By Robert Rogers
Abbey Road, Probably the most Historic Road in Newham?
No one knows when the first man or woman walked down the route that runs from the high ground that we now know as West Ham Lane to the marshlands at Stratford. This pathway, which we now call Abbey Road, may have existed before the Abbey at Stratford was built. The Abbey of St Mary at Stratford Langthorne was built in the 12th Century, and was a `Daughter House` of the Cistercian Monastery of Savigney in France..
The Pathway soon became a route from West Ham Church to the Abbey. The Cistercian Monks would walk through the pastures of the farmlands to and from these churches. The path used to go through the Great gate of the Abbey, close to what is today’s Abbey Road, Newham Homes Depot.
The Langthorn was an ingredient of the bread baked by the Bakers at the Abbey, close to what is now Bakers Row.
The Marshlands in the area around the Abbey were in need of constant draining, which a duty was carried out by the monks. In the 16th century the monastery was closed down (dissolution) by Henry VIII, the duty to drain the marsh was passed to the owners of the lands that once belonged to the church. This was almost impossible to control, and the responsibility was passed to the Manor of West Ham, who had been taken to the Kings `Sewage Court` to force them to take action.
The marshes were split into seven separate marshes, and the nearest to the site of the present Bakers Row was called Blackwall Marsh
This part of the route became known as the path to Blackwall (not to be confused with the Blackwall Docks in Poplar).
This path was finally cut in half in the 19th century when the Eastern Counties and Thames Junction railway was built.
By this time it had become a formal road, which runs from what was now West Ham Lane to the new railway, and was called Abbey Road.
The junction at West Ham Lane was a three-way triangle of Abbey Road, West Ham Lane and Church Street. This junction can still be seen as the Island, in front of the shops by West Ham Church.
There does seem to a bit of confusion over the name, some maps call it Abbey Road, some Abbey Lane, and what we now know as Abbey Lane was called Abbey Mills Lane, because of the old windmills which stood in the area.
The arrival of the railway caused a major change in the area.
Houses were built and a new road called Abbey Lane, which was carried over the Railway line by a bridge that had been built.
The houses standing next to this were called Abbey Lane Bridge Railway Cottages, and are still standing.
Factories, plus the Adam and Eve Public House, were built on the site of the old Abbey.
These factories included the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, which was built as a part of the scheme for the Northern Outfalls between 1860-65, the Sewage System for London.
The Sewers at Abbey Lane that the road runs under are the four main down lines from Hackney which carries ALL North & East London sewage and goes in to Abbey Mills Pumping station.
The road has been shut since the new road was cut in from that part of Abbey lane up to Stratford.
The old road has been paved over completely. I think the reason is that as millions of gallons of raw sewage is pumped through here, if a large lorry ever hit it and damaged them; well you can work the rest out for yourselves!
The sewage is pumped from this point via the Pumping station and the now called greenway (the sewer bank to us old folk!) down to the sewage treatment works at Beckton.
At the rear end of the present Bridge Road Depot in Bakers Row there is an area, which is an Ancient Monument Site.
It was the formal Garden belonging to the Abbey and may include foundations of the old Abbey Gate (known as St Richards gate).
The Dockland Light Railway Olympics Extension to Stratford will swallow up a part of it and it is hoped that as a part of the new DLR (Abbey Road) station being built there, will be a small monument to this AMS.
Before we leave this end of Abbey Road we must mention Bridge Road Depot. This was the first ever West Ham Corporation Depot which used to included stables, which first opened in 1896.
In the 1958 West Ham Corporation Handbook it was listed as two separate depots, the Work Department at Bridge Road and the Transport Depot at Abbey road.
Over 100 years since it opened, although combined and greatly changed, it is still a depot, which currently belongs to Newham Homes, as well as being the home for Newco and Newham’s IT department, Carboodle.
The photo shows the depot looking like a Christmas view in the Snow!
Again in the 1980`s, major changes took place with the building of the Jubilee Underground Railway and Depot.
