikSave supermarket, using the stalls area only. The circle level was sealed off by a false ceiling.

Today a Ladbrokes betting office operates from the foyer, with the remainder of the building converted into offices, according to Cinema Treasures. One does wonder what kind of offices they might be given, there do not seem to be any obvious windows, on much of the building!


And just along the way at Number 832 – 836 High Road was another former cinema. Originally built as the King’s Hall in 1910, it was taken over by the Granada circuit in 1949. It was rebuilt and reopened as the Century Cinema in January 1952. It finally closed in July 1963 and was replaced by a Tesco supermarket. That later moved to larger premises across the street and today there is a Poundstretcher store here. It does have that rather distinctive 1960s look on the upper floors.


Continue walking along the High Road and our next stop is at the cross roads where the High Road meets Lea Bridge Road.

Stop 12: the former Bakers Arms

We are at the Bakers Arms, a local landmark.



But sadly the Bakers Arms is no longer a pub. It is a betting shop. How depressing, when you feel it could have been a welcoming focal point to the area.

But the name lives on as a destination for buses, although weirdly the buses seem to carry on past the Bakers Arms. They go along Lea Bridge Road and then round the corner  into the High Road and actually rest up by the bus garage, which is a fair distance from the corner where the Bakers Arms stands.


Almost opposite the Bakers Arms here on Lea Bridge Road you will see a former Woolworth’s building, which dates from the late 1930s. This is symbolic of how this area has declined as a shopping destination but at least this is still a working shop.


Our final stop is just along from here on Lea Bridge Road on the right. And why this area has a connection with Bakers. This is the London Master Bakers’ Benevolent Institution completed in 1866.



Pevsner describes the style as “debased rustic Italianate crammed full of quirky details”


This was housing connected to the Bakers Company, one of the City Livery Company. The Bakers claim to be one of the oldest recorded companies. The first known records of the existence of the Bakers’ Guild are contained in the great ‘Pipe Rolls’ of Henry II which listed the yearly ‘farm’ paid to the Crown. This indicates that the Bakers of London paid a Mark of gold to the King’s Exchequer for their Guild from 1155 onwards.

But the Baker connection site ended in the late 1960s when the Greater London Council purchased the site for a road widening scheme. The Bakers moved their housing provision to Epping where it continues today. But the road scheme did not happen. Eventually the site ended up in the hands of Waltham Forest Borough Council and today remains in residential use.

We are now at the end of our E10 walk. As ever an area that does look that promising on paper throws up some interesting nuggets from stations and old cinemas to indications of municipal ambition via connections with well known people.

For onward travel there are lots of buses. Closest tube is Walthamstow Central (which is up along Hoe Street – the continuation of the High Road).


E9: Would you Adam and Eve It?


E9 is Homerton and also Hackney Wick. We should really start out walk at Homerton Post Office at 226-228 Homerton High Street. But there are a couple of things I have to mention in Hackney Wick, so I am going to have a prelude there.

So let’s start the prelude at Hackney Wick Station. This is a fairly modern station dating from 1980 when the North London line was rerouted and reopened to run from Dalston to North Woolwich via Stratford. Not much of a station but some great views from the platforms and footbridge. First towards Canary Wharf:


To the Shard. (The City is over to the right but obscured by trees)


And to the Olympic Park.


But the real reason for coming to Hackney Wick is to visit a site just north of the station on the corner of Berkshire Road and Wallis Road.



This was apparently the site of the Parkesine Works, where the world’s first plastic was created by Alexander Parkes. Here is a link to a site called the History of Plastic (yes, really) http://www.historyofplastic.com/plastic-history/history-of-plastics/


This was in 1866. Would you believe it? (or rather as they might say here: would you Adam and Eve it?)

He went bust in 1868 – Parkesine cost too much to make, would easily break and was flammable. It would take a few more years before someone made a commercial success of making plastic.

Now take a 276 bus from Berkshire Road to Glyn Road.

So we start our walk proper from the Post Office at Numbers 226 -228 Homerton High Street. Our first stop is across the road.

Stop 1: Adam and Eve pub

And it is the Adam and Eve pub. Architectural guru, Pevsner says “a daring front of 1915; purple glazed tiles below cream terracotta with a large relief”


And the rather lovely relief is not surprisingly of Adam and Eve – I suppose this depiction might have been considered daring. And above the panel is the date of 1915.


But the sign on the left side of the pub was a bit of a surprise. Whilst the middle word is not unexpected these days, I am not sure I have ever seen the other two words on a pub sign before!


Wonder what the locals thought of that …

Continue walking along Homerton High Street. You will pass the modern library.


And just beyond that is a side street called Brooksby’s Walk. 

Stop 2: Former Homerton Library

Going along Brooksby’s Walk, there is a rather incongruous sight on the right.


It is a classical stone facade – a little temple in what is a rather ordinary looking street


This was built as Homerton Library and dates from 1913.


It is now the Chats Palace Arts Centre. As we saw the Library is now housed in a somewhat less grand building nearby.

Stop 3: Castle Cinema, 64 Brooksby’s Walk

Ans just a little further along the street on the same side is another out of character building.


This looks like it was a cinema and it was, as can be seen if you look down the left hand side of the building.



According to the wonderful Cinema treasures site, this was the Castle Electric Theatre which first opened its doors in September 1913. It was an independently operated cinema for most of its life. But it spent its last few years under the control of Essoldo circuit who acquired it in 1954.

The cinema closed in May 1958 and became a glass factory. In the 1970s, it was converted into an independent bingo club. That closed around 1979. It was then used as a storage warehouse until 1983, when it became a snooker club. In March 1994 the building was split by extending the balcony across the building with the former stalls becoming a bingo club and a snooker club in the newly extended balcony area upstairs.

In April 2006, the building became a snooker club on two levels. But in April 2014, the upstairs section was converted into a restaurant, while the downstairs became a Spar supermarket.

The wonderful Cinema Treasures site says: “In 2016, there are plans to convert part of the upstairs into a 60-80 seat cinema which could possibly open in June 2016.”

Today there is a catering outlet called Eat 17 on the ground floor inside the supermarket but with regard to the upstairs, their site says: “The restaurant is now closed until late summer. The plan is to re-launch with the adjacent cinema from Pillow Cinema.” So watch that space.

In the meantime go into the somewhat upmarket Spar and at the back you see this above the eggs.


Our next stop is just next door.

Stop 4: Frances House, Brooksby’s Walk


Flat 4 in this building was once home to broadcaster, writer and agony aunt, Claire Rayner (1931 – 2010). The fascinating “Notable Abodes” site indicates her autobiography “How Did I Get Here From There?” says she lived here as a child in the years between 1934 and 1937.

When she died, the BBC said she told her relatives she wanted her last words to be: “Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll come back and bloody haunt him”. (You can still find this quote on BBC on line)

Continue along Brooksby’s Walk and take the next left which is Clifden Road (this is actually E5 but is the most direct way to get to where we want to go)

At the end of this street turn right and then cut through the Jack Dunning Estate by taking Tresham Walk . This is the second turning on the right. At the end of Tresham Walk, you will see our next stop ahead of you in Urswick Road.

Stop 5: The Strand Building

This is a surprising sight – an Art Deco edifice.


This was built as the Hackney Electricity Demonstration Halls and Offices. It has two principal facades; the other one facing Lower Clapton Road is more classical “Palladian’ with some art deco details but that is actually in E5.


The Urswick Road side of the building is in E9 and so I felt I had to include it. Today it has been converted into flats with some shops round the corner in E5. There are some nice deco touches and of course the pastel colour scheme and type face on the entry sign in Urswick Road picks up the deco-ness.


Continue down Urswick Road (as if you had turned left) and our next stop is just as the road bends.

Stop 6: Sutton House

This is a fascinating survivor of when this area was in the country.


The core of the building dates from 1535 and was built for a man called Ralph Sadleir. He was a courtier and worked for Thomas Cromwell. As Sadleir prospered he built himself a house in Hertfordshire and sold this one in 1550.

It has had a chequered history. from being a merchant’s house, it became a girls’ school in the latter part of the 17th century. Then it was split in two. By the end of the 19th century it had become the St John’s Institute, a recreational centre for young men. They moved out in 1936 and the National Trust were given it – according to the plaque outside in memory of two brothers killed in the first world war.


The Trust leased it out to various institutions but by the 1980s it was vacant, vandalised and squatted. Finally the Trust recognised what it had and undertook a major restoration in the early 1990s. It is well worth a visit. and there is also a quirky little extra addition at the side which is called The Breakers Yard.



But interestingly the house should not really be called Sutton House. It is a case of mistaken identity. Thomas Sutton lived in an adjoining house to the west which was demolished for the building of Sutton Place, a rather lovely side street which you have just passed.

Now go down Isabella Road (which is to the left of Sutton House and at the end turn right into Mehetabel Road.


Mehetabel is one of those biblical names you do not hear very often. But I always remember hearing it at school but in relation to the stories of Archy and Mehitabel (slightly different spelling). They were two fictional characters created in 1916, by a man called Don Marquis for a column in a New York newspaper called The Evening Sun. Archy was a cockroach, and Mehitabel, an alley cat, and they appeared in lots of humorous verses and short stories.

Archy did the typing and as he was a cockroach, he could only reach one typewriter key at a time, so he was not able to use the shift key. That meant all the stories are written in lower case. Bizarrely logical, I guess.

Anyhow at the end of Mehetabel Road turn left in the church yard and go along the path which goes under the railway. You will reach Morning Lane and find yourself surrounded by outlet shops – in Hackney of all places!

Stop 7: The Outlet Shops


As you approach Morning Lane you will see a whole new row of what I guess will be more outlet shops . But when you get to Morning Lane, you will see what is there today: Nike, Pringle, Aquascutum, Anya Hindmarch, and if you go down the alley just past Aquascutum (Ram Place) Joseph.







Now somewhere around here is supposed to be a plaque for Joseph Priestley. It is a Greater London Council plaque erected in 1985 and it is supposed to be at Numbers 7 – 8 Ram Place, but none of the buildings have numbers and there is no sign of a blue plaque..

The English heritage site http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/priestley-joseph-1733-1804 has a photo of the plaque which says “JOSEPH PRIESTLEY 1733-1804 Scientist, Philosopher and Theologian was Minister to the Gravel Pit Meeting here in 1793-1794”

It notes the plaque is on the northern elevation of a building, along an alley off Chatham Place and there is a picture which suggests it was on the side of what is now the Aquascutum building. The plaque seems to have disappeared.

Priestley is best known for discovering oxygen but this is just only one of his many scientific achievements and innovations, others of which include:

  • Discovery of other gases including: carbon monoxide (CO), nitric oxide (NO), nitrous oxide(NO2), ammonia (NH3), sulphur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen sulphide (H2S), silicon fluoride (SiF4) and nitrogen peroxide (N2O4)
  • The discovery of the “carbon cycle” (the conversion of carbon-dioxide to oxygen by photosynthesis in plants and the reverse process by respiration in animals)
  • The invention of the rubber pencil eraser and also first coining the word “rubber”
  • The invention of artificially carbonated water, which was later commercially produced by one Johann Jacob Schweppe.

By the by, deep below Ram Place lies the Channel Tunnel Rail Link unseen and unheard here – at least I did not hear it.

Now carry on down Chatham Place.

Stop 8: Site of Braidwood Academy for the Deaf and Dumb

A little way along Chatham Place, you will see a side street on the left called Retreat Place. At the corner, at the end of a modern block called Rowe House, there is this Hackney borough plaque.


This was notes the location of the first school in England for the education of the deaf and dumb. It was run by Thomas Braidwood (1715 – 1806) and was here from 1783 to 1799. Note it says England because Braidwood was Scottish and his first school for deaf and dumb people was in Scotland in 1760.

Continue along Chatham Place and the road swings to the left and becomes Elsdale Street. Follow this to the end and do a right left twiddle and you will be in Cassland Road.

Walk pass this rather lovely terrace on he right (with a little crescent and a garden on the left)


According to Pevsner the terrace was built around 1800 and it was organised as a building society with subscribers – so it was literally a building society as opposed to one which just lent money for mortgages to build or buy houses.

The crescent opposite dates from the 1860s.


Just past here is our next stop which is on the left.

Stop 9: Number 41 Cassland Road


We are stopping here because this was the birthplace of Maria Dickin (1870 -1951).


As it says on the plaque, Maria Dickin was a promoter of animal welfare and the founder of PDSA – that is the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.  The PDSA was founded in 1917 by Maria Dickin to provide care for sick and injured animals of the poor. I had not appreciated it still fulfils this role, as even today they focus on helping the pets of people in receipt of benefits

Maria Dickin also instituted the Dickin Medal in 1943. This was to acknowledge outstanding acts of bravery by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units. It has become recognised as the animals’ Victoria Cross, and is administered by PDSA. The PDSA created a second animal bravery award, the PDSA Gold Medal, in 2002, which is now recognised as the animal equivalent of the George Cross.

Now cross over and go down the side street – Meynell Road

Stop 10: Well Street Common

Ahead you will see Well Street Common which confusingly is not actually in Well Street.


It is a very pleasant green space.


Take a right across the common and on the other side, in Church Crescent you will see our next stop

Stop 11: Monger Almshouses

Here on the right of the street going away from the Common, we have some almshouses.


They are called Mongers Almhouses, not because they relate to some trade like Fishmonger or Ironmonger but because they were originally built with a legacy from Henry Monger in the late 1660s. The buildings we see today date from the 1840s.


Go kind of straight ahead and son you will get to Well Street itself when you do a left. Our final stop is right at the end of Well Street

Stop 12 Celia Fiennes House (8 – 20 Well Street)


This is Celia Fiennes house, so named because this was the location of the home of traveller and writer Celia Fiennes (1662 – 1741) for the last years of her life


In 1691 she moved to London, where she had a married sister. She travelled around England on horseback between 1684 and the early 1700s. At this time the idea of travel for its own sake was somewhat unusual. Fiennes worked up her notes into a travel memoir in 1702, which she never published, intending it for family reading. Some extracts were published in 1812 and the first complete edition appeared in 1888 under the title Through England on a Side Saddle. A scholarly edition called The Journeys of Celia Fiennes was produced by Christopher Morris in 1947, and since then the book has been in print in a variety of editions.

Sounds a fascinating insight of a world that was fast changing.

So that brings us to the end of our E9 walk. We have gone from the world’s first plastic to an early travel writer via some interesting survivors of building a 16th century courtier’s house, an old cinema and some industrial building which have found some new uses.

We are now at the corner of Well Street and Mare Street, where there are lots of buses for onwards travel. We are also quite close to London Fields station – just follow the signs.


E8: A lovely spot


E8 is Hackney, or should I say ‘Ackney – and it is a lovely spot.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 398-400 Mare Street,  Turn left out of the Post Office and head a little way down Mare Street. Our first stop is on the other side of the street.

Stop 1: Number 373 -375 Mare Street


According to Hackney Council and the Open Plaques website there is supposed to be a local Hackney borough plaque here at 373 -375 Mare Street to commemorate Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797).

