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Local History

Woodgrange House sketch

A sketch of Woodgrange
House. 1862


Until midway through the nineteenth century, the area east of Stratford, through Forest Gate and Manor Park was very rural.Then along came the railway. And the developers. And lots and lots of people.

Going for a song

What property can you purchase on Woodgrange Estate for £40,000? Probably not a lot, you may say. But 133 years ago, you could have bought all there was. That is what developer Thomas Corbett paid for the site in 1877. Then, though, there was just one house, Woodgrange House (see sketch, from Forest Gate Weekly News, 9/7/1897) and a handful of cottages on adjacent land. The rest was a large market garden. Between 1887 and 1892, Thomas Corbett and his sons went on to oversee the construction of more than 1100 houses on the land, most of which constitute the Woodgrange Estate as it is today. The Corbetts would certainly have recognised the importance to their development of the adjacent railway, one of the first Essex lines, opened by Eastern Counties Railway in 1839. The Woodgrange site was perfect for commuters and business people working in the City.

No parking

The houses were generally sold on 99-year leaseholds, costing several hundred pounds, paltry by today's incomes, but a substantial sum then. Records show that the houses were occupied mainly by business people and middle-class professionals and their families. The photograph, an 'early view of Hampton Road' (© Sanders & Harris 1994), suggests parking problems on the estate were somewhat less acute than today. The attraction of the area was recorded in the Forest Gate Weekly News at the time as combining "the three great essentials to the average city man of easy access, reasonable rentals, and a first class local market".

Early view of Hampton Road

An early view of Hampton Road

The population increase during that half-century (1850-1900) was huge, with West Ham alone increasing from barely 20,000, spread around in small villages, to over a quarter of a million people. Around 30,000 dwellings were built to house them all.

Bombed out

During the second world war, like much of the east end of London, the area was a place of great danger from bombers attacking local industrial areas, or on terror raids, or simply ditching unused ordnance. The south-west corner of the estate was badly damaged by aerial bombing, with houses in Windsor and Claremont Roads having to be demolished and cleared. They were replaced by flats built during the 1950's for council tenants. A similar, more self-contained, development was later built around All Saints' Church at the Manor Park end of the estate. More recently, unsightly garage and wasteland areas in Hampton Road have been replaced with housing. In 1976, the Estate was designated a conservation area.

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