E8: A lovely spot

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

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

Stop 1: Number 373 – 375 Mare Street


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

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

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

But I cannot see a plaque of any kind!

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

Stop 3: Clapton Bus Garage, Bohemia Place

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


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


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

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

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 4: Hackney Central Station


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

Stop 4a: Number 55 Graham Road

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


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


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

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

Now retrace your steps to Mare Street and turn right.

Stop 5: Number 290 Mare Street

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


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

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

Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 6: Hackney Empire

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Our next stop is just over the road.

Stop 7: Hackney Picturehouse


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

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

Stop 8: Hackney Town Hall

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



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

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

Stop 9: St Thomas’s Square and Cordwainers Court

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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


This corroborates what the Cinema Treasures site says.

Continue walking along Mare Street

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

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


And there is a sign which says 104 Mare Street.


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

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

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

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

Stop 11: London Fields

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Stop 12: Broadway Market

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


It is all very pleasant and low key.



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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

E7: Ere I saw Elba

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

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

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

Stop 1: The former Spotted Dog pub

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



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


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

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

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

But interestingly Pevsner is silent on the matter.

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

Stop 2: West Ham Park

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


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

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

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


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



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

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



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


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

Stop 3: Number 13 Upton Avenue

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


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

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

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

Stop 4: The Hudson Bay pub

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



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

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

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

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

Stop 5: Two former cinemas

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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



Its website says:

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

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

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

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

Stop 6: Number 13 Woodgrange Road


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


CTRL of course stands for Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

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

Stop 7: Forest Gate railway station


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



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

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


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


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



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


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

Stop 8: Former Eagle and Child pub


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

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



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

Our next stop is straight ahead.

Stop 9: Wanstead Park station


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

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



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

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


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

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

Stop 10: Dames Road and the Dame closes


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

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

First comes Dame Vera Lynn.


A not very big or inspiring street!


Next up is Dame Anna Neagle.


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


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

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

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

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

Stop 11: Wanstead Flats

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


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


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

Close by the corner is a Victorian water fountain.


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

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

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

Stop 12: Uncle Tom’s Garage



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

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

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

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


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

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


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



It all started in 1907 when four young men set up an enterprise to make sweets in Forest Gate from sugar bought from Henry Tate in nearby Canning Town.

It has often been said that Trebor stands for Robert backwards, after one of the founders, Robert Robertson. The company seems to have been quite happy to perpetuate this myth, But actually Trebor was named after the location of the premises they moved into. This was Trebor Terrace, named after the row’s builder, one Robert Cooper. So perhaps it is this Robert rather than Robert Robertson where the name originally came from.

Sweet production moved away in the early 1980s and today the building is apartments.

More detail on the Trebor story can be found at: http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2014/04/the-trebor-story-forest-gates-sweet.html

Well that does bring us to the end of E7. We saw some glimpses of the lost world of a country hamlet and heard about some of the people who lived hereabouts before the area was swallowed up by London, plus some of the entertainment places that were here and finally a sweet connection.

For onward travel, probably best to get the 325 bus either on to East Ham or back to Forest Gate.

E6: Don’t know where, don’t know when

E6 is East Ham. This is the most easterly E postcode. (But it is not the furthest east, as we will see when we are get to SE)

We start our walk at East Ham Post Office which is in the W H Smith shop at 125 High Street North. Turn right out of the Post Office and go along High Street North. Our first stop is on the left at the corner of Skeffington Road.

Stop 1: Poundland (Former Woolworth’s store), Numbers 72 – 76 High Street North


This was for more than 50 years until December 2008 a Woolworth’s store. but it was not the original location of Woolworth’s. That was further up High Street North opposite the Palace Theatre, which we will hear about later.

East Ham was bombed severely in the Second World War and the original Woolworth’s store was destroyed in September 1940. They rebuilt here. But this in fact had previously been a department store, so that is why it looks rather grander than the typical suburban Woolworth’s.

Today like many former Woolworth’s stores, it is Poundland.

Keep walking along High Street North. You will reach a cross roads. Our next stop is across the main road on the left.

Stop 2: East Ham Town Hall


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



East Ham became an Urban District within Essex in 1894. It gained municipal borough status in 1903 and county borough status in 1915. So in the space of 21 years it went from being unincorporated to having the maximum level of local powers. It merged with the neighbouring County Borough of West Ham in 1965 to form the London Borough of Newham.

The Town Hall opened in 1903 and was the borough’s main offices until the council moved to Newham Dockside, E16 in 2009.

But there was not just a Town Hall here. There was also a Library.



Note the Carnegie name. That is because it was built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Apparently 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929 across the world, of which 660 were in the United,Kingdom.

And then there was a Fire Station.


Although this now seems to be unused.

But this ambitious municipal development did not stop there. Having followed the buildings along High Street South, now go down the first side street on the left, Nelson Street.

Stop 3: Old Tram Depot

Here we see a clue to what else the Council built here.


This relief must be new as it has a 2016 date on it. But it commemorates the fact that for just over 30 years, this was the location of East Ham Corporation’s Tram depot. And the building is still here with its very obvious doorways for the trams to go in and out.


East Ham Council started operating tram services on 22 June 1901. East Ham had not operated horse trams so it was the first local council in London to have electric trams from the start.

When the London Passenger Transport Board was created in 1933, it inherited the East Ham Corporation Tramway system. But early on it closed this depot, transferring most of the old East Ham trams to other depots in Bow and West Ham with a few being scrapped.

For many years after closure, the tram depot was used by the council for various purposes. In the 1990s the whole site (including the adjacent public baths) was refurbished and converted into East Ham Leisure Centre.

And next door to the depot was a small power station. This was not just to provide power for the trams but also for street lighting. This site still seems to be used in relation to electricity as there is a UK Power Networks sign by the door here.


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


This has the motto: Progressio cum Populo (which translates as Progress with the People). Interestingly the London Borough of Newham chose the English version of this motto for the new combined authority. Perhaps West Ham Corporation’s motto (which was Deo Confidemus – We trust in God) was deemed less appropriate for the modern age.

Now return to High Street South and head away from the Municipal Buildings. Our next stop is ahead on the right but to get in you have to go along the side to get to a gate.

Stop 4: Central Park


In the late 19th century, Colonel Ynyr Henry Burges owned much of the land surrounding what is now Central Park. The estate had been built up by his uncle Ynyr Burges, Paymaster of the East India Company, between 1762 and his death in 1792.

The homes surrounding Central Park were built from 1890 to 1910. They were built for office clerks and skilled manual workers. But the Council was far sighted enough to buy up some of the Burges land in 1896 and lay out this park.

The dominant feature at the corner you came in is this rather lovely First World War memorial.


Head into the Park and you will see some little metal plaques in the ground. Like this one, which records that people have been bowling here since 1910.


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


At this point you do a right turn and head towards what is called Bartle Gate.

On the way you will see another noticeboard which gives a bit more information about the little plaques.


Apparently there are three different trails: one about the history of the park, one about the trees and a third described as a fitness trail.

If you would like to know more about Central Park, here is a link to a fascinating piece from Eastside Community Heritage:


Go out of Bartle Gate and turn left into Central Park Road. Take the fourth turning on the right – Ladysmith Avenue.

Stop 5: Ladysmith Avenue


Number 38 Ladysmith Avenue was the childhood home of Dame Vera Lynn. She was born a few streets away in Thackeray Road but the family moved to Ladysmith Avenue when she was 4.


She was born 20 March 1917 and was called Vera Margaret Welch. She adopted her grandmother’s maiden name (Lynn) as her stage name when she began performing publicly at the age of seven. Vera Welch would not have sounded quite the same, would it?

She was of course widely known as “The Forces’ Sweetheart” whose recordings and performances were enormously popular during the Second World War.  Some of the songs most associated with her are “We’ll Meet Again”, “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”, and “There’ll Always Be an England”.

In 2009, she became the oldest living artist to have a No. 1 on the British album chart. She was 92.

Go down Ladysmith Avenue to the end of the street. Our next stop is straight ahead of you on the main road.

Stop 6: Former Granada Cinema, Number 281 Barking Road

Today this building is called “The White House” and is a banqueting suite.


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



It was actually on the site of an earlier cinema the East Ham Empire Kinema built in 1914.

Although this spent its entire cinematic life as the Granada it was actually developed by a rival company.

According to Cinema Treasures:

“it was going to be a new cinema for the Denman (London) circuit (part of Gaumont British) who had operated the Empire Kinema, but Granada Theatres were also interested in the site and a deal was struck for them to operate the new cinema which was designed by Gaumont’s house architect William E. Trent and the land was owned by Gaumont for many years.”

The building was only fully acquired by Granada in March 1965.

It closed as a full time cinema in November 1974. After a brief flirtation with the  occasional live show and Bollywood films, it was converted into a Granada Bingo Club in January 1976. It remained a bingo hall until November 2014, so curiously it spent around 38 years being used as a cinema and around the same time as a bingo hall.

Now walk along Barking Road as if you had turned left out of Ladysmith Avenue. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 7: Stondon Walk

This development was built by the Greater London Council and transferred to Newham in 1986 when the GLC was abolished.


The block was designed with ground floor garages and quite an expanse of brick. No doubt there was a logic to this as it would have minimised the impact of the busy road, but some people thought they had just built it the wrong way round

However it did not look very nice, so Newham commissioned some artwork in the late 1990s.

There is a series of nine stencil relief panels made of steel, and originally painted in pastel colours, which seems to have faded. The first and last of the panels are the text of a poem and the others depict leaves, trees and flowers, showing the seasons of the year chronologically.

The poem was selected from ‘Poems on the Underground’. It sought to complement the ‘natural growth’ and ‘living environment’ themes of the panels. And it so happened that the poet, Kathleen Raine, was born in Ilford, in 1908, which gave a kind of local connection – more info about these panels can be found here at:




And here is the text of the poem:

The Very Leaves of the Acacia-Tree are London

The very leaves of the acacia-tree are London;
London tap-water fills out the fuchsia buds in the back garden,
Blackbirds pull London worms out of the sour soil,
The woodlice, centipedes, eat London, the wasps even.
London air through stomata of myriad leaves
And million lungs of London breathes.
Chlorophyll and haemoglobin do what life can
To purify, to return this great explosion
To sanity of leaf and wing.
Gradual and gentle the growth of London pride,
And sparrows are free of all the time in the world:
Less than a window-pane between.

