Stratford, London facts for kids
West Ham Town Hall, Stratford
17,768 (2011 Census. Stratford and New Town Ward)
|OS grid reference|
|• Charing Cross||6 mi (9.7 km) WSW|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||E15, E20|
Historically an agrarian settlement in the county of Essex, it was transformed into an industrial suburb following the introduction of the railway in 1839.
The late 20th Century was a period of severe economic decline, eventually reversed by regeneration associated with the 2012 Summer Olympics, for which Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was the principal venue.
- Geography and Local government
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Stratford’s early significance was as the point where the originally Roman road from Aldgate in the City, to Romford, Chelmsford and Colchester, crossed the River Lea. At that time the various branches of the river were tidal and unchannelised, while the marshes surrounding them had yet to be drained. The Lea valley formed a natural boundary between Essex on the eastern bank and Middlesex on the west, and was a formidable obstacle to overland trade and travel.
Original ford and Place Name origin
The name is first recorded in 1067 as Strætforda and means 'ford on a Roman road'. It is formed from Old English 'stræt' (in modern English ‘street’) and 'ford'. The former crossing lay at an uncertain location north of Stratford High Street.
The district of Old Ford in northern Bow – west of the Lea and now in Tower Hamlets – is named after the former crossing, while Bow itself was also initially named Stratford, after the same ford, and a variety of suffixes were used to distinguish the two distinct settlements.
The settlement to the east of the Lea was also known as Estratford referring to the location east of the other Stratford, Statford Hamme alluding to the location within the parish of West Ham, Abbei Stratford, referring to the presence of Stratford Langthorne Abbey. and Stretford Langthorne after a distinctive thorn tree (probably a pollarded Hawthorn) which was mentioned in a charter of 958 AD.
In 1110 Matilda, wife of Henry I, reputedly took a tumble at the ford on her way to Barking Abbey, and ordered a distinctively bow shaped (arched) bridge to be built over the Lea, together with a causeway across the marshes along the line now occupied by Stratford High Street.
The western Stratford then become suffixed by “-atte-Bow” (at the Bow), eventually becoming known simply as Bow, while over time the eastern Stratford lost its “Langthorne” suffix.
The Bridge was repaired and upgraded many times over the centuries until eventually demolished and replaced in the 19th Century.
Stratford Langthorne Abbey
In 1135 the Cistercian Order founded Stratford Langthorne Abbey, also known as West Ham Abbey. This became one of the largest and most wealthy monasteries in England, owning 1,500 acres (610 hectares) in the immediate area and 20 manors throughout Essex.
The Abbey lay between the Channelsea River and Marsh Lane (Manor Road). Nothing visible remains on the site, as after it dissolution by Henry VIII in 1538, local landowners took away much of the stone for their own buildings and the land was subsequently urbanised.
A stone window and a carving featuring skulls – thought to have been over the door to the charnel house – remain in All Saints Church, West Ham (dating from about 1180). The Great Gate of the abbey survived in Baker's Row until 1825.
The coat of arms of the Abbey can be seen over the doorway to the Old Court House, in Tramway Avenue (Stratford). The chevrons from this device, originally from the arms of the Mountfitchet family, together with an abbot's crozier were incorporated into the arms of the former County Borough of West Ham in 1887. The same arms were adopted by the new London Borough of Newham in 1965.
The industrialisation of Stratford started slowly and accelerated rapidly in the early Victorian era.
The Stratford and national experience of the Industrial Revolution inspired scenes in the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony covering the traumatic transition from a ‘Green and Pleasant Land’ to the ‘Pandemonium’ of the revolution and the huge social and economic changes it brought.
Stratford was originally an agricultural community, whose proximity to London provided a ready market for its produce. By the 18th century, the area around Stratford was noted for potato growing, a business that continued into the mid-1800s. Stratford also became a desirable country retreat for wealthy merchants and financiers, within an easy ride of the City. When Daniel Defoe visited Stratford in 1722, he reported that it had "...increased in buildings to a strange degree, within the compass of about 20 or 30 years past at the most". He continues that "...this increase is, generally speaking, of hansom large houses... being chiefly for the habitations of the richest citizens, such as either are able to keep two houses, one in the country, and one in the city; or for such citizens as being rich, and having left off trade, live altogether in these neighbouring villages, for the pleasure and health of the latter part of their days".
An early industrial undertaking at Stratford was the Bow porcelain factory, which despite the name, was on the Essex side of the River Lea. Using a process that was patented in 1744, Edward Heylin and Thomas Frye operated a factory near Bow Bridge called "New Canton" to produce some of the first soft-paste porcelain to be made in the country. The site of the factory was to the north of Stratford High Street near the modern Bow Flyover; it was the subject of archaeological excavations in 1921 and 1969.
The Victorian era saw growth hugely accelerated by three major factors; the Metropolitan Building Act, the arrival of the railway and the creation of the nearby Royal Docks.