She was a writer, perhaps best known for her 1792 book “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education.

She had brief ill fated affairs with Swiss born painter Henry Fuseli and American businessman and author, Gilbert Imlay (by whom she had a daughter, Fanny Imlay). She then had an affair with the philosopher William Godwin and married him in March 1797 when she became pregnant with his child. Sadly she died on 10 September at the age of 38, eleven days after giving birth to her second daughter. This daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, is herself famous as Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

But I cannot see a plaque of any kind!

Continue along Mare Street. our next stop is on the left.

Stop 2: St Augustine’s Tower (and St John’s Churchyard)

Just set back off Mare Street behind Hackney old town hall is a free standing church tower.



One might have thought that this tower was all that was left of a church that had been bombed out, but no. The church that used to be attached to this particular tower was actually demolished in 1798, when a larger replacement church St John was completed round the corner. The tower survived because the new church did not have a tower big or strong enough for the bells

Beyond the tower lies the churchyard of St John’s.



But do not venture too far because we are right on the edge of E8 here. St John’s church is to the left and is actually in E5. We should really have looked at this at the end of our E5 walk but we ran out of time.

And if you head straight on you leave the churchyard into Sutton Place which is in E9.

Go back out of the Churchyard and our next stop is just along Mare Street on the left.

Stop 3: Clapton Bus Garage, Bohemia Place

Our next stop is just down the side street called Bohemia Place and is today a bus garage.


Although right by Hackney Central station, this bus garage is called Clapton Bus Garage.


The garage goes back to 1882 when it was a Horse Tram Depot for the North Metropolitan Tram Company. London County Council bought the company in 1896 and subsequently used the garage to house electric trams. When they were withdrawn in 1939, it became a trolleybus depot and then in the 1950s it was used to house diesel buses.

By 1950 the depot had changed its name to Clapton to avoid confusion with the already existing Hackney Bus Garage in Well Street. That garage closed in 1981 and was demolished, so we have the odd situation that the bus garage in the middle of Hackney is called Clapton Bus Garage.

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 4: Hackney Central Station


The railway arrived here in 1850 when the North London Railway opened their line between Camden Town and Poplar. From 1852 there was a connection on to Fenchurch Street. A station named Hackney was opened on 26 September 1850, to the east of Mare Street. This was replaced in December 1870 with a new station to the west of Mare Street, also named Hackney. This station  had the misfortune not to be on a direct line into central London and along with the rest of the North London Line east of Dalston Junction it closed to passenger traffic in 1944.

But it had a revival in the 1980s when the North London line was diverted from Broad Street to Stratford and North Woolwich. A new station was built here, opening in May 1980. It was a little to the west of the 1870 station and it was named Hackney Central.

The 1870 station building is not used by the railway and is a bar/restaurant called Oslo. Access to the modern Hackney Central station is from an alleyway adjacent to the 1870 building, or from Amhurst Road.


But there is another station nearby on the route into Liverpool street and this is called Hackney Downs. They are close and you can see one from the other. Here is a picture taken from Hackney Central of a train entering Hackney Downs station.


However it was only in the summer of 2015 that a footway was created to link the two stations and form a more convenient interchange.


Hackney feels a bit off the radar as it is not on the tube. There have been proposals to build a tube line here for decades – with a route going across central London from Chelsea in the south west to Hackney in the north east. However in its latest incarnation as Crossrail 2, the line formerly known as Chelsea – Hackney no longer includes Hackney in its core route, although a branch to here may be added later.

Go back to Mare Street and go under the railway line. At this point there is an optional detour along Graham Road which is the main road to the right after the railway bridge.

Stop 4a: Number 55 Graham Road

The house we are heading for is almost at the other end of Graham Road at Number 55.


This was the home of Music Hall singer Marie Lloyd (1870 – 1922)


She was a big star of the music hall. Amongst the songs she was known for were “The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery”, “My Old Man (Said Follow the Van)” and “Oh Mr Porter What Shall I Do”.

Her name was actually Matilda Wood. As her popularity grew, her agent, George Ware suggested that she change her name to Marie Lloyd –  “Marie” because it sounded “posh” and “slightly French”, and “Lloyd” after Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (which sounds an odd choice but apparently it was a best selling Sunday newspaper at the time). Ware by the way was a Music Hall song writer and “The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery” is one of his songs, dating from 1885.

Now retrace your steps to Mare Street and turn right.

Stop 5: Number 290 Mare Street

Our next stop is just after the junction with Graham Road on the left as you go down Mare Street.


Today this site is occupied by a not very interesting building which contains a Barclays Bank. But it was the site of  the Hackney Pavilion cinema which opened in May 1914. It was taken over by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT) in 1928 and the next year PCT were taken over by Gaumont British Theatres.

It closed as a cinema in January 1972 and was demolished almost immediately to be replaced by this less than distinguished building.

Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 6: Hackney Empire

Whilst the Hackney Pavilion did not survive, the wonderful Hackney Empire just over the road did,


The Hackney Empire Theatre of Varieties was designed by Frank Matcham and opened in December 1901. It was built for Oswald Stoll. He had originally intended it to have the head quarters of his company Stoll Theatres here. But he changed his mind when he decided to build a West end flagship, the London Coliseum, which opened in 1904

Hackney Empire has spent most of its life as a live theatre, but it was briefly used as a Television studio from 1956 to 1963. Well known shows filmed here included “Take Your Pick” one of the first TV Games Shows in the country with its Quiz Inquisitor Michael Miles, and “Oh Boy” which was a weekly pop music show.

It was a Mecca Bingo Hall from 1963 to 1986. According to the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site:

“In 1984 the building was granted a Listed Grade II status and the owners, Mecca, found themselves faced with the prospect of restoring the Mare Street Facade’s domes and restoring the rest of the Facade of the building to its original state. They took down the domes and the central pediment with the intention of replacing them with substitutes but soon found themselves embroiled in a public enquiry due to the restrictions of ‘Listed Building Consent’ and evidence from the GLC’s Historic Buildings officers. Consequently they were forced to replace the recently demolished parts of the building, and to do it in the original material (terra cotta) which was vastly more expensive than their originally proposed substitute. The work was eventually completed and to a very high standard too, but faced with the huge cost of restoring the Facade to its original condition as well they decided instead to put the building up for sale.”


So it would seem these distinctive features of the building are actually 1980s copies.

But at least it survived long enough to be rescued and revived as a working theatre.

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 7: Hackney Picturehouse


This building was originally constructed in 1907 as the Central Library and Methodist Hall. In the early 2000s, it was remodelled as a live music venue called the Ocean. This closed around 2005 and the building was reborn as 4 screen cinema in 2011. It is operated by the Picturehouse chain.

Our next stop is back on the other side of the road next door to the Empire.

Stop 8: Hackney Town Hall

This is a fine example of an inter war Town Hall, completed in 1937.



Architectural expert Pevsner says it is “conventional but not showy”. It is certainly a dignified additon to the street scene here.

Continue walking along Mare Street. Our next stop is a little way along on the left.

Stop 9: St Thomas’s Square and Cordwainers Court

We come to a little garden square off the main road. this is called St Thomas’s Square. According to Pevsner, St Thomas’ Hospital was one of the main landowners here, hence the name.


On the Mare Street end of the square in a granite drinking fountain which Pevsner dates to 1912.


And just after the garden is this building, is a stone saying “St Thomas’s Square 1772” and one saying “Cordwainers Court opened by HRH The Princess Royal, 13 November 1996.”




It turns out that this is a Hall of Residence for the University of the Arts, London, which has an outpost just a little further down Mare Street. But why Cordwainer?

A cordwainer was someone who made fine leather leather shoes and the name derives from Cordoba in Spain which was the source of some of the best leather.

In 1946 the Cordwainers Technical College moved here from Bethnal Green into what had been previously a school. The college had started as the Leather Trades School in 1887 with help from the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, one of the City Livery Companies. In 1913 the Worshipful Company took overall responsibility for the trade school and it became the Cordwainers Technical College. In 2000 it was incorporated into the London College of Fashion (which subsequently became part of the University of the Arts London).

The college has produced some well known shoe designers, including Jimmy Choo and Patrick Cox. It continues run specialist courses in shoes and footwear.

But this site had an interesting history before Cordwainers Court was built. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures website, in 1777 there was a place of worship built here, St. Thomas’s Square Presbyterian Chapel. This was enlarged in 1824.

In 1912 the building was converted into the Empress Electric Theatre. In early 1933 it was closed and the building was totally gutted apart from the four walls. Architect George Coles redesigned it as an Art Deco styled cinema, and it reopened in September 1933.

It remained an independently operated until 1955 when it was taken over by the Essoldo Circuit and renamed Essoldo Cinema. It closed in November 1967 and was converted into a Bingo Hall which lasted until 1993. The building was demolished in August 1995 and the student housing we see today was built on the site.

But the original arched gateway to the former Chapel’s burial ground was retained next to the new building.


Now here is a curious thing, the normally ultra reliable reference book Pevsner suggests the cinema here was the Regal Cinema designed by W R Glen. But it is wrong. It was further along Mare Street as we shall see.

Here is a little article which confirms the site by the St Thomas Burial Ground arch was the Empress and not the Regal.


This corroborates what the Cinema Treasures site says.

Continue walking along Mare Street

Stop 10: Numbers 102 – 110 Mare Street (site of ABC Regal Cinema)

A little way after Well Street, there is this modern block of flats


And there is a sign which says 104 Mare Street.


According to the Cinema Treasures site, the Regal Cinema was at 102 – 110 Mare Street. In other words just where this block now stands. But is also says this cinema was built on a difficult triangular site bounded by Mare Street and Well Street, which is further back up the street. I think it may have been where Iceland is today, so Cinema Treasures may have the address wrong!.

The Regal was built for Associated British Cinemas and designed by their in-house architect William R. Glen. It opened in March 1936, being renamed ABC in January 1962 and closing in March 1975. It was reopened in January 1977 by an Independent operator as the Mayfair Cinema, finally closing for good as a cinema in March 1981

From October 1982 until 1994, the stalls area was used as a Snooker club, a false ceiling hung across from the underside of the balcony to the proscenium, leaving the balcony unused. After the Snooker club closed, the building remained unused until it was demolished in July 1998.

Now take a right turn down Westgate Street, going under the railway. Soon ahead you will see the bottom end of London Fields.

Stop 11: London Fields

There is a bit of history in Hackney Council’s London Fields Management Plan:


This says : “In 1275 the area that is now London Fields was recorded as common pasture land adjoining Cambridge Heath. However, it was not until 1540 that the name London Field was recorded (it didn’t become plural until the 19th century). Although it is unclear how the name came into being, the most likely explanation is the field’s position, on what was then the main foot route from the village of Hackney to the city of London. This route ran from Hackney Grove, the sight of the present Town Hall Square, down Church Path, the present cycle route from Martello Street to Broadway Market, along what are now Columbia Road, Virginia Road and Shoreditch High Street and on to Bishopsgate Without. The route was used mostly by market porters taking produce from Hackney farms and nurseries to the City.”

“The names of the inns surrounding London Fields; Lamb Inn and Shoulder of Mutton, and the local street names Lamb Lane, Sheep Lane and Mutton Lane, suggest that the area was very much involved in sheep farming.”

This land mutated into public open space in the 19th century with sports pitches and a Lido was built in the 1930s. This was closed for a time but reopened in 2006. It is apparently the only outdoor heated Olympic size pool in Greater London.

But we are just dipping our toes into the southern corner of London Fields to see this rather intriguing artwork.



This work is what Pevsner calls “an endearing pebbly sculpture of flower sellers and sheep by Freeform artworks, 1988-89, commemorating the use of the Fields by drovers on their way to Smithfield market”

Sadly it is showing its age as some bits have chipped off. But it is kind of appealing.

From here you can see the end of Broadway Market, our final “stop”.

Stop 12: Broadway Market

Broadway Market is a mix of old London and new. And just to set the scene look down the street of modest two storey 19th century shops and you can see the towers of the City ahead.


It is all very pleasant and low key.



With some signifiers of a gentrified area – cafes with distressed interiors, a trendy looking wet fish shop and an artisan bakery.


Then you find this. A genuine old pie, eel and mash shop.


This traditional family business has been trading in Broadway Market since 1900 although the shop we see today dates from the 1930s.

Here is a nice potted history of the market from the Broadway Market site http://broadwaymarket.co.uk/history/:

“Fred Cooke started selling jellied eels on Broadway Market in 1900. His restaurant served shepherds driving their flocks to the City of London.

The Cat and Mutton pub was named after the Cat and Mutton bridge over the Regent’s Canal – coal barges on the canal were called “cats”, the mutton speaks for itself. Sheep Lane still exists – running parallel to Broadway Market from London Fields to the canal.

This was a bawdy, drunken, vibrant street, the heart of an East End community that was to survive social turmoil and the bombs of two world wars.

But by the eighties, the community was crumbling. The Thatcher recession and planning blight killed shops. Many residents bought their council houses, sold up and moved out. The street market all but died.

Successive attempts by Hackney Council to revive the market failed. Then in 2004 the community renewed itself. Volunteers from Broadway Market Traders’ and Residents’ Association revived the Saturday market as a project to repopulate the street. New shops and restaurants arrived. Now the community is thriving once more.

And Fred Cooke’s grandson, Bob, is introducing a new generation to pie, mash, liquor – and jellied eels.”

We are now almost at the edge of E8. The boundary is the bridge over the Regents Canal – the Cat and Mutton bridge.


So this is the end of our E8 walk. This area is fascinating and there is so much more I could have covered. But we saw some reminders of a long vanished country world and equally long vanished entertainments, although somehow the Empire Theatre managed to survive, when all the later cinemas along Mare Street are now just fading memories.

For onward travel probably best to follow Andrews Road alongside the canal. This will take you back to Mare Street where if you turn right you will soon be at Cambridge Heath station. Or else there are plenty of buses along Mare Street.

E7: Ere I saw Elba


E7 is Forest Gate, so called because it was literally the location of a gate into Epping Forest. The London Encyclopaedia says “The name Forest Gate, recorded in the West Ham parish registers in the second half of the 17th century, derives from the gate placed across the modern Woodford Road to prevent cattle straying from the lower forest (Wanstead Flats) onto the main Romford road. The gate was taken down in 1883.”

But there was also a hamlet called Upton which is where we start our walk.

We start our walk at Upton Lane Post Office, which is at 187 Upton Lane. And our first stop is almost across the road from the Post Office.

Stop 1: The former Spotted Dog pub

Architectural reference, Pevsner describes this as a “reminder of rural Upton and a surprising survival”.



It is a 16th century timber framed weatherboarded house, much altered but still atmospheric, despite later additions at the back. Apparently there were pleasure grounds at the back in the 18th century and playing fields in the 19th century, But the gardens are gone replaced by what Pevsner describes as “a hideous early 20th century factory.”


As Pevsner says: “The road is too busy and any memories of the quiet hamlet long forgotten.”

Wikipedia suggests it has been closed since June 2004, and in 2009, the London Fire Brigade posted a notice stating that it was a dangerous structure. Who knows what the future holds for this building. Hopefully it can be revived as a pub.

