Newham Heritage Week to highlight our proud past

Part of Peter Williams' history of Forest Gate Picture: Peter Williams

Part of Peter Williams' history of Forest Gate Picture: Peter Williams - Credit: Archant

It’s seen bloody religious warfare, the revolutionary effects of industrialisation, the birth of socialism and it played a key role in the creation of the biggest empire in history.

The mountain of fridges in Stratford Picture: Eastside Community Heritage

The mountain of fridges in Stratford Picture: Eastside Community Heritage - Credit: Archant

And that’s before we even mention Danny Dyer.

But is the heritage of Newham given the attention it deserves?

Six days of events between October 24 and 30, organised by group A Museum for Newham and Newham Council, aim to guarantee the past is thrust into the present.

“It’s important we don’t lose our history,” Kevin Jenkins, co-founder of charity Community Links and the main force behind Newham Heritage Week, said.

Meeting of the A Museum for Newham group at Arc in the Park

Meeting of the A Museum for Newham group at Arc in the Park - Credit: Archant

“We need to learn about it so we can move forward together.”

He added: “There’s a danger at the moment we could lose a lot of the past unless we start recording it.”

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The week of heritage is, Mr Jenkins said, part of a long-running campaign to see a museum opened in Newham.

Events during the week include an exhibition at Beckton Globe Library devoted to Labour MP Keir Hardie, a look at Newham’s contribution to the First World War at East Ham Library and a guided walk around Stratford focused on “how E15 became E20”.

Mr Jenkins said: “Newham is the only borough without a museum in London, but it’s so rich in history.

“It kicked off the whole working class movement – and it had the Romans as well.”

The plan, which began about a year ago, has progressed without any funding, while being assisted by the Newham History Society and former Recorder editor Colin Grainger.

“You look on Facebook, and there are something like 13 groups dedicated to history in Newham,” Mr Grainger said.

“They are full of pictures and of people’s memories – there is so much interest in the past.”

He added: “A lot of these people have stuff literally under their desks that could be put straight into a museum in Newham.”

At a meeting on Thursday at Arc in the Park, in Bethel Avenue, Canning Town, members of A Museum for Newham stressed the need to tell the borough’s history – especially given its modern diversity.

“It’s important to tell the kids whose parents came from other parts of the world the history here,” Robert Rogers, who is also a member of Newham History Society, said.

“We need to make sure they know where they are and know our history – which is, of course, their history.”

Judith Garfield, executive director of Eastside Community Heritage, agrees.

“If people appreciate the history, it gives them pride in the area,” she said.

“It brings people together.”

She added: “I’m happy about the week – I’m always amazed how many people are interested in our history.”

Cllrr Ken Clark, cabinet member for building communities, public affairs, regeneration and planning, said: “Newham has a rich and colourful history that many people living here now may know little if anything about.

“Newham, like every part of the country, has changed over the years. We should not lose sight of our past which has helped Newham develop into the vibrant, dynamic and resilient borough we know today.

“I hope all of our residents take the opportunity to find out about the events and people that have shaped our borough by visiting the wide array of events being organised by the council and our partners.”

1. October 24–29, 9.30am– 8pm, Stratford Library. A look at Bengali culture in Newham.

2. October 25, 2pm – enjoy a guided walk looking at the history of Stratford. Email

3. October 27, 11am, Theatre Royal Stratford East. A free talk on the theatre’s history.

4. October 27, 7pm, UEL in Salway Road. Film: Foreign Pickers. Free.

5. October 25, 11am. Guided walk of Olympic Park. Email to book.

6. October 24–28, 2–4pm, House Mill in Three Mill Lane. Guided tours, free to Newham residents.

7. October 24, 29 and 30, Abbey Mills pumping station. Guided tours available. Book through

8. October 25, 4pm, House Mill in Three Mill Lane. A talk about gin, vice and tea.

9. October 24–28, River Christian Centre, Canning Town. Chance to see stained glass windows. Free.

10. October 27, 7pm, Shipman Youth Centre. Talk about Silvertown Explosion. Email

11. October 27, 2–4pm, Custom House DLR. West Silvertown walking tour. Book through

12. October 24, 3.15pm, London City Airport DLR. Audio trail of Silvertown. Book with

13. October 26, 1pm, King George V DLR. Docklands audio trail. Book with

14. October 26, 2pm, Beckton Globe. Free museum on wheels tour of the area.

15. October 29, 12–4pm, East Ham Library. Stalls, exhibitions and more. Free.

16. October 24, 11am–1pm, Little Ilford Learning Zone. Museum on wheels. Free.

17. October 26, 4pm, Forest Gate Learning Zone. West Ham United reminiscence session. Free.

18. October 26, 6.45pm, Forest Gate Library. Talk about the growth of Forest Gate. Free.