Lockdown in Havering: exploring old maps and photographs online

This slightly edited version of a guide to online maps and old images formed two Heritage columns published in the Romford Recorder on 3 and 17 April 2020.
If you're stuck at home, why not research how your neighbourhood looked in olden times? There's an amazing amount of information on the Internet. With simple computer skills, you can bring old maps to life. Start with the first detailed atlas of Essex (which, until 1965, included Havering). The work of mapmakers Chapman and André, it was published in 1777. Romford was called Rumford, and Gallows Corner still had a gallows (it even has some dangling criminals sketched in). There were large areas of common land across northern Havering, and squelchy marshes alongside the Thames. Most of Havering's modern-day main roads were country lanes. It's on https://map-of-essex.uk/.
The first Ordnance Survey maps of Essex were made to help the Army resist the threatened invasion by Napoleon in 1803-5. The scale was one inch to the mile, but you can zoom in to see more detail. Go to https://www.british-history.ac.uk/, click on "Maps" at the bottom left of the home page, and search the 1:10,560 series.  When the one-inch map was republished in 1843, Havering was at the corner of four sheets, so you need different keywords – Brentwood, Upminster and so on – to get the right one. The versions now online were updated around 1870, showing railways running to Romford and Rainham, but not to Hornchurch or Upminster, which only got their train service in the 1880s. The commons have been enclosed, the gallows has gone, but the marshes still look muddy.
Switch now to https://maps.nls.uk/os/, the website of the National Library of Scotland, one of five UK institutions entitled to free copies of everything published in Britain. That's how a library in Edinburgh has so many maps of Essex. Thanks to a generous and tech-savvy programme, Scotland's National Library has made them available online. From about 1860, the Ordnance Survey re-mapped Britain, at an intricate 25 inches to the mile. These maps show individual buildings in some detail. Zoom into a world where there was a plant nursery on the site of Frances Bardsley Academy, and a huge rifle range alongside the Ingrebourne at Rainham. Best of all is the side-by-side geo-referencing option: the original map, alongside a satellite view of today's suburbs. Point the cursor at yourhouse  and the exact point on the old map will pop up too. The developers who built modern Havering ripped out most of the landmarks. But there are places where you can trace the bendy line of an old hedgerow at the bottom of modern gardens.
In 1836, Parliament allowed tithes – a tax levied by the Church – to be paid in cash. Tithe maps were made of most parishes to show who owned which fields. The Essex Place-Names project has put many online at https://www1.essex.ac.uk/history/esah/essexplacenames/Books.asp. Unluckily, there's no tithe map for Collier Row and Harold Hill. But Cranham, Hornchurch, Rainham, Upminster and Wennington are all available. The tithe maps name individual fields. Some are disappointingly boring – Five Acres, Ten Acres. But Turnspit Field, on the corner of South Street and Brentwood Road, sounds like Romford's fun barbecue spot. And what was wrong with Mouldy Piece – somewhere off Suttons Lane in Hornchurch?
There's a similar map of Hornchurch and south Romford, dating from 1812, on the Havering Libraries online catalogue. Search for PA/MAPS/1.1, and sample through the "calmview" images listed at the foot of the entry. The segments are a bit awkward, but the mega-zoom is terrific.
The Essex Record Office Seax website has an attractive coloured map showing the fields north of the A12 and east of the future Harold Hill in 1633. You'll need to log in (free) to see it in detail. Havering Libraries Local Studies section has a detailed map of downtown Romford from 1853. It's was surveyed as part of a scheme to introduce sewerage to the town. It's on:
http://havering.calmview.eu/images/76%5c432d6f-31c3-46d7-82cc-7f40a16ee738.jpg.
In1812 there was a field in Romford called "Nova Scotia". Probably a joke name, it's now Western Road. Maybe you'll find a similar gem near you!
One way of escaping from lockdown is to let your imagination take to the skies over Havering. As you'd guess, the Aerofilms company took photographs from planes. But they weren't vertical, map-like shots, but snaps taken at fly-around angles. You can see them on www.britainfromabove.org.uk.
