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History of Stratford in 1848
Stratford, or Stratford Langthorne, 3 miles E by N of Whitechapel, is a populous and rapidly improving village, on the east side of the river Lea, opposite Bow, or Stratford le Bow, on the Middlesex side of the river, which is sometimes called Bow creek, and is navigable for barges etc. Stratford is the most populous of the three wards of West Ham parish, though it comprises only about 700 acres of land, exclusive of the building sites, roads etc. it is the first station in Essex on the eastern Counties Railway, from which several branches diverge here, as afterwards noticed. The celebrated Bow Bridge, which here crossed the river Lea by three arches, was said to have been the first arched stone bridge erected in this part of the country, but it has given place to a handsome bridge of one oblate arch, erected in 1838 -39 at the cost of £11,000. The ancient bridge had been so often repaired, that it was impossible to ascertain how much of the original structure remained. Stowe, Leland and other writers, are agreed in attributing its first erection to Matilda, or Maud, Queen of Henry I, who observing the ford to be dangerous, and being herself “well washed” in crossing it, caused this and another bridge, over a branch of the same river, to be erected, and also raised the highway with gravel between the two bridges, for the reparation of which she gave “Wiggen Mill” and certain manors to the abbess of barking. In 1135, Wm de Montfichet founded Stratford Abbey, and endowed it with the manor of West ham, etc, and procured for it a royal grant of the mill and manors, which had been given to the Barking Abbey for the reparation of the Bow Bridge, this abbey for Cistercian monks, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and All Saints and stood in the marshes, on a branch of the Leas, about three furlongs south west of West Ham church. Being much injured by the floods, the monks are said to have removed to a cell at Burgesteded, near Billericay till Richard I or II took the ground and abbey into his protection, and re-edifying it, brought the monks again to Stratford, “where amonge the marshes they re-inhabyted”, In 1307, the abbott was summoned to parliament; and in 1335, the Earl of Hereford & Essex was buried in the Abbey. At the dissolution, its revenues were valued at £652 3s 1d per annum, and its possessions were granted by Henry VIII, to Sir Peter Mewtis, or Meautis, who had been ambassador to the court of France. Henry Meautis Esq, a descendant of Sir Peter, alienated the site of the abbey, the abbey mills, and 240 acres of land, to Sir John Nulls, in 1663. Since that period, they have passed to various owners. Margaret, the unfortunate Countess of Salisbury, whom the remorseless Henry VIII caused to be beheaded in her old age, on the charge of high treason, appears to have resided in the abbey about the time of its suppression. The site of the abbey and precincts was moated and contained about 16 acres of land, now partly occupied by the extensive silk printing works of J Tucker esq. A brick gateway, and all the other remains of the monastic buildings, were taken down some years ago, except part of a boundary wall, When digging up most of the foundations, in the latter part of the last century, a small onyx seal, with the impression of a griffin, set in silver, was found. It was inscribed with the legend “Nuncio vobis guadium et salutem”, and was, perhaps, the priory seal of one of the abbots. The lords of the manors and the principal land owners in the parish of West Ham, are noticed at page 233. On the forest side of Stratford are the hamlets of Maryland Point and Sand Pits.
