E13 covers West Ham, Upton Park and Plaistow. E13 comes between Manor Park (E12) and Poplar (E14) in the numbering system so it must be Plaistow which set the number.
According to Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable: “It has acquired the cockney pronunciation of “Plarstow” but the name probably derives from “play-stow” a place of recreation, although a link has been suggested with a former lord of the manor Hugh de Plaitz. So it may or may not be a place for playing.
We start our walk at the Royal Mail sorting office in High Street E13. Turn left and go along the High Street. You can see our first stop looming ahead on the railway bridge.
Stop 1: Plaistow Station
The station was opened in 1858 by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway (LTSR) on a new direct route from Fenchurch Street to Barking that avoided Stratford. The station was first served by the District Railway from 1902 and first electric trains arrived here in 1905. And that is the date of the main station building with its rather strange partly blocked in arched windows.
The Fenchurch Street–Southend service was withdrawn from Plaistow in 1962 and the platforms used by that service were abandoned but can still be seen beyond the fence on the westbound platform for District and Hammersmith and City line trains..
You can see the initials of the LTSR in the canopy brackets and also a little more unusually under the seats on the platform.
If you are in the station do have a look at the City skyline you can see from the internal footbridge looking west.
And finally another little survivor of an earlier railway age is in the lobby.
Here we have a blue and white enamel sign in the colours of the Eastern Region of British Railways, so dating from the 1950s or early 1960s.
Now retrace your steps along the High Street and our second stop is on the left.
Stop 2: Black Lion Pub
Architectural commentator Pevsner describes the Black Lion as “one lonely reminder of Old Plaistow”… “a concatenation of buildings with an appealingly varied facade and roofline. It was recorded in 1742 but refaced in 1875 and later altered in 1892”. What Pevsner does not comment on is the fact that this is a still a pub – an increasing rarity in this part of London. And a fairly handsome one too.
Wikipedia says The Black Lion “was frequented by West Ham United football players especially such as Bobby Moore in the 1960s and 70s”. We will hear more about West Ham United in due course.
Continue walking along the High Street. It broadens out and on the left you will see just down North Street is our next stop.
Stop 3: Plaistow Library
This Library building dates from 1902/1903 and this handsome structure is still in use.
It was funded by John Passmore Edwards, who we have come across before in Acton and Shepherds Bush.
This is one of 24 libraries he funded. There is a stone which records it was laid by H H Asquith amongst others.
At the time Asquith’s party (the Liberals) were not in Government. Prior to this he had been Home Secretary in the 1890s. When the Liberals regained power in 1905 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. He rose to become Prime Minister in 1908, a post he held until 1916 when he was replaced by David Lloyd George.
Continue along the main road which has now become Greengate Street. Our next stop is on the right.
Stop 4: site of West Ham Bus Garage/Tram depot
The name of the street on the right gives us a clue to the previous use of this site.
This was built on where the main structure of West Ham Bus Garage stood. And this street is named after the Routemaster bus which operated at this garage from November 1959 until 1985.
But this site has a much longer transport heritage as can be seen as we walk along Greengate Street.
After the modern housing comes this building.
This was built by the County Borough of West Ham in 1906 as the headquarters of its tramway operation.
The date is on a stone up high.
Note the motto is “Deo Confidimus” which translates as “In God we Trust”. Not a great motto for a tramway operator maybe.
There is also a little stone which you just about see from the street.
Between 1903 and 1905, West Ham corporation had taken over all of the North Metropolitan Tramways company lines within the borough.
The North Metropolitan Tramways Company started off as a horse tramway from Aldgate to Leytonstone Road, via Stratford, in 1870 and had expanded its lines through the latter part of the 19th century.
After the take over, the Corporation extended and electrified the tramways and continued running them until the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933.
With the demise of the tram, West Ham Depot became a trolleybus depot, operating from June 1937 until April 1960, and then it housed motorbuses until October 1992 when the garage closed.
Of course this garage was not actually in West Ham. In fact there is today a bus garage called West Ham which is right by the Jubilee line near to West Ham station. This opened in 2008/9. It can house 350 buses making it one of the largest, if not the largest, bus garage in the UK. But sadly it is not on our route today.
One point of interest here in Plaistow is the First World War memorial sitting at the front of the building.
The building today looks abandoned which is sad given its history.