By the way Wikipedia suggests this pub may have been a hunting lodge for King Henry VIII  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_Dog,_Forest_Gate

But interestingly Pevsner is silent on the matter.

Walk along Upton Lane as if you had turned left out of the Post Office

Stop 2: West Ham Park

We are now going alongside West Ham Park. The first we learn of this is this sign by a closed gateway.


West Ham Park is unusual in that it is managed  not by the local authority here but by the City of London Corporation.

The City Corporation has a large nursery here to produce spring and summer bedding plants each year for the park, gardens and churchyards in the City of London and other Corporation Open Spaces. Plants grown here are also used at State occasions and banquets hosted by the City of London Corporation.

And walking on you can peek through the railings where you can see where they grow the bedding plants.


Soon we reach a gate to get into the Park proper.



The park dates from 1874 and had been the grounds of Ham House, owned by the Gurney family and demolished in 1872. The London Encyclopaedia says that the Gurney family made the park available for £25,000 on condition it remained an open space for the people. Prior to the Gurney’s ownership, the estate had been the property of Dr John Fothergill between 1762 and 1780. He was a Quaker philanthropist and botanist who established a botanical garden here.

It is a well kept park with a variety of areas with different themes.



It is a very pleasant place for a wander. You can either retrace your steps and go back up Upton Lane now. Or else walk back across the park to Margery Gate.


Turn right out of Margery Gate and you will soon find yourself back at Upton Lane. Turn left here and follow Upton Lane until just past the Post Office. Our next stop is at the corner of Upton Avenue.

Stop 3: Number 13 Upton Avenue

This apparently is the only surviving example of the many large houses which existed in Upton before the last decades of the 19th Century. Pevsner describes it as “a substantial neo-Jacobean villa known as the Red House”.


Its present appearance dates from around 1865 when the house was remodelled for the Tuthill family whose crest is shown in armorial glass above the door. I noticed there was also a motto: Vincere Aut Mori” which translates as “Conquer or Die”. Unaccountably I failed to take of photo of this!

It seems this building became the St Antony’s Catholic Club in 1933, so the motto over the door does seems rather out of keeping.

Continue walking along Upton Lane, following it as it bends to the left. Our next stop is almost at the end on the right hand side.

Stop 4: The Hudson Bay pub

This uninspiring looking building is the local Wetherspoons. As so often is the case, Wetherspoons have chosen a name which has some local connection.



So you may be wondering what connection Forest Gate has with Hudson Bay. According to Wetherspoons’ website:

“The name of this pub recalls Sir John Pelly, the governor of the Hudson Bay Company. Created First Baronet of Upton, by Queen Victoria, in 1840, Sir John was one of the leading landowners in the area during the late 18th and 19th century. The Hudson Bay Company originated in a royal charter, granted by Charles II, in 1670. The new company made great profits from importing, into Britain, furs and skins obtained by barter from North American Indians.”

Not sure the terminology “First Baronet of Upton” can be quite right! And is it not a shame that Wetherspoons is housed in what looks like an industrial shed, when it would have been nice if it could have been in a real pub building like the Spotted Dog or one of the other closed pubs which we shall see shortly.

Go to the end of the street and turn left. Our next stop is just a short distance along the main road on the left..

Stop 5: Two former cinemas

First note this dull looking block you pass at Number 302 Romford Road.


For almost 30 years this was the site of a cinema. The Queen’s Cinema opened in July 1913 with seats all on a single floor. It was reconstructed in 1928 when a balcony was added. It was renamed the New Queen’s Cinema. Like many cinemas of this period it had facilities to stage variety shows, together with the film programmes.

In October 1929 it was taken over by Associated British Cinemas who continued to operate it as a cinema with stage shows as part of the programme.

On 21 April 1941 the building received a direct hit from a German bomb. This left the building beyond repair, although it seems the organ was salvaged and reinstalled in the Regal cinema, Halifax, Yorkshire.

After the war, the remains of the building were cleared and a retail unit with offices above was built on the site. The retail unit was a supermarket at one point but now seems to be three separate shops.

Go just a little further along Romford Road and soon on your left is another former cinema.


Although it looks rather sad, it is recognisably an old cinema building – and it is still standing,

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it dates from 1937 and had a seating capacity of 1,806 with complete with stage facilities and two dressing rooms. It was hit in the same bombing in April 1941 that did for the nearby Queen’s. But the Odeon was able to reopen later that year. It continued as a cinema until November 1975 when it was converted into a bingo hall.

When that closed, it became semi derelict until the stalls areas were refurbished. A false ceiling erected and it reopened as a snooker club which lasted until 1994.

The building was converted into an Islamic centre in 2001. The new owners removed or covered the art deco detailing – possibly because the Greek god, Pan, was depicted. But you can see where the panels were because they have just been replaced by what looks like chipboard. But there were also some deco features lower down which do not seem to be there now.


More info about this and other Forest Gate cinemas at: http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2013/07/every-picturehouse-tells-story.html#sthash.DooaZglo.dpuf

Go back to the crossroads and our next stop is just over Romford Road and up Woodgrange Road.

However I have to mention the building on the corner as we pass.


Today this is a weird combination of a Superdrug shop and a restaurant cum banqueting facility. The restaurant is called PalmTree ChumChums.



Its website says:

“Here at PalmTree ChumChums we offer you the world on a plate. Enjoy exquisite Indian, Chinese, Thai and Continental food in luxurious surroundings.”

And there is a banqueting facility called Dhoom on the first floor.

But this building used to be the Princess Alice pub. The original pub was destroyed by German bombing and this is its 1951 replacement – looks like a little bit of a new town has been dropped on Forest Gate.

Go down Woodgrange Road away from Romford Road. Our next stop is just down a short dead end street on the left.

Stop 6: Number 13 Woodgrange Road


This dead end street might not look much but once it led the way to a cinema which later became a music venue.

This was opened as the Forest Gate Public Hall in November 1902. By 1907 it was known as the Grand Theatre and in March 1908, it became The People’s Picture Palace. By 1910 it was once again known as The Public Hall, still showing films. In the 1930s it had a chequered history closing for a couple of periods and then reopening. It closed for good as a cinema around the outbreak of the Second World War.

Subsequently the building was used as a roller skating rink, a clothing factory and a music venue (The Upper Cut club, and then the Ace of Clubs) and finally an electrical store, until 2000.

Here is a piece on the brief incarnation as a music venue which hosted some of the biggest names in pop in 1967/68, including the Who and the Small Faces.


Another fascinating connection (possibly): Jimi Hendrix is reputed to have written some of his famous song “Purple Haze” here in December 1966.

The building was demolished in 2005 and today a massive brick building stands on the site.


This is a ventilation shaft for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link which runs in tunnel for most of the first part of its route from St Pancras to Dagenham. There is a little tell tale sign relating to the purpose of this site.


CTRL of course stands for Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Return to Woodgrange Road and turn left. Our next stop is soon on the left.

Stop 7: Forest Gate railway station


The station was opened in 1840 by the Eastern Counties Railway, later to become the Great Eastern Railway.



It is currently served by stopping services from Liverpool Street to Shenfield, but as you can see it is going to part of Crossrail (now rechristened the Elizabeth Line, though they have not changed the signage). From 2019, you will be able to get direct trains to central London as well as beyond to Reading and Heathrow Airport.

This line was originally electrified in the late 1940s and there was some modest upgrading of the stations then. You can still see a little bit of the 1940s style tiling on the outside of the stairways.


On the street outside the station there are a couple of unusual features. There is this strange round kiosk.


And just north of the station of a traffic island is this unusual clock



We are at what TfL call an “out of station” interchange – that is a place where there are two stations on different lines sufficiently close to each other to be considered an interchange. That is why there is a sign telling you that it is 320 metres to Wanstead Park station


Continue walking along Woodgrange Road. Our next stop is on the right hand side of the road just before the railway bridge.

Stop 8: Former Eagle and Child pub


Today this building is Woodgrange Pharmacy but it was built as a pub – the Eagle and Child. Pevsner says that a pub was recorded here in 1744 but this building dates from around 1896.

There are some jolly figures on the facade which are the only reminders of the buildings former use. Pevsner describes them as “Merrie England” subjects and suggests these dates from the 1920s when “Brewer’s Tudor” was in vogue.



Not quite sure why these images of “Merrie England” are relevant to Eagle and Child. And a shame that this building has not survived as a pub either.

Our next stop is straight ahead.

Stop 9: Wanstead Park station


Now this really should not be called Wanstead Park because it is nowhere near Wanstead Park. In fact confusingly the nearest green space is actually Wanstead Flats.

It is on the so-called GOBLIN – Gospel Oak to Barking line. Until TfL took over a few years back this was a bit forgotten. But now the stations have been spruced up, although most like here at Wanstead park, they have been denuded of their original buildings.



In fact this was so neglected that it is only now getting electrified. But for now we have the unusual spectacle of little 2 car diesel trains in TfL Overground livery.

Now here is a curious thing. On the bridge is a sign showing the way to Forest Gate station. It says Forest Gate station is 275 metres.


Strange that the sign at Forest Gate pointing the other way said 320 metres.

Go under the railway bridge and our next stop is the turning on the left at the traffic lights.

Stop 10: Dames Road and the Dame closes


Dames Road is named after the Dames family who were local landowners.

And soon on the right are a couple of street named after two local dames. Clearly someone was having a bit of a joke when they named these streets.

First comes Dame Vera Lynn.


A not very big or inspiring street!


Next up is Dame Anna Neagle.


Her street is a bit bigger (but not much!)


We heard about Dame Vera in E6 with which she is more closely connected.

Star of stage and screen, Dame Anna Neagle (1904 – 1986) on the other hand was born in Forest Gate. At birth she was called Florence Marjorie Robertson – Neagle was her mother’s maiden name. Again not surprising she took a stage name – Florrie Robertson does not have the same ring for an aspiring actress, and maybe a little too close to the name of a near contemporary, Flora Robson.

Anna Neagle was a successful movie star in the 1930s and 1940s.  Almost all of her films were produced and directed by Herbert Wilcox, whom she married in 1943. After her film career waned in the 1950s she carried on in the theatre, mostly notably starring in the west end musical, Charlie Girl.

Go down Dame Anna Neagle Close. It becomes Brownlow Road. Ahead at the end is our next stop.

Stop 11: Wanstead Flats

Here we have the green open space known as Wanstead Flats. There is a sign with a City of London crest.


But on closer inspection the sign does not say Wanstead Flats as I expected.


It says: “Welcome to Epping Forest”. I guess this kind of reinforces the idea of this area being Forest Gate. And of course as we heard in E4, the City of London looks after Epping Forest.

Close by the corner is a Victorian water fountain.


This has a dedication to Joseph Fry (1809 – 1896). He was one of the sons of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780 – 1845). Her maiden name was Gurney, the family who would later sell some of their land to become West Ham Park.

She married Joseph Fry in 1800 and they lived locally in Plashet House in East Ham between 1809 and 1829 when they moved to Upton Lane in Forest Gate (not sure if that was the house whose grounds subsequently became West Ham Park)

Now retrace your steps to Dames Road and turn right. Our next stop is just at the next corner on the right.

Stop 12: Uncle Tom’s Garage



The reason we are stopping here is because actor Idris Elba worked at Uncle Tom’s garage as a youngster (although he spent most of his youth growing up in Canning Town).

He revisited the garage in November 2013, on a trip back to his roots. More about Dames Road including Idris Elba’s visit can be found here. – See more at: http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2016/04/the-street-where-you-live-4-dames-road.html#sthash.30IThClO.dpuf

But when I hear the name Idris Elba I always think of the phrase: “Able was I ere I saw Elba”. This is what is known as a palindrome – a phrase whose letters read the same both forwards and backwards.

This one has been attributed to the famous French leader Napoleon Bonaparte who was once exiled to the island of Elba. I always thought it odd that a Frenchman would have come up with such a neat English phrase and there is a fascinating article on the site Quote Investigation which explores the origin of this phrase.


So that brings us to the end of our E7 walk. you can return down Dames Road and Woodgrange Road to get to the stations for onward travel. But there is a little detour you can make to see one more thing of interest in E7.

It is in Katherine Road, and probably easiest if you get a 325 bus which runs along Upton Lane and then Romford Road. Take this in the direction of East Beckton and get off at Derby Road.


Here in the middle of a mainly residential area is the old factory of Trebor Mints



It all started in 1907 when four young men set up an enterprise to make sweets in Forest Gate from sugar bought from Henry Tate in nearby Canning Town.

It has often been said that Trebor stands for Robert backwards, after one of the founders, Robert Robertson. The company seems to have been quite happy to perpetuate this myth, But actually Trebor was named after the location of the premises they moved into. This was Trebor Terrace, named after the row’s builder, one Robert Cooper. So perhaps it is this Robert rather than Robert Robertson where the name originally came from.

Sweet production moved away in the early 1980s and today the building is apartments.

More detail on the Trebor story can be found at: http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2014/04/the-trebor-story-forest-gates-sweet.html

Well that does bring us to the end of E7. We saw some glimpses of the lost world of a country hamlet and heard about some of the people who lived hereabouts before the area was swallowed up by London, plus some of the entertainment places that were here and finally a sweet connection.

For onward travel, probably best to get the 325 bus either on to East Ham or back to Forest Gate.

E6: Don’t know where, don’t know when


E6 is East Ham. This is the most easterly E postcode. (But it is not the furthest east, as we will see when we are get to SE)

We start our walk at East Ham Post Office which is in the W H Smith shop at 125 High Street North. Turn right out of the Post Office and go along High Street North. Our first stop is on the left at the corner of Skeffington Road.

Stop 1: Poundland (Former Woolworth’s store), Numbers 72 – 76 High Street North


This was for more than 50 years until December 2008 a Woolworth’s store. but it was not the original location of Woolworth’s. That was further up High Street North opposite the Palace Theatre, which we will hear about later.

East Ham was bombed severely in the Second World War and the original Woolworth’s store was destroyed in September 1940. They rebuilt here. But this in fact had previously been a department store, so that is why it looks rather grander than the typical suburban Woolworth’s.

Today like many former Woolworth’s stores, it is Poundland.

Keep walking along High Street North. You will reach a cross roads. Our next stop is across the main road on the left.

Stop 2: East Ham Town Hall


Just here is one of the best sets of Edwardian public buildings in London, with the main building being the Town Hall.



East Ham became an Urban District within Essex in 1894. It gained municipal borough status in 1903 and county borough status in 1915. So in the space of 21 years it went from being unincorporated to having the maximum level of local powers. It merged with the neighbouring County Borough of West Ham in 1965 to form the London Borough of Newham.

The Town Hall opened in 1903 and was the borough’s main offices until the council moved to Newham Dockside, E16 in 2009.

But there was not just a Town Hall here. There was also a Library.



Note the Carnegie name. That is because it was built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Apparently 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929 across the world, of which 660 were in the United,Kingdom.

And then there was a Fire Station.


Although this now seems to be unused.

But this ambitious municipal development did not stop there. Having followed the buildings along High Street South, now go down the first side street on the left, Nelson Street.