Rapid growth followed the Metropolitan Building Act in 1844. The Act restricted dangerous and noxious industries from operating in the metropolitan area, the eastern boundary of which was the River Lea. Consequently, many of these activities were relocated to the banks of the river. As a result, West Ham became one of Victorian Britain's major manufacturing centres for pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and processed foods. This rapid growth earned it the name "London over the border". The growth of the town was summarised by The Times in 1886:
"Factory after factory was erected on the marshy wastes of Stratford and Plaistow, and it only required the construction at Canning Town of the Victoria and Albert Docks to make the once desolate parish of West Ham a manufacturing and commercial centre of the first importance and to bring upon it a teeming and an industrious population."
By the early 19th century, Stratford was an important transport hub, with omnibuses and coaches running into London four times every hour and coaches from East Anglia passing through hourly. The route into London was plied by Walter Hancock's steam coaches for a period during the 1830s. A small dock and a number of wharves were operating on the River Lea at Stratford by the 1820s, serving the needs of local industries. However, the opening of the nearby Royal Victoria Dock in 1855 and the subsequent construction of the Royal Group of Docks (at one time the largest area of impounded water in the world), increased Stratford's importance as a transport and manufacturing centre. Rising population levels led to two major new Anglican churches in the area, St John's Church in 1834 and Christ Church in 1851.
Stratford station was opened on 20 June 1839 by the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR). The Northern and Eastern Railway opened a section of its authorised line from Broxbourne to join the ECR at Stratford on 15 September 1840. A railway works and depot for engines and rolling stock was established by Great Eastern in 1847 to the north of Stratford. At its peak, the works employed over 2,500 many of whom had homes, along with other rail workers, in the town that developed nearby. It was originally called Hudson Town, after George Hudson, the "Railway King;", but after his involvement in bribery and fraud was revealed in 1849, the settlement quickly became better known as Stratford New Town, which by 1862 had a population of 20,000. During the lifetime of the Stratford works, 1,682 locomotives, 5,500 passenger coaches and 33,000 goods wagons were built.
The last part of the works closed in March 1991.
Stratford, like many areas of London, particularly in the East End, suffered significant de-industrialisation in the 20th century. This was compounded by the closing of the London Docks in the 1960s. Around this time, the Stratford Shopping Centre was built, beginning efforts to guide the area through the process of transformation from a working-class industrial and transport hub to a retail and leisure destination for the contemporary age. These efforts continued with the Olympic bid for Stratford, and the ongoing urban regeneration work going on there.
Geography and Local government
Stratford began as a hamlet in the NW part of the ancient parish of West Ham, as the area urbanised it expanded, increased in population and merged with neighbouring districts.
Except as a ward, Stratford has never been a unit of administration and so, like many London districts, lacks formally defined boundaries. As described however, Stratford occupies the north-west part of West Ham and so takes the NW boundaries of that area; boundaries which have subsequently become the NW boundary of the modern London Borough of Newham.
Despite forming part of the built up area of London the parish remained outside the statutory metropolitan area established in 1855 and the County of London established in 1889. Instead, administrative reform was undertaken in the area in much the same way as a large provincial town. A local board was formed in 1856 under the Public Health Act 1848 and subsequently the parish was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1886. In 1889 the borough was large enough in terms of population to become a county borough and was outside the area of responsibility of Essex County Council. Stratford formed the centre of administration of the county borough and was the location of the town hall.
In 1965 West Ham was reunited with East Ham (Ham is believed to have formed a single unit until the late 12th century) and small areas of neighbouring districts, to form the London Borough of Newham, part of the new Greater London.
The modern borough has an electoral ward named 'Stratford and New Town'.
Post Code districts
|Bow including Old Ford||Forest Gate|
As of the 2011 census, White British is the largest ethnic group in the Stratford and New Town ward, at 21% of the population, followed by Other White at 19% and Black African at 13%.
Stratford is a significant transport hub, well served by bus routes, and with five railway stations.
- Stratford Regional
Stratford Regional is located on the National Rail Great Eastern Main Line, North London Line as well as the Lea Valley Lines. National Rail services: Abellio Greater Anglia, TfL Rail and London Overground. London Underground's Central and Jubilee lines both serve the regional station and link Stratford to Oxford Street, Wembley Stadium, Epping and Canary Wharf. The Jubilee line was extended to Stratford in 1999.
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was extended to Stratford in 1987, and to Stratford International in 2011, with services to Poplar, Canary Wharf, Lewisham, London City Airport, the Excel Centre, Beckton and Woolwich Arsenal. A bus station is located adjacent to Stratford Regional with London Buses and National Express coach routes towards central, northeast London and Stansted Airport.
- Stratford International and Stratford High Street
Stratford International, located to the northwest, is on the HS1 line from St Pancras International to Kent, and is served by Southeastern domestic high speed services; so far, no decision has been made for international Eurostar services to call. The International and Regional stations are linked by a branch of the Docklands Light Railway – opened in August 2011 – which also serves a new DLR only station at Stratford High Street to the south of Stratford, situated on the site of the former Stratford Market railway station.