Archaeologist took an advantage of the major work to examine the old grounds of the Abbey, and remains of the monks, which had been buried there, were discovered.
On what is the Stratford side of Abbey Road was land belonging to a Market Garden and this was slowly built on as the need for housing in the area grew.
On the Plaistow side there is a far more interesting story.
In 1725, a Parish Workhouse was built on land given by Sir Gregory Page-Turner Bt.
Next to it was land given by the Bettons Trust. This was set up in the memory of Sir Thomas Betton, and for many years was owned by the Ironmongers Guild in the City of London.
There is still a memorial (Ironmongers Stone) to this on the green at Leather Gardens.
This area was known as Barrowfields.
The Ironmongers stone is to be re-sited as a part of the Newham Homes improvement works at Leather Gardens, and I understand that some form of Information Board will be placed next to it explaining the stone.
When the old Workhouse closed it was converted in 1850 to a Gutta Percha (Rubber) Works owned by the Handcock brothers.
This in turn was taken over by the Crocketts Leather Cloth Factory.
With the developed of this factory and new housing, what was left of the fields soon disappeared.
The Leather cloth factory finally closed in the early 1960`s
The old factory and houses were demolished and a New Council (Leather Gardens) Estate was built for West Ham Corporation. Included on this estate are David Lee and Brassett Points, Old Barrowfield and Bettons Park Road.
The War Memorial to the workforce from both the Great War and the Second World War, standing close to the Junction of Abbey road and Abbey Lane is the only remains of the factory.
Before we finally reach West Ham Lane, there is another story.
In the 19th century a School was built at the top of Abbey Road, which was called Abbey Road School. The school was used up to the start of WWII. After the children were evacuated, the school was converted for use for the West Ham Fire Brigade.
The school received a direct hit from an Enemy bomb towards the end of the war and was badly damaged.
It was never reopened as a School once the War was over.
The School was demolished and Homes were put in its place. These houses and flats are called Turley Close.
A Marker Stone is the only remains of the School Site.
Turley Close is named Wally Turley. Turley was a sub officer in the West Ham Fire Brigade, who was killed along with his Crew and members of the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) on the 7th September 1940 at Bridge Road Depot, when it was hit by one of the first bombs of the London Blitz.
Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, and the late Cyril Demarne, who was fire officer at the time and became the Chief Officer of the West Ham Fire Brigade, unveiled a memorial to these men in September 2005, which is on the front gate at Bridge Road Depot.
Finally a piece of Sporting History, after World War Two, on many of the bomb damaged areas in London, the sport of Cycle Speedway begun, and Abbey Road played its part.
As the damage was cleared, the Debris was used as Race tracks.
In Sandal Street, a few moments walk from Abbey Road, the Portway Penguins Cycle Speedway team had their track.
They were amongst the founders of the East London League, and in 1953 they won the London Coronation Cup.
As I said, Abbey Road & Lane is possibly the most historic turning in Newham, a lot of History from Churches to Railways via Charity, Workhouse, Homes, Farms, Factories, Windmills, Fireman, Ironmongers, Warfare, Schools, Speedway, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the local Council, must make this the most historic Road in Newham, and you can add to this list the British Film Industry which used some of the old buildings at the Abbey Mills Pumping Station for filming.
It has been used as the inside of Belmarsh Prison, and a hide out for the Baddies in the last Batman Film
But finally, we may even have a Ghost!
Recently on Newham Councils History Board there was an item from a lady who can remember as a child being told a story of a `ghostly white Monk` who would suddenly disappear in to what used to be a tunnel in the area.
Well like all good ghosts stories, this one does have a few facts in its favour!
There are lots of rumours of tunnels in Newham, and if all were true the borough by now would have sunk into them, but there was moats in an around the area of the Abbey, and if you cover a moat, what do you get, a tunnel, and the Cistercian Monks in the Abbey were known as the `White` monks because of their white habits!
The photo shows Newham Homes Bridge Road Depot at Abbey Road..