Kathleen Raine (1908 – 2003)

From Collected Poems 1935-1980, © Kathleen Raine.

Plus here are a couple of the decorative panels



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


Don’t know where exactly Dame Vera lived in that street. The internet seems curiously silent on the matter.

Now return along Barking Road past the old Granada cinema. Soon on the left you will see a modern road. Go down this and you will see after the bend of the road on your right an entrance to our next stop.

Stop 8: East Ham Market Hall


Go in this entrance and work your way through the market to the other side.

This market hall is privately owned (like the ones we saw in Tooting). The company that owns East Ham Market Hall also owns one in Romford.


This market is around 90 years old according to their website, but it is not any more specific so I don’t know when exactly this was built.

It has a range of stalls – mainly non-food. The owners have obviously spent some money trying to make it look attractive from the outside. Whilst it has a few different specialist stalls, inside it is basically the same old market stuff.


Having reached the other side, you will see a street ahead of you. Go down this and on the left at the corner of High Street North you will see our next stop.

Stop 9 Primark store (site of Gaumont Cinema)


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


There is a reason for this.  Part of the facade at least belongs to an old cinema, the Gaumont.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it started out in 1912 as the Premier Electric Theatre, In 1921 a new auditorium was erected at the rear and the former Premier Electric Theatre became the foyer and cafe area for the new cinema.

The Premier Super Cinema was taken over by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres who were themselves taken over by Gaumont British in February 1929. It was renamed Gaumont in 1952 and closed down in April 1963.

It was converted into a Bingo Club which lasted to January 2005. It was apparently a remarkable example of an early ‘super’ cinema which had survived virtually unaltered. However it was not listed and so it was lost.

However if you look at the Cinema Treasures website, there are a couple of photos – one when it was a bingo hall and one after it had closed. They show the little tower and how the entrance was to the right of that.


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

Stop 10: Lidl store (Site of Palace Theatre)


This dull looking building is actually on the site of the Palace Theatre of Varieties which opened in December 1906,

Film shows formed part of the variety programme from the early days. In 1933, it became a full time cinema, known as the New Regal Palace Cinema, but with lots of local competition, it reverted back to live variety in December 1935.

The Palace Theatre closed in June 1956 and was demolished in 1958 to make way for a C&A clothing store. In a sign of how the world of retail has changed this is now a Lidl supermarket.

Fascinating fact: Star of the classic soap “Crossroads”, Noele Gordon (1919 – 1985) was born in East Ham (Don’t know where). She was given the middle name of Noele because she was born on Christmas Day. She made her first public appearance at the Palace Theatre but I don’t know when.

As we are here have a look at the side street by Lidl. This is Burges Road.


As we heard at Central Park, the Burges family were local landowners.  Most of their estate was south of Barking Road and that is where the main house was. But here is a little reminder that their land went north of Barking Road.


There is also another interesting connection. Burges Road was the birthplace of Herbert Maurice William Weedon (1920 – 2012) better known as Bert Weedon.

He was a popular and influential guitar player in the 1950s and 1960s. He produced best-selling guides to guitar playing and these were apparently a major influence on many well known British musicians, such as Eric Clapton, Brian May, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, Dave Davies, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page.

Don’t know exactly where he was born in Burges Road.

Keep walking along High Street North. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 11: East Ham station


East Ham station was built by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. Their initial line ran from London via Stratford and Forest Gate over what is now the Gospel Oak to Barking line. A more direct line from Bow to Barking was created in 1859 with stations at Bromley, Plaistow and here at East Ham.

The District Railway started serving the station in 1902. The District line was electrified in 1905. A second pair of tracks was added in around 1908 and East Ham station was rebuilt.

In 1936 the Metropolitan line service began serving the station in 1936 and this service (which ran from Hammersmith to Barking via King’s Cross St Pancras) was renamed the Hammersmith & City line in 1988 – though this name had been used as a subsidiary name of this part of the Metropolitan line for some time before that.

Today the station has two operational platforms, served by the District and the Hammersmith and City lines


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


This station also had platforms on the fast lines. The Fenchurch Street – Southend stopping services were withdrawn in 1962 and the platforms have been partially removed.

In fact the fast tracks are mostly obscured from the working District line platforms by an enamel screen for most of the length of the platform. But you can peek over them by going up some steps. You can just see in the far distance the remains of the steps leading down to the former London bound fast line platform.


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


This connected to the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway (now the Gospel Oak to Barking line) via a curve. It was closed in 1958.

So this kind of brings us to the end of our E6 walk.


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



This was the childhood home of 1950s pop legend Lonnie Donnegan. Once again don’t know where exactly, so there is no point in sending you down there.

So that really brings us to the end of our E6 walk. We are at East Ham station (or nearby by if you wandered off to Milton Avenue) for rail transport options. plus of course various buses from outside the station.

In E6, we have seen some impressive municipal buildings, some entertainment sites and some places connected with some well known people who lived in the area. But even with the extensive power of the internet, you cannot always find out where or when a person was connected to an area. So we have had a lot of “Don’t know where” or “Don’t know when”.

E5: Blame it on the Rivoli

E5 is Clapton which is often confused with Clapham, but of course it is a completely different place.

We start our walk at Upper Clapton Post Office which is just at the start of Mount Pleasant Lane near its junction with Upper Clapton Road.

Turn right out of the Post Office and walk along Mount Pleasant Lane. The road straight ahead becomes Mount Pleasant Hill and goes over the railway. Keep going straight past the former industrial buildings on your left. Turn left into Theydon road (there is a Co-op store on the corner). Our first stop is just on the left.

Stop 1: De Havilland House

This is now flats but was once part of a factory.



It seems that this building was designed in the 1930s by Sir Owen Williams (1890 -1969), who was the forefront of developing the use of concrete.

He was the engineer responsible for the three 1930s Daily Express buildings (London, Glasgow and Manchester) and was also architect for the latter. His practice was responsible for a number of road structures, most notably Gravelly Hill Interchange (better known as Spaghetti Junction) which was completed after his death.

According to the View from the Bridge website


“The De Havilland Building is an early modern movement building in the international style.

It is a concrete frame building with a very thin single layer of reinforced concrete forming the building envelope. De Havilland House is a former ‘Metal Box’ factory.

The attribution to De Havilland, the aircraft company, has not been sourced, but may speak to the first flight of an English aircraft by an English pilot of A.V. Roe nearby.”

But the aircraft connection makes it sound better than if it were just a plain old metal bashing factory.

Carry on walking along Theydon Road. It turns to the left. just before it goes under the railway there is a bit of a yard on your right. This has a way through to the River. Go down the yard and then when you get to the riverside path turn left and go under the railway


Stop 2: Riverside walk (and Anchor and Hope pub)

So here we have the River Lea. It is quite attractive here


However it is very flat. And it is crisscrossed by pylons and railway lines with much dull building in the distance.


Now as you may know singer Adele has a song on her latest album called “River Lea”. She spent her early years in Tottenham, so probably would not have come this far along the river. However I thought I would mention it as we are by the River Lea – although for the first few times I heard the song I thought she was singing about “The Rivoli”, which of course she isn’t.

Keep on walking and there is a reasonable looking pub The Anchor and Hope. I wonder if the name comes from people who are not used to sailing boats and when they stop they put down their anchor and hope…


It is all very modest, although I guess in summer this gets mobbed.

Stop 3: Springfield Park

Just a little further along the path, there is a children’s playground on the right and then on the left is the entrance to Springfield Park.

Springfield Park opened in 1905 and was the grounds of three houses, one of which was retained as we shall see.


Go in this entrance and follow the path which goes up the hill to your left. You can look back across the River Lea to the other side.


As we saw this bit of the river Lea is not at all industrial and the view is quite pleasant in a low key unflashy way

Follow the path round and head for the pond. Keeping the pond to your left.


Then ahead of you you will see a house.


This is now the Ranger’s Office and a cafe with toilets, but was one of the original houses whose grounds now form this park

Go out the gate at this end of the park. Go right into the road (which is called Springfield) and at the end turn left into Upper Clapton Road. Our next stop is quite a walk along the main road.

Stop 4: Clapton Station

Clapton station is on the left. The station building is quite unprepossessing and rather too close to the road.


Downstairs the old station has half survived.


That is the London bound platform still has what looks like the original canopy and a covered stairway, whilst the outbound platform has lost what ever canopy it might have originally had. It also has an open staircase. However there is an ugly looking modern canopy so you are not completely in the open if you are waiting for a train going to Walthamstow or Chingford.

Keep walking along Upper Clapton Road. Our next stop is on the right at the corner of Brooke Road.

Stop 5: site of Brooke House

Today there is a college on this site.


But once there was a grand house. According to the architectural bible, Pevsner, Brooke House was Hackney’s most important mansion.

It was a courtyard house of medieval origin. Its owners included Thomas Cromwell amongst others. It was demolished in 1954/55 after partial war damage. Pevsner says that a 15th Century wall painting from the Chapel is in the Museum of London, whilst panelling is in Harrow School.

A secondary school was built on the site in the late 1950s. The building was reclad later and is now used as a sixth form college.

Just beyond here is a roundabout which seems totally out of keeping with the streets around. It must have been part of a bigger plan which never got realised.

There is a bus park in the middle. This is where the buses which stop at Clapton Pond go to rest.


Go straight on at the roundabout which takes you into Lower Clapton Road.

Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 6: Former Kenninghall Cinema

This building currently looks disused


But it was once a cinema. You can see there is some kind of hall structure behind the entrance.

This started as a cinema in 1910. that was when the function room of  the White Hart public house built in 1896 was converted into a cinema, known as the Clapton Cinematograph Theatre. In 1919 it was given a new name – the Kenninghall Kinema after the nearby Kenninghall Road.