Stop 3: Old Tram Depot

Here we see a clue to what else the Council built here.


This relief must be new as it has a 2016 date on it. But it commemorates the fact that for just over 30 years, this was the location of East Ham Corporation’s Tram depot. And the building is still here with its very obvious doorways for the trams to go in and out.


East Ham Council started operating tram services on 22 June 1901. East Ham had not operated horse trams so it was the first local council in London to have electric trams from the start.

When the London Passenger Transport Board was created in 1933, it inherited the East Ham Corporation Tramway system. But early on it closed this depot, transferring most of the old East Ham trams to other depots in Bow and West Ham with a few being scrapped.

For many years after closure, the tram depot was used by the council for various purposes. In the 1990s the whole site (including the adjacent public baths) was refurbished and converted into East Ham Leisure Centre.

And next door to the depot was a small power station. This was not just to provide power for the trams but also for street lighting. This site still seems to be used in relation to electricity as there is a UK Power Networks sign by the door here.


And you will also see a crest up on the wall here.


This has the motto: Progressio cum Populo (which translates as Progress with the People). Interestingly the London Borough of Newham chose the English version of this motto for the new combined authority. Perhaps West Ham Corporation’s motto (which was Deo Confidemus – We trust in God) was deemed less appropriate for the modern age.

Now return to High Street South and head away from the Municipal Buildings. Our next stop is ahead on the right but to get in you have to go along the side to get to a gate.

Stop 4: Central Park


In the late 19th century, Colonel Ynyr Henry Burges owned much of the land surrounding what is now Central Park. The estate had been built up by his uncle Ynyr Burges, Paymaster of the East India Company, between 1762 and his death in 1792.

The homes surrounding Central Park were built from 1890 to 1910. They were built for office clerks and skilled manual workers. But the Council was far sighted enough to buy up some of the Burges land in 1896 and lay out this park.

The dominant feature at the corner you came in is this rather lovely First World War memorial.


Head into the Park and you will see some little metal plaques in the ground. Like this one, which records that people have been bowling here since 1910.


The Bowls Club however do not so keen on being seen, as their green is largely hidden behind a high hedge.


At this point you do a right turn and head towards what is called Bartle Gate.

On the way you will see another noticeboard which gives a bit more information about the little plaques.


Apparently there are three different trails: one about the history of the park, one about the trees and a third described as a fitness trail.

If you would like to know more about Central Park, here is a link to a fascinating piece from Eastside Community Heritage:


Go out of Bartle Gate and turn left into Central Park Road. Take the fourth turning on the right – Ladysmith Avenue.

Stop 5: Ladysmith Avenue


Number 38 Ladysmith Avenue was the childhood home of Dame Vera Lynn. She was born a few streets away in Thackeray Road but the family moved to Ladysmith Avenue when she was 4.


She was born 20 March 1917 and was called Vera Margaret Welch. She adopted her grandmother’s maiden name (Lynn) as her stage name when she began performing publicly at the age of seven. Vera Welch would not have sounded quite the same, would it?

She was of course widely known as “The Forces’ Sweetheart” whose recordings and performances were enormously popular during the Second World War.  Some of the songs most associated with her are “We’ll Meet Again”, “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”, and “There’ll Always Be an England”.

In 2009, she became the oldest living artist to have a No. 1 on the British album chart. She was 92.

Go down Ladysmith Avenue to the end of the street. Our next stop is straight ahead of you on the main road.

Stop 6: Former Granada Cinema, Number 281 Barking Road

Today this building is called “The White House” and is a banqueting suite.


But it is recognisably an old cinema. This was the Granada East Ham which opened in November 1936.



It was actually on the site of an earlier cinema the East Ham Empire Kinema built in 1914.

Although this spent its entire cinematic life as the Granada it was actually developed by a rival company.

According to Cinema Treasures:

“it was going to be a new cinema for the Denman (London) circuit (part of Gaumont British) who had operated the Empire Kinema, but Granada Theatres were also interested in the site and a deal was struck for them to operate the new cinema which was designed by Gaumont’s house architect William E. Trent and the land was owned by Gaumont for many years.”

The building was only fully acquired by Granada in March 1965.

It closed as a full time cinema in November 1974. After a brief flirtation with the  occasional live show and Bollywood films, it was converted into a Granada Bingo Club in January 1976. It remained a bingo hall until November 2014, so curiously it spent around 38 years being used as a cinema and around the same time as a bingo hall.

Now walk along Barking Road as if you had turned left out of Ladysmith Avenue. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 7: Stondon Walk

This development was built by the Greater London Council and transferred to Newham in 1986 when the GLC was abolished.


The block was designed with ground floor garages and quite an expanse of brick. No doubt there was a logic to this as it would have minimised the impact of the busy road, but some people thought they had just built it the wrong way round

However it did not look very nice, so Newham commissioned some artwork in the late 1990s.

There is a series of nine stencil relief panels made of steel, and originally painted in pastel colours, which seems to have faded. The first and last of the panels are the text of a poem and the others depict leaves, trees and flowers, showing the seasons of the year chronologically.

The poem was selected from ‘Poems on the Underground’. It sought to complement the ‘natural growth’ and ‘living environment’ themes of the panels. And it so happened that the poet, Kathleen Raine, was born in Ilford, in 1908, which gave a kind of local connection – more info about these panels can be found here at:




And here is the text of the poem:

The Very Leaves of the Acacia-Tree are London

The very leaves of the acacia-tree are London;
London tap-water fills out the fuchsia buds in the back garden,
Blackbirds pull London worms out of the sour soil,
The woodlice, centipedes, eat London, the wasps even.
London air through stomata of myriad leaves
And million lungs of London breathes.
Chlorophyll and haemoglobin do what life can
To purify, to return this great explosion
To sanity of leaf and wing.
Gradual and gentle the growth of London pride,
And sparrows are free of all the time in the world:
Less than a window-pane between.

Kathleen Raine (1908 – 2003)

From Collected Poems 1935-1980, © Kathleen Raine.

Plus here are a couple of the decorative panels



By the way don’t forget to have a look out for Thackeray Road which runs off the other side of Barking Road.


Don’t know where exactly Dame Vera lived in that street. The internet seems curiously silent on the matter.

Now return along Barking Road past the old Granada cinema. Soon on the left you will see a modern road. Go down this and you will see after the bend of the road on your right an entrance to our next stop.

Stop 8: East Ham Market Hall


Go in this entrance and work your way through the market to the other side.

This market hall is privately owned (like the ones we saw in Tooting). The company that owns East Ham Market Hall also owns one in Romford.


This market is around 90 years old according to their website, but it is not any more specific so I don’t know when exactly this was built.

It has a range of stalls – mainly non-food. The owners have obviously spent some money trying to make it look attractive from the outside. Whilst it has a few different specialist stalls, inside it is basically the same old market stuff.


Having reached the other side, you will see a street ahead of you. Go down this and on the left at the corner of High Street North you will see our next stop.

Stop 9 Primark store (site of Gaumont Cinema)


This looks like a new building but notice how it has the style of an old cinema.


There is a reason for this.  Part of the facade at least belongs to an old cinema, the Gaumont.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it started out in 1912 as the Premier Electric Theatre, In 1921 a new auditorium was erected at the rear and the former Premier Electric Theatre became the foyer and cafe area for the new cinema.

The Premier Super Cinema was taken over by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres who were themselves taken over by Gaumont British in February 1929. It was renamed Gaumont in 1952 and closed down in April 1963.

It was converted into a Bingo Club which lasted to January 2005. It was apparently a remarkable example of an early ‘super’ cinema which had survived virtually unaltered. However it was not listed and so it was lost.

However if you look at the Cinema Treasures website, there are a couple of photos – one when it was a bingo hall and one after it had closed. They show the little tower and how the entrance was to the right of that.


Walk along High Street North. Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 10: Lidl store (Site of Palace Theatre)


This dull looking building is actually on the site of the Palace Theatre of Varieties which opened in December 1906,

Film shows formed part of the variety programme from the early days. In 1933, it became a full time cinema, known as the New Regal Palace Cinema, but with lots of local competition, it reverted back to live variety in December 1935.

The Palace Theatre closed in June 1956 and was demolished in 1958 to make way for a C&A clothing store. In a sign of how the world of retail has changed this is now a Lidl supermarket.

Fascinating fact: Star of the classic soap “Crossroads”, Noele Gordon (1919 – 1985) was born in East Ham (Don’t know where). She was given the middle name of Noele because she was born on Christmas Day. She made her first public appearance at the Palace Theatre but I don’t know when.

As we are here have a look at the side street by Lidl. This is Burges Road.


As we heard at Central Park, the Burges family were local landowners.  Most of their estate was south of Barking Road and that is where the main house was. But here is a little reminder that their land went north of Barking Road.


There is also another interesting connection. Burges Road was the birthplace of Herbert Maurice William Weedon (1920 – 2012) better known as Bert Weedon.

He was a popular and influential guitar player in the 1950s and 1960s. He produced best-selling guides to guitar playing and these were apparently a major influence on many well known British musicians, such as Eric Clapton, Brian May, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, Dave Davies, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page.

Don’t know exactly where he was born in Burges Road.

Keep walking along High Street North. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 11: East Ham station


East Ham station was built by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. Their initial line ran from London via Stratford and Forest Gate over what is now the Gospel Oak to Barking line. A more direct line from Bow to Barking was created in 1859 with stations at Bromley, Plaistow and here at East Ham.

The District Railway started serving the station in 1902. The District line was electrified in 1905. A second pair of tracks was added in around 1908 and East Ham station was rebuilt.

In 1936 the Metropolitan line service began serving the station in 1936 and this service (which ran from Hammersmith to Barking via King’s Cross St Pancras) was renamed the Hammersmith & City line in 1988 – though this name had been used as a subsidiary name of this part of the Metropolitan line for some time before that.

Today the station has two operational platforms, served by the District and the Hammersmith and City lines


Much of the original Victorian station architecture has been retained and some restoration work was carried out during 2005.


This station also had platforms on the fast lines. The Fenchurch Street – Southend stopping services were withdrawn in 1962 and the platforms have been partially removed.

In fact the fast tracks are mostly obscured from the working District line platforms by an enamel screen for most of the length of the platform. But you can peek over them by going up some steps. You can just see in the far distance the remains of the steps leading down to the former London bound fast line platform.


There is also a disused bay platform on the northern side of the station by the eastbouind platform.


This connected to the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway (now the Gospel Oak to Barking line) via a curve. It was closed in 1958.

So this kind of brings us to the end of our E6 walk.


However if you carry on beyond the station, you will see the next street on your left is Milton Avenue.



This was the childhood home of 1950s pop legend Lonnie Donnegan. Once again don’t know where exactly, so there is no point in sending you down there.

So that really brings us to the end of our E6 walk. We are at East Ham station (or nearby by if you wandered off to Milton Avenue) for rail transport options. plus of course various buses from outside the station.

In E6, we have seen some impressive municipal buildings, some entertainment sites and some places connected with some well known people who lived in the area. But even with the extensive power of the internet, you cannot always find out where or when a person was connected to an area. So we have had a lot of “Don’t know where” or “Don’t know when”.

E5: Blame it on the Rivoli


E5 is Clapton which is often confused with Clapham, but of course it is a completely different place.

We start our walk at Upper Clapton Post Office which is just at the start of Mount Pleasant Lane near its junction with Upper Clapton Road.

Turn right out of the Post Office and walk along Mount Pleasant Lane. The road straight ahead becomes Mount Pleasant Hill and goes over the railway. Keep going straight past the former industrial buildings on your left. Turn left into Theydon road (there is a Co-op store on the corner). Our first stop is just on the left.

Stop 1: De Havilland House

This is now flats but was once part of a factory.



It seems that this building was designed in the 1930s by Sir Owen Williams (1890 -1969), who was the forefront of developing the use of concrete.

He was the engineer responsible for the three 1930s Daily Express buildings (London, Glasgow and Manchester) and was also architect for the latter. His practice was responsible for a number of road structures, most notably Gravelly Hill Interchange (better known as Spaghetti Junction) which was completed after his death.

According to the View from the Bridge website


“The De Havilland Building is an early modern movement building in the international style.

It is a concrete frame building with a very thin single layer of reinforced concrete forming the building envelope. De Havilland House is a former ‘Metal Box’ factory.

The attribution to De Havilland, the aircraft company, has not been sourced, but may speak to the first flight of an English aircraft by an English pilot of A.V. Roe nearby.”

But the aircraft connection makes it sound better than if it were just a plain old metal bashing factory.

Carry on walking along Theydon Road. It turns to the left. just before it goes under the railway there is a bit of a yard on your right. This has a way through to the River. Go down the yard and then when you get to the riverside path turn left and go under the railway


Stop 2: Riverside walk (and Anchor and Hope pub)

So here we have the River Lea. It is quite attractive here


However it is very flat. And it is crisscrossed by pylons and railway lines with much dull building in the distance.


Now as you may know singer Adele has a song on her latest album called “River Lea”. She spent her early years in Tottenham, so probably would not have come this far along the river. However I thought I would mention it as we are by the River Lea – although for the first few times I heard the song I thought she was singing about “The Rivoli”, which of course she isn’t.

Keep on walking and there is a reasonable looking pub The Anchor and Hope. I wonder if the name comes from people who are not used to sailing boats and when they stop they put down their anchor and hope…


It is all very modest, although I guess in summer this gets mobbed.

Stop 3: Springfield Park

Just a little further along the path, there is a children’s playground on the right and then on the left is the entrance to Springfield Park.

Springfield Park opened in 1905 and was the grounds of three houses, one of which was retained as we shall see.


Go in this entrance and follow the path which goes up the hill to your left. You can look back across the River Lea to the other side.


As we saw this bit of the river Lea is not at all industrial and the view is quite pleasant in a low key unflashy way

Follow the path round and head for the pond. Keeping the pond to your left.


Then ahead of you you will see a house.


This is now the Ranger’s Office and a cafe with toilets, but was one of the original houses whose grounds now form this park

Go out the gate at this end of the park. Go right into the road (which is called Springfield) and at the end turn left into Upper Clapton Road. Our next stop is quite a walk along the main road.

Stop 4: Clapton Station

Clapton station is on the left. The station building is quite unprepossessing and rather too close to the road.


Downstairs the old station has half survived.


That is the London bound platform still has what looks like the original canopy and a covered stairway, whilst the outbound platform has lost what ever canopy it might have originally had. It also has an open staircase. However there is an ugly looking modern canopy so you are not completely in the open if you are waiting for a train going to Walthamstow or Chingford.

Keep walking along Upper Clapton Road. Our next stop is on the right at the corner of Brooke Road.

Stop 5: site of Brooke House

Today there is a college on this site.


But once there was a grand house. According to the architectural bible, Pevsner, Brooke House was Hackney’s most important mansion.

It was a courtyard house of medieval origin. Its owners included Thomas Cromwell amongst others. It was demolished in 1954/55 after partial war damage. Pevsner says that a 15th Century wall painting from the Chapel is in the Museum of London, whilst panelling is in Harrow School.

