A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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The ancient parish of Little Ilford, about 6 miles north-east of London, forms part of the London borough of Newham. (fn. 1) The area is now usually called Manor Park, a name first used in the 19th century for the suburban settlement near Manor Park railway station. Little Ilford was bounded east by the river Roding which divided it from Great Ilford, in Barking parish. (fn. 2) Its southern and western boundaries marched with East Ham and its northern boundary with Wanstead. The section of the parish north of the main road to Ilford and Romford, which formed the manor of Aldersbrook, appears to have been transferred from Wanstead to Little Ilford early in the 16th century. (fn. 3) Even after that Little Ilford was the smallest parish in Becontree hundred, with an area in the 19th century of 768 a. (fn. 4) Until about 1850 it was thinly populated. Growth then began, slow at first but becoming more rapid in the 1880s. In 1886 the parish was merged in the sanitary district of East Ham, and it subsequently formed part of East Ham urban district, municipal borough, and county borough. The present account describes the history of Little Ilford up to 1886, while its later history is treated under East Ham. A few exceptions to this arrangement are made clear by means of cross-references.
The land is about 25 ft. above sea level in the west of the parish, and slightly lower in the east, by the Roding. The soil is mainly valley gravel. The name Ilford ('ford through the river Hile' [Roding]), (fn. 5) seems originally to have been applied to the area west of the river, but during the 13th century that area began to be called Little Ilford, to distinguish it from the growing settlement of Great Ilford, east of the river. After the 13th century Little Ilford is usually so styled, while references to Ilford, without an adjective, usually mean Great Ilford.
In an earlier volume the Roding and its bridges have already been described in relation to Great Ilford, and most of that account is relevant also to Little Ilford. (fn. 6) Little Ilford was like Great Ilford, also, in being partly within the Forest of Essex. (fn. 7) But in other respects the two places were very different. Great Ilford, a village on the main road from London to Colchester, grew steadily from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century. Little Ilford was traversed by the same road, but its centre of population, which lay ½ mile south of that road, by the church, seems to have grown little from the 11th century to the nineteenth. In 1086 the recorded population of Little Ilford manor was 10. (fn. 8) This probably did not include the area north of the main road, (fn. 9) but that area, which lay within the forest, and later formed the manor of Aldersbrook, is unlikely to have had many inhabitants then. In 1650 it was stated that the parish contained only 6 or 7 families south of the main road, and 4 to the north of it. (fn. 10) The total number of houses was listed as 14 in 1662 and 18 in 1670. (fn. 11) In 1801 there were 15. (fn. 12)
A map of 1777 (fn. 13) shows the parish before modern changes. The hamlet of Little Ilford comprised the parish church, the Manor farm, and a few cottages. There was one building (the Three Rabbits) in the main road, north of which lay Aldersbrook House with its park and home farm. Aldersbrook was pulled down about 1786 and the park became farm-land, but this seems to have had little effect on the growth of the parish. Between 1801 and 1831 the population was about 100. (fn. 14) An increase to 189 in 1841 was due to the building of a gaol within the parish, (fn. 15) and it was not until after 1851 that the normal population began to grow substantially. The new development started in the west of the parish. During the 1850s and 1860s a number of houses were built on the east side of White Post Lane (now High Street North) and in Greenhill Grove, (fn. 16) on a small estate previously belonging to the Greenhill family. (fn. 17) About 1870 building began on the East Ham side of the parish boundary, immediately north of Romford Road, at Manor Park, which took its name from the Manor House estate formerly owned by the Fry family. (fn. 18) By 1891 the population of Little Ilford was 3,969. (fn. 19) Building had by then advanced east along Romford Road and neighbouring streets at least as far as Third Avenue. (fn. 20) As elsewhere this development was largely dependent on the railways, but Manor Park was peculiar in that very little building was possible to the north of the railway. In 1854 Aldersbrook farm had been acquired by the city of London as a cemetery. The city subsequently took the lead in preventing the inclosure of Epping Forest, thus ensuring that Wanstead Flats, adjoining their cemetery to the west, should remain as a public open space. (fn. 21) Meanwhile another cemetery had been laid out, by a private company, on the East Ham side of Manor Park, south of Wanstead Flats. (fn. 22) There was thus great pressure on the limited building land available to the south of the railway: this may account for the speed with which that part of Little Ilford was developed in the 1890s, and for the poor quality of some of the new housing. (fn. 23)
The only pre-19th-century building remaining is the former parish church of St. Mary, Church Road. (fn. 24) Greenhill Grove contains a number of yellow-brick cottages dating from the 1850s and 1860s, and the original lodge and chapels of the city of London cemetery are of the same period, but most of the buildings in Little Ilford were erected between 1890 and 1910. Among the few larger buildings which existed before the 19th century but have been demolished were the manorhouses of Little Ilford and Aldersbrook, and the rectory. (fn. 25) The Three Rabbits and the Coach and Horses public houses, Romford Road, which dated from the 18th century or earlier, have been replaced by modern buildings of the same name. (fn. 26) Little Ilford house of correction (or county gaol) was built in 1829–31 by Essex quarter sessions. (fn. 27) In 1860 it was reorganized for prisoners on remand or serving short sentences. (fn. 28) It was closed in 1878 and demolished soon after. (fn. 29) Its site, now partly covered by houses and shops, was on the north side of Romford Road, between Worcester and Gloucester Roads.