It was taken over by the Odeon chain in April 1938 and a new modern facade and foyer was added to the building, designed by architect George Coles. The plan was eventually to demolish the Kenninghall Kinema and build a modern Odeon Theatre on the expanded site of the cinema and the adjacent pub.

Due to the Second World War the redevelopment never happened and the Kenning Hall Cinema (as it had become) carried on as an unimportant outpost of the Odeon circuit.

It was leased out to an Independent operator from 1958 and eventually closed in June 1979. It was unused for a while until 1983 when it was converted into a nightclub. initially called Duggies. Then it had a couple of name changes; Elite Nightclub and the Palace Pavilion.

This was not the nicest of areas gaining the tag “The Murder Mile”. The White Hart pub building next door closed down after shootings and drug related crime which also affected the nightclub. That seems to have closed down in April 2006.

A local community group, The Friends of Clapton Cinematograph Theatre, was set up in December 2006  with the aim of preserving and restoring cinema. This Group still appears to exist as they have a meeting in May 2016. But it is unclear what has happened to the idea  of reviving the cinema.

The Friends website http://www.saveourcinema.org/ seems silent on the matter and the sign on the outside the building says it is the property of a rather obscure church.


Keep walking along Lower Clapton Road. There is then a C of E church and our next stop is just past that.

Stop 7: Site of ABC cinema

Another anonymous block of flats, you might say.


But once this was the site of another cinema. It opened in October 1939 as the Ritz Cinema, although it was built by Associated British Cinemas (ABC). It was in Art Deco styles with seating in stalls and circle.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the Ritz Cinema had a very uneventful life. The only significant happening was in 1962 when its name was changed to ABC to bring it into line with all the other cinemas in the circuit.

The ABC closed in September 1973 and within weeks the building was demolished. The empty site stood unused apart from cars parking on it. In 1994 a block of flats was built on the site.

Keep walking along the main road and cross over.

Stop 8: Clapton Pond

You can hardly miss our next stop surrounded as it is with railings.


I have often seen Clapton Pond as a destination of buses. And here it is. A fairly small pond in a fairly small garden.


On the far side from the main road are some older houses – from the time when Clapton was a country village.


Our next stop is on the far side of the pond from the main road.

Stop 9: Bishop Wood almshouses

This is the range of buildings to the left as you look from the main road.


And there is a plaque explaining about the almshouses.


The almshouses were built with money left by Thomas Wood (1607 – 1692), who was born in Clapton and became Bishop of Lichfield after the English Civil War.

The homes were refurbished in the 1880s and again in the 1930s. A gothic style chapel was added in the 19th century and it was said to be one of England’s smallest places of worship.

It seems to be up for sale. Indeed it may even have been sold by now.

Here is a report from the Hackney Citizen dated 20 February 2014:


Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouses Charity, which owns the buildings, said it would “dearly love” to refurbish them but claimed this work would cost “getting on for three quarters of a million pounds”.

A spokesperson added: “The charity cannot justify spending that kind of money to provide only four modern flats.”

The last residents were relocated to Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouse on Navarino Road in 2103.

You can understand the charity’s dilemma. But at the end of the day, it surely must be better from them to realise the value in this historic building and build something which is better to suited for older people to live in.

Clearly this is not going to be knocked down and it would be much better to have a sensitive refurbishment and reuse by someone with deeper pockets than for the charity to struggle to maintain such heritage buildings.

Continue walking along Lower Clapton Road. 

Stop 10: Site of Rink Cinema

Our next stop is opposite the corner of Linscott Road


Now I do not normally stop at petrol stations but I make an exception here as it is built on the site of a very old cinema.

Well actually it started out as a rolling skating rink in December 1909. Unfortunately the Clapton Premier Skating Rink opened just as the craze for roller skating was in decline. It briefly became a dance hall and in 1910 was converted into an ice rink.

This too did not last and in spring 1911 it was rebuilt as a cinema. It opened in July 1911 as the Clapton Rink Cinema, seating 2,000 with a mixed programme of cinema and variety acts.

By 1928 it had been acquired by Gaumont British Theatres who the policy of cine-variety running for a few years. It was closed when German bombs badly damaged the cinema in 1942. It never reopened as it was considered irreparable. The remains were finally demolished in 1950 and a petrol station was built on the site.

Now go down Linscott Road

Stop 11: The Portico

Our next stop is straight ahead – and what a surprising vista along a suburban side street



This is now part of a secondary school but this portico is all that remains of the London Orphan Asylum founded in 1813. This particularly impressive structure dates from the early 1820s.

The Salvation Army took over the premises in 1881 and created a huge assembly hall by roofing over a courtyard. This seated 4,700 people according to Pevsner.

The majority of the building was demolished in 1975 to make space for the Clapton Girls Technology College. And this later became Clapton Girls Academy. But it seems the Portico was not used and languished as a heritage building “at risk”.

In 1999 a temporary installation by Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed stimulated public interest in the Portico. This was titled Work No.203 and was a large neon text installed on the front of the Portico which read “Everything is Going to be Alright”.

This “artwork” has since been acquired by the Tate, see: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/creed-work-no-203-everything-is-going-to-be-alright-t12799/text-summary

And in a way it was alright. As part of the Labour Government’s Building Schools for the Future a new building was created incorporating the Portico. This opened in 2010 as the Portico City Learning Centre – a place where students and teachers can access the most up to date computer technology.

Now return to the main road and turn left.

Stop 12: The Round Chapel

Here just at the corner of Powerscroft Road is another religious building.


This was built by the United Reformed Church between 1869 and 1871 and Pevsner describes it as one of the finest non-conformist buildings in London.


It apparently has a magnificent interior. Clearly far too big for the modern day church, it was repaired and refurbished in the mid 1990s as a performing arts centre.


So that brings us to the end of our E5 walk. Some fascinating stuff as ever. There are fragments of the old village still poking out by the pond and reminders of the strong tradition of non conformist church going in this part of London with the Round Chapel and also the former Salvation Army building. We also saw some reminders of how even less busy suburbs could have numerous cinemas – we saw three locations in quite a short distance.

We also saw a little bit of industrial heritage and there was a nice park going down to the River Lea. Even the river has it charms, although when you are wandering the streets of Clapton you would not really know that it is there just down the hill.

For onward travel either retrace your steps back to Clapton station (which is quite a trek) or else take one of the many buses that run along Lower Clapton Road. Hackney is really just around the corner and even though the tube has not got here, it has plenty of Overground connections.

E4: A hunting we will go …

E4 is Chingford, which has the distinction of being the most northerly London postcode (even though it is an E postcode). It is also the only London postcode to include an area which is not within the administrative district of Greater London, more of which anon. I am grateful to fellow guide and resident Chingfordian, Joanna Moncrieff for sharing some of her extensive knowledge of the area.

We start our walk at Chingford Post Office which is at 104 Station Road, E4 6AP. Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is just along the road opposite the Station.

Stop 1: Doric House – site of a cinema


This dull looking building on the corner of Station Road and Connaught Avenue replaced a cinema. When the cinema first opened in October 1920, it was called the Chingford Pavilion. It was re-named Chingford Cinema in late 1929 after it had been equipped to screen sound films.

It was renamed Doric Cinema in May 1941, closing in July 1957. It reopened under new owners in January 1959, as the New Doric Cinema but closed for good in 1961 to be demolished for offices. Today there is a Driving Test Centre operating from the building.

Our next stop is right opposite.

Stop 2: Chingford Station

The railway arrived in Chingford in 1873. The Great Eastern Railway’s plan was originally for a line to High Beach in order to serve Epping Forest. Initially the line was built as far as Chingford.

The first station in Chingford was in Kings Road (then called Bulls Lane) near the junction with Larkshall Road (then called Hale End Road). But in 1878 the line was extended about 600 yards towards the Forest and the original terminus was replaced by a much grander station on the edge of town, overlooking the forest.


The relocation of the station was actually less convenient for those who wanted to go to Chingford. This was all about encouraging leisure travellers to visit the forest and to stimulate suburban growth in what were then fields. But the way the station was built does suggest the plan was for the line to go further, as they did not put the station building across the end of the tracks.



Well the line to High Beach never happened because by the 1870s there was quite a movement to stop Epping Forest land being enclosed for agriculture or being built on. This lead to the Epping Forest Act 1878 which halted the loss of forest land. Epping Forest ceased to be a royal forest and the City of London Corporation took over as Conservators. They still perform this role today, as we shall see.

And this explains why the built up area of Chingford stops so abruptly here.

Now turn right out of the station forecourt and follow the main road, which is Station Road and then becomes Rangers Road.

Note the road going off to the left (Bury Road)


Seems odd to see a sign for Epping Forest with a City of London crest and a street sign showing a London postcode.

Keep walking along the main road. You will need to use the left hand path (the forest side) as the right hand path does not go all the way.

Our next stop is just as the road bends.

Stop 3: Former Royal Forest Hotel

The first hotel was built here in 1881 but it was much rebuilt in 1925 after a fire.


As you can see it is a huge building – testament to the fact that this was a destination. This building was here to capitalise on the visitors who came on the train for a day out in Epping Forest. Not sure how many of them would have stayed the night but it does seem to have been a hotel as well – rather than just for serving daytrippers with refreshments.

How sad it is now a Premier Inn, with a Brewers Fayre catering facility (I hesitate to call it a restaurant).


But at least it has not suffered the fate of Jack Straw’s Castle on Hampstead Heath which we saw in NW3.

Our next stop is just next door.

Stop 4: Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge

The Royal Forest Hotel may be fake Tudor but here we have the real thing.


This is called Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge even though it was built for her father King Henry VIII in 1543. It is apparently a unique example of a surviving timber-framed hunt lodge.

It was built so that Royals could shoot deer from the first floor rather than go to the inconvenience of having to chase them round the forest. Note the whole building is whitewashed, which is how it should be, as opposed to what one usually sees where the structural timbers are painted black.

