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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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,

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

http://www.eastend-memories.org/cinema/empress/empress3.htm

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

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And there is a sign which says 104 Mare Street.

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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:

http://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/London_Fields_Managment_Plan.pdf

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.

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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.

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It is all very pleasant and low key.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2013/07/the-upper-cut-club-part-1-rise.html

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.

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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A not very big or inspiring street!

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Next up is Dame Anna Neagle.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/09/15/saw-elba/

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.

Postscript

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

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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

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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

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Just here is one of the best sets of Edwardian public buildings in London, with the main building being the Town Hall.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And you will also see a crest up on the wall here.

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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

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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.

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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.

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The Bowls Club however do not so keen on being seen, as their green is largely hidden behind a high hedge.

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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.

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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:

http://www.hidden-histories.org.uk/wordpress/?page_id=204

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

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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.

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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.

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But it is recognisably an old cinema. This was the Granada East Ham which opened in November 1936.

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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.

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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:

http://www.pmsa.org.uk/pmsa-database/3361/#sthash.cD78U5zH.dpuf

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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

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By the way don’t forget to have a look out for Thackeray Road which runs off the other side of Barking Road.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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This looks like a new building but notice how it has the style of an old cinema.

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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.

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14648

Walk along High Street North. Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 10: Lidl store (Site of Palace Theatre)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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Much of the original Victorian station architecture has been retained and some restoration work was carried out during 2005.

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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.

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There is also a disused bay platform on the northern side of the station by the eastbouind platform.

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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.

Postscript

However if you carry on beyond the station, you will see the next street on your left is Milton Avenue.

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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”.