In the 18th century the road system of Little Ilford was very simple. (fn. 30) Romford Road, running through the centre of the parish, was the ancient main road from London to Romford and Colchester. It is shown on early maps of Essex (fn. 31) and was probably of Roman origin. (fn. 32) It continued to be the main road until 1925, when Eastern Avenue was opened farther north. From 1721 it was controlled by the Middlesex and Essex turnpike trust. (fn. 33) A toll-gate stood immediately west of Ilford Bridge. A toll-house which was on the north side of the road, near Ilford Bridge, survived until about 1900 or later as the Little Wonder coffee house. (fn. 34) Running south from the main road was Little Ilford Lane, (fn. 35) leading to the church, where it joined Little Ilford Road (now Church Road). Little Ilford Road ran west to join White Post Lane. It went east only as far as the present Dersingham Avenue: at that end it served only the manor-house. White Post Lane (now High Street North), running from Romford Road south to East Ham, is described under that parish. (fn. 36) North of Romford Road there were tracks across Wanstead Flats roughly on the lines of the present Aldersbrook Road and Forest Drive. (fn. 37)
The ancient road system described in the previous paragraph survived almost unchanged until the 1880s, but before that time Little Ilford was intersected by railways: the Eastern Counties (later Great Eastern) line from London to Romford (1839) and beyond, the London, Tilbury and Southend line from Forest Gate to Barking (1854), and its cut-off from Bow to Barking (1858). (fn. 38) In 1872, after a petition from the inhabitants of Little Ilford, the G.E.R. opened Manor Park station. This was rebuilt in 1893–4. (fn. 39) A tramway from Stratford and Forest Gate to White Post Lane was completed in 1887. (fn. 40)
By 1861 there was a sub-post office at Little Ilford, receiving letters through Great Ilford, then in the London postal district. (fn. 41) In 1867 Great Ilford and its dependencies were transferred to the eastern counties district, (fn. 42) but in 1883 it was decided to form a new sub-district of Manor Park within the London postal district. In 1917 this became the E. 12 district. (fn. 43) A telegraph office was established at Manor Park in 1886. (fn. 44) Manor Park is served by the Ilford telephone exchange, opened by the National Telephone Co. in 1900. (fn. 45)
Eminent residents of Little Ilford include Sir John Heron (d. 1521), Henry Herbert, earl of Pembroke (d. 1601), John Lethieullier (d. 1737) and his son Smart (d. 1760), all of whom were lords of Aldersbrook. (fn. 46) Among rectors Thomas Newton (d. 1607) and Arthur T. W. Shadwell (d. 1893) achieved distinction. (fn. 47)
The manor of LITTLE ILFORD, also known from the 17th century as BERENGERS, (fn. 48) comprised that part of the parish lying to the south of the ancient road to London. In 1066 it was held by two freemen as a manor and as 3 hides less 30 a. (fn. 49) In 1086 it was held by Jocelin the Lorimer, who had taken 24 a. from the manor of Barking. (fn. 50) In 1210–12 Halnoth de Sifrewast, who had succeeded William de Sifrewast at Purley (Berks.) before 1186 (fn. 51) held Ilford in chief for one knight's fee. (fn. 52) By 1217 Halnoth had been succeeded by his son William, (fn. 53) who in 1226–8 was engaged in litigation with Barking Abbey concerning suit at the hundred court. (fn. 54) Statements made in this case seem to