The building, like Epping Forest itself, is run by the City of London Corporation. The lodge is open to the public and has displays on Tudor food and fashion. (There is also a building between the Hotel and the lodge which is called The View and contains a display on the history and ecology of Epping Forest. That is where you go to ask for access to the Lodge if its door is locked)


Inside it is clearly geared up for the school/children audience but it is still worth venturing in to find out more about the building.



That chap in the fireplace gave me quite a turn. He is rather good at keeping totally still.

Do go upstairs for the view.


Obviously these deer are sitting targets, being made of wood.

Whilst you are here do have a look at the building just a little further along past the green.


This is called “The Butlers Retreat”. Today it is a cafe serving lovely food but it was originally a barn built in the mid 19th century. It is named after John Butler who lived here in the 1890s. It is one of the few remaining Victorian retreats within the forest. Retreats were promoted by the Temperance movement and so served only non-alcoholic refreshment.

Now retrace your steps back to just past Bury Road. Now the development is on both sides of the road. You will see a path striking off on your right along side the golf course running parallel to the edge. Go down this. Or alternatively you can walk along the road (called with startling originality “Forest View”). This street has not been adopted by the local authority and it shows.


You might complain about your local council’s road maintenance but public roads never ever get this bad!

If you are on the road hop back on the forest side path when you get to Eglington Road. Keep on walking up the hill in a roughly straight line and then when you get near the crest turn left. You should be able to see our next stop.

Stop 5: Pole Hill

We are on Pole Hill and you can see there is a stone obelisk.


This was was erected in 1824 under the direction of John Pond then the Astronomer Royal and it was to mark true north for the telescopes of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.


It was placed on high ground along the line of the Greenwich Meridian. This was recalibrated later in the 19th century, at which point it was determined that the obelisk was actually 19 feet west of the revised meridian line.

The nearby triangulation pillar marks the modern line, but that is apparently a co-incidence.

But there is another plaque on the obelisk.


This records that the land here was conveyed to the City of London by T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) in 1930. He had originally intended to build a house here with his friend Vyvyan Richards in which to print “fine books” (!?!).

Head down the hill towards the road you can see. This is Mornington Road. Our next stop is just ahead on the right.

Stop 6: Arabia Close

Now here is a nice little touch. The land here was also owned by T E Lawrence and so that is why the street is named as it is.


Sadly it is somewhat dull.


Continue along Mornington Road and cut through a pedestrian bit and turn right. Our next stop is just here.

Stop 7: Chingford Assembly Hall

This is the Chingford Assembly Hall built in 1959.


At the far end is a mosaic, installed for the Millenium


Note the picture of Winston Churchill, at the bottom on the left. He was the local MP for many years, as Chingford came under the Epping constituency. Churchill was MP for Epping from 1924 to 1945 and then there was boundary changes and so he became MP for Wanstead from 1945 to 1964.

I think Chingford stayed within the Epping constituency so Churchill ceased to be the local MP in 1945. Chingford became a constituency in its own right in 1974. Since then has had two very high profile MPs: Norman Tebbit (1974 – 1992) and Ian Duncan Smith (since 1992).

Walk by the green ahead of you keeping the church to your left. Our next stop is just past the junction with traffic lights, on the right.

Stop 8: Kings Head pub


According to Joanna, this is where a certain David Ivor Davies played the piano when he was stationed at nearby Chingford Aerodrome in the latter part of the First World War. He was a not too successful probationary flight sub-lieutenant. Having twice crashed a plane, he was moved to an office job and out of harm’s way for the duration of the war. But his real contribution to the war effort was his song “Keep the Home Fires Burning” for which he wrote the music in 1914. He of course became better known as Ivor Novello.

Here is a little link to Jo’s blog post about this:


The aerodrome closed in 1919 and reverted to pasture. In 1951 the site disappeared for ever under the William Girling Reservoir (named after the chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board) and it is that you can see if you look down the road in front of the pub.



Now go down the road called The Ridgeway (a left turn at this cross roads).

Stop 9: Former Town Hall

A short way along The Ridgeway is our next stop on the right.


This is the former Chingford Town Hall originally built in 1929. Chingford became an Urban District in 1894 and gained municipal borough status in 1938.

This does seem a strange place to put the Town Hall, not exactly in the main centre of things. And of course today it has outlived its usefulness as offices and has been converted into housing.

It is odd to think we are in the London Borough of Waltham Forest here – it is one of the quirks of the way London boroughs were created that Chingford is in the same borough as the rather more gritty urban Walthamstow and Leyton.

Keep walking along the Ridgeway. As the road bends to the right take a left turn into Endlebury Road. You will see an entrance to Ridgeway Park which is our next stop.

Stop 10: Ridgeway Park


Now this park contains a model railway.


According to the Waltham Forest Council website, there is a rather interesting story about a visitor to it in 1954. In case the link breaks and the text is lost for ever, here is what it says:

“Walt Disney Story as passed down from member to member


Walt Disney was a very keen miniature railway enthusiast and had his own 7¼ inch miniature railway at his home in USA. One day whilst visiting London on business and as he had completed his work asking his chauffeur if he knew of any miniature railways in London, the chauffeur brought Walt Disney to Ridgeway Park in Chingford. That day the park was holding the Chingford Day celebration we believe the year was 1954. Walt Disney drove trains around the track and allowed the press to take some photographs and had a good time.

When the public heard that Walt Disney was visiting the railway every body rushed over to see him, just as the Mayor of Chingford was about to open the celebration which he did almost on his own.

Information provided by the Chingford and District Model Engineering Club”

Ridgeway Park also lays claim to another famous connection. In 1979 a man called Peter King founded a football club for local youngsters in the park. He called it called Ridgeway Rovers and local boy David Beckham was once on the team..

Here is an article from the Guardian about the club. http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/jan/08/ridgeway-rovers-david-beckham-harry-kane

Continue along Endlebury Road going over the cross roads, you are now in Simmons Lane. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 11: Pimp Hall Park

You will see an entrance to Pimp Hall Park. Go through the gates.


This is the land of the 16th Century Pimps Hall. The name derives from Reynold Pympe who was lord of the manor in 1500.

According to Historic England’s website:  “The estate has been named after different owners at various times; the Buckerells, Gowers or Pimps. It belonged to the Buckerell family in the 13th century. In the late 15th century it was held by Sir J Gower. At one stage it was held by Henry VIII. In 1538 it was sold to Sir G Monoux. In the 16th century Pimp Hall was a farmhouse. It was demolished in 1936-9.”

Chingford Council bought the Hall and surrounding land in 1934 and the site divided between allotments, a council-run nursery, and this small park.

I am sure the name might lead to all sorts of jokes riffing on pimps or pimples, but I am not going there.

To be honest there is not much to see.  But there is a fine view of Chingford down below.


There is a rather interesting old feature in the grounds but I did not spot this until much later.

Return to the street and across the road you will see our next stop.

Stop 12: Friday Hill House


Friday Hill House is a Grade II listed house built in 1839 by the architect Lewis Vulliamy.


It was owned by Robert Boothby Heathcote, who was both the lord of the manor and rector of the local church.  The building was used for a number of years as a further education centre, but was put up for sale by the local Council in 2012. It is currently undergoing refurbishment.

At this point, I did a little detour. At the end of Simmons Lane I turned right into Friday Hill and went down the road a little to see this pub.


Today it is called the Dovecot and claims to have the biggest beer garden in Chingford.


Now at one time this pub was apparently called the Sirloin.

There are various stories about Kings using their swords to “knight” a hunk of beef and so name it “Sir Loin”. Sometimes it is King Henry VIII in Windsor, or King James I in Lancashire, but Chingford also has claim to the story – This time with King Charles II.  If you follow this link through you will (eventually) find the story which specifically mentions King Charles II and Friday Hill, Chingford.


Of course it is all a bit of fun. In fact the name sirloin is an anglicisation of the middle French term “sur longe” – that is the upper part of the loin. So it is really the story of someone having a play with words.

I decided to hop on a 212 bus back into Chingford, as it is quite a way.

Now as the bus turns left from Friday Hill into Kings Road keep a look out to the left. These are the allotments of Pimp Hall Park and in the distance you can see an old building. This is the Pimp Hall Barn and Dovecot dating from the 17th Century.


(not a bad picture considering it was taken from a moving bus!)

In conclusion I have to mention again that E4 is the only London postcode to include an area outside the administrative boundary of Greater London. This is a place called Sewardstone. There is not a lot there but it does contains the world HQ of the Scout movement at Gilwell Park.

But getting there proved to be too much of a challenge as it only has a sporadic bus service. Route number 505 runs between Chingford and Harlow just six times a day. It is not part of the London bus network and is currently operated by a small independent bus company called Trustybus.

Sadly to get there and back from Chingford involves a wait of at least an hour and a bit, sometimes two hours in Sewardstone. Fascinating though Sewardstone may be I decided not to take the diversion. But one day, I will definitely have to visit the place, just to say I have been!

So that brings us to the end of E4. Even though we did not get to the bit outside Greater London, we have certainly seen a great variety of stuff, with fascinating connections with Tudor royalty, through to Winston Churchill, Ivor Novello, Lawrence of Arabia, Walt Disney and David Beckham. And thanks to Joanna for her info about Chingford.

If you took my advice and got the 212 bus, this will take you back to Chingford station for onward travel. Otherwise it is a bit of a trek from Friday Hill. Retrace your steps along Friday Hill, turn left at Kings Road and then right at Station Road which will eventually lead you to the station.

E3: Not those bells…


E3 is Bow but it is not the location of the “Great Bell of Bow” in the Nursery Rhyme “Oranges and Lemons”. Nor does being born in Bow E3 mean you are a true Cockney. You have to live within the sound of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City to qualify and that is where the Great Bell of Bow is. But some people from Bow like to call themselves true Cockneys, as indeed did my father who grew up in Bow.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 603 Roman Road. This is actually just a little way along from where you finished the E2 walk. Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Roman Road which here is a part time market. Our first stop is at the junction with Parnell Road.