A secondary school was built on the site in the late 1950s. The building was reclad later and is now used as a sixth form college.

Just beyond here is a roundabout which seems totally out of keeping with the streets around. It must have been part of a bigger plan which never got realised.

There is a bus park in the middle. This is where the buses which stop at Clapton Pond go to rest.


Go straight on at the roundabout which takes you into Lower Clapton Road.

Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 6: Former Kenninghall Cinema

This building currently looks disused


But it was once a cinema. You can see there is some kind of hall structure behind the entrance.

This started as a cinema in 1910. that was when the function room of  the White Hart public house built in 1896 was converted into a cinema, known as the Clapton Cinematograph Theatre. In 1919 it was given a new name – the Kenninghall Kinema after the nearby Kenninghall Road.

It was taken over by the Odeon chain in April 1938 and a new modern facade and foyer was added to the building, designed by architect George Coles. The plan was eventually to demolish the Kenninghall Kinema and build a modern Odeon Theatre on the expanded site of the cinema and the adjacent pub.

Due to the Second World War the redevelopment never happened and the Kenning Hall Cinema (as it had become) carried on as an unimportant outpost of the Odeon circuit.

It was leased out to an Independent operator from 1958 and eventually closed in June 1979. It was unused for a while until 1983 when it was converted into a nightclub. initially called Duggies. Then it had a couple of name changes; Elite Nightclub and the Palace Pavilion.

This was not the nicest of areas gaining the tag “The Murder Mile”. The White Hart pub building next door closed down after shootings and drug related crime which also affected the nightclub. That seems to have closed down in April 2006.

A local community group, The Friends of Clapton Cinematograph Theatre, was set up in December 2006  with the aim of preserving and restoring cinema. This Group still appears to exist as they have a meeting in May 2016. But it is unclear what has happened to the idea  of reviving the cinema.

The Friends website http://www.saveourcinema.org/ seems silent on the matter and the sign on the outside the building says it is the property of a rather obscure church.


Keep walking along Lower Clapton Road. There is then a C of E church and our next stop is just past that.

Stop 7: Site of ABC cinema

Another anonymous block of flats, you might say.


But once this was the site of another cinema. It opened in October 1939 as the Ritz Cinema, although it was built by Associated British Cinemas (ABC). It was in Art Deco styles with seating in stalls and circle.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the Ritz Cinema had a very uneventful life. The only significant happening was in 1962 when its name was changed to ABC to bring it into line with all the other cinemas in the circuit.

The ABC closed in September 1973 and within weeks the building was demolished. The empty site stood unused apart from cars parking on it. In 1994 a block of flats was built on the site.

Keep walking along the main road and cross over.

Stop 8: Clapton Pond

You can hardly miss our next stop surrounded as it is with railings.


I have often seen Clapton Pond as a destination of buses. And here it is. A fairly small pond in a fairly small garden.


On the far side from the main road are some older houses – from the time when Clapton was a country village.


Our next stop is on the far side of the pond from the main road.

Stop 9: Bishop Wood almshouses

This is the range of buildings to the left as you look from the main road.


And there is a plaque explaining about the almshouses.


The almshouses were built with money left by Thomas Wood (1607 – 1692), who was born in Clapton and became Bishop of Lichfield after the English Civil War.

The homes were refurbished in the 1880s and again in the 1930s. A gothic style chapel was added in the 19th century and it was said to be one of England’s smallest places of worship.

It seems to be up for sale. Indeed it may even have been sold by now.

Here is a report from the Hackney Citizen dated 20 February 2014:


Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouses Charity, which owns the buildings, said it would “dearly love” to refurbish them but claimed this work would cost “getting on for three quarters of a million pounds”.

A spokesperson added: “The charity cannot justify spending that kind of money to provide only four modern flats.”

The last residents were relocated to Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouse on Navarino Road in 2103.

You can understand the charity’s dilemma. But at the end of the day, it surely must be better from them to realise the value in this historic building and build something which is better to suited for older people to live in.

Clearly this is not going to be knocked down and it would be much better to have a sensitive refurbishment and reuse by someone with deeper pockets than for the charity to struggle to maintain such heritage buildings.

Continue walking along Lower Clapton Road. 

Stop 10: Site of Rink Cinema

Our next stop is opposite the corner of Linscott Road


Now I do not normally stop at petrol stations but I make an exception here as it is built on the site of a very old cinema.

Well actually it started out as a rolling skating rink in December 1909. Unfortunately the Clapton Premier Skating Rink opened just as the craze for roller skating was in decline. It briefly became a dance hall and in 1910 was converted into an ice rink.

This too did not last and in spring 1911 it was rebuilt as a cinema. It opened in July 1911 as the Clapton Rink Cinema, seating 2,000 with a mixed programme of cinema and variety acts.

By 1928 it had been acquired by Gaumont British Theatres who the policy of cine-variety running for a few years. It was closed when German bombs badly damaged the cinema in 1942. It never reopened as it was considered irreparable. The remains were finally demolished in 1950 and a petrol station was built on the site.

Now go down Linscott Road

Stop 11: The Portico

Our next stop is straight ahead – and what a surprising vista along a suburban side street



This is now part of a secondary school but this portico is all that remains of the London Orphan Asylum founded in 1813. This particularly impressive structure dates from the early 1820s.

The Salvation Army took over the premises in 1881 and created a huge assembly hall by roofing over a courtyard. This seated 4,700 people according to Pevsner.

The majority of the building was demolished in 1975 to make space for the Clapton Girls Technology College. And this later became Clapton Girls Academy. But it seems the Portico was not used and languished as a heritage building “at risk”.

In 1999 a temporary installation by Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed stimulated public interest in the Portico. This was titled Work No.203 and was a large neon text installed on the front of the Portico which read “Everything is Going to be Alright”.

This “artwork” has since been acquired by the Tate, see: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/creed-work-no-203-everything-is-going-to-be-alright-t12799/text-summary

And in a way it was alright. As part of the Labour Government’s Building Schools for the Future a new building was created incorporating the Portico. This opened in 2010 as the Portico City Learning Centre – a place where students and teachers can access the most up to date computer technology.

Now return to the main road and turn left.

Stop 12: The Round Chapel

Here just at the corner of Powerscroft Road is another religious building.


This was built by the United Reformed Church between 1869 and 1871 and Pevsner describes it as one of the finest non-conformist buildings in London.


It apparently has a magnificent interior. Clearly far too big for the modern day church, it was repaired and refurbished in the mid 1990s as a performing arts centre.


So that brings us to the end of our E5 walk. Some fascinating stuff as ever. There are fragments of the old village still poking out by the pond and reminders of the strong tradition of non conformist church going in this part of London with the Round Chapel and also the former Salvation Army building. We also saw some reminders of how even less busy suburbs could have numerous cinemas – we saw three locations in quite a short distance.

We also saw a little bit of industrial heritage and there was a nice park going down to the River Lea. Even the river has it charms, although when you are wandering the streets of Clapton you would not really know that it is there just down the hill.

For onward travel either retrace your steps back to Clapton station (which is quite a trek) or else take one of the many buses that run along Lower Clapton Road. Hackney is really just around the corner and even though the tube has not got here, it has plenty of Overground connections.

E4: A hunting we will go …


E4 is Chingford, which has the distinction of being the most northerly London postcode (even though it is an E postcode). It is also the only London postcode to include an area which is not within the administrative district of Greater London, more of which anon. I am grateful to fellow guide and resident Chingfordian, Joanna Moncrieff for sharing some of her extensive knowledge of the area.

We start our walk at Chingford Post Office which is at 104 Station Road, E4 6AP. Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is just along the road opposite the Station.

Stop 1: Doric House – site of a cinema


This dull looking building on the corner of Station Road and Connaught Avenue replaced a cinema. When the cinema first opened in October 1920, it was called the Chingford Pavilion. It was re-named Chingford Cinema in late 1929 after it had been equipped to screen sound films.

It was renamed Doric Cinema in May 1941, closing in July 1957. It reopened under new owners in January 1959, as the New Doric Cinema but closed for good in 1961 to be demolished for offices. Today there is a Driving Test Centre operating from the building.

Our next stop is right opposite.

Stop 2: Chingford Station

The railway arrived in Chingford in 1873. The Great Eastern Railway’s plan was originally for a line to High Beach in order to serve Epping Forest. Initially the line was built as far as Chingford.

The first station in Chingford was in Kings Road (then called Bulls Lane) near the junction with Larkshall Road (then called Hale End Road). But in 1878 the line was extended about 600 yards towards the Forest and the original terminus was replaced by a much grander station on the edge of town, overlooking the forest.


The relocation of the station was actually less convenient for those who wanted to go to Chingford. This was all about encouraging leisure travellers to visit the forest and to stimulate suburban growth in what were then fields. But the way the station was built does suggest the plan was for the line to go further, as they did not put the station building across the end of the tracks.



Well the line to High Beach never happened because by the 1870s there was quite a movement to stop Epping Forest land being enclosed for agriculture or being built on. This lead to the Epping Forest Act 1878 which halted the loss of forest land. Epping Forest ceased to be a royal forest and the City of London Corporation took over as Conservators. They still perform this role today, as we shall see.

And this explains why the built up area of Chingford stops so abruptly here.

Now turn right out of the station forecourt and follow the main road, which is Station Road and then becomes Rangers Road.

Note the road going off to the left (Bury Road)


Seems odd to see a sign for Epping Forest with a City of London crest and a street sign showing a London postcode.

Keep walking along the main road. You will need to use the left hand path (the forest side) as the right hand path does not go all the way.

Our next stop is just as the road bends.

Stop 3: Former Royal Forest Hotel

The first hotel was built here in 1881 but it was much rebuilt in 1925 after a fire.


As you can see it is a huge building – testament to the fact that this was a destination. This building was here to capitalise on the visitors who came on the train for a day out in Epping Forest. Not sure how many of them would have stayed the night but it does seem to have been a hotel as well – rather than just for serving daytrippers with refreshments.

How sad it is now a Premier Inn, with a Brewers Fayre catering facility (I hesitate to call it a restaurant).


But at least it has not suffered the fate of Jack Straw’s Castle on Hampstead Heath which we saw in NW3.

Our next stop is just next door.

Stop 4: Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge

The Royal Forest Hotel may be fake Tudor but here we have the real thing.


This is called Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge even though it was built for her father King Henry VIII in 1543. It is apparently a unique example of a surviving timber-framed hunt lodge.

It was built so that Royals could shoot deer from the first floor rather than go to the inconvenience of having to chase them round the forest. Note the whole building is whitewashed, which is how it should be, as opposed to what one usually sees where the structural timbers are painted black.

The building, like Epping Forest itself, is run by the City of London Corporation. The lodge is open to the public and has displays on Tudor food and fashion. (There is also a building between the Hotel and the lodge which is called The View and contains a display on the history and ecology of Epping Forest. That is where you go to ask for access to the Lodge if its door is locked)


Inside it is clearly geared up for the school/children audience but it is still worth venturing in to find out more about the building.



That chap in the fireplace gave me quite a turn. He is rather good at keeping totally still.

Do go upstairs for the view.


Obviously these deer are sitting targets, being made of wood.

Whilst you are here do have a look at the building just a little further along past the green.


This is called “The Butlers Retreat”. Today it is a cafe serving lovely food but it was originally a barn built in the mid 19th century. It is named after John Butler who lived here in the 1890s. It is one of the few remaining Victorian retreats within the forest. Retreats were promoted by the Temperance movement and so served only non-alcoholic refreshment.

Now retrace your steps back to just past Bury Road. Now the development is on both sides of the road. You will see a path striking off on your right along side the golf course running parallel to the edge. Go down this. Or alternatively you can walk along the road (called with startling originality “Forest View”). This street has not been adopted by the local authority and it shows.


You might complain about your local council’s road maintenance but public roads never ever get this bad!

If you are on the road hop back on the forest side path when you get to Eglington Road. Keep on walking up the hill in a roughly straight line and then when you get near the crest turn left. You should be able to see our next stop.

Stop 5: Pole Hill

We are on Pole Hill and you can see there is a stone obelisk.


This was was erected in 1824 under the direction of John Pond then the Astronomer Royal and it was to mark true north for the telescopes of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.


It was placed on high ground along the line of the Greenwich Meridian. This was recalibrated later in the 19th century, at which point it was determined that the obelisk was actually 19 feet west of the revised meridian line.

The nearby triangulation pillar marks the modern line, but that is apparently a co-incidence.

But there is another plaque on the obelisk.


This records that the land here was conveyed to the City of London by T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) in 1930. He had originally intended to build a house here with his friend Vyvyan Richards in which to print “fine books” (!?!).

Head down the hill towards the road you can see. This is Mornington Road. Our next stop is just ahead on the right.

Stop 6: Arabia Close

Now here is a nice little touch. The land here was also owned by T E Lawrence and so that is why the street is named as it is.


Sadly it is somewhat dull.


Continue along Mornington Road and cut through a pedestrian bit and turn right. Our next stop is just here.

Stop 7: Chingford Assembly Hall

This is the Chingford Assembly Hall built in 1959.


At the far end is a mosaic, installed for the Millenium


Note the picture of Winston Churchill, at the bottom on the left. He was the local MP for many years, as Chingford came under the Epping constituency. Churchill was MP for Epping from 1924 to 1945 and then there was boundary changes and so he became MP for Wanstead from 1945 to 1964.

I think Chingford stayed within the Epping constituency so Churchill ceased to be the local MP in 1945. Chingford became a constituency in its own right in 1974. Since then has had two very high profile MPs: Norman Tebbit (1974 – 1992) and Ian Duncan Smith (since 1992).

Walk by the green ahead of you keeping the church to your left. Our next stop is just past the junction with traffic lights, on the right.

Stop 8: Kings Head pub


According to Joanna, this is where a certain David Ivor Davies played the piano when he was stationed at nearby Chingford Aerodrome in the latter part of the First World War. He was a not too successful probationary flight sub-lieutenant. Having twice crashed a plane, he was moved to an office job and out of harm’s way for the duration of the war. But his real contribution to the war effort was his song “Keep the Home Fires Burning” for which he wrote the music in 1914. He of course became better known as Ivor Novello.

Here is a little link to Jo’s blog post about this:


The aerodrome closed in 1919 and reverted to pasture. In 1951 the site disappeared for ever under the William Girling Reservoir (named after the chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board) and it is that you can see if you look down the road in front of the pub.


Now go down the road called The Ridgeway (a left turn at this cross roads).

Stop 9: Former Town Hall

A short way along The Ridgeway is our next stop on the right.


This is the former Chingford Town Hall originally built in 1929. Chingford became an Urban District in 1894 and gained municipal borough status in 1938.

This does seem a strange place to put the Town Hall, not exactly in the main centre of things. And of course today it has outlived its usefulness as offices and has been converted into housing.

It is odd to think we are in the London Borough of Waltham Forest here – it is one of the quirks of the way London boroughs were created that Chingford is in the same borough as the rather more gritty urban Walthamstow and Leyton.

Keep walking along the Ridgeway. As the road bends to the right take a left turn into Endlebury Road. You will see an entrance to Ridgeway Park which is our next stop.

