Newham Heritage Week to highlight our proud past

PUBLISHED: 12:00 15 October 2016

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

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


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.

Gentrification – from the first trains to Crossrail

It’s trendy nowadays to say Forest Gate is being gentrified – but did you know the process actually began 150 years ago?

At 6.45pm on October 26, in The Gate Library, Woodgrange Road, Peter Williams and Mark Gorman will explain the railroad revolution that transformed the once-rural area.

“We’ll compare Crossrail and the first railways to show how they have both had an affect on Forest Gate,” Peter Williams, who lives in Lorne Road, said.

Contact the library for tickets.

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.

The mountain of fridges in Stratford    Picture: Eastside Community HeritageThe mountain of fridges in Stratford Picture: Eastside Community Heritage

“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.”

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”.

Fruit picking, then and now – free film screening

Without European workers, who’s going to pick our fruit?

It used to be a job done by Cockneys, of course, who treated the work in the Kent countryside as a holiday.

Dr Toby Butler, programme leader of UEL’s Heritage Studies course, will discuss this topic before a film is screened about the tradition of fruit picking.

The film, called Foreign Pickers, will be shown for free on October 27 at 7pm at UEL in Salway Road, Stratford.

Dr Butler said: “I think it’s relevant to the political debate. People tend to think of migrants as ‘others’, but that’s how people in Kent thought of Cockneys.”

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.

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

“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.

Mountains of fridges and a hub for trade

It’s one of the most recognisable parts of London, but it wasn’t always that way.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has been home to 100-year-old allotments, a manor house (Chobham), plenty of factories pig dealers and even a mountain of fridges.

On October 25 and 28, at 11am, a 90-minute walking tour featuring historians promises to teach all of this for free.

Judith Garfield, director of organisers Eastside Community Heritage, said: “A lot’s changed – there really was once a huge mountain of fridges there.”

Booking is essential: email

“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.

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