imply that William's family had held land at Ilford since the reign of Henry II, but the only member of the family who was named was his father's sister Isabel, widow of a certain Alan, who was holding land there (evidently not Little Ilford manor) in dower between 1170 and 1181. In 1233 William de Sifrewast granted 20 a. land in Ilford to Robert of Ilford for life. (fn. 55) In 1238–9 William was challenged by Roger de Quercu, in right of his wife Agnes, who claimed the manor as great-granddaughter of 'Joceamus', said to have been the tenant under Henry I. (fn. 56) Joceamus sounds like Jocelin the Lorimer, the Domesday tenant, who may well have survived into the reign of Henry I. The dispute was settled in 1240, when Roger and Agnes surrendered their claim. (fn. 57) William de Sifrewast was dead by 1244, leaving as his heir his son Nicholas, then a minor. (fn. 58) At his death he still held lands in Essex, but his Ilford estate seems to have passed soon after into the hands of William de la Pole. In 1254 Pole was patron of the church of Little Ilford, an appurtenance of the manor, (fn. 59) and in 1259 he granted the advowson and one carucate of land in Ilford, together with the tenement that Robert of Ilford once held there, to the abbey of Stratford Langthorne, to hold by rent of 45s. a year and service of ¼ knight's fee. (fn. 60) In 1291 the abbey's temporal estate at Ilford was valued at £11 12s. 1½d. a year. (fn. 61)
In 1538, when Stratford Abbey was surrendered to the Crown, (fn. 62) its estate in Little Ilford and the adjoining parish of Barking comprised the manors of Little Ilford, Rayhouse, and Berengers. Rayhouse, which was at Great Ilford, (fn. 63) and Berengers, (fn. 64) which was in Barking town, were both free tenements held of the manor of Barking. An account for the year 1537–8 shows that Little Ilford and Rayhouse were then farmed out for £17 10s. 8d. a year. (fn. 65)
In 1542 the Crown granted the manors of Little Ilford, Rayhouse, and Berengers, and the advowson of Little Ilford, to Morgan Phillips, alias Wolfe, king's goldsmith. (fn. 66) The three manors passed from Morgan Phillips (d. 1552) to his son Julian Morgan alias Wolfe (d. 1556). (fn. 67) Henry Morgan, son of Julian, succeeded to Little Ilford and Berengers, and was still holding them in 1583. (fn. 68) Rayhouse had been detached from the rest of the estate by 1570 or earlier. (fn. 69) Soon after 1583 Little Ilford and Berengers passed to Edward Onley, son of Julian Morgan's widow Jane by her second husband, Thomas Onley, and in 1596 Edward sold the two manors to Hugh, John, and Nicholas Hare. (fn. 70) In 1605 the estate was bought from the Hares by Bernard Hyde, salter of London. (fn. 71) Hyde was apparently living at Little Ilford in 1614–18, (fn. 72) but he and his descendants seem to have resided mainly in Mincing Lane, St. Dunstan's in the East (Lond.), or at Boar Place, Chiddingstone (Kent). (fn. 73) On his death in 1631 he was succeeded by his son Bernard (d. 1656) and he by his son Sir Bernard (d. 1674). (fn. 74) Another Sir Bernard was apparently holding the estate in 1683, (fn. 75) but by 1687 it had passed to Humphrey Hyde who in 1701 sold it to Henry Wight, (fn. 76) already the owner of Gayshams, in Great Ilford. (fn. 77) By the end of the 17th century the original distinction between Little Ilford and Berengers had been forgotten and the two names were being used indifferently to describe the whole property.
