Newham Archives are housed in a fairly unremarkable single room upstairs in the Stratford library. What is remarkable though, is the fine collection of maps we were treated to and the amazing knowledge of Jenny the archivist. Looking at maps of the Lower River Lea area of West Ham borough we saw how the environment changed from 1745 to 1916 as industries developed along the river.
The 1745 map was a rural picture of tidal mills – Three Mills and Abbey Mills, baking, silk weavers and calico manufacture which all lay across the dividing line of the River Lea in Essex. This is where residents were known as “Londoners over the borders”. West Ham was a country village, Canning town just marshland and the area known as Chobham was a pig farm.
Moving on to the 1867 map the story was very different. Both the industrial revolution and the railway had made their mark on the landscape and most of the farms and allotments had vanished to make way for housing. The River Lea was lined with industry including chemical, dye and print works and jute spinners located next to where today’s Tesco is at Bromley-by-Bow. Some decades earlier an 1821 map showed the calico grounds of Edwards, Laurence and J.Cullum along with printing grounds belonging to Laurence and Littler. Bromley Hall was also on the map as a calico printer.
As well as maps the archive also had a collection of Kelly’s and other trade directories which were very useful for locating the exact address of various industries and for generally getting an idea of types of businesses in the area.
Between the maps, the directories and Jenni’s knowledge this was an extremely interesting, informative and useful visit and I would certainly like to go back there sometime to have a further look at those wonderful maps.