E12 is Manor Park whose very name seems to point to a nondescript nowhere/anywhere place. As ever we will search out some interesting stuff as we walk the street hereabouts. But we will not get to Manor Park. Although there is a Manor Park cemetery, there does not seem to be an actual park called Manor Park.
We start our walk at the Post Office at 667 Romford Road, Manor Park. Turn left out of the Post Office and then left into Station Road. Our first stop is ahead a little way on the left.
Stop 1: Manor Park Station
The station was opened in 1873 by the Great Eastern Railway on a line which had opened in 1839 between Bishopsgate and Romford.
Normally trains use platforms 1 and 2 on the slow tracks. Platforms 3 and 4, on the through lines, are usually only used during engineering works. But there is an additional unnumbered, platform face south of platform 1. This is not in operation, although the track behind it is used as a passing loop for freight traffic.
The service here will become part of Crossrail in due course. The new Crossrail trains are 200 metres long but the platforms 1 and 2 are both shorter at 168 metres and 185 metres long respectively. They cannot be physically extended to accommodate the new trains so a system called selective door operation will be used, meaning that either some of the front or rear doors will not open here.
The freight loop around platform 1 is due to be removed and replaced by a new loop line further down the line to the west of Chadwell Heath.
I think the station here was rebuilt when the line was first electrified in the late 1940s and the staircases to the platforms look like they date from then as does the bits of tiling on the platform.
If you look closely, you can see how TfL did not replace the signs when they took over running the trains in 2015. They simply covered over the old signs with their new style ones.
Now take a right out of the station into Station Road and take the first right (Manor Park Road). As we walk along here, you can see the staircase more clearly and see how it is typical of that rather dull late 1930s/1940s style.
Continue following the road round and go straight ahead past the bollards. Manor Park Road goes to the left but you should carry on. Take the second turning on the left (Albany Road). Our next stop is on the right side of the road.
Stop 2: Number 25, Albany Road
This house was the birthplace of Stanley Holloway (1890-1982), stage and film actor and singer, He was named after Henry Morton Stanley, the journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and for his search for fellow explorer David Livingstone.
He is today best known for his role as Eliza Doolittle’s father, Alfred, in the musical My Fair Lady, which he played on Broadway, in the West End and in the movie.
But he did so much more than that. In particular he was also renowned for his comic monologues and songs which he performed and recorded throughout most of his career, which spanned some 70 years.
Continue along Albany Road, turn left at the end (Clarence Road) and then right into Carlton Road. Note the unusual planting in the roadside beds.
The plants include Gladioli,and (I think) Crocosmia. Not what you usually find in these kind of beds. The explanation is perhaps connected to our next stop – which is a notice board at the end of Carlton Road.
Stop 3: Manor Park Village
So this is Manor Park Village then. Not a village in the traditional sense but rather it is a “branding” of the Durham Road Conservation Zone. They have their own website: https://manorparkvillage.com/
This small enclave of late-Victorian terraced houses was designated a Conservation Area in 1984 to retain its original charm and character with additional planning controls introduced in 1998.
The area was originally developed in the 1880s on farmland that formed part of the Gurney estate. It was built by one builder to an overall plan, with a limited range of house styles giving the area a distinctive character and unity. The developers were the Corbett family who built several suburban estates including the adjacent Woodgrange Estate in Forest Gate.
But it a bit of a stretch to call this a “village”.
Turn right into Romford Road. Our next stop is a short way along on the other side of the road.
Stop 4: Woodgrange Park Station
So here we have another station. But this is on the orbital Gospel Oak – Barking line – we have seen some of its other stations as we journeyed through E7, E10 and E11.
The track was laid in 1854 as part of the first section of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway from Forest Gate Junction on the Eastern Counties Railway to Barking. In 1894 the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway opened a new railway to Tottenham beginning at a junction just north of the station site. And the station dates from this time.
As with the other stations on the Gospel Oak – Barking route, it has been denuded of its buildings, so it looks a bit forlorn.
The line here is already electrified as it is used when the Southend and Tilbury trains run to and from Liverpool Street rather than Fenchurch Street. But the trains that stop here have until recently been diesel units running between Gospel Oak and Barking. The station is closed at the moment for the upgrade of that line and so soon there will be new electric trains on this route.
There does not seem to be a Woodgrange Park. There is Woodgrange Park Cemetery but no actual Woodgrange Park as far as I can see..
Retrace your steps back along Romford Road. Our next stop is at the junction with High Street North.
Stop 5: Earl of Essex pub
This majestic building was the Earl of Essex pub. Architectural commentator Pevsner calls this “A jovial Barque composition … typical of the complex pub design of this date”. And the date is shown on some interesting stones on this building which indicate that this building harks from 1902, the time of the coronation of King Edward VII.