Stop 10: Ridgeway Park


Now this park contains a model railway.


According to the Waltham Forest Council website, there is a rather interesting story about a visitor to it in 1954. In case the link breaks and the text is lost for ever, here is what it says:

“Walt Disney Story as passed down from member to member


Walt Disney was a very keen miniature railway enthusiast and had his own 7¼ inch miniature railway at his home in USA. One day whilst visiting London on business and as he had completed his work asking his chauffeur if he knew of any miniature railways in London, the chauffeur brought Walt Disney to Ridgeway Park in Chingford. That day the park was holding the Chingford Day celebration we believe the year was 1954. Walt Disney drove trains around the track and allowed the press to take some photographs and had a good time.

When the public heard that Walt Disney was visiting the railway every body rushed over to see him, just as the Mayor of Chingford was about to open the celebration which he did almost on his own.

Information provided by the Chingford and District Model Engineering Club”

Ridgeway Park also lays claim to another famous connection. In 1979 a man called Peter King founded a football club for local youngsters in the park. He called it called Ridgeway Rovers and local boy David Beckham was once on the team..

Here is an article from the Guardian about the club. http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/jan/08/ridgeway-rovers-david-beckham-harry-kane

Continue along Endlebury Road going over the cross roads, you are now in Simmons Lane. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 11: Pimp Hall Park

You will see an entrance to Pimp Hall Park. Go through the gates.


This is the land of the 16th Century Pimps Hall. The name derives from Reynold Pympe who was lord of the manor in 1500.

According to Historic England’s website:  “The estate has been named after different owners at various times; the Buckerells, Gowers or Pimps. It belonged to the Buckerell family in the 13th century. In the late 15th century it was held by Sir J Gower. At one stage it was held by Henry VIII. In 1538 it was sold to Sir G Monoux. In the 16th century Pimp Hall was a farmhouse. It was demolished in 1936-9.”

Chingford Council bought the Hall and surrounding land in 1934 and the site divided between allotments, a council-run nursery, and this small park.

I am sure the name might lead to all sorts of jokes riffing on pimps or pimples, but I am not going there.

To be honest there is not much to see.  But there is a fine view of Chingford down below.


There is a rather interesting old feature in the grounds but I did not spot this until much later.

Return to the street and across the road you will see our next stop.

Stop 12: Friday Hill House


Friday Hill House is a Grade II listed house built in 1839 by the architect Lewis Vulliamy.


It was owned by Robert Boothby Heathcote, who was both the lord of the manor and rector of the local church.  The building was used for a number of years as a further education centre, but was put up for sale by the local Council in 2012. It is currently undergoing refurbishment.

At this point, I did a little detour. At the end of Simmons Lane I turned right into Friday Hill and went down the road a little to see this pub.


Today it is called the Dovecot and claims to have the biggest beer garden in Chingford.


Now at one time this pub was apparently called the Sirloin.

There are various stories about Kings using their swords to “knight” a hunk of beef and so name it “Sir Loin”. Sometimes it is King Henry VIII in Windsor, or King James I in Lancashire, but Chingford also has claim to the story – This time with King Charles II.  If you follow this link through you will (eventually) find the story which specifically mentions King Charles II and Friday Hill, Chingford.


Of course it is all a bit of fun. In fact the name sirloin is an anglicisation of the middle French term “sur longe” – that is the upper part of the loin. So it is really the story of someone having a play with words.

I decided to hop on a 212 bus back into Chingford, as it is quite a way.

Now as the bus turns left from Friday Hill into Kings Road keep a look out to the left. These are the allotments of Pimp Hall Park and in the distance you can see an old building. This is the Pimp Hall Barn and Dovecot dating from the 17th Century.


(not a bad picture considering it was taken from a moving bus!)

In conclusion I have to mention again that E4 is the only London postcode to include an area outside the administrative boundary of Greater London. This is a place called Sewardstone. There is not a lot there but it does contains the world HQ of the Scout movement at Gilwell Park.

But getting there proved to be too much of a challenge as it only has a sporadic bus service. Route number 505 runs between Chingford and Harlow just six times a day. It is not part of the London bus network and is currently operated by a small independent bus company called Trustybus.

Sadly to get there and back from Chingford involves a wait of at least an hour and a bit, sometimes two hours in Sewardstone. Fascinating though Sewardstone may be I decided not to take the diversion. But one day, I will definitely have to visit the place, just to say I have been!

So that brings us to the end of E4. Even though we did not get to the bit outside Greater London, we have certainly seen a great variety of stuff, with fascinating connections with Tudor royalty, through to Winston Churchill, Ivor Novello, Lawrence of Arabia, Walt Disney and David Beckham. And thanks to Joanna for her info about Chingford.

If you took my advice and got the 212 bus, this will take you back to Chingford station for onward travel. Otherwise it is a bit of a trek from Friday Hill. Retrace your steps along Friday Hill, turn left at Kings Road and then right at Station Road which will eventually lead you to the station.

E3: Not those bells…


E3 is Bow but it is not the location of the “Great Bell of Bow” in the Nursery Rhyme “Oranges and Lemons”. Nor does being born in Bow E3 mean you are a true Cockney. You have to live within the sound of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City to qualify and that is where the Great Bell of Bow is. But some people from Bow like to call themselves true Cockneys, as indeed did my father who grew up in Bow.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 603 Roman Road. This is actually just a little way along from where you finished the E2 walk. Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Roman Road which here is a part time market. Our first stop is at the junction with Parnell Road.

Stop 1: Iceni Court

Just by this junction across the road on the left is a non descript block of flats called Iceni Court.


No this is not the site of an old cinema but I had to stop to because of the sign here.


Not sure how accurate this is. The Romans certainly came to Britain in AD43 and they did built a road from London to Colchester. But surely the road to Colchester leaves the City at Aldgate and goes through Whitechapel and Mile End. The alignment of the modern day street called Roman Road is further north and would mean leaving the City at Bishopsgate and then turning right.

However looking at the map you can see that if you carry straight on from Roman Road and cross the River Lea you are in Stratford in direct line with the road to Colchester. So maybe it was just an alternative route. But which one came first?

At this end of the northern route we have the district known as Old Ford perhaps indicating that this was the older crossing of the Lea but at the east end of the southern route we have Aldgate, which means Old Gate. It just seems more logical that the road went directly out of a gate. Who knows? So even if they built the road from London to Colchester and beyond as soon as they got here in AD43, it is not clear whether the early road was on the alignment of the street we now call Roman Road.

The other curious thing about this block of flats is that the name that the powers that be have chosen to use.


Iceni was the local tribe in Roman times (at one point headed by warrior queen, Boudica). So they are celebrating the Romans by naming the building after a tribe that revolted against the Romans.

Turn right into Parnell Road and at the end turn left into Tredegar Road and then almost immediately right into Fairfield Road. Our next stop is on the left before the railway, set back behind some railings.

Stop 2: Bow Quarter (Former Bryant and May Match Factory)


This is the former factory of the Bryant and May match company. Once when almost everyone smoked and before the days of electric light, matches were a key item in every household.


This site was acquired by two Quaker businessmen William Bryant and Francis May in 1861 to produce what were known as “safety matches”. These are matches which only work when struck against a specifically prepared surface as opposed to any old rough surface. This makes them safer to handle.

The concept was developed in Sweden in the 1840s by Gustaf Erik Pasch. Pasch patented the use of red phosphorus in the striking surface. Then two brothers by the name of Lundström started making safety matches on a commercial scale and Bryant and May bought the British patent so they could produce safety matches here.

Match production ceased in 1979 and the building is now private apartments known as the Bow Quarter.


In the 19th century, match making was a hazardous business for the workers because of the exposure to dangerous chemicals in particular Phosphorus. In 1888, there was a strike of workers which arose out of the dismissal of a worker and led to the whole factory stopping work. They are always described as “match girls”, so I guess they were all or almost all women employed in this work. Some of the strikers went to see a local social activist Annie Besant and to ask for her assistance.


It was at this point she became involved as she was concerned by their precipitate action and by the number of women who were now out of work with no means of support. She did not start or lead the strike, in fact she never worked at the factory.

Annie Besant sounds quite a character. She became interested in Theosophy, which seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe and the bonds that unite the universe, humanity, and the divine. Theosophy had a particular interest in eastern mysticism and Besant travelled to India and later became involved in the movement for Indian independence.

The factory was rebuilt in 1911 and the brick entrance includes a depiction of Noah’s Ark and the word ‘Security’. This featured in their trademark which was used on the matchboxes.


Go under the railway bridge and our next stop is soon on the left.

Stop 3: Bow Bus garage


This bus garage has the look of a tram depot and indeed it was. Originally this was a tram depot for the North Metropolitan Tramways Company. Their first route had been a horse tram service from Whitechapel to Bow which started in 1870. The building we see today was built in 1908 by which time the trams were electric. It was used to house trolley buses from 1939 and became a bus depot in 1959. Today it houses lots of the Boris buses (which are used on Route 8).


Continue walking along Fairfield Road and just before the end, there is a plaque on the right.

Stop 4: Site of the Fair Field


So this is the origin of the name Fairfield. Obvious really and in fact the Fairfield Halls in Croydon is similarly named after an old fair site. Interesting that “rowdiness and vice” at public events is not such a new thing.

Actually the building on which this plaque is placed is our next stop but to get a better view go to the junction with the main road (Bow Road).

Stop 5: Former Town Hall

This was built as the Town Hall for Poplar Borough Council, which confusingly they chose to build in Bow. The building dates from 1937/38 and the architect is Clifford Culpin who went on to design the better known Greenwich Town Hall.



There are five relief panels with depictions of the type of workers involved in creating the building: welder, carpenter, architect, labourer and stone mason. Here are three of them.




Turn left and you will see the road divides around a statue. This is of William Ewart Gladstone, 19th century prime minister.


Cross the road near the statue. Once across you will see a little garden and a church at the end. Go in the garden.

Stop 6: Bow Church

Ahead is St Mary’s Church.


This started as a Chapel of Ease for Stepney in 1311, and only became a parish in its own right in 1719. Architectural guru Pevsner says the tower is 15th Century and the north aisle wall is the oldest part dating from the 14th Century. The mishmash of old bits survived because there was no money to rebuilt completely. When rebuilding was required following the collapse of the Chancel in 1896, the approach was to conserve and retain rather than replace wholesale. The building was damaged in the Second World War but repaired.

And if you look back, you get this view.


It is hard to believe we are on a traffic island in the middle of one of London’s main roads.

Now head back out of the garden and turn left. Cross the road and turn right heading back towards the Town Hall. Our next stop is on the left and is bright orange.

Stop 7: Bow Bells pub, 116 Bow Road

This pub perpetuates the myth that Bow is somehow connected with the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” and with being a cockney.

Exhibit One is the pub sign.


And Exhibit Two is this board on the pub’s frontage with the words of Oranges and Lemons.


This is of course complete nonsense, because the bells referred to are those of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story.

By the way the Bow we are in derives its name from the bridge over the nearby River Lea.

In 1110 Queen Matilda, wife of King Henry I, was crossing the ford over the river Lea hereabouts on her way to Barking Abbey and is said to have taken a tumble. As a result she ordered a bridge to be built.

The bridge had a distinctive bow shape and so the area on the west side of the river became Stratford-atte-Bow (Stratford at the Bow) which over time was shortened to Bow. This distinguished it from the Stratford on the east side of the Lea which was known as Stratford Langthorne after the name of the Abbey there. But of course today, that is just plain old Stratford.

Head back towards the church but turn right at the crossing next to the statue of Gladstone. Follow that road round as it bends to the left. This is Bromley High Street, which may once have been a humming centre but which today is almost completely devoid of any commercial activity. At the end you will see a gateway across the road to your right.

Stop 8: St Leonard’s Churchyard

At the end of Bromley High Street where St Leonard’s Street comes in from the right, you will see an old gateway. This was the entrance to St Leonard’s churchyard.


This gateway dates from 1894 and was built as a memorial to the Rev How, the vicar at St Leonards who had died the year before.



Go though the gateway.


It is a depressing site. It obviously at one time had been sorted out but today it is a complete mess. And it is hardly a tranquil spot as the northern approach to the Blackwall Tunnel is on the far side and you can see the road from a hole in the fence. The traffic noise is very evident.


This in fact was the site of St Leonard’s Priory, a Benedictine nunnery founded in 11th Century. Geoffrey Chaucer has a little reference in the prologue to The Canterbury Tales where he introduces the Prioress.

“Ther was also a nonne, a prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte loy;
And she was cleped madame eglentyne.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of stratford atte bowe,
For frenssh of parys was to hire unknowe.”

Basically the Prioress had learned French from the Benedictine nuns here. As a result she had a distinct Anglo-Norman dialect, which was regarded by sub-standard French, compared to that spoken in Paris.

Like other religious houses, the Abbey was destroyed in the 1530s. The property was mostly acquired by Sir Ralph Sadleir, who lived at Sutton House in Homerton (which is now owned by the National Trust).  But the church became the parish church of St Leonards. There is no church here today as it was destroyed by bombing in World War II and by the building of the Blackwall Tunnel approach road. All that remains is this rundown garden and the Victorian archway.

Go back out of the Churchyard and go down St Leonard’s Street which is immediately to your left.

Note the school on your right.

Stop 9: Old Palace School


Pevsner describes the school as “Light curtain walled buildings in the Festival style, fresh and cheerful”. The building dates from 1952, the year after the Festival of Britain.

It is called Old Palace School because it is on the site on a palace was built for James I in 1606. Well actually it was more a hunting lodge than a Palace. Some of the stonework was recycled from the remains of the priory just over the road.

It remained in Royal use in the reigns of Kings Charles II and James II. But by the 18th century the Palace was converted into two houses for merchants, and then it had other uses including becoming a boarding school. The house was demolished at the end of the 19th century by the London School Board so they could build a local school.

But we are stopping here not because of the school itself but because of the little plaque on the main building facing the road. This commemorates firefighters who were killed here in April 1941. This is said to be the largest single loss of fire personnel life in English history.


Now just here on the left is Franklin Street.


I only mention this because this is the street my father lived in as a child and young adult. However the street he knew was completely destroyed in the blitz, maybe it was the same raid as hit the school. So today there are houses that look like they were built in the 1950s or early 1960s.


Continue walking along St Leonard’s Street and ahead on the right is our next stop.

Stop 10: Bromley by Bow Centre

The Bromley by Bow Centre is a community organisation which encompasses an array of integrated social enterprises based around art, health, education and practical skills. And one of the entrances is though this old archway.


This gateway is 18th century (possibly late 1740s) and was originally at a riverside entrance to Northumberland House in the Strand near modern day Charing Cross Station.

So how did it get to Bow? The answer is that when Northumberland House was being demolished in 1874, the arch was bought by a man called Rutty who owned a house here in Bow called Tudor House. He wanted it to embellish his garden. That garden was bought by Poplar Borough Council in 1900 to form a public open space.

The park was first called Bromley Recreation Ground and was also known as Grace Street Park. It was later Bob’s Park renamed by local people after the park keeper, Robert Grenfell.