Little Ilford and Berengers descended along with Gayshams until 1873, when the estate of John Hibbit Wight (d. 1867) was advertised for sale by Chancery order, (fn. 78) and subsequently broken up. The Hibbit Wight family had been the largest landowners in Little Ilford. They do not appear to have lived in the parish, though for some years, about 1810–25, William Hibbit lived near by at West Ham. (fn. 79) In 1838 their lands in the parish comprised 363 a., of which 253 a. (Manor farm and Bolts farm) were let to Henry Hunsdon, who had been there since 1827. (fn. 80) The Hunsdons remained tenants until the 1860s. (fn. 81) In 1873 Manor farm (250 a.) was occupied by James Tyler, on a 21-year lease granted in 1868. (fn. 82) After the sale of 1873 Charles Bartholomew, of Ealing (Mdx., later Lond.), became principal landowner in the parish. (fn. 83) In 1890–4 he was running Manor farm through a bailiff. (fn. 84) He died early in 1895, and the development of the 'Manor House Estate' for building began in the following year. (fn. 85)
Little Ilford Manor House, later Manor House farm, which stood near the present junction of Dersingham Avenue and Church Road, (fn. 86) had been demolished by 1901. (fn. 87) It was a modest building having a symmetrical front of five bays and a large octagonal lantern or look-out surmounting the roof. (fn. 88) Those features appear to have dated from the 18th century, but a central two-storeyed porch had an inner doorway surmounted by a four-centred arch. (fn. 89) Irregular structures at the rear also suggest that the house was of 16th- or early-17th-century origin. (fn. 90)
The manor of ALDERSBROOK occupied the part of Little Ilford parish lying to the north of the ancient highway to London; it was therefore wholly within the bounds of the forest of Essex. (fn. 91) The name derives from ealdan hile, the western of the two branches of the Roding at this point, which formed part of the bounds of Hamme in A.D. 958. (fn. 92) This branch was called the Old river about 1570 (fn. 93) and Aldersbrook in 1815–16. (fn. 94)
Aldersbrook first appears as a separate manor in the early 16th century. Sir John Heron (d. 1521) left it to his wife Margaret for life, with reversion to his son Giles, then a minor. (fn. 95) Sir John, who was treasurer of the Chamber to Henry VII and Henry VIII, had been at Aldersbrook at least as early as 1517, when his son Thomas died there. (fn. 96) In 1523 the wardship of Giles Heron was granted by the Crown to Sir Thomas More. (fn. 97) Giles, who later married his guardian's daughter Cecily, was executed in 1540 for his continued loyalty to More. (fn. 98) In 1532, shortly before More resigned his office of lord chancellor, Giles sold to the Crown 'a great messuage called Nakedhall Hawe or Alderbroke', in the parish of Wanstead. (fn. 99) Another reference to the same transaction describes the property as the manor of Aldersbrook, in the parishes of Little Ilford and Wanstead. (fn. 100) In 1535 the Crown granted to Anthony Knevett, gentleman usher of the Privy Chamber, and Maud his wife, in survivorship, the manor of Aldersbrook, a tenement called Draginsford, adjoining Aldersbrook, Naked Hall Grove, and Millfield, which belonged to Draginsford, and other lands in Little Ilford and Wanstead. (fn. 101) Maud Knevett was dead by 1544, when the Crown sold the manor to Katherine Addington, widow, and her son Thomas, the king's skinner, who had acquired Knevett's interest in the estate. (fn. 102) The Crown reserved from the grant lands formerly belonging to Giles Heron, lying in Wanstead Park and lately inclosed.
From the details given above it is clear that in the early 16th century Aldersbrook manor extended into Wanstead, and it may be suggested that until that time Aldersbrook was appurtenant to the manor of Wanstead. The reference of 1532 shows that an alternative name for Aldersbrook was Naked Hall Hawe. That name, which also occurs as Naked Hall Grove, in 1535, was clearly identical with Naget Hall, which in 1383 was held of Barking Abbey by John Huntercombe, lord of Wanstead. (fn. 103) It seems likely that Aldersbrook descended along with Wanstead until after that manor came into the possession of the Crown about 1499, (fn. 104) and was subsequently granted to Sir John Heron, who is known to have received other Crown lands in south-west Essex. (fn. 105) The boundary disputes between the lords of Aldersbrook and Wanstead, in the 17th and early 18th centuries, probably reflect the ancient connexion of the two manors, (fn. 106) and in a different connexion it was stated, in 1650, that part of Little Ilford, lying north of the main road, had formerly been in Wanstead parish. (fn. 107)
In 1554 the manor of Aldersbrook was purchased from Thomas Addington by John Traves, scissor merchant of London. (fn. 108) Traves died in 1570 having settled the manor on his wife Elizabeth for life with remainder to his son John. (fn. 109) It was later said that at about this time 'one Gabriel, a brewer' lived at the manor-house. (fn. 110) In 1578 John Traves the younger, also a scissor merchant, granted Aldersbrook to Henry Herbert, earl of Pembroke, who lived there for a short time. (fn. 111) In 1580 Pembroke granted the manor in fee to Nicholas Fuller of Grays Inn (Mdx.) and Sara his wife. (fn. 112) Fuller sold it in 1585 to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, who already owned the manor of Wanstead. (fn. 113) Leicester (d. 1588) devised Aldersbrook to his bastard son Robert Dudley. (fn. 114) In 1595 Dudley sold it to Edward Bellingham. (fn. 115) Henry Bellingham, no doubt a relative of Edward, was living at the manor-house between 1594 and 1613. (fn. 116) Edward was succeeded before 1613 by his son Sir Edward, who died in 1637 leaving as his heir his father's sister Cecily, wife of Thomas West. (fn. 117) The Wests do not appear to have lived at Aldersbrook.
