The London Borough of Newham
The London Borough of Newham was created in 1965 out of the Essexcounty boroughs of East Ham and West Ham. These were rural villagesuntil a century ago, and fortunately the medieval parish churches anda few other ancient buildings survive as a reminder of this rusticpast.
The area has always been a gateway between London and Essex, with farmanimals and food produce being raised or passing through Newham forLondon markets and manufactured goods coming out of London to servelocal needs. The availability of water power (the River Lea) and theabsence of strict London guild controls saw Newham grow in the 17thand 18th centuries as an industrial area, with workshops – such as thefamous Bow China factory – built along the Lea valley.
In the 19th century, when the Royal Docks were built as the hub ofimports and exports for the whole British Empire and as otherindustries grew rapidly thanks to good railway connections, vastnumbers of people from Essex and beyond moved into Newham in search ofwork. West Ham in particular was a major manufacturing centre withchemical, pharmaceutical, retail, railway and printing industries.East Ham was strongly residential, and has a distinctive Victorian andEdwardian architectural heritage, notably its magnificent Italianatetown hall.
Between the wars, the two boroughs had a joint population of over halfa million; the area suffered the worst of the Blitz which left much ofthe area a wasteland, though there was considerable pride too in thetraditional grit and humour which somehow got everyone through.
After the war, massive reconstruction and new…
…opment were being drawn upby West Ham Council. The aim was to reduce the population, transferindustry and provide new housing such as that on the Keir HardieEstate which included also schools and welfare services.
Housing schemes in the early post war years followed a ‘garden city’pattern with low density housing. But supply could not keep up withdemand and in 1961 the first high-rise units appeared in Canning Townfollowed by Scrapbook Point and Dunlop Point in Silver town (1967) andothers which took their names from firms that had been in the areaswhere they now stood, such as Albion and Brocklebank tower blocks inNorth Woolwich. The collapse of one of the blocks – Ronan Point – in1968 led to a rethink on high density housing and most of the tallblocks have since been demolished or cut down in size.