Stop 1: Iceni Court

Just by this junction across the road on the left is a non descript block of flats called Iceni Court.


No this is not the site of an old cinema but I had to stop to because of the sign here.


Not sure how accurate this is. The Romans certainly came to Britain in AD43 and they did built a road from London to Colchester. But surely the road to Colchester leaves the City at Aldgate and goes through Whitechapel and Mile End. The alignment of the modern day street called Roman Road is further north and would mean leaving the City at Bishopsgate and then turning right.

However looking at the map you can see that if you carry straight on from Roman Road and cross the River Lea you are in Stratford in direct line with the road to Colchester. So maybe it was just an alternative route. But which one came first?

At this end of the northern route we have the district known as Old Ford perhaps indicating that this was the older crossing of the Lea but at the east end of the southern route we have Aldgate, which means Old Gate. It just seems more logical that the road went directly out of a gate. Who knows? So even if they built the road from London to Colchester and beyond as soon as they got here in AD43, it is not clear whether the early road was on the alignment of the street we now call Roman Road.

The other curious thing about this block of flats is that the name that the powers that be have chosen to use.


Iceni was the local tribe in Roman times (at one point headed by warrior queen, Boudica). So they are celebrating the Romans by naming the building after a tribe that revolted against the Romans.

Turn right into Parnell Road and at the end turn left into Tredegar Road and then almost immediately right into Fairfield Road. Our next stop is on the left before the railway, set back behind some railings.

Stop 2: Bow Quarter (Former Bryant and May Match Factory)


This is the former factory of the Bryant and May match company. Once when almost everyone smoked and before the days of electric light, matches were a key item in every household.


This site was acquired by two Quaker businessmen William Bryant and Francis May in 1861 to produce what were known as “safety matches”. These are matches which only work when struck against a specifically prepared surface as opposed to any old rough surface. This makes them safer to handle.

The concept was developed in Sweden in the 1840s by Gustaf Erik Pasch. Pasch patented the use of red phosphorus in the striking surface. Then two brothers by the name of Lundström started making safety matches on a commercial scale and Bryant and May bought the British patent so they could produce safety matches here.

Match production ceased in 1979 and the building is now private apartments known as the Bow Quarter.


In the 19th century, match making was a hazardous business for the workers because of the exposure to dangerous chemicals in particular Phosphorus. In 1888, there was a strike of workers which arose out of the dismissal of a worker and led to the whole factory stopping work. They are always described as “match girls”, so I guess they were all or almost all women employed in this work. Some of the strikers went to see a local social activist Annie Besant and to ask for her assistance.


It was at this point she became involved as she was concerned by their precipitate action and by the number of women who were now out of work with no means of support. She did not start or lead the strike, in fact she never worked at the factory.

Annie Besant sounds quite a character. She became interested in Theosophy, which seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe and the bonds that unite the universe, humanity, and the divine. Theosophy had a particular interest in eastern mysticism and Besant travelled to India and later became involved in the movement for Indian independence.

The factory was rebuilt in 1911 and the brick entrance includes a depiction of Noah’s Ark and the word ‘Security’. This featured in their trademark which was used on the matchboxes.


Go under the railway bridge and our next stop is soon on the left.

Stop 3: Bow Bus garage


This bus garage has the look of a tram depot and indeed it was. Originally this was a tram depot for the North Metropolitan Tramways Company. Their first route had been a horse tram service from Whitechapel to Bow which started in 1870. The building we see today was built in 1908 by which time the trams were electric. It was used to house trolley buses from 1939 and became a bus depot in 1959. Today it houses lots of the Boris buses (which are used on Route 8).


Continue walking along Fairfield Road and just before the end, there is a plaque on the right.

Stop 4: Site of the Fair Field


So this is the origin of the name Fairfield. Obvious really and in fact the Fairfield Halls in Croydon is similarly named after an old fair site. Interesting that “rowdiness and vice” at public events is not such a new thing.

Actually the building on which this plaque is placed is our next stop but to get a better view go to the junction with the main road (Bow Road).

Stop 5: Former Town Hall

This was built as the Town Hall for Poplar Borough Council, which confusingly they chose to build in Bow. The building dates from 1937/38 and the architect is Clifford Culpin who went on to design the better known Greenwich Town Hall.



There are five relief panels with depictions of the type of workers involved in creating the building: welder, carpenter, architect, labourer and stone mason. Here are three of them.




Turn left and you will see the road divides around a statue. This is of William Ewart Gladstone, 19th century prime minister.


Cross the road near the statue. Once across you will see a little garden and a church at the end. Go in the garden.

Stop 6: Bow Church

Ahead is St Mary’s Church.


This started as a Chapel of Ease for Stepney in 1311, and only became a parish in its own right in 1719. Architectural guru Pevsner says the tower is 15th Century and the north aisle wall is the oldest part dating from the 14th Century. The mishmash of old bits survived because there was no money to rebuilt completely. When rebuilding was required following the collapse of the Chancel in 1896, the approach was to conserve and retain rather than replace wholesale. The building was damaged in the Second World War but repaired.

And if you look back, you get this view.


It is hard to believe we are on a traffic island in the middle of one of London’s main roads.

Now head back out of the garden and turn left. Cross the road and turn right heading back towards the Town Hall. Our next stop is on the left and is bright orange.

Stop 7: Bow Bells pub, 116 Bow Road

This pub perpetuates the myth that Bow is somehow connected with the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” and with being a cockney.

Exhibit One is the pub sign.


And Exhibit Two is this board on the pub’s frontage with the words of Oranges and Lemons.


This is of course complete nonsense, because the bells referred to are those of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story.

By the way the Bow we are in derives its name from the bridge over the nearby River Lea.

In 1110 Queen Matilda, wife of King Henry I, was crossing the ford over the river Lea hereabouts on her way to Barking Abbey and is said to have taken a tumble. As a result she ordered a bridge to be built.

The bridge had a distinctive bow shape and so the area on the west side of the river became Stratford-atte-Bow (Stratford at the Bow) which over time was shortened to Bow. This distinguished it from the Stratford on the east side of the Lea which was known as Stratford Langthorne after the name of the Abbey there. But of course today, that is just plain old Stratford.

Head back towards the church but turn right at the crossing next to the statue of Gladstone. Follow that road round as it bends to the left. This is Bromley High Street, which may once have been a humming centre but which today is almost completely devoid of any commercial activity. At the end you will see a gateway across the road to your right.

Stop 8: St Leonard’s Churchyard

At the end of Bromley High Street where St Leonard’s Street comes in from the right, you will see an old gateway. This was the entrance to St Leonard’s churchyard.


This gateway dates from 1894 and was built as a memorial to the Rev How, the vicar at St Leonards who had died the year before.



Go though the gateway.


It is a depressing site. It obviously at one time had been sorted out but today it is a complete mess. And it is hardly a tranquil spot as the northern approach to the Blackwall Tunnel is on the far side and you can see the road from a hole in the fence. The traffic noise is very evident.


This in fact was the site of St Leonard’s Priory, a Benedictine nunnery founded in 11th Century. Geoffrey Chaucer has a little reference in the prologue to The Canterbury Tales where he introduces the Prioress.

“Ther was also a nonne, a prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte loy;
And she was cleped madame eglentyne.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of stratford atte bowe,
For frenssh of parys was to hire unknowe.”

Basically the Prioress had learned French from the Benedictine nuns here. As a result she had a distinct Anglo-Norman dialect, which was regarded by sub-standard French, compared to that spoken in Paris.

Like other religious houses, the Abbey was destroyed in the 1530s. The property was mostly acquired by Sir Ralph Sadleir, who lived at Sutton House in Homerton (which is now owned by the National Trust).  But the church became the parish church of St Leonards. There is no church here today as it was destroyed by bombing in World War II and by the building of the Blackwall Tunnel approach road. All that remains is this rundown garden and the Victorian archway.

Go back out of the Churchyard and go down St Leonard’s Street which is immediately to your left.

Note the school on your right.

Stop 9: Old Palace School


Pevsner describes the school as “Light curtain walled buildings in the Festival style, fresh and cheerful”. The building dates from 1952, the year after the Festival of Britain.

It is called Old Palace School because it is on the site on a palace was built for James I in 1606. Well actually it was more a hunting lodge than a Palace. Some of the stonework was recycled from the remains of the priory just over the road.

It remained in Royal use in the reigns of Kings Charles II and James II. But by the 18th century the Palace was converted into two houses for merchants, and then it had other uses including becoming a boarding school. The house was demolished at the end of the 19th century by the London School Board so they could build a local school.

But we are stopping here not because of the school itself but because of the little plaque on the main building facing the road. This commemorates firefighters who were killed here in April 1941. This is said to be the largest single loss of fire personnel life in English history.


Now just here on the left is Franklin Street.


I only mention this because this is the street my father lived in as a child and young adult. However the street he knew was completely destroyed in the blitz, maybe it was the same raid as hit the school. So today there are houses that look like they were built in the 1950s or early 1960s.


Continue walking along St Leonard’s Street and ahead on the right is our next stop.

Stop 10: Bromley by Bow Centre

The Bromley by Bow Centre is a community organisation which encompasses an array of integrated social enterprises based around art, health, education and practical skills. And one of the entrances is though this old archway.


This gateway is 18th century (possibly late 1740s) and was originally at a riverside entrance to Northumberland House in the Strand near modern day Charing Cross Station.

So how did it get to Bow? The answer is that when Northumberland House was being demolished in 1874, the arch was bought by a man called Rutty who owned a house here in Bow called Tudor House. He wanted it to embellish his garden. That garden was bought by Poplar Borough Council in 1900 to form a public open space.

The park was first called Bromley Recreation Ground and was also known as Grace Street Park. It was later Bob’s Park renamed by local people after the park keeper, Robert Grenfell.

The archway was moved to its present location with money from Tescos who had built a large supermarket nearby.

The entrance to the park from St Leonard’s Street is just past the archway.

Go into the park and as you enter you will see an obelisk on your right.