Stratford church (St John the Evangelist) is a large and handsome white brick structure, which was erected in 1833-4 at the cost of about £18,000, raised by subscriptions, and a loan advanced on the security of the rates, except £5,000 granted by the church commissioners. It is a district church for this populous ward of West Ham parish, and is in the style of architecture which prevailed in the 13th century, having a lofty nave with north and south aisles, and a chancel. Lighted by narrow pointed windows, and a tower at the west end, surmounted by a spire. In 1847, £600 was raised by subscription, and expended in the purchase of an organ; the erection of a richly carved recedos of Caen stone, extending the whole width of the chancel; in beautifying the altar window with painted glass, at the expense of the Misses Kilner, of Maryland Point, and Mrs Mann, of the Green. These, and other decorations in painted glass, were executed by Mr C Clutterbuck, a resident artist, and are much admired. The benefice is a perpetual curacy, now valued at £310 per annum, and in the patronage of the Bishop of London, and incumbency of the Rev Charles Nicoll MA. The church has many free sittings, and the pew rents, which amount to about £300 per annum, are subject to the payment of £20 a year to the church clerk, as well as to £10 a year to the clerk of Plaistow church. The Roman Catholic Chapel, at Stratford, was built in 1797, at the cost of £3750, and was repaired in 1847. It is a large cemented building, and will seat 1500 bearers. Attached to it are three schools, two in Stratford, and one at Wall-end. The Rev M H Smith is the priest. There is a Baptist chapel, in Chapel Street, erected in 1842, at a cost of £300; and another at Maryland Point, built in 1832. the Wesleyans have a chapel near Bow Bridge, built in 1840; and also a smaller one, lately purchased of the Unitarians/ In Great North Street are large National schools, built by subscription, in 1842, and attended by about 110 boys and 140 girls. The British school where about 160 boys are educated for 1d or 2d each per week, was built in 1836, at the cost of £900, raised by subscription, except £350 granted by government. Here is also an Infant school, superintended by a committee of ladies, and attended by 60 infants. There is a small National school at Forest gate, at which place, and at Stratford Marsh, small chapels of ease are about to be erected. Stratford Church Visiting Society, established about four years ago, is a charitable institution, which searches out the abodes of the destitute and ignorant, for the purpose of administering temporal relief and spiritual instruction. The district now comprises a population of about 5500 souls. A Mechanics Institution was established here in 1846, and was dissolved at the close of the same year; but efforts are now making for the establishment of a similar institution, with a reading room etc, in Rokeby House, which was once a large boarding school, and is now partly occupied by the assistant overseer of West Ham parish. The savings bank for this parish and neighbourhood is in the Broadway, and in November, 1847, it had deposits amounting to £16,417, belonging to 740 individuals, and 13 friendly 7 charitable societies. It is open on Monday evenings, from 8 to 10 o’clock, and Mr Septs Morriss in the actuary. The Gas & Water Works are noted at page 232. Before 1846, Stratford was supplied with gas from works at Old Ford, on the Middlesex side of the river Lea. Stratford has a share of the numerous charities of West ham parish, noticed at pages 234 to 236.
Improvements, Railways etc – The altered appearance of various parts of the country, produced by the formation of the railways, is nowhere more striking than in the neighbourhood of Stratford and West Ham, where buildings to the value of nearly half a million of money have been erected during the last three years. The Eastern Counties Railway Company built a new station at Stratford, in 1847, and adjacent to it they have just completed an extensive factory for making and repairing locomotive engines and carriages. This factory cost about £100,000 and occupies with its various yards about 20 acres; the engine room alone covering 1.25 acres. At this gigantic factory about 1000 men and boys are employed, and near it the company are now erecting the new “Hudson Town”, where they have already completed about 100 dwellings, and intend building 150 more, for the accommodation of their workmen and servants. The Eastern Counties Railway, which extends from London to Colchester, and the North eastern Line, which branches from it at Stratford, have been completed about six years. The “ Stratford. Eastern Counties, and Thames Junction Railway” which has recently been completed, extends southward to the Thames, and is two miles and five furlongs in length. It was projected by Mr G D Bidder, the engineer, who saw that the great public advantage would arise from the transmission of coals from the river Thames to Stratford, and thence by the above named railways into Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and various parts of Essex. The act for making this line was obtained in 1844, and passing over a flat district of marshes, it was made at much less expense than most other lines. It commences at Stratford Bridge Station, and terminates at a Pier, on the north bank of the Thames, near the mouth of the river Lea, where immense quantities of coal are taken from the vessels by machinery, worked by steam power. Near a large platform from whence the coal is screened and emptied into the railway carriages, are extensive coke ovens, where coke is prepared for the several lines and branches belonging to the Eastern Counties Railway Company. Barking Road Station, on this line, about half a mile north of the pier, and near the river Lea, is in Plaistow ward, and around it a new town, called Canning Town, is now being formed; the streets being laid out, and about 200 houses already erected. The neat cottages erected here have each a garden back and front, an entrance porch, a sitting room, kitchen, and wash house, fitted up with oven, biler etc; and three chambers, fitted up with handsome painted bedsteads. They possess that grand desideratum for the working classes, the maximum of comfort with the minimum of expense. Fro Barking Road Station, a railway has recently been extended along the marshes on the north side of the river Thames, eastward to North Woolwich, a distance of 2 ¾ miles, as noticed at page 229; and another line, called the Thames Junction Branch Railway, is now extended from it westward to the London Docks, crossing the river Lea, near the iron bridge, on the London and barking road. The formation of these branch railways has greatly increased the value of the marshes in West Ham parish, and in a few years, most of the land near the rivers and the rails, will be occupied by dwellings, manufactories etc. Already several large manufactories have been erected near Barking Road.