In 1655 Henry West, of Woodmancote, in West Bourne (Suss.) sold the manor to Henry Osbaldeston. (fn. 118) Henry (d. 1669) (fn. 119) was succeeded by his son Francis Osbaldeston who in 1677 also inherited his uncle's estate in Great Ilford. (fn. 120) Both Henry and Francis appear to have lived at Aldersbrook. (fn. 121) Francis died in 1678, (fn. 122) having settled all his estates on his daughter Mary with the provision that when she reached the age of 16 they should be sold to provide a portion for her. (fn. 123) Aldersbrook subsequently descended with Loxford, in Great Ilford, until 1786. (fn. 124) In 1693, when John Lethieullier bought the estate, Aldersbrook house was tenanted by Nathaniel Long, and Aldersbrook Warren by Andrew White. (fn. 125) Lethieullier (d. 1737) and his son Smart (d. 1760) both lived at Aldersbrook, and so also did Smart's niece Mary, and her husband Edward Hulse from the time of their marriage in 1769. (fn. 126)
In 1786 Aldersbrook was sold by Mary and Edward Hulse to Sir James Long, Bt., and was thus again merged in the manor of Wanstead. (fn. 127) In 1815 Aldersbrook consisted of a farm of 269 a., with manorial rights over 41 a. of Epping Forest and over 38 a. held by other proprietors. (fn. 128) It continued to descend with Wanstead until 1854, when William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley, earl of Mornington, sold most of Aldersbrook (though not the manorial rights) to the city of London. (fn. 129) The land became a cemetery and is still used as such. The ownership of it gave the corporation of London a locus standi in the dispute concerning the preservation of Epping Forest. (fn. 130) A small part of Aldersbrook, not included in the sale of 1854, continued as a farm, under the same name, until the end of the 19th century when it was developed for building. (fn. 131)
Nothing is known concerning the medieval manorhouse. From the early 16th century Aldersbrook was evidently a building of size and dignity, described in 1532 as a 'great messuage', and marked on Norden's map of Essex (1594). (fn. 132) Its importance is also shown by the fact that such owners as Sir John Heron and the earl of Pembroke lived there, but part of it may have been demolished before 1670, when it had only 12 hearths. (fn. 133) An early-18th-century map depicts it in elevation as an L-shaped building, with two storeys and gables. (fn. 134) A later map, of 1748, shows the ground-plan only. (fn. 135) Smart Lethieullier, a keen antiquary and collector, frequently entertained eminent scholars. (fn. 136) Richard Pococke, who visited Aldersbrook in 1750, noted that Lethieullier had 'made a very pretty improvement' there, and that his wife had 'made a beautiful hermitage in a wood, with lawn, water, a mount, parterre etc. . … He also described Lethieullier's fossil collection and some of the books in his library. (fn. 137) When Sir James Long bought the estate in 1786 he immediately demolished the house. (fn. 138) Its site is on the east side of the cemetery opposite the catacombs. (fn. 139) Lysons's statement that a farm-house was built on the site (fn. 140) is incorrect. There was already a farm-house near the manor-house to the west, and this remained in use until 1854, when it was demolished to make way for the cemetery. (fn. 141) A new farm-house, erected about 1863 in Aldersbrook Road (Wanstead) to serve the remaining portion of Aldersbrook farm, was on the site of the Aldersbrook Garage (fn. 142) where some of its garden walls and out-buildings still survive.