The archway was moved to its present location with money from Tescos who had built a large supermarket nearby.

The entrance to the park from St Leonard’s Street is just past the archway.

Go into the park and as you enter you will see an obelisk on your right.


This is actually a First World War memorial but it has been positioned so that the writing faces away from the pathway – almost as if the authorities wanted to hide what its original purpose was.

As you go into the park you will see a building looming over it on the far side. I think it must have been around here that my father and his twin brother got into trouble for playing cricket on the wall and disturbing the Indian gentleman who was staying in the building. More of which anon.


Now head through the park and out the other side turning right (This is Powis Road). Our next stop is the large building on the right.

Stop 10: Kingsley Hall


This is Kingsley Hall, named after Kingsley Lester who died aged 26 in 1914, leaving money for work in this area for “educational, social and recreational” purposes. His sisters Doris and Muriel bought and converted a disused chapel. It outgrew its original building and a new Hall was designed by well known architect Charles Voysey.

There was a stone-laying ceremony which took place on 14 July 1927. The Kingsley Hall website lists 18 stones representing different aspects of life and they seem to have had an appropriate person laying each stone. So Voysey laid the brick of “Architecture”, sculptor Gilbert Bayes laid “Art”, writer, John Galsworthy “Literature” and actor Sybil Thorndike “Drama”, but oddly local Labour politician George Lansbury laid the brick “Sunday Evening Service”.

Well as you can see there is a blue plaque on the front of the Hall which indicates a certain indian man called Mahatma Ghandi (1869 – 1948) stayed here in 1931.


He had been invited to England but refused to stay in a hotel so was put up here in the East End for some 12 weeks from September to December 1931. So it was him who my father and uncle (aged 8) must have been disturbing.

More about this building is on the Hall’s website: http://www.kingsley-hall.co.uk/kingsleyhall.htm It has quite a history.

Now head along Bruce Road and turn left into Devons Road. Follow this, as it does a right hand turn and carry along the road which is still Devons Road. Go past the DLR station for our final stop which is on the left.

Stop 12: The Widow’s Son pub

Pubs in this area are becoming a rare sight, what with the change in demographics, drinking habits and property values. But this unpromising looking pub just by Devons Road DLR station has a rather unqiue story.


The story goes that there was an old widow whose only son left to go to sea. He wrote to her saying that he would be returning home at Easter and to have a nice hot cross bun waiting for him. He never returned, but his mother continued to put by a fresh hot cross bun every Good Friday for the rest of her life. After her death a hoard of hot cross buns was discovered.

A pub was built on the site of her cottage in 1848 and so began a tradition of a sailor placing a new bun in net over the bar each Good Friday.


You can’t help thinking “Widow’s Son” ought to be “Hot Cross Bun” in cockney rhyming slang – but it is not, so far as I can tell.

This pub was sold by Punch Taverns in 2012 to a developer who has been seeking planning permission to convert the building to flats, so far unsuccessfully. The pub is still trading but one wonders how much longer this quirky little slice of London will survive.

So that brings us to the end of our E3 walk though Bow and Bromley. Whilst this area suffered badly during the Blitz, it still retain some older buildings with reminders of a world before industrialisation and also of a quite radical past.

You are close by Devons Road DLR station for onward travel.


E2: All behind Ewan and ‘is London Fog


E2 is Bethnal Green and what is surprising is that there is quite a lot of green in Bethnal Green.

We start our walk at Bethnal Green Post Office at 223 – 227 Bethnal Green Road. (NB there are two Post Offices in Bethnal Green Road and this is the one which is closest to the City – ie the west end of the road.)

Turn left out of the post office and our first stop is on the left.

Stop 1: Former Essoldo Cinema, Number 283 Bethnal Green Road

A quick glance at this building does suggest cinema and indeed it was.


It started life as Smart’s Picture House in April 1913. It was remodeled in 1938 by well known cinema architect George Coles. A new streamlined Art Deco facade was added and the auditorium was given an Art Deco makeover.

It reopened as the Rex Cinema and in December 1949 it was taken over by the Essoldo chain of cinemas and re-named Essoldo. The cinema closed in 1964 and it became a bingo club until around 1990.

The building became a storeroom and trade only retail outlet but today it seems to be unused.

Continue along Bethnal Green Road. Our next stop is just after the junction with Valance Road  – on the right before you get to Hague Street.

Stop 2: E Pellicci, Number 332 Bethnal Green Road

Well this is an unexpected survival.



This italian cafe was established in 1900 and it is still owned by the founding family. But it is the makeover it had in 1946 that makes it special.

It is now Grade II listed. English Heritage inspectors describe it as having a ‘stylish shop front of custard Vitrolite panels, steel frame and lettering as well as a rich Deco-style marquetry panelled interior, altogether representing an architecturally strong and increasingly rare example of the intact and stylish Italian caf that flourished in London in the inter-war years.”

Return to Valance Road and turn left. Go past the park on your left and stop just before you get to the railway.

Stop 3: Numbers 170 – 184 Valance Road

Here is a little redevelopment by self builders which was “inaugurated” by Prince Charles on 15 September 1988. (Not sure what that means in the context of a building)



If the current street numbers equate to the old ones then this was about where the notorious Kray family lived. According to Wikipedia, the family moved to 178 Valance Road from Stean Street in Hoxton in 1938.

Return along Valance Road and turn right into the park which is our next stop.

Stop 4: Weavers Fields

According to the architectural reference book, Pevsner, this open space was created in the 1970s by the complete destruction of a densely packed area of early 19th century two storey weavers’ cottages.



If you keep walking along the path you will get to a kind of a roundabout. In the middle is an interesting sculpture, called Weaving Identities. It was a commission by Tower Hamlets Council and completed in December 2003.



Here is a link to some more information of the work.


At the artwork do a left turn and head out of the park. There is a big red brick building ahead of you. This is Oxford House and dates from the 1890s.


Oxford House was established in 1884 as a “university settlement house”. Students and graduates from Keble College, Oxford undertook a period of residential volunteering to learn at first hand about the realities of urban poverty. These volunteers lived upstairs in Oxford House which was like a mini Oxford college in the heart of Bethnal Green.

Today Oxford House carries on with providing affordable office space for local groups, an arts centre and volunteering opportunities.

More info at: http://www.oxfordhouse.org.uk/

This includes information about their plans to develop the building, including renovating the chapel.

Go along the street (Derbyshire Street) ahead of you – with Oxford House on your right. Then when you get back to Bethnal Green Road, turn right and keep going. Pass under the railway bridge and turn left into a little street facing a garden.

Stop 5: Paradise Row

This is a lovely little terrace of houses dating from late 18th and early 19th century set beside a little green.


And here at Number 3 is a local blue plaque.


Daniel Mendoza (1764 – 1836) was an English prizefighter, who was boxing champion of England in 1792–1795. He was of Portuguese-Jewish descent.

In 1981, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (who knew such a thing existed!)

Here is a link to his story on their site:  http://www.jewishsports.net/BioPages/DanielMendoza.htm

Our next stop is just across the main road (Cambridge Heath Road)

Stop 6: V & A Museum of Childhood

This building is an outpost of the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington.



It does look a bit like it was an old tram shed, but actually the building has a much more interesting heritage.

The building we see today dates from 1868 – 1872 but incorporates the iron structure of the first temporary museum erected at South Kensington in the mid 1850s with the proceeds of the 1851 Great Exhibition.

According to Pevsner, as work was beginning on the permanent museum structure, the Government offered the temporary building to any London district capable of, or interested in, taking it. The plan was to split it so as to establish museums in more than one place. But in the end, it came to Bethnal Green – or rather two thirds of it came here. A bit stayed in South Ken but was subsequently demolished in 1906.

At first the Bethnal Green building held the Wallace Collection (now in Manchester Square) and later it had exhibits related to the trades and industries of the East End. It became the V & A Museum of Childhood in 1974.

And if you look down the right hand side by the gardens, you will see these rather lovely panels high up on the walls. These represent the work of man in the arts, sciences, industry and agriculture.


Our next stop is just along Cambridge Heath Road.

Stop 7: Mayfield house, Number 172 Cambridge Heath Road


On the site of this dull block of flats once stood a cinema.

When it opened in December 1912 it was called Museum Cinema, a nod to its neighbour just down the road.

It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1931. Taken over by the Odeon chain in February 1943, it was renamed Odeon Bethnal Green in 1950. After closure in December 1956, the building was demolished and Mayfield House was built on the site.

Our next stop is just next door to Mayfield House.

Stop 8: Town Hall Hotel

This building was the town hall of Bethnal Green Borough Council. The front dates from 1910 but there is a 1930s extension with the interiors in Deco style.


No longer a Town Hall the building was converted to become a boutique hotel in 2010.


Now retrace your steps along Cambridge Heath Road. Our next stop is at the corner by the church.

Stop 9: Bethnal Green Underground station and memorial

The Underground station here opened in 1946 but the building was well advanced before the war and so the station was used as an air raid shelter.

The station is an example of the style adopted by London Transport for new tube stations built under the “New Works Programme 1935 – 1940” . Downstairs the platforms have cream tiles and very so often there is a little special decorative tile showing an image in relief. These seem to have survived the refurbishment of 2007




Back on the surface at the south west corner of the junction (diagonally opposite the church)  is a rather neglected bit of art work in the pavement. according to Pevsner this dates from 2004 and is by A J Bernasconi.


It is described as pavement set lights in glazed segmental curved trenches with embossed images of ‘child friendly’ objects.


Obviously it references the nearby Museum of Childhood. But it is looking sadly neglected.

On the south east corner of the junction is a green. As you go in, there is a monument looming up.



This is the memorial to what is considered to have been the largest single loss of civilian life in the UK in World War Two and the largest loss of life in a single incident on the London Underground network.

On 3 March 1943, people had crowded into the underground station due to an air raid siren at 8:17pm. There was a panic at 8:27pm coinciding with the sound of an anti-aircraft battery being fired at nearby Victoria Park. In the wet, dark conditions the crowd was surging forward towards the shelter when a woman tripped on the stairs, causing many others to fall. Within a few seconds 300 people were crushed into the tiny stairwell, resulting in 173 deaths. The media reported that there had been a direct hit by a German bomb. The results of the official investigation were not released until 1946.

Here is a piece from the BBC about the disaster: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-21645163

A small memorial plaque was put up in the 1990s.  In 2007 the “Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust” was established to create a more fitting memorial to those who died in the disaster. This is only partly complete as there is eventually going to be an actual staircase suspended from the concrete upright. More info at: http://www.stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org/

Go down Roman Road (This runs between the green and the church). you will see ahead on the right a sculptural structure featuring a globe.


This marks the beginning of what is known as Globe Town.  This district began to be built up in the early 1800s to provide for the expanding population of weavers around Bethnal Green attracted by improving prospects in silk weaving. By the 1820s, the silk industry was in decline but the area turned to manufacturing other goods such as furniture, boots and clothing.

Take the left turning at the cross roads by the Globe. This is Globe Road.

Stop 10: East End Dwelling Company buildings, Globe Road

Just a little way along Globe Road, you come into an area which was redeveloped by a private company, the East End Dwellings Company (EEDC) between 1900 and 1906.

This company was incorporated in 1884. One of its founders was the Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett, who later with his wife went on to establish Hampstead Garden Suburb which we saw in NW11. They also founded the first University Settlement at Toynbee Hall (near Aldgate) in 1884, which sadly we did not get a chance to see in E1.

The aim of EEDC was to “house the very poor while realising some profit”. Their first development was Katharine Buildings in Aldgate, which was followed by a number of schemes here in Bethnal Green.

First comes Mendip House which dates from 1900.


Then ahead is a series of 5 storey blocks of flats dating from 1901 – 1906.


But the company also built some terraced housing as can be seen on the right hand side of the road. These date from 1906.


Continue along Globe Road and turn right into Cyprus Street. Go along the first part and continue through the modern development. The bit of the street you have come to see is on the other side.

Stop 11: Cyprus Street

According to Pevsner, this street was built in 1850/51 as Wellington Street. Interesting in that the Duke of Wellington died in 1852, by which time he had retired from public life. So one wonders why the street got this name. Maybe it was actually named in 1852. But by 1879 it had been renamed Cyprus Street. No idea why.


Lovely though this street is, what makes it rather interesting is this unusual war memorial, which sits opposite Clyde Place.


During the Great War, unofficial memorials were often set up to local men who had been killed in battle. Such memorials were usually temporary and were later replaced by grander, official ones after the war.

The Cyprus Street plaque was originally paid for by the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged and Demobolised Soldiers and Sailors Benevolent Club; a group who were based at and took their name from a local pub (now closed like so many in this part of the world).

But all is not what it seems, according to this site:


In the 1960s the Cyprus Street memorial was nearly lost for good when the local housing association decided to build a modern block of flats on the site. (I guess that is what we just walked through) During the demolition of the house upon which the memorial was located, the plaque was damaged. The monument was rescued and it (or perhaps a replica) was reinstated further down the street.

At the end of Cyprus Street turn left and then right. Soon you will see the gateway style entrance to the Cranbrook Estate.


Go in and follow the road straight ahead (Mace Street)


Veer towards the left and walk through the estate. As you come past Offenbach House have a look to your right where you get a glimpse of the Shard.


By the way the Cranbrook Estate dates from the first half of the 1960s and was the last of three developments by Skinner, Bailey and Lubetkin for Bethnal Green Borough Council. The latter of course we came across in relation to the privately developed Highpoint flats in Highgate which were built in the 1930s.

Keep walking through the Cranbrook Estate and when you come out the other side you will be back on Roman Road. There is another Globe gateway sculpture here.


If you turn right onto Roman Road you will soon see our final stop, set back off the main road in a fenced off area.

Stop 12: The Blind Beggar and his Dog

This is the Blind Beggar and his Dog by Dame Elizabeth Frink.

Or perhaps as the locals almost certainly would not call it: “All behind Ewan an’ ‘is London Fog” (All Behind = Blind; Ewan McGreggor = Beggar and London Fog = Dog). Well possibly!


You cannot normally get near because it is a private garden but I struck lucky when I was passing. A handyman was working in the area and he let me in the gate, so I could get a bit closer.


So that is the Blind Beggar and his dog we heard about in E1 where there is the pub of that name. Of course as we heard then, the legend of the Blind Beggar actually relates to Bethnal Green.

So that brings us to the end of our E2 walk. Again there was much more than I could possibly cover. In particular I could not include the Boundary Estate an early example of social housing, nor the location of the now closed Club Row market, which specialised in live animals. But we did get to see some interesting street artworks and memorials, not to mention the sites of two cinemas and the outpost of a major national museum.

You are now on Roman Road where you can get buses back to Bethnal Green tube or to Mile End for onward travel.

E1: You either see it or you don’t


E1 is the start of the real East End. It is a challenge as there is so much of interest to see. I have therefore focussed on the area from Whitechapel to Spitalfields, and even then I have had to leave out some things which I would loved to have mentioned.

