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

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The Fenchurch Street–Southend service was withdrawn from Plaistow in 1962 and the platforms used by that service were abandoned but can still be seen beyond the fence on the westbound platform for District and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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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After the modern housing comes this building.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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This was built by the YMCA in 1920/21.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Stop 6: Plaistow Park

This is Plaistow Park

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Stop 9: The Boleyn pub

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Then you come to a catholic church.

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

 

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Stop 10: St Mary’s Church

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.