The manor of BERENGERS was originally a free tenement held of the manor of Barking, and situated in the south of Barking town. It took its name from the family of Roger Berenger who was holding land in Barking in 1266. (fn. 143) In 1456 Stratford Langthorne Abbey held a garden beside Townedowne in Barking, formerly of Roger Berenger, a barn by Berengers garden, and a tenement in Hythe (now Heath) Street. (fn. 144) At the Dissolution Stratford Abbey was holding a tenement in Heath Street, with a grange, a tenement with a garden adjoining and a lane called Berengers, and a garden beside Turnedowne. (fn. 145) Turnedowne, which was clearly identical with the Townedowne of 1456, is shown south of the present Axe Street, on a map of 1653. (fn. 146) Berengers Lane may have been the alley running south from the west end of Axe Street, shown in the same map. In 1609 (fn. 147) Turnedowne was stated to be east of Berengers garden. The tenements described thus evidently lay on the south side of Heath Street, but their exact location and extent is not known. Before the Dissolution they presumably constituted the demesne of the manor of Berengers; there also belonged to the manor assize rents valued in 1538–9 at £3 17s. 3d. (fn. 148)
In 1542 the Crown granted the manor of Berengers, along with those of Little Ilford and Rayhouse, which had also belonged to Stratford Abbey, to Morgan Phillips, alias Wolfe. (fn. 149) From that date Berengers and Little Ilford descended together, and eventually became completely merged. (fn. 150) The grant of 1542 probably did not include the former demesne tenements of Berengers, and there seems to be no evidence that subsequent owners of Little Ilford and Berengers held land in Barking town. In 1609 Berengers garden, abutting east on Turnedowne, was held by Thomas Moore, and two previous owners are mentioned, neither of whom is known to have held Berengers manor. (fn. 151)
In 1086 the manor of (Little) Ilford was said to comprise 3 hides less 30 acres; it is not clear whether this included the 24 a. which its lord, Jocelin the Lorimer, had taken from the manor of Barking. (fn. 152) There was woodland for 20 swine and 20 a. meadow. In 1066 the arable land had been worked by 4½ plough-teams, but by 1086 there were only 2 teams. On the other hand, a mill and a fishery had been added between the two dates. They were no doubt on the river Roding on the eastern side of the manor, where also must have been the 20 a. meadow.
There is little doubt that this manor, with much arable and little woodland, lay south of the ancient highway to London, and did not include the forest area to the north of the road. This is borne out by the later history of the manor, which, down to the 19th century, comprised roughly the southern half of the parish. That part of Little Ilford continued as farm land until the later 19th century. Land use figures given in conveyances of the manor, from the 17th century onwards, suggest that arable farming was important, possibly predominant, and that was certainly the case in 1839, when the Wight estate, comprising 363 a., included about 230 a. arable. (fn. 153) The southern part of the parish also included a small area of marshland meadow along the Roding, which as 'Little Ilford Level' was controlled by the Havering commissioners of sewers. (fn. 154)
The northern half of the parish, which later formed the manor of Aldersbrook, was in 1086 almost certainly part of the thickly wooded manor of Wanstead, and included the saltpan mentioned there. (fn. 155) It was within the Forest of Essex, the boundary of which, as perambulated in 1225, 1301, and 1641, followed the London road. (fn. 156) During the Middle Ages it formed part of the forest bailiwick of Becontree; (fn. 157) from the 16th century it was in Leyton 'walk', sometimes called Wanstead, or Wanstead and Leyton 'walk'. (fn. 158) By the early 16th century, when Aldersbrook emerged as a separate manor, forest clearance was virtually complete in that part of the parish: in 1536 Aldersbrook was stated to contain 140 a. arable out of a total area of 216 a., and only 6 a. woodland remained. (fn. 159) In the 17th and early 18th centuries there was a recurrent dispute between the lords of Aldersbrook and Wanstead concerning the boundaries of their manors, and in particular their respective rights over the forest wastes of Wanstead Flats. (fn. 160) Aldersbrook claimed rights over some 300 a. waste, but was eventually restricted to about 40 a. From the 16th century onwards part of the wastes adjoining Aldersbrook was being used as a warren. The earl of Pembroke, when he lived there about 1580, kept at least 1,000 couple of rabbits. (fn. 161) In 1660 the tenant of the home farm (sometimes called Warren House) was convicted at the forest court for encroaching into the wastes to extend his rabbit burrows. (fn. 162) In 1740, soon after Smart Lethieullier succeeded to Aldersbrook, he destroyed the warren, and obtained licence from the Crown to inclose the land for agriculture. (fn. 163) Much of the estate then consisted of park-land attached to Aldersbrook House, (fn. 164) but after Sir James Long's purchase of Aldersbrook, and the demolition of the house, most of it became farm-land. In 1816 Aldersbrook farm comprised 269 a., of which about half was arable. (fn. 165)