Our next stop is right across the road
Stop 5: Former YMCA building, Greengate Street
What you may ask is this strange looking edifice looming over the two storey buildings on either side of it. It looks like it does not belong here.
This was built by the YMCA in 1920/21.
It is a steel framed building clad in pale brick and glazed tiling. Pevsner describes it as “Vaguely Art Nouveau detail but with lavish ornament more American in spirit, explained by [the architect] Thomas Brammall Daniel having spent most of his early career there.”
Inside Daniel included a concert room and theatre, which had direct street access. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, It opened as the Little Theatre on 3 June 1921. Soon afterwards, while the nearby Greengate Cinema was closed for enlargement, the trustees of the YMCA opened this hall as the Red Triangle Cinema.
It remained open after the Greengate Cinema had reopened. It closed in April 1931. It reverted back to its original use as the Red Triangle Theatre until around 1948.
The building became offices for an insurance company in 1956. In 1976 it was converted to become a College of Art. Today it has been rebuilt as apartments and is called Pegasus House.
Continue walking along Greengate Street. Our next stop is on the right. There are two possible entrances – one small and one large. It does not matter which you choose.
Stop 6: Plaistow Park
This is Plaistow Park
It started out life as Balaam Street Recreation Ground when it opened in 1894. It was rechristened Plaistow Park in 1999.
Walk through the park and you will come to some roses and a little fountain.
Go past that and you will then come out on Balaam Street. Turn left and walk a little way along (to just past First Avenue)
Stop 7: The Greenway
Our next stop runs across Balaam Street and is known as The Greenway.
This is a long thin strip of green with a wide path along it.
So why you might wonder build a such a green space.
The reason lies below. We are standing on top of the Northern Outfall Sewer. This is a major sewer leading to Beckton sewage treatment work. Most of it was designed by Joseph Bazalgette after an outbreak of cholera in 1853 and the “Great Stink” of 1858.
The eastern end of the Northern Outfall Sewer, running some 4.5 miles from Wick Lane, Bow to Beckton has been landscaped to form a public footpath/cycleway called The Greenway with access points along its length.
Signage was apparently made from old sewerage pipes.though they are looking the worse for wear.
Now turn left off of Balaam Street. Walk along the stretch of the Greenway to the next road, which is Barking Road where you should turn left.
Keep walking along Barking Road.
Stop 8: site of Greengate Cinema, 525-529 Barking Road
Right at the corner with Greengate Street was the Greengate pub, now a Tesco Express.
Pevsner talks about a triangle of Plaistow’s old street hereabouts “with a handful of notable buildings. The Green Gate pub, long established but rebuilt 1953/54, is not one”
But just next door to the Green Gate Public House, there used to be a cinema. This opened as the Green Gate Electric Theatre in January 1911. Cinema Treasures says “The facade of the building was decorated with plaster swags of bunches of fruit over a series of four round windows, with a central rounded pediment over the main entrance which had the theatre’s name in the stonework. The facade was off set at an angle to the main auditorium block and there was a small tower feature located on the roof of what would have been the projection box behind the entrance pediment.”
It seems it was always independently operated although it had other names. In 1921 it was the New Electric Theatre but became the Greengate Cinema in December 1930. From 1953 it was called the Rio Cinema and finally closed in March 1953.
After laying unused for several years, the building became an independent bingo club from the early 1960s. It later became a snooker club which lasted until 1994 when the building was again closed and became derelict.
Around 2003, it was taken over by the FourSquare Gospel Church.
Today the building’s facade is now totally plain so it is hard to imagine how it might have looked in its heyday years ago. But you can just make out how there might have been an auditorium behind.
Keep walking along Barking Road.
You can see a future point of interest looming up ahead, beyond that block of flats.
Our next stop is where Green Street meets Barking Road, and ahead on the corner if the Boleyn pub.
Stop 9: The Boleyn pub
This dates from around 1900 and is a splendid “gin palace” type pub, so much grander the rest of the area. It still retains some of its etched glass.
Now right behind this pub was until recently the home ground of West Ham United football club. They have played their last game here, but the Boleyn has put up a valiant effort to keep some trade from the home crowd.
So where does the name come from. Well there was a big house here called Green Street House, which was known as “Boleyn Castle” because of a supposed association with Anne Boleyn. It was reportedly one of the sites at which Henry VIII courted his second queen, though there does not seem to be any factual evidence for this.