This is actually a First World War memorial but it has been positioned so that the writing faces away from the pathway – almost as if the authorities wanted to hide what its original purpose was.

As you go into the park you will see a building looming over it on the far side. I think it must have been around here that my father and his twin brother got into trouble for playing cricket on the wall and disturbing the Indian gentleman who was staying in the building. More of which anon.


Now head through the park and out the other side turning right (This is Powis Road). Our next stop is the large building on the right.

Stop 10: Kingsley Hall


This is Kingsley Hall, named after Kingsley Lester who died aged 26 in 1914, leaving money for work in this area for “educational, social and recreational” purposes. His sisters Doris and Muriel bought and converted a disused chapel. It outgrew its original building and a new Hall was designed by well known architect Charles Voysey.

There was a stone-laying ceremony which took place on 14 July 1927. The Kingsley Hall website lists 18 stones representing different aspects of life and they seem to have had an appropriate person laying each stone. So Voysey laid the brick of “Architecture”, sculptor Gilbert Bayes laid “Art”, writer, John Galsworthy “Literature” and actor Sybil Thorndike “Drama”, but oddly local Labour politician George Lansbury laid the brick “Sunday Evening Service”.

Well as you can see there is a blue plaque on the front of the Hall which indicates a certain indian man called Mahatma Ghandi (1869 – 1948) stayed here in 1931.


He had been invited to England but refused to stay in a hotel so was put up here in the East End for some 12 weeks from September to December 1931. So it was him who my father and uncle (aged 8) must have been disturbing.

More about this building is on the Hall’s website: http://www.kingsley-hall.co.uk/kingsleyhall.htm It has quite a history.

Now head along Bruce Road and turn left into Devons Road. Follow this, as it does a right hand turn and carry along the road which is still Devons Road. Go past the DLR station for our final stop which is on the left.

Stop 12: The Widow’s Son pub

Pubs in this area are becoming a rare sight, what with the change in demographics, drinking habits and property values. But this unpromising looking pub just by Devons Road DLR station has a rather unqiue story.


The story goes that there was an old widow whose only son left to go to sea. He wrote to her saying that he would be returning home at Easter and to have a nice hot cross bun waiting for him. He never returned, but his mother continued to put by a fresh hot cross bun every Good Friday for the rest of her life. After her death a hoard of hot cross buns was discovered.

A pub was built on the site of her cottage in 1848 and so began a tradition of a sailor placing a new bun in net over the bar each Good Friday.


You can’t help thinking “Widow’s Son” ought to be “Hot Cross Bun” in cockney rhyming slang – but it is not, so far as I can tell.

This pub was sold by Punch Taverns in 2012 to a developer who has been seeking planning permission to convert the building to flats, so far unsuccessfully. The pub is still trading but one wonders how much longer this quirky little slice of London will survive.

So that brings us to the end of our E3 walk though Bow and Bromley. Whilst this area suffered badly during the Blitz, it still retain some older buildings with reminders of a world before industrialisation and also of a quite radical past.

You are close by Devons Road DLR station for onward travel.


E2: All behind Ewan and ‘is London Fog

E2 is Bethnal Green and what is surprising is that there is quite a lot of green in Bethnal Green.

We start our walk at Bethnal Green Post Office at 223 – 227 Bethnal Green Road. (NB there are two Post Offices in Bethnal Green Road and this is the one which is closest to the City – ie the west end of the road.)

Turn left out of the post office and our first stop is on the left.

Stop 1: Former Essoldo Cinema, Number 283 Bethnal Green Road

A quick glance at this building does suggest cinema and indeed it was.


It started life as Smart’s Picture House in April 1913. It was remodeled in 1938 by well known cinema architect George Coles. A new streamlined Art Deco facade was added and the auditorium was given an Art Deco makeover.

It reopened as the Rex Cinema and in December 1949 it was taken over by the Essoldo chain of cinemas and re-named Essoldo. The cinema closed in 1964 and it became a bingo club until around 1990.

The building became a storeroom and trade only retail outlet but today it seems to be unused.

Continue along Bethnal Green Road. Our next stop is just after the junction with Valance Road  – on the right before you get to Hague Street.

Stop 2: E Pellicci, Number 332 Bethnal Green Road

Well this is an unexpected survival.



This italian cafe was established in 1900 and it is still owned by the founding family. But it is the makeover it had in 1946 that makes it special.

It is now Grade II listed. English Heritage inspectors describe it as having a ‘stylish shop front of custard Vitrolite panels, steel frame and lettering as well as a rich Deco-style marquetry panelled interior, altogether representing an architecturally strong and increasingly rare example of the intact and stylish Italian caf that flourished in London in the inter-war years.”

Return to Valance Road and turn left. Go past the park on your left and stop just before you get to the railway.

Stop 3: Numbers 170 – 184 Valance Road

Here is a little redevelopment by self builders which was “inaugurated” by Prince Charles on 15 September 1988. (Not sure what that means in the context of a building)



If the current street numbers equate to the old ones then this was about where the notorious Kray family lived. According to Wikipedia, the family moved to 178 Valance Road from Stean Street in Hoxton in 1938.

Return along Valance Road and turn right into the park which is our next stop.

Stop 4: Weavers Fields

According to the architectural reference book, Pevsner, this open space was created in the 1970s by the complete destruction of a densely packed area of early 19th century two storey weavers’ cottages.



If you keep walking along the path you will get to a kind of a roundabout. In the middle is an interesting sculpture, called Weaving Identities. It was a commission by Tower Hamlets Council and completed in December 2003.



Here is a link to some more information of the work.


At the artwork do a left turn and head out of the park. There is a big red brick building ahead of you. This is Oxford House and dates from the 1890s.


Oxford House was established in 1884 as a “university settlement house”. Students and graduates from Keble College, Oxford undertook a period of residential volunteering to learn at first hand about the realities of urban poverty. These volunteers lived upstairs in Oxford House which was like a mini Oxford college in the heart of Bethnal Green.

Today Oxford House carries on with providing affordable office space for local groups, an arts centre and volunteering opportunities.

More info at: http://www.oxfordhouse.org.uk/

This includes information about their plans to develop the building, including renovating the chapel.

Go along the street (Derbyshire Street) ahead of you – with Oxford House on your right. Then when you get back to Bethnal Green Road, turn right and keep going. Pass under the railway bridge and turn left into a little street facing a garden.

Stop 5: Paradise Row

This is a lovely little terrace of houses dating from late 18th and early 19th century set beside a little green.


And here at Number 3 is a local blue plaque.


Daniel Mendoza (1764 – 1836) was an English prizefighter, who was boxing champion of England in 1792–1795. He was of Portuguese-Jewish descent.

In 1981, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (who knew such a thing existed!)

Here is a link to his story on their site:  http://www.jewishsports.net/BioPages/DanielMendoza.htm

Our next stop is just across the main road (Cambridge Heath Road)

Stop 6: V & A Museum of Childhood

This building is an outpost of the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington.



It does look a bit like it was an old tram shed, but actually the building has a much more interesting heritage.

The building we see today dates from 1868 – 1872 but incorporates the iron structure of the first temporary museum erected at South Kensington in the mid 1850s with the proceeds of the 1851 Great Exhibition.

According to Pevsner, as work was beginning on the permanent museum structure, the Government offered the temporary building to any London district capable of, or interested in, taking it. The plan was to split it so as to establish museums in more than one place. But in the end, it came to Bethnal Green – or rather two thirds of it came here. A bit stayed in South Ken but was subsequently demolished in 1906.

At first the Bethnal Green building held the Wallace Collection (now in Manchester Square) and later it had exhibits related to the trades and industries of the East End. It became the V & A Museum of Childhood in 1974.

And if you look down the right hand side by the gardens, you will see these rather lovely panels high up on the walls. These represent the work of man in the arts, sciences, industry and agriculture.


Our next stop is just along Cambridge Heath Road.

Stop 7: Mayfield house, Number 172 Cambridge Heath Road


On the site of this dull block of flats once stood a cinema.

When it opened in December 1912 it was called Museum Cinema, a nod to its neighbour just down the road.

It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1931. Taken over by the Odeon chain in February 1943, it was renamed Odeon Bethnal Green in 1950. After closure in December 1956, the building was demolished and Mayfield House was built on the site.

Our next stop is just next door to Mayfield House.

Stop 8: Town Hall Hotel

This building was the town hall of Bethnal Green Borough Council. The front dates from 1910 but there is a 1930s extension with the interiors in Deco style.


No longer a Town Hall the building was converted to become a boutique hotel in 2010.


Now retrace your steps along Cambridge Heath Road. Our next stop is at the corner by the church.

Stop 9: Bethnal Green Underground station and memorial

The Underground station here opened in 1946 but the building was well advanced before the war and so the station was used as an air raid shelter.

The station is an example of the style adopted by London Transport for new tube stations built under the “New Works Programme 1935 – 1940” . Downstairs the platforms have cream tiles and very so often there is a little special decorative tile showing an image in relief. These seem to have survived the refurbishment of 2007




Back on the surface at the south west corner of the junction (diagonally opposite the church)  is a rather neglected bit of art work in the pavement. according to Pevsner this dates from 2004 and is by A J Bernasconi.


It is described as pavement set lights in glazed segmental curved trenches with embossed images of ‘child friendly’ objects.


Obviously it references the nearby Museum of Childhood. But it is looking sadly neglected.

On the south east corner of the junction is a green. As you go in, there is a monument looming up.



This is the memorial to what is considered to have been the largest single loss of civilian life in the UK in World War Two and the largest loss of life in a single incident on the London Underground network.

On 3 March 1943, people had crowded into the underground station due to an air raid siren at 8:17pm. There was a panic at 8:27pm coinciding with the sound of an anti-aircraft battery being fired at nearby Victoria Park. In the wet, dark conditions the crowd was surging forward towards the shelter when a woman tripped on the stairs, causing many others to fall. Within a few seconds 300 people were crushed into the tiny stairwell, resulting in 173 deaths. The media reported that there had been a direct hit by a German bomb. The results of the official investigation were not released until 1946.