The eastern part of Stratford is served by Maryland railway station. The Liverpool Street- Shenfield via Ilford and Romford service known as the Shenfield Metro service and runs every 10 minutes and is operated by TfL Rail. This service also calls at Stratford and is planned to be incorporated into the Crossrail service by 2017.
- Pudding Mill Lane
Pudding Mill Lane is in the south of the Olympic Park (though it closed during the Olympics for safety reasons due to its size), and normally provides transport to the local factories. Served by the Docklands Light Railway to Stratford, Poplar and Canary Wharf, it is planned to be re-sited south as part of the Crossrail project.
Church of St John the Evangelist
Stratford Broadway, the main thoroughfare, is dominated by the 1830s Anglican parish church of St John's. In its churchyard is a memorial to the Stratford Martyrs, who were burned at the stake in 1556 during the reign of Queen Mary. The memorial itself is octagonal with terracotta plaques on each face, surmounted by a twelve sided spire. It was unveiled in 1878.
Gurney Memorial Drinking Fountain
Directly to the south of the churchyard stands a 12.80-metre tall granite obelisk, which was erected in 1861 as a memorial to the Quaker philanthropist and abolitionist, Samuel Gurney (1766 to 1856). The plinth carries two brass drinking fountain heads on opposite sides, and the inscription; IN REMEMBRANCE OF SAMUEL GURNEY / WHO DIED 5 June 1856 / ERECTED BY HIS FELLOW PARISHIONERS AND FRIENDS / 1861 / "When the ear heard him then it blessed him" (a paraphrase from the Book of Job, Chapter 29 verse 11).
Old Town Hall
Designed by Lewis Angell and John Giles in the Italianate style with a 100-foot (30.5-metre) tall domed tower, it opened in 1869 as the public offices for the West Ham Local board of health. It later became the town hall for the county borough and was enlarged in 1881 to accommodate a courthouse and cells. On 26 June 1982, the main part of the building was badly damaged by fire; after a painstaking reconstruction of the original features and refurbishment as a conference centre, it was reopened by the Queen in July 1986. It is a Grade II Listed Building.
King Edward VII public house
Opposite St John's Church stands an early 19th-century pub, the King Edward VII with original pedimented doors and early 19th-century bay windows. It is a Grade II Listed Building.
It was originally called "The King of Prussia", either in honour of Frederick the Great or else after King Frederick William IV who visited the area in 1842 to meet Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer.
In 1914, the first year of World War One, the pub was renamed in honour of the reigning king, Edward VII. The old name was problematic as ‘The King of Prussia’ was one of the titles of the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. More than a hundred years later, the King Edward VII pub is still locally nicknamed ‘The Prussian’.
"Robert" the tank engine
A 38 tonne 0-6-0 saddle-tank steam locomotive named "Robert" is displayed in Meridian Square, the forecourt of Stratford Station. It was built in 1933 by the Avonside Engine Company of Bristol for use at the Lamport Ironstone mines railway near Brixworth, Northamptonshire. It was previously an exhibit at the North Woolwich Old Station Museum, but moved to Stratford in 1999. In 2008, it was removed to the East Anglia Railway Museum at Chappel and Wakes Colne railway station near Colchester; there it was cleaned and repainted at the expense of the Olympic Delivery Authority and returned to Stratford in 2011.
A 114-metre-tall (374 ft) sculpture and observation tower in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It is Britain's largest piece of public art, and is intended to be a permanent legacy of the 2012 Summer Olympics. It closed after the end of the Games, but was re-opened to the public in April 2014.
Abbey Mills Pumping Station
Built in 1868 as part of the new London sewerage system by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the building originally housed steam pumps and is a notable example of Italian style Gothic Revival architecture. It is opened to the public on an occasional basis, when the "flamboyant interior of enriched cast ironwork" can be seen. It was used to portray a lunatic asylum in the 2005 film Batman Begins, and is a Grade II* listed building.
Stratford's Cultural Quarter, adjacent to the shopping centre, is home to several arts venues, bars and cafes:
- Theatre Royal Stratford East – NB: 'Stratford East' is not a location; the 'East' is used to differentiate between Stratford (east London) and Stratford-upon-Avon
- Stratford Circus
- The Discover Children's Story Centre is a partner in the Cultural Quarter
Stratford has been the location for numerous films, notably Sparrows Can't Sing (1963) and Bronco Bullfrog (1970). The promotional film for the Beatles' "Penny Lane" single was filmed in and around the southern part of Angel Lane, demolished in the late 1960s to build the Stratford Centre. Damnably Records relocated to Stratford from Forest Gate in 2014 and is run by George Gargan, a Manor Park born musician from the band Former Utopia and Lazarus Clamp (1999–2003).
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