Accurate transcriptions of the 1921 census are being added to the pub history site, starting with London.

Silvertown and Neighbourhood  (Archer Philip Crouch)

History of the West ham parish

Silvertown Index

(Extracts from 1900 )

Silvertown & Neighbourhood Part 2

 From Chapter one

In 1900, Silvertown has the population of a fairly large country town, and West Ham, created a borough within the last few years, boasts of some 300,000 inhabitants, being the eighth largest town in England. The borough of West Ham, and the urban district of East Ham – a modern village of nearly 90,000 inhabitants – occupy, with the exception of two small portions in the south east corner belonging respectively to Kent and Barking, the whole of the space between the River Lea and the River Roding. On the north, they are bounded by Leyton and Wanstead; on the south by the river Thames.

East and West Ham derive their name from an old village called “Hamme”, which was included in the East Anglia which King Alfred ceded in 878 to Guthrum the Dane. The village also appears in Doomsday Book in reference to a gift by Edward the Confessor of “two Hides in Hamme” ( a hide equals a hundred acres) to the Abbot of Westminster. These two hides included the land on which the North Woolwich Gardens now stand.

The two Hams lie in the Half-hundred of Becontree, to which also belong Barking, Dagenham, Great and Little Ilford, Leyton, Wanstead, Woodford and Walthamstow.

At one time the whole Half-hundred of Becontree, some thirty miles in circumference, belonged to Barking Abbey, which was the oldest and richest nunnery in England. Founded in 670, Ethelburgh, sister of the Bishop of London, became the first abbess of  the convent. In 870, the Abbey was burnt to the ground by the Danes. Situated on the banks of the Roding, it lay at the mercy of these marauders, and for a period of one hundred years, no attempt was made to rebuild it. At length, King Edgar moved to remorse by having violated the beautiful nun Wufhilda of Wilton, tried to make atonement by restoring the Abbey and placing her at the head of it. When he died, his widow Elfrida turned her out of the Abbey, and took possession of her post.

   Barking next appears in history as the town to which William the Conqueror withdrew after the battle of Hastings, waiting there while the Tower of London was being built for his occupation.

   Barking Abbey was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the nuns belonged to the Benedictine order. The Abbess was one of four abbesses who were baronesses by virtue of the posts they held, though their sex prevented them taking a seat in the House of Lords. The Abbess lived in great state, the distinction of the position may be gathered from the fact that three Queens of England – Elfrida, wife of Edgar, Maud, Queen of Henry I, and Matilda, Queen of Stephen – were proud to hold it.

In 1376, owing to a breach in the river wall on the left bank of the Thames at Dagenham, the Abbey was flooded. This recurred in 1380 and 1382, but at considerable expense, works were undertaken to remove this problem. At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, the Abbey surrendered to the Crown, and the demesne lands were leased by Henry VIII to Sir Thomas Dennye. On the list of abbesses is Mary a Beckett, sister of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Queen Maud, or Matilda, as abbess of Barking Abbey made frequent visits to the convent along the route of the Old Roman Road, commencing with Old Street and passing through Bethnal Green over the river Lea at the Old Ford. This ford was crossed by a ferry, which in times of flood became very difficult to manage. An accident which happened to her led to the building of the Bow Bridge – according to John Stow in his “Survey of London”, published in 1598.

“Matilda, when she saw the way to bee dangerous to them yt travailed by the old foord over the river Lue (for she herself had been well washed in the water, caused two stone bridges to be builded in a  place one mile distant from the old foord, of which, one was situated over Lue at the head of the towne of Stratford, now called Bow, a rare piece of worke, for before that time the like had never been seen in England; the other over the little brooke commonly called Chanelsebridge”.

This bridge spanned the Channelsea, which is a branch of the Lea, separating from it in the Hackney Marshes, and joining it again below Stratford. The Channelsea is said to be an artificial canal, which Alfred the Great cut on a certain occasion when the Danes had anchored in the Lea. The water was diverted by this channel , and the ships left high and dry, were attacked and utterly destroyed. The site of the Channelsea Bridge is close to the present Stratford Market station, which used to be called Stratford Bridge.

Queen Matilda’s enterprise not only afforded the best route from London to the Eastern counties,  but also caused two new places to spring into existence – Stratford-atte-Bowe, now Bow, on the right bank of the Lea, and Stratford Langthorne, now Stratford, on the left bank of the Lea. Ships from the continent used to sail up the Lea and discharge their passengers at the new bridge.

Before the building of Bow Bridge, West Ham was a small village remote from public highways, but the new road through the northern portion of the parish made it more accessible. In 1135, William de Montfichet founded the new abbey, which came to be called the Abbey of Stratford Langthorne, with grounds covering sixteen acres., was the earliest, wealthiest and most pleasantly situated Cistercian house in the country; which, today, seems impossible when one gazes at the old “Adam & Eve” public house, the Abbey Mills, and the North Woolwich Railway, which now cover the site.

It flooded so frequently, that the monks for a time deserted it, retiring to Burgestede (Burstead) near Billericay.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century an ornamental arch of the chapel and a brick gateway giving entrance to the precincts of the Abbey were still standing. These have long since disappeared, and the only relic now lies in the Church of St John the Evangelist of Stratford. It consists of a stone carving unearthed during the making of the North Woolwich Railway in 1845. Archdeacon Stephens, to whom the writer is indebted to these particulars, purchased it from the landlord of the “Adam & Eve” public house, in whose yard it had lain exposed to the weather for many years. The design is s number of human skulls set in separate niches, and may have been built into the wall, or stood over the door of the mortuary chapel.

[This now exists at West Ham Church - see Cistercians site for a picture]

During the construction of this railway an old bath, 1ft long by 8ft wide, and 5ft deep was also found. It consisted of an outer stone wall 6 inches thick lined with red tiles, which again were covered with finely glazed Dutch tiles. At the same time were discovered an aqueduct leading to the river, a rough stone coffin, and an onyx seal set in silver with the words ‘Nuncio vobis gaudium et salutem’ engraven on it. This was probably the Abbey seal

The prosperity of Stratford was increased in 1357 by an Act of Edward the Third, ordering that cattle should not be allowed to approach nearer to London than that village. The object was to prevent disease being spread to the city by the accumulation of putrefying offal. Stratford now became the slaughter house of the metropolis, supplying Butchers Row with meat. Bread was also made there on a very large scale, the Abbey Mills furnishing the flour, and Epping Forest the faggots for the ovens.

In 1553, Queen Mary passed through Stratford on her way to coronation; and three years later, eleven men and two women were burnt alive by her upon the village green. The church of St John the Evangelist was built on this green in 1835, and on the spot where Marys’ victims suffered martyrdom, a stone memorial now stands.

And Last updated on: Sunday, 22-Nov-2020 14:17:40 GMT