Sadly this pub is currently closed and has been since 2012. But it seems its fate is not to be another Tesco Metro or Sainsbury Local, because there was an application for drinks and entertainment licence earlier this year. So it may survive as a pub for a little longer at least.
Head down the side of the pub into High Street North. Our next stop is right next to the pub.
Stop 6: former Coronation Cinema, Number 501, High Street North
Now this building is not named after the 1902 coronation but the next one, that of King George V in 1911. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it was originally called the Coronation Electric Theatre. It closed in 1920 and was substantially enlarged reopening as the New Coronation Cinema in May 1921 There were full stage facilities with three dressing rooms to provide for variety performances to accompany the film programmes.
It was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in 1929. The Coronation Cinema, as it was by then known, continued under the ownership of ABC until it was closed in November 1968. It was converted into a Mecca Bingo Club which opened in January 1969. In July 1985 it was converted into a snooker club. The snooker club only used the former stalls area and a false ceiling was suspended over from the front of the circle to the stage.
The snooker club closed in around February or March 2008, and the building was empty and unused. In December 2009, the building was reopened as the Royal Regency banquet hall. Inside the auditorium, the false ceiling and sub-division have been removed to reveal the original ceiling and decorative balcony front. In 2012, the circle was brought back into use.
It is a Grade II Listed building and having survived against the odds, seems to have found an appropriate modern day use.
Continue along High Street North for quite a way until you reach Strone Road on the right. Go down here.
Stop 7: Number 308 Strone Road
According to the site Notable Abodes this was the childhood home of musician Steve Marriott (1947 – 1991). He lived here from 1947 until 1961.
He was the frontman of two notable rock and roll bands over two decades – . Small Faces (1965–1969) and Humble Pie (1969–1975 and 1980–1981). Although he was of slight build, he had a powerful singing voice. Marriott was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
Maybe one day this house will get a plaque.
Retrace your steps to High Street North and turn right. Our next stop is just across the road at the next junction.
Stop 8: Ruskin Hotel
This building dates from 1901 and is another example of an ambitious Edwardian pub building.
It is not just a pub. Its also a Hotel, as can be seen in the side street, Ruskin Avenue.
This is a modern building dating from 2012 fitted in behind the historic pub. This seems to be an independently operated business. It is fascinating that someone felt there was enough business here in E12 to justify building a new hotel. But it is a short walk to East Ham tube station and is at the budget end of the market, so maybe it has found a niche.
Go down Ruskin Avenue. Follow it right along until you get to Browning Road where you turn left. Go along Browning Road. Our next stop is almost at the end of Browning Road on the left.
Stop 9: Sri Murugan Temple
Now this is a surprising sight looming up over the dull suburban streets of E12.
This is a Hindu temple. According to Wikipedia, “A Hindu temple is a symbolic reconstruction of the universe and universal principles that make everything in it function. The temples reflect Hindu philosophy and its diverse views on cosmos and truths.”
There is a dead pub at the corner which seems to have been incorporated into the temple site.
Now here is a curious thing. The roads off of Church Road are named First Avenue, Second Avenue, Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, Harcourt Avenue and Sixth Avenue.
What happened to Fifth Avenue, you may wonder. Well Fifth Avenue exists at the other end of these streets (Romford Road) but does not go all the way through to Church Road because of a school. So the road that should be Fifth Avenue at the Church Road end has another name.
With names like this, you think of grand American thoroughfares, but we are in Manor Park and these avenues look like this.
Our next stop is on the other side of Church Road.
Stop 10: St Mary’s Church
Pevsner describes this as a surprising survival. A tiny medieval church in an ancient churchyard which Pevsner describes as “not impressive but lovable”. The fabric of the nave dates from the 12th century with chancel being rebuilt in the early 17th century and a chapel added in he 18th century.
Pevsner devotes almost two pages to this church – but sadly it seems to be rarely open to see. And it appears to only have one service a week and that is not even on a Sunday
In its way, seeing this little old church here is just as surprising as finding a Hindu temple in the back streets of E12.
Continue walking along Church Road and at the corner of Gainsborough Avenue you will see the entrance to Little Ilford Park. Go in.
Stop 11: Little Ilford Park
It is not much to see but it has been said that this is the park that inspired the 1960s pop song Itchycoo Park written by local band the Small Faces. As we have seen the lead singer Steve Marriott lived nearby as did the other main driving force of the band, Ronnie Lane who was their bass guitarist. He was actually mostly responsible for the song Itchycoo Park.
Here is a link to a clip of the band performing the song. Given the unusual aural tricks used on this recording I somehow doubt they could have replicated this live so they must be miming. And oddly this seems to be a German recording.
Now there seems to be some doubt about whether this park is indeed Itchycoo Park because Steve Marriott also said that it was Valentine’s Park in Ilford. And there have suggestions that it might have been Wanstead Flats.