But we cannot leave here without mentioning the very visible Footballing statue standing opposite the Boleyn.
This is called the “World Cup Sculpture” and is a bronze statue of the 1966 England World Cup Final. It depicts the famous victory scene photographed at the old Wembley Stadium, featuring Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson. It was the first and only time England had won the World Cup, and England captain Moore is pictured held shoulder high, holding the Trophy aloft.
It was jointly commissioned by Newham Council and West Ham United and is here because it commemorates West Ham’s contribution to the victory. Moore, Hurst and Peters all having been West Ham players at the time of the 1966 World Cup.
It was sculpted by Philip Jackson and unveiled in 2003 by Prince Andrew, who was president of the Football Association between 2000 and 2006. Prince William now has the role.
Just before we leave this spot, I have to mention the cinema building across the road (which is technically over the border in E6). This was built by Odeon on the site of an earlier cinema. Dating from 1938, it must have looked super modern when it opened. It survived as an Odeon until 1981.
After laying unused for 14 years it was taken over by an independent operator who sub-divided the auditorium into three screens and reopened it as the Boleyn Cinema in late 1995 screening Bollywood films. It was closed in early 2014 to convert two of the three screens into a banquetting hall. The former balcony has now been converted into two screens.
Now go along Green Street.
Stop 10: former West Ham United football ground (Boleyn ground)
Look down the first side street and you will see the massive stadium lying back from the road.
Then you come to a catholic church.
The church is called “Our Lady of Compassion” which no doubt has led to all sorts of jokes when West Ham United has not been doing so well.
And so as we walk along Green Street, we get to see the full scale of the stadium.
West Ham United Football Club competes in the Premier League, England’s top tier of football and until the end of the 2015/16 season played home games at this ground known as the Boleyn Ground.
The club was founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks FC and reformed in 1900 as West Ham United. They first played here in from 1904 but no more as they are moving to Olympic Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The castle features on the building do look a little fanciful to say the least, making it a little disneyesque. Supposedly these reference Boleyn Castle, which was not really that kind of castle and was probably not even connected to Anne Boleyn.
Continue walking along Green Street. Our next stop is on the left.
Stop 11: Queen’s Market
This is a mixed market with some food and some general goods.
The street market originated in Green Street in the late 19th century when the area started to be developed. The traders were pushed into Queens Road in 1904 to stop them obstructing the main road and to allow for the passage of trams. The current building I believe dates from the late 1960s but has been “updated”. Pevsner does not like this saying “An unappealing tall slab of flats rises behind the dismal Queens Market and multi storey car park, the latter not improved by the borough’s garish cosmetic reclading of 1992, reminiscent of cheap bedroom furniture”
In November 2006, Newham Council proposed to redevelop the market site to include a supermarket and luxury housing above a much smaller covered market. Following the local campaign, in May 2009 Mayor of London Boris Johnson directed Newham Council to refuse planning permission to redevelop the market. Not sure what has now happened to this idea.
Our next stop is right next door.
Stop 12: Upton Park Station
And so we have reached the end of the walk at Upton Park station – the next station out from the City after Plaistow.
This station opened in 1877 somewhat later than nearby Plaistow. It was built at the behest of a local property developer called Read and originally it fronted a square (called with stunning originality – Queen’s Square) which was on the corner of Green Street and Queen’s Road. However as so often happens in suburban development, the developers liked to have the name Park in there somewhere but they omitted to provide an actual park.
The first station was swept away in 1903/04 when the line here was widened to four tracks and the original two platform station was replaced.
It is not the prettiest of station but at least it has a proper booking hall and the platforms are almost completely covered with canopies.
If you go down the westbound platform you can look over and see the disused fast line platforms. Note also the LTSR initials in the canopy brackets.
They have not however got around to changing the signing on the platform regarding West Ham United.
And there was one more curiosity on the platform – the train indicator.
This sure is a museum piece – especially as it describes the train via Liverpool Street as Metropolitan. This section of the Metropolitan line was became a separate line – the Hammersmith and City line – in 1990.
So that brings us to the end of our E13 walk. This area has some interesting buildings from around the turn of the 20th century which seem a little out of keeping with the uninspiring surroundings. We saw an unexpected use of a sewer pipe corridor and of course we saw some West Ham United connections.
We are now at Upton Park station for onward travel.