Here is a piece from the BBC about the disaster: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-21645163

A small memorial plaque was put up in the 1990s.  In 2007 the “Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust” was established to create a more fitting memorial to those who died in the disaster. This is only partly complete as there is eventually going to be an actual staircase suspended from the concrete upright. More info at: http://www.stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org/

Go down Roman Road (This runs between the green and the church). you will see ahead on the right a sculptural structure featuring a globe.


This marks the beginning of what is known as Globe Town.  This district began to be built up in the early 1800s to provide for the expanding population of weavers around Bethnal Green attracted by improving prospects in silk weaving. By the 1820s, the silk industry was in decline but the area turned to manufacturing other goods such as furniture, boots and clothing.

Take the left turning at the cross roads by the Globe. This is Globe Road.

Stop 10: East End Dwelling Company buildings, Globe Road

Just a little way along Globe Road, you come into an area which was redeveloped by a private company, the East End Dwellings Company (EEDC) between 1900 and 1906.

This company was incorporated in 1884. One of its founders was the Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett, who later with his wife went on to establish Hampstead Garden Suburb which we saw in NW11. They also founded the first University Settlement at Toynbee Hall (near Aldgate) in 1884, which sadly we did not get a chance to see in E1.

The aim of EEDC was to “house the very poor while realising some profit”. Their first development was Katharine Buildings in Aldgate, which was followed by a number of schemes here in Bethnal Green.

First comes Mendip House which dates from 1900.


Then ahead is a series of 5 storey blocks of flats dating from 1901 – 1906.


But the company also built some terraced housing as can be seen on the right hand side of the road. These date from 1906.


Continue along Globe Road and turn right into Cyprus Street. Go along the first part and continue through the modern development. The bit of the street you have come to see is on the other side.

Stop 11: Cyprus Street

According to Pevsner, this street was built in 1850/51 as Wellington Street. Interesting in that the Duke of Wellington died in 1852, by which time he had retired from public life. So one wonders why the street got this name. Maybe it was actually named in 1852. But by 1879 it had been renamed Cyprus Street. No idea why.


Lovely though this street is, what makes it rather interesting is this unusual war memorial, which sits opposite Clyde Place.


During the Great War, unofficial memorials were often set up to local men who had been killed in battle. Such memorials were usually temporary and were later replaced by grander, official ones after the war.

The Cyprus Street plaque was originally paid for by the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged and Demobolised Soldiers and Sailors Benevolent Club; a group who were based at and took their name from a local pub (now closed like so many in this part of the world).

But all is not what it seems, according to this site:


In the 1960s the Cyprus Street memorial was nearly lost for good when the local housing association decided to build a modern block of flats on the site. (I guess that is what we just walked through) During the demolition of the house upon which the memorial was located, the plaque was damaged. The monument was rescued and it (or perhaps a replica) was reinstated further down the street.

At the end of Cyprus Street turn left and then right. Soon you will see the gateway style entrance to the Cranbrook Estate.


Go in and follow the road straight ahead (Mace Street)


Veer towards the left and walk through the estate. As you come past Offenbach House have a look to your right where you get a glimpse of the Shard.


By the way the Cranbrook Estate dates from the first half of the 1960s and was the last of three developments by Skinner, Bailey and Lubetkin for Bethnal Green Borough Council. The latter of course we came across in relation to the privately developed Highpoint flats in Highgate which were built in the 1930s.

Keep walking through the Cranbrook Estate and when you come out the other side you will be back on Roman Road. There is another Globe gateway sculpture here.


If you turn right onto Roman Road you will soon see our final stop, set back off the main road in a fenced off area.

Stop 12: The Blind Beggar and his Dog

This is the Blind Beggar and his Dog by Dame Elizabeth Frink.

Or perhaps as the locals almost certainly would not call it: “All behind Ewan an’ ‘is London Fog” (All Behind = Blind; Ewan McGreggor = Beggar and London Fog = Dog). Well possibly!


You cannot normally get near because it is a private garden but I struck lucky when I was passing. A handyman was working in the area and he let me in the gate, so I could get a bit closer.


So that is the Blind Beggar and his dog we heard about in E1 where there is the pub of that name. Of course as we heard then, the legend of the Blind Beggar actually relates to Bethnal Green.

So that brings us to the end of our E2 walk. Again there was much more than I could possibly cover. In particular I could not include the Boundary Estate an early example of social housing, nor the location of the now closed Club Row market, which specialised in live animals. But we did get to see some interesting street artworks and memorials, not to mention the sites of two cinemas and the outpost of a major national museum.

You are now on Roman Road where you can get buses back to Bethnal Green tube or to Mile End for onward travel.

E1: You either see it or you don’t

E1 is the start of the real East End. It is a challenge as there is so much of interest to see. I have therefore focussed on the area from Whitechapel to Spitalfields, and even then I have had to leave out some things which I would loved to have mentioned.

We start our walk at Whitechapel Post Office, 208A- 210 Whitechapel Road. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way along on the other side of the road.

Stop 1: Former Mann’s Albion Brewery



According to architectural guru Pevsner, a brew house was established here in 1808 by the landlord of the nearby Blind Beggar pub.  In 1818, two Lambeth brewers, Blake and Mann, bought the lease. Philip Blake retired in 1826 leaving John Mann to run the business alone. The Company’s name changed to John Mann, Brewer and in 1843 to Mann and Sons. Mann soon got new partners during the 1840s with Robert Crossman and Thomas Paulin. The company’s name then changed to Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd – as you just about see on this picture.


By the 1950s, five generations of the Mann and Crossman families had been associated with the brewing and “Mann’s Brown Ale” was perhaps their best known product.

In 1959 the company merged with Watney, Combe, Reid and Co. to form Watney, Mann Ltd. Later in 1972 this Company was bought by Grand Metropolitan, who closed the Albion Brewery in 1979. The buildings were converted to flats in the early 1990s.

And just at the corner is the Blind Beggar pub.


There has been an ale house here for a long time possibly back to the late 17th century, although the present building dates from 1894.


The pub’s name references the story of the Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green. According to the legend in the 13th century there was a blind beggar living in Bethnal Green who was in fact Henry de Montfort, eldest son of Simon de Montfort. His identity was revealed at the wedding feast of his daughter Bessie.

A depiction of the beggar had appeared on the head of the staff of the local beadle from 1690. And when the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green was formed in 1900 the borough seal depicted a scene based on The Beggar’s Daughter of Bednall Green. This was a version of the story from a poem in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, published in 1765 but which had been around since the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1865, William Booth preached his first open-air sermon outside the Blind Beggar, which led to the establishment of the East London Christian Mission, later to become the Salvation Army. Although today their headquarters is in Queen Victoria Street in the City and the UK HQ is Newington Causeway SE1, the Salvation Army still has a presence locally. We will pass Booth House as we walk along the main road later.

This pub was also the location of a notorious murder on 9 March 1966 when local villain, Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell, an associate of a rival gang, the Richardsons.

More info on this lovely website: http://www.eastlondonhistory.co.uk/the-blind-beggar-pub/

At this point you could take a short diversion down Sydney Street and right into Ashfield Street

Stop 1a: Number 91 Ashfield Street

Sir Jack Cohen (1898-1979) founder of Tesco Stores, lived at 91 Ashfield Street as a child.


Jack Cohen began with a market stall in 1919. According to the Tesco company website, the Tesco name first appeared in 1924, after Cohen purchased a shipment of tea from T. E. Stockwell and combined those initials with the first two letters of his surname, and the first Tesco store opened in 1929 in Burnt Oak, Barnet. Tesco then went on to become the retail giant we know (and love?) today.


Return up Cavell Street and then left into Whitechapel Road. But if you have not taken the diversion just retrace your steps along Whitechapel Road.

Stop 2: Royal London Hospital

Our next stop is on the left.

The Royal London Hospital was founded in September 1740 initially as The London Infirmary becoming the London Hospital in 1748. The hospital moved to its current location on the south side of Whitechapel Road in 1757. The buildings we see today date from the late 18th and 19th century. The hospital only got its Royal tag following a visit by the Queen in 1990, when the hospital celebrated its 250th anniversary.


The hospital is undergoing a multi million pound rebuild at the moment and so the older buildings facing Whitechapel Road are surrounded by hoardings at present.


But if you look to the left of the main portico you might just spot this blue plaque to Nurse Edith Cavell (1865 – 1915).


She worked here from 1896 until 1901.  She was a nurse in German occupied Belgium in the First World War and helped some 200 Allied soldiers escape. She was arrested and accused of treason, found guilty by a court-martial and sentenced to death. Despite international pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad.

Continue walking along Whitechapel Road. Note the great view towards the City.


And also Booth House across the road.


Stop 3: Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Just at the corner of  Fieldgate Street is our next stop, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry – a quite amazing survival.


The foundry was first recorded in Whitechapel in the 15th century and has been on this site since 1738. However Pevsner suggests most of the buildings we see on Whitechapel Road are 19th century. The Foundry made many famous bells including of course Big Ben and the Liberty bell which can be found in Philadelphia.

“Big Ben” by the way weighs 13½ tons and is the largest bell ever cast at the foundry.

The foundry is still making bells – large and small.

The place has a curious old fashioned look about it.


It is like it is in a time warp – except of course for the no smoking sign which drags it back to the 21st century.

Keep walking along Whitechapel Road. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 4: Altab Ali Park



This is the site of the church which gives the area its name. The church here was called St Mary Matfelon. It was at first a chapel of ease – that is a subsidiary church – to St Dunstan’s Stepney. It had a whitewashed exterior and so became known as the White Chapel. The name Matfelon comes from the family who rebuilt the church in the 14th century.

The church was rebuilt a couple of times, most recently in the 1870s. The church was severely damaged by fire in the Blitz and the ruins were finally demolished in 1952. But part of the church outline is traced out in some paving in the garden.


The churchyard became St Mary’s Gardens in 1966 but was renamed Altab Ali Park in 1989 after a Bangladeshi student murdered in 1979.

There is also a monument here in the diagonally opposite corner from where you first started with this park.