We start our walk at Whitechapel Post Office, 208A- 210 Whitechapel Road. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way along on the other side of the road.

Stop 1: Former Mann’s Albion Brewery



According to architectural guru Pevsner, a brew house was established here in 1808 by the landlord of the nearby Blind Beggar pub.  In 1818, two Lambeth brewers, Blake and Mann, bought the lease. Philip Blake retired in 1826 leaving John Mann to run the business alone. The Company’s name changed to John Mann, Brewer and in 1843 to Mann and Sons. Mann soon got new partners during the 1840s with Robert Crossman and Thomas Paulin. The company’s name then changed to Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd – as you just about see on this picture.


By the 1950s, five generations of the Mann and Crossman families had been associated with the brewing and “Mann’s Brown Ale” was perhaps their best known product.

In 1959 the company merged with Watney, Combe, Reid and Co. to form Watney, Mann Ltd. Later in 1972 this Company was bought by Grand Metropolitan, who closed the Albion Brewery in 1979. The buildings were converted to flats in the early 1990s.

And just at the corner is the Blind Beggar pub.


There has been an ale house here for a long time possibly back to the late 17th century, although the present building dates from 1894.


The pub’s name references the story of the Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green. According to the legend in the 13th century there was a blind beggar living in Bethnal Green who was in fact Henry de Montfort, eldest son of Simon de Montfort. His identity was revealed at the wedding feast of his daughter Bessie.

A depiction of the beggar had appeared on the head of the staff of the local beadle from 1690. And when the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green was formed in 1900 the borough seal depicted a scene based on The Beggar’s Daughter of Bednall Green. This was a version of the story from a poem in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, published in 1765 but which had been around since the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1865, William Booth preached his first open-air sermon outside the Blind Beggar, which led to the establishment of the East London Christian Mission, later to become the Salvation Army. Although today their headquarters is in Queen Victoria Street in the City and the UK HQ is Newington Causeway SE1, the Salvation Army still has a presence locally. We will pass Booth House as we walk along the main road later.

This pub was also the location of a notorious murder on 9 March 1966 when local villain, Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell, an associate of a rival gang, the Richardsons.

More info on this lovely website: http://www.eastlondonhistory.co.uk/the-blind-beggar-pub/

At this point you could take a short diversion down Sydney Street and right into Ashfield Street

Stop 1a: Number 91 Ashfield Street

Sir Jack Cohen (1898-1979) founder of Tesco Stores, lived at 91 Ashfield Street as a child.


Jack Cohen began with a market stall in 1919. According to the Tesco company website, the Tesco name first appeared in 1924, after Cohen purchased a shipment of tea from T. E. Stockwell and combined those initials with the first two letters of his surname, and the first Tesco store opened in 1929 in Burnt Oak, Barnet. Tesco then went on to become the retail giant we know (and love?) today.


Return up Cavell Street and then left into Whitechapel Road. But if you have not taken the diversion just retrace your steps along Whitechapel Road.

Stop 2: Royal London Hospital

Our next stop is on the left.

The Royal London Hospital was founded in September 1740 initially as The London Infirmary becoming the London Hospital in 1748. The hospital moved to its current location on the south side of Whitechapel Road in 1757. The buildings we see today date from the late 18th and 19th century. The hospital only got its Royal tag following a visit by the Queen in 1990, when the hospital celebrated its 250th anniversary.


The hospital is undergoing a multi million pound rebuild at the moment and so the older buildings facing Whitechapel Road are surrounded by hoardings at present.


But if you look to the left of the main portico you might just spot this blue plaque to Nurse Edith Cavell (1865 – 1915).


She worked here from 1896 until 1901.  She was a nurse in German occupied Belgium in the First World War and helped some 200 Allied soldiers escape. She was arrested and accused of treason, found guilty by a court-martial and sentenced to death. Despite international pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad.

Continue walking along Whitechapel Road. Note the great view towards the City.


And also Booth House across the road.


Stop 3: Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Just at the corner of  Fieldgate Street is our next stop, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry – a quite amazing survival.


The foundry was first recorded in Whitechapel in the 15th century and has been on this site since 1738. However Pevsner suggests most of the buildings we see on Whitechapel Road are 19th century. The Foundry made many famous bells including of course Big Ben and the Liberty bell which can be found in Philadelphia.

“Big Ben” by the way weighs 13½ tons and is the largest bell ever cast at the foundry.

The foundry is still making bells – large and small.

The place has a curious old fashioned look about it.


It is like it is in a time warp – except of course for the no smoking sign which drags it back to the 21st century.

Keep walking along Whitechapel Road. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 4: Altab Ali Park



This is the site of the church which gives the area its name. The church here was called St Mary Matfelon. It was at first a chapel of ease – that is a subsidiary church – to St Dunstan’s Stepney. It had a whitewashed exterior and so became known as the White Chapel. The name Matfelon comes from the family who rebuilt the church in the 14th century.

The church was rebuilt a couple of times, most recently in the 1870s. The church was severely damaged by fire in the Blitz and the ruins were finally demolished in 1952. But part of the church outline is traced out in some paving in the garden.


The churchyard became St Mary’s Gardens in 1966 but was renamed Altab Ali Park in 1989 after a Bangladeshi student murdered in 1979.

There is also a monument here in the diagonally opposite corner from where you first started with this park.


This is called the Martyrs Monument and dates from 1999. It is a copy of a monument originally erected in Bangladesh to the memory of 5 students killed in 1952.

Cross over the main road and take the right hand turn called Osborn Street. This is just before the Whitechapel Gallery (which sadly we have not got time to cover)

Stop 5 Brick Lane

Osborn Street becomes Brick Lane. Today this area has been rechristened (if that is the right term!) Banglatown.


The street is a seemingly endless strip of curry houses all vying for trade. Pevsner says this “has much character but little that stands out architecturally”. The street was strongly Jewish in the early 20th century but has since become a centre for Bangladeshi immigrants who settled in the area in large numbers from the 1970s.

Useless fact: The street’s name came from the nearby clay pits used for brickmaking. It was first built up haphazardly during the 17th century and much rebuilt around 1900.

We can take a slight diversion here and keep going along Brick Lane.

Stop 5a: Former Truman Brewery

Ahead is the former Truman Brewery. you cannot really miss it as part of it spans the street.


The brewery was established in this area in the 1660s and was in the ownership of  Joseph Truman in the 1680s. A succession of Truman ran it for the next 100 or so years.

The last Truman to operate the brewery was Benjamin Truman. When he died in 1780, he left most of the brewery to his grandsons, with the rest going to his head clerk James Grant, who took over the running of the brewery. After Grant’s death in 1788, his share was purchased by Sampson Hanbury, who went on to run Truman’s for the next 46 years.

Hanbury brought new levels of professionalism and efficiency, including purchasing the brewery’s first steam engine in 1805. In 1808, Hanbury’s nephew Thomas Fowell Buxton joined the firm, which then became Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Co Ltd.


In 1971 Truman’s became the centre of a bidding war between Grand Metropolitan and Watney Mann, which as we have just heard had a local foothold with its brewery in Whitechapel. Eventually, Grand Metropolitan won. It then pursued and took over Watney Mann whereupon Grand Metropolitan then merged Watney Mann with Truman’s.

Grand Metropolitan made many changes to the company, in particular focussing on keg beer. But the company’s fortunes did not improve and although cask beer was brought back in the 1980s along with the traditional Truman’s eagle logo, the Brick Lane brewery was shut in 1989. Today it is an interesting mix of commercial premises, including some trendy market areas.

If you go under the bridge bit there is a the building on the left with a blue plaque.


This is for Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786 -1845) who was an anti-slavery campaigner in addition to being a key player in the beer business.


Go down Hanbury Street. This will be a left if you have not gone to the Brewery or if you have, retrace your steps down Brick Lane and take a right 

Stop 6: Hanbury Street

Hanbury Street is no doubt named after the brewery family. There are a couple of things to mention on this stretch of Hanbury Street west of Brick Lane, both on the left as you go along the street.

First is Hanbury Hall.



As the blue plaque says this was built in 1719 as a French Huguenot church. Having escaped France which at the time did not tolerate protestants, they had settled in the area and were largely engaged in the silk trade. Later it became a German Lutheran church, then a Baptist and finally a Methodist church. In 1887, the local Church of England parish church, Christ Church, bought the building and made it their church hall.

And it has some other interesting connections. Charles Dickens was a regular visitor in the 1800s using the building for public readings of his works and in 1888 young women working at the local Bryant and May match factory held their strike meetings here as they prepared to protest against working conditions at the factory. This was an important step in establishing trade unions.

And just before the junction with Commercial Street, there is a very red shop with a blue plaque.


This was the birthplace of comedian Bud Flanagan (1896 – 1968).


He was one of the Crazy Gang, a group of British comedians who were popular in the 1930s and 1940s , The members were: Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton and Jimmy Gold and sometimes ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray. Essentially the gang comprised three double acts; Flanagan and Allen, Naughton and Gold, and Nervo and Knox (with some input from Gray). They had all had success before the Crazy Gang but not of the same magnitude.

Flanagan also wrote the song “Underneath the Arches” which in effect became Flanagan and Allen’s theme song,

At the end of Hanbury Street turn right into Commercial Street. Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 7: Spitalfields Market

According to the City of London Corporation website,  Spitalfields is one of the City’s younger markets, starting life as a thirteenth century market in a field next to St Mary Spital on the edge of the Square Mile. It explains:

“In 1682, King Charles II granted John Balch, a silk thrower, a Royal Charter that gave him the right to hold a market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or near Spital Square. For the next 200 years, the market traded from a collection of sheds and stalls, doing its best to cope with London’s growing appetite for fresh fruit and vegetables. As time went by, it became a centre for the sale of home-grown produce, which was being traded there six days a week.

By 1876, a former market porter called Robert Horner bought a short lease on the market and started work on a new market building, which was completed in 1893 at a cost of £80,000. In 1920, the City of London acquired direct control of the market, extending the original buildings some eight years later.”


And here is a detail from over the doorway which refers to Robert Horner and so predates the City Corporation’s ownership.


Not sure which Queen Victoria Jubilee this would be, Is it the 50th (Golden) which would have been 1887 or perhaps the 60th (Diamond) which was 1897?

The wholesale market moved out to purpose built premises in Leyton in 1991. And for a while it was not clear what would happen.

In the end around two-thirds of the historic market was kept and rebuilt to include restaurants, shops and a large indoor arts and crafts market.


But the 1920s market extension to the west was replaced by a Norman Foster designed office block. Pevsner says “The baleful  effect of this cannot be overemphasised and marks the continued, and doubtless irresistible, empire building of the City of London over the domestic and social needs of the East End.” Quite.

If you have ventured in to the market come back out. Our next stop is on Commercial Street on the diagonally opposite corner to the old market building.

Stop 8: Christ Church, Spitalfields

Christ Church Spitalfields is the Nicholas Hawksmoor masterpiece, started in 1715 and consecrated in 1729. It was built in part to demonstrate the power of the established church to the dissenting Huguenots, who had established a number of their own chapels in the area.


The church has gone through some hard times, having been closed as unsafe in 1958. In 1966 the crypt was restored and then starting in 1976 a major restoration was undertaken. It is a wonderful space, well worth a visit. It is open most days. It is also used for concerts, events and functions.

Now take the street to the left of the main market building. This is Brushfield Street, The site immediately on the left (south) side of Brushfield Street is currently being rebuilt. Only the facade of the old building remains. This was the Fruit and Wool Exchange building of 1926.


Stop 9: Brushfield Street

Just after this building site is a run of interesting old buildings on your left, some are facsimiles (numbers 8 – 10 near Bishopsgate were rebuilt after a fire in 1983)


Numbers 40 – 42 and 14 – 16 are genuine 18th century. Number 40 is Verde and Company.


This is a lovely little shop which does great sandwiches and salads plus some luxurious food items. You often see oranges on display.


Well this seems to be a little nod to the author Jeanette Winterson who owns the building.

In an article in the Guardian in June 2010 she said:

“My house had been the offices of an oranges importer – which seemed auspicious, as my first novel was Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Then I found out that the business had been called JW Fruits – so I had to buy it, didn’t I?”

A coffee chain wanted to rent the premises but she explained:

“It never occurred to me open a food shop. The coffee offer forced me to focus on what I would really like to happen, instead of either doing nothing or passively accepting what someone else would like to happen – so it was a pretty good life lesson, too.”

So she went into partnership with an american called Harvey Cabaniss to create the shop and I think he is still at front of house. By the way, the name Verde comes from a 1930s sign that was on the facade.

Here is a link to the full article in the Guardian:


Now on the right you will see a branch of Patisserie Valerie. Go into the pedestrianised area here keeping Patisserie Valerie on your right. The Foster buildings (so hated by Pevsner) are on your left.

Just ahead you will see a little area of water and beyond that is a rectangular hole in the ground. There is a lift here or else go down the steps at the far end of the hole.

Stop 10: The Charnal House


This is what’s left of the Charnel House of St Mary Spital (although the sculpture is modern).

There was a Roman cemetery hereabouts but in 1197 the site of this cemetery became a priory called The New Hospital of St Mary without Bishopsgate. This became known as St Mary Spital – hence the land nearby was Spital Fields. This religious foundation was one of the biggest hospitals in medieval England and there was also a cemetery which included a stone charnel house (used to store bones) and mortuary chapel.

There are these lovely information panels. They are rather attractive but almost impossible to read especially if it is sunny.


The Charnel House was uncovered when the area was redeveloped in the early 2000s.

Keep going straight ahead. You are now in Spital Square, which is no longer a square since redevelopment. At the end take a left into Folgate Street

Stop 11: Dennis Severs’ House, Number 18 Folgate Street

Just here in a terrace of houses dating from 1724 is a fascinating place, a visitor experience like no other.


This was the creation of one man, an American called Dennis Severs (1948 – 1999). There are ten rooms all furnished in period and are arranged as if they are in use and the occupants have only just left. So there is half-eaten bread, discarded clothes and wigs, and smells and background sounds. But no wax models of people. Severs called this “still life drama”.  You go round in your own time in silence. Highly recommended!


The motto of the house is: “You either see it or you don’t”. And in a way that is the watchword of this whole walk, be it the stones that trace the outline of the church on the site of the White Chapel, the sign giving a clue to the developer of Spitalfields Market, a basket of oranges or the little reminder of an artist’s work which we shall see at the next stop.

Now go along Folgate Street and take the next left into Elder Street. Our next stop is just on the left hand side of the street.

Stop 12: Number 32, Elder Street

This house was lived in by artist Mark Gertler (1891 – 1939).


Here is the Blue Plaque


And in addition there is this lovely little roundel in the pavement which shows a little extract of one of his famous paintings: “Merry-Go-Round”


“Merry-Go-Round” dates from 1916, when he was 24 years old. It depicts men and women (many in uniform) on a merry-go-round fairground ride.

We are now at the end of our E1 walk. There was far more to see than I could possibly cover, but hopefully I have shown you a good slice of this intriguing part of London.

For onward travel return to Folgate Street, turn right and at the end is Bishopsgate with lots of buses and just down the road is Liverpool Street station.