Aerofilms first flew over Romford in 1920. The old courthouse at the west end of the Market is clearly visible. It was swept away in the 1930s. There were fields near the town centre. Mawney Road and Junction Road stand out, but Marshalls Park was still green space. Air views of Rainham Creek factories in 1921 glimpse the empty South Hornchurch countryside beyond. In 1927, Aerofilms buzzed Gidea Park's original 'garden suburb', built around 1910. The zigzag bend in Heath Drive makes a good marker. The concrete strip of the newly engineered Eastern Avenue (A12) crosses the background, but there's no sign of Rise Park. Near Gidea Park station, the first houses were under construction in Fairholme Avenue. A short finger of Repton Avenue stuck into the fields, but was blocked by a huge pond. Compton Avenue was a hedgerow. Carlton Road didn't exist.
In 1934, Aerofilms visited Upminster, flying along Waldegrave Gardens. Rectory Gardens in Cranham looked like a sore thumb shoved between two railway lines, too new for gardens to have softened its outlines. In 1938, St George's Hospital in Hornchurch received a visit. Suttons Primary and Sanders School stand in lonely grandeur surrounded by fields. A search for "Clockhouse Lane" brings up striking airviews of Collier Row in 1948. In 1951, aerial photographs captured the building of Harold Hill. Straight Road is easily spotted. Gooshays farmhouse, later sadly destroyed by vandals, still presided over the bend in Gooshays Drive.
Builders were working on Hilldene Avenue and North Hill Drive. Harold Wood remained attractively semi-rural.
Rainham examples also include Rainham in Kent, while unluckily Cranham and Wennington air photographs don't show the Havering districts, but namesake places elsewhere.
Type "Brentwood" in to the East Anglian Film Archive (http://www.eafa.org.uk/search.aspx) and you'll find footage from Maylands aerodrome, Romford's proto-Heathrow – near today's A12/M25 junction. A pilot sent to film Brentwood's Selo factory soon got bored, flying to Gallows Corner roundabout after four minutes. It was a square-about in those days, and there was almost no traffic. The plane then flew along Upper Brentwood Road, over the Royal Liberty School.
Come back down to earth, and maybe you can find an old photograph that's right up your street. Nowadays "picture postcard" describes a pretty place. But sixty years ago, people used postcards like emails today, to send simple messages. (Stamps were cheaper then!) They weren't looking for scenic views. The Francis Frith website (https://www.francisfrith.com/) is packed with surprises. Postcards show (among other places) Rush Green Road, Harwood Avenue in Ardleigh Green and Elm Park's Warren Drive. Not a thatched cottage in sight! With 230 cards of Romford and Hornchurch, your home may there.  There are over fifty postcards of Rainham, eleven of Ardleigh Green, but only two – delightful Victorian cameos – of Collier Row. Elm Park and Emerson Park are included with Romford and Hornchurch. Log in and send an e-card to greet your friends. Add a personal email to assure them it's not a scam.
During the Covid-19 crisis, Havering Libraries Local Studies section is posting a daily heritage photograph on the Havering Libraries' Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HavLib/. The clarity of some of these pictures of bygone Havering is remarkable.
ArtUK (artuk.org) plans to provide thumbnails of every piece of public art in Britain. The "Romford" hits are pretty random, but they include paintings of Romford Market by Louis Bruhl in 1891, and Edith Garner in 1917. There's a cheerful portrait of Albert Dyer, a local publican about to call closing time. He was mayor of Romford in 1944-45.
Glance at two local artists. Chadwell Heath painter Henry Glindoni was born plain Glindon, but thought he'd sell more pictures if he sounded Italian. Most of his work is embarrassing – historical scenes of laughing cavaliers and gentlemen in powdered wigs. But Glindoni painted one attractive landscape, of a hay wagon at Marks Gate windmill in Whalebone Lane North – harvest time in bygone Collier Row.
Alfred Bennett Bamford was born in Eastern Road, Romford in 1857. His 100 Essex scenes are very romanticised – the sun always shines and people hang about without a care in the world.  But maybe we need a bit of escapism right now.
 
 
Copyright © 2020 Ged Martin. All Rights Reserved.
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