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Community view: Newham's historic places

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 July 2018

Elwin Cockett

Did you know that the court of the King of England was once in West Ham? Or that Stratford was the birthplace of one of the greatest poets of Victorian times, Gerard Manley Hopkins? Or that one of the famous women of that era, Elizabeth Fry, lived in East Ham?

Think “London’s history” and you probably think of places like the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral.

After all, the Tower is amazing, and St Paul’s still has one of the best choirs in the world. But did you know that east London has more than its fair share of historic places and associations?

Wanstead Flats, for example, still has traces of WWII POW camps, along with tethering-points for barrage balloons.

In Beckton you can see where Full Metal Jacket was filmed and, at Gallion’s Reach, where the Princess Alice sank with the loss of more than 600 lives in 1878. St Mary Magdalene’s church, East Ham, has stood there for something like 900 years and is packed with history, as are All Saints’, West Ham, and St John’s, Stratford.

Once one of the most famous places in medieval England was the Abbey at Stratford Langthorne. It no longer exists, but Abbey Road gives a hint as to where it stood.

It was Henry III who made his court there in the year 1267, and Richard II who paid for its restoration 100 years later.

It included a school for daughters of the nobility, made famous by Chaucer, whose Wife of Bath, in the Canterbury Tales, spoke French “in the style of Stratford!”

You don’t have to dig very far to find out the history of where you live.

Whether you use Google or your local library, or just talk to local people, there’s a wealth of information available.

Even just going for a walk and looking at street names can tell you a lot. Knowing more about our past can enrich our present.

And there’s no better time than the summer to get out and about, finding out about the amazing history of our part of London.

• What is your favourite place in the borough of historical importance? Email your views to newsdesk@newhamrecorder.co.uk.

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