The BBC banned the song because of what they regarded as overt drug references. But according to their manager, Tony Calder “We scammed the story together, we told the BBC that Itchycoo Park was a piece of waste ground in the East End that the band had played on as kids – we put the story out at ten and by lunchtime we were told the ban was off.”
And then there is some doubt about whether the itchy bit was caused by stinging nettles, brambles or the seeds from rose hips. Who knows. Anyhow, here is a picture taken in Little Ilford Park of what might be described as itchycoos.
But I have to say looking over this rather dull park it is hard to see how anyone called describe the scene as “It’s all too beautiful” because self evidently it is not!
And so to our final stop. Return to Church Road go along the side of the Park and you will see a street called Walton Road. This is a dead end to vehicles but continues on and just past Jack Cornwell Street you will see our next stop on the right.
Stop 12: Ronnie Lane
Yes you saw right, there is actually a street called Ronnie Lane. Someone at the council obviously having a little joke. Apparently this was done in 2001.
Ronnie Lane (1946 – 1997) as we have heard was a member of the Small Faces. After Steve Marriott left, the group became the Faces, with two new members added to the line-up (from the Jeff Beck Group).
In the late 1970s he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and after suffering from the disease for 21 years, he died in 1997 aged 51.
For his work in both Small Faces and Faces, Lane was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
So that brings us to the end of our E12 walk. We are in the middle of a housing estate not very close to anything. If you head along Jack Cornwell Street past the shops and turn right into Dersingham Avenue you will find a bus stop for route 147 towards East Ham. Alternatively you could carry on along Wolferton Street and get the 147 the other way towards Ilford.
So E12 was not the most inspiring of areas but there was still some interest from Stanley Holloway to the Small Faces via an old pub and cinema commemorating two different coronations and a Hindu temple and ancient church.
You left out Wanstead Flats, part of Epping Forest, which is part of Manor Park. We had the advantage of being able to enjoy the ‘countryside’ and had the convenience of being in town. The original station was bombed in WW2, a temporary shed like structure was in Whitta Road with a wooden bridge to reach the platforms. I think you’ll find it was rebuilt prior to electrification. The freight line you referred to was where the freight trains went into the coal-yard at the end of Durham Road.
I was born above Hawes undertaker’s shop in Station Road, Manor Park, closer to Manor Park station than the current Hawes premises. We later moved to another undertaker’s in Ripple Road, Barking.
I saw Steve Marriott in The Moments, in Barking Labour Club, shortly before the Small Faces was formed. As Marriott is Manor Park’s main claim to fame, I’d like to mention two more landmarks.
The Ruskin Arms
“It was here that Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane met up with Jimmy [Langwith, a.k.a. Winston, the landlord’s son] who had previously told them that he played keyboard in a band with a weekly spot at the pub. On 25 January 1965 Steve joined Jimmy on stage to play harmonica. After the gig, Steve and Ronnie invite Jimmy to join their new band for which they had already recruited Kenney Jones as drummer. Jimmy was not just recruited as an organ player, more importantly his brother had a van. They later used the pub to rehearse upstairs and it was the venue for some of the band’s early gigs. Incidentally, Steve Marriott’s father Bill used to run a fish stall opposite the Ruskin Arms.”
Source: Making Time website | http://www.makingtime.co.uk/rfr/london1.htm
J60 Music Bar
“Lane and Marriott met again by chance in the J60 Music Bar*, a music shop in High Street North, Manor Park, where Marriott was working after his recent departure from the Moments. Lane came in looking to purchase a bass guitar, and afterwards was invited to Marriott’s home to listen to his extensive collection of rare American R&B import records.”
Source: Wikipedia | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Marriott
* Located at 457 High Street North.
Source: England Underground | http://www.englandunderground.com/city/forest-gate-london/listing/the-site-of-the-j60-music-bar-steve-marriott-of-small-faces-worked-there-and-met-the-band-there/
Thanks for helping keep my birthplace on the map.
The pub on the corner of Church Road, used to be called ‘The Avenue’.
Across the road, and on the corner of Harcourt Avenue, there was a bakers/bakery.
At the other end of Fourth Avenue on Romford Road ( opposite the library), was Pooles Butchers ( Brian Poole family owned).
I enjoyed reading your article, thank you.
Just a small correction. Jack “Cornwall” should in fact be Jack Cornwell, ( with an E not an A ) I know this only because a friend of mine, Roger Cornwell, (Jack’s Great Nephew I think: a relation of his in any case! ) currently sees to the upkeep of the memorial to his illustrious ancestor “The Boy V.C.” .
Thanks for pointing this out. Over zealous spell checking at work here. I will correct.
As always, difficult to cover everything but the reference in the last paragraph to Jack Cornwall Street reflects the fact that Jack Cornwall VC, the boy naval hero of WW1, is buried in Manor Park Cemetery, with a large memorial there commemorating him.