At the mouth of the creek of the Lea, or Bow Creek, is the Ship Building yard of Messrs C J Mare & Co, and their new and extensive iron works. The yard occupies about 4 acres of land, which a few years ago was waste marsh, but has now become, by means of draining and piling, one of the most valuable shipyards in or near London. The arrangement of the wood ship building ( for the former of which Messrs Mare & Co stand pre eminent), is admirable; whilst the intersecting of the spacious yard in various directions by railways, communicating with the several wharf cranes on a quay of 1050 feet, offers every facility for the landing and delivery of iron, timber, coals, stores etc, or for loading vessels and barges with the products of the works. At the present time (April 1848), there is upon the stocks a splendid Iron Steam Frigate of 1800 tons burthen, building for the Admiralty. It will be fitted up with a screw propeller. In the open yard are various building ships, capable of receiving the largest vessels; and among the buildings is an iron foundry, with four blast furnaces, capable of producing the larger description of castings. Here are also puddling and scrap iron furnaces, tilt and forging hammers, bar iron rollers, powerful bending and straightening rollers, punching presses, shearing machines, rivet presses, riveting machines etc, of the greatest power, worked by various steam engines. On the Middlesex side of the creek, the same spirited proprietors have another large yard, occupying 2 ¼ acres, and used principally for the construction of wooden vessels. This is well known as the Orchard Yard, and adjoining it the same firm has another yard, with the repairing dock and timber wharf, fronting the Thames. During the last eight years, Messrs Mare & Co have built more iron vessels than any other firm in the kingdom. The average number of hands employed by them is about 1200, but they have sometimes as many as 2000 at work. During the last eight years, they have built about 300 vessels, nearly all of them iron. They also have a large establishment in Wales, employed in building the celebrated tubular bridge across the Menai Straits, for the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company.
The Gutta Percha Works, at Stratford, were commenced in 1845 by the Messsrs Charles and Walter Hancock, of Brompton, the former of whom obtained several patents for manufacturing the novel material into various articles. In the following year, they commenced large works in Wharf road, City road, London, and soon afterwards a Company was formed for carrying on both establishments. At both establishments several powerful steam engines are in operation, and about 250 men are employed at the City road works, and 80 at Stratford. Gutta Percha, which is now extensively manufactures into lathe bands, shoe soles and heels, and into a great variety of articles both for use and ornament, was discovered by Dr Mongomerie, in 1842, at Singapore, where the trees from which it is extracted is principally prized by the natives for a fruit it bears, from which concrete oil is taken and used for food. The gutta percha tree is found also in Borneo and the Malay Peninsula. It is sometimes found six feet in diameter, but the average size is from three to four. The timber is useless for building purposes, and the gutta percha is not taken till the tree is cut down, when, fter lacerating the bark, it exudes from the surface of a milky whiteness, but on exposure to the atmosphere, it immediately coagulates into a hard substance, which the Malays use for handles of knives, forks etc, in preference to horn or wood. The articles into which it is and may be manufactured are of endless variety, and it is capable of being rolled out into fin sheets, which are used for lining ladies dresses, instead of oiled silk; but unless it can be extracted, like caoutchouc, without destroying the trees, the supply will be exhausted after the lapse of a few years. The Silk Print Woks at Stratford Abbey, belonging to J Tucker esq, occupy about ten acres, and give employment to about 500 men, women and boys. On the banks of the river Lea are also several large chemical works, distilleries, corn mills etc.