This is called the Martyrs Monument and dates from 1999. It is a copy of a monument originally erected in Bangladesh to the memory of 5 students killed in 1952.

Cross over the main road and take the right hand turn called Osborn Street. This is just before the Whitechapel Gallery (which sadly we have not got time to cover)

Stop 5 Brick Lane

Osborn Street becomes Brick Lane. Today this area has been rechristened (if that is the right term!) Banglatown.


The street is a seemingly endless strip of curry houses all vying for trade. Pevsner says this “has much character but little that stands out architecturally”. The street was strongly Jewish in the early 20th century but has since become a centre for Bangladeshi immigrants who settled in the area in large numbers from the 1970s.

Useless fact: The street’s name came from the nearby clay pits used for brickmaking. It was first built up haphazardly during the 17th century and much rebuilt around 1900.

We can take a slight diversion here and keep going along Brick Lane.

Stop 5a: Former Truman Brewery

Ahead is the former Truman Brewery. you cannot really miss it as part of it spans the street.


The brewery was established in this area in the 1660s and was in the ownership of  Joseph Truman in the 1680s. A succession of Truman ran it for the next 100 or so years.

The last Truman to operate the brewery was Benjamin Truman. When he died in 1780, he left most of the brewery to his grandsons, with the rest going to his head clerk James Grant, who took over the running of the brewery. After Grant’s death in 1788, his share was purchased by Sampson Hanbury, who went on to run Truman’s for the next 46 years.

Hanbury brought new levels of professionalism and efficiency, including purchasing the brewery’s first steam engine in 1805. In 1808, Hanbury’s nephew Thomas Fowell Buxton joined the firm, which then became Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Co Ltd.


In 1971 Truman’s became the centre of a bidding war between Grand Metropolitan and Watney Mann, which as we have just heard had a local foothold with its brewery in Whitechapel. Eventually, Grand Metropolitan won. It then pursued and took over Watney Mann whereupon Grand Metropolitan then merged Watney Mann with Truman’s.

Grand Metropolitan made many changes to the company, in particular focussing on keg beer. But the company’s fortunes did not improve and although cask beer was brought back in the 1980s along with the traditional Truman’s eagle logo, the Brick Lane brewery was shut in 1989. Today it is an interesting mix of commercial premises, including some trendy market areas.

If you go under the bridge bit there is a the building on the left with a blue plaque.


This is for Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786 -1845) who was an anti-slavery campaigner in addition to being a key player in the beer business.


Go down Hanbury Street. This will be a left if you have not gone to the Brewery or if you have, retrace your steps down Brick Lane and take a right 

Stop 6: Hanbury Street

Hanbury Street is no doubt named after the brewery family. There are a couple of things to mention on this stretch of Hanbury Street west of Brick Lane, both on the left as you go along the street.

First is Hanbury Hall.



As the blue plaque says this was built in 1719 as a French Huguenot church. Having escaped France which at the time did not tolerate protestants, they had settled in the area and were largely engaged in the silk trade. Later it became a German Lutheran church, then a Baptist and finally a Methodist church. In 1887, the local Church of England parish church, Christ Church, bought the building and made it their church hall.

And it has some other interesting connections. Charles Dickens was a regular visitor in the 1800s using the building for public readings of his works and in 1888 young women working at the local Bryant and May match factory held their strike meetings here as they prepared to protest against working conditions at the factory. This was an important step in establishing trade unions.

And just before the junction with Commercial Street, there is a very red shop with a blue plaque.


This was the birthplace of comedian Bud Flanagan (1896 – 1968).


He was one of the Crazy Gang, a group of British comedians who were popular in the 1930s and 1940s , The members were: Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton and Jimmy Gold and sometimes ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray. Essentially the gang comprised three double acts; Flanagan and Allen, Naughton and Gold, and Nervo and Knox (with some input from Gray). They had all had success before the Crazy Gang but not of the same magnitude.

Flanagan also wrote the song “Underneath the Arches” which in effect became Flanagan and Allen’s theme song,

At the end of Hanbury Street turn right into Commercial Street. Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 7: Spitalfields Market

According to the City of London Corporation website,  Spitalfields is one of the City’s younger markets, starting life as a thirteenth century market in a field next to St Mary Spital on the edge of the Square Mile. It explains:

“In 1682, King Charles II granted John Balch, a silk thrower, a Royal Charter that gave him the right to hold a market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or near Spital Square. For the next 200 years, the market traded from a collection of sheds and stalls, doing its best to cope with London’s growing appetite for fresh fruit and vegetables. As time went by, it became a centre for the sale of home-grown produce, which was being traded there six days a week.

By 1876, a former market porter called Robert Horner bought a short lease on the market and started work on a new market building, which was completed in 1893 at a cost of £80,000. In 1920, the City of London acquired direct control of the market, extending the original buildings some eight years later.”


And here is a detail from over the doorway which refers to Robert Horner and so predates the City Corporation’s ownership.


Not sure which Queen Victoria Jubilee this would be, Is it the 50th (Golden) which would have been 1887 or perhaps the 60th (Diamond) which was 1897?

The wholesale market moved out to purpose built premises in Leyton in 1991. And for a while it was not clear what would happen.

In the end around two-thirds of the historic market was kept and rebuilt to include restaurants, shops and a large indoor arts and crafts market.


But the 1920s market extension to the west was replaced by a Norman Foster designed office block. Pevsner says “The baleful  effect of this cannot be overemphasised and marks the continued, and doubtless irresistible, empire building of the City of London over the domestic and social needs of the East End.” Quite.

If you have ventured in to the market come back out. Our next stop is on Commercial Street on the diagonally opposite corner to the old market building.

Stop 8: Christ Church, Spitalfields

Christ Church Spitalfields is the Nicholas Hawksmoor masterpiece, started in 1715 and consecrated in 1729. It was built in part to demonstrate the power of the established church to the dissenting Huguenots, who had established a number of their own chapels in the area.


The church has gone through some hard times, having been closed as unsafe in 1958. In 1966 the crypt was restored and then starting in 1976 a major restoration was undertaken. It is a wonderful space, well worth a visit. It is open most days. It is also used for concerts, events and functions.

Now take the street to the left of the main market building. This is Brushfield Street, The site immediately on the left (south) side of Brushfield Street is currently being rebuilt. Only the facade of the old building remains. This was the Fruit and Wool Exchange building of 1926.


Stop 9: Brushfield Street

Just after this building site is a run of interesting old buildings on your left, some are facsimiles (numbers 8 – 10 near Bishopsgate were rebuilt after a fire in 1983)


Numbers 40 – 42 and 14 – 16 are genuine 18th century. Number 40 is Verde and Company.


This is a lovely little shop which does great sandwiches and salads plus some luxurious food items. You often see oranges on display.


Well this seems to be a little nod to the author Jeanette Winterson who owns the building.

In an article in the Guardian in June 2010 she said:

“My house had been the offices of an oranges importer – which seemed auspicious, as my first novel was Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Then I found out that the business had been called JW Fruits – so I had to buy it, didn’t I?”

A coffee chain wanted to rent the premises but she explained:

“It never occurred to me open a food shop. The coffee offer forced me to focus on what I would really like to happen, instead of either doing nothing or passively accepting what someone else would like to happen – so it was a pretty good life lesson, too.”

So she went into partnership with an american called Harvey Cabaniss to create the shop and I think he is still at front of house. By the way, the name Verde comes from a 1930s sign that was on the facade.

Here is a link to the full article in the Guardian:


Now on the right you will see a branch of Patisserie Valerie. Go into the pedestrianised area here keeping Patisserie Valerie on your right. The Foster buildings (so hated by Pevsner) are on your left.

Just ahead you will see a little area of water and beyond that is a rectangular hole in the ground. There is a lift here or else go down the steps at the far end of the hole.

Stop 10: The Charnal House


This is what’s left of the Charnel House of St Mary Spital (although the sculpture is modern).

There was a Roman cemetery hereabouts but in 1197 the site of this cemetery became a priory called The New Hospital of St Mary without Bishopsgate. This became known as St Mary Spital – hence the land nearby was Spital Fields. This religious foundation was one of the biggest hospitals in medieval England and there was also a cemetery which included a stone charnel house (used to store bones) and mortuary chapel.

There are these lovely information panels. They are rather attractive but almost impossible to read especially if it is sunny.


The Charnel House was uncovered when the area was redeveloped in the early 2000s.

Keep going straight ahead. You are now in Spital Square, which is no longer a square since redevelopment. At the end take a left into Folgate Street

Stop 11: Dennis Severs’ House, Number 18 Folgate Street

Just here in a terrace of houses dating from 1724 is a fascinating place, a visitor experience like no other.


This was the creation of one man, an American called Dennis Severs (1948 – 1999). There are ten rooms all furnished in period and are arranged as if they are in use and the occupants have only just left. So there is half-eaten bread, discarded clothes and wigs, and smells and background sounds. But no wax models of people. Severs called this “still life drama”.  You go round in your own time in silence. Highly recommended!


The motto of the house is: “You either see it or you don’t”. And in a way that is the watchword of this whole walk, be it the stones that trace the outline of the church on the site of the White Chapel, the sign giving a clue to the developer of Spitalfields Market, a basket of oranges or the little reminder of an artist’s work which we shall see at the next stop.

Now go along Folgate Street and take the next left into Elder Street. Our next stop is just on the left hand side of the street.

Stop 12: Number 32, Elder Street

This house was lived in by artist Mark Gertler (1891 – 1939).


Here is the Blue Plaque


And in addition there is this lovely little roundel in the pavement which shows a little extract of one of his famous paintings: “Merry-Go-Round”


“Merry-Go-Round” dates from 1916, when he was 24 years old. It depicts men and women (many in uniform) on a merry-go-round fairground ride.

We are now at the end of our E1 walk. There was far more to see than I could possibly cover, but hopefully I have shown you a good slice of this intriguing part of London.

For onward travel return to Folgate Street, turn right and at the end is Bishopsgate with lots of buses and just down the road is Liverpool Street station.