From the 17th century onwards, if not earlier, Little Ilford had hardly any inhabitants, except the lord of Aldersbrook and the tenant of the home farm, dwelling within the forest bounds. (fn. 166) This probably explains why little information has survived concerning forest rights exercised by parishioners. After 1803 Little Ilford ceased to be represented at the forest courts, and there appears to be no evidence that it possessed any separate cattle-mark, such as were used elsewhere. (fn. 167) In the 19th century beasts from Aldersbrook were being marked by the reeve of Wanstead. (fn. 168) Nevertheless, Little Ilford remained in part a forest parish, and was in fact one of the storm centres of the Epping Forest controversy in the later 19th century. In 1851–2 the owners of the Wanstead Park estate inclosed 34 a. of forest waste on Wanstead Flats; about 9 a. of this lay within the manor of Aldersbrook. (fn. 169) Opposition to this action, by Richard Plaxton, occupier of Cann Hall, in Wanstead, and other persons concerned to preserve the forest, was unsuccessful, and between 1852 and 1869 many other inclosures were made on Wanstead Flats. (fn. 170) These were all in Wanstead manor, but in 1871 the owners of Wanstead Park inclosed 20 a. in the south-eastern corner of the flats, which formed the last remaining piece of waste within Aldersbrook manor. (fn. 171) This brought a powerful protagonist to the defence of the forest: the corporation of the City of London. (fn. 172)
The City had bought most of Aldersbrook farm (though not the manorial rights) in 1854, and had made a cemetery there. During the 1860s it had begun to interest itself in the preservation of common rights in the forest, and in 1871 it took legal action, first against the lord of Wanstead and then more generally, against inclosers throughout the forest. The Epping Forest Commission was established in the same year, but the City pressed on with its action in order to prevent further inclosures, and gained a favourable verdict in 1874. This was reinforced by the findings of the commission, largely embodied in the Act of 1878, by which the forest was preserved as a public open space and placed under the control of the City of London as conservators. The Act provided, inter alia, that all inclosures made since 1851, except those built upon, should be thrown back into the forest. This included the inclosures made at Aldersbrook in 1852 and 1871. In 1882 the Wanstead Park trustees bought back the 34 a. of the 1852 inclosure, together with several other pieces of land, in part exchange, with the City, for 183 a. comprising the lakes and woodlands of the park.
The preservation of Wanstead Flats as an open space was of great benefit to the inhabitants of Little Ilford, now increasing in number, but it made little difference to land use within the parish. Much more important in that respect was the making of the City of London cemetery. In 1839 the parish contained some 450 a. arable and 200 a. meadow or pasture, divided among four farms and a few smallholdings. (fn. 173) When the cemetery was formed fifteen years later about a third of the farm-land in the parish was taken out of cultivation.
It was stated in 1796 that about 120 a. in Little Ilford were usually cropped with potatoes, (fn. 174) but in the 19th century this parish (unlike some neighbouring ones) does not seem to have been particularly noted as a market-gardening area. In 1839 there was a little osier-growing along the Roding. (fn. 175)
At the end of the 18th century a great cattle market was held on Wanstead Flats every year during March and April, and much of the business relating to it was transacted at the Three Rabbits public house, which stood on the north side of the main road at Little Ilford. (fn. 176) That house, which figures in Thomas Hood's novel Tylney Hall (1834), was still frequented by graziers and cattle dealers in 1876, though the market had long ceased. (fn. 177)
It was stated in 1613 that there were remains of a brick-kiln or clamps near Aldersbrook House, but no brick-making was then being carried on. (fn. 178) A field called Brick Clamps is shown on a map of 1816, lying between the Aldersbrook stream and Aldersbrook Lane. (fn. 179)
Until the later 19th century most of the small population of the parish was engaged in agriculture. (fn. 180) From the 1850s, however, other occupations began to appear. The opening of the City of London cemetery provided work for monumental stonemasons, of which there were at least three by 1863. (fn. 181) By 1870 Manor Park was growing into a small town, with a variety of tradesmen. (fn. 182)
PARISH GOVERNMENT AND POOR RELIEF.
A vestry minute book for Little Ilford survives for the period 1751–1857. (fn. 183)
Until 1777 it was common to hold 4 or 5 vestry meetings a year. In the next half-century the usual practice seems to have been to hold only one or two such meetings a year. After 1815 the frequency of meetings tended to increase again, to 3, 4, and occasionally 5 or 6 a year.
In the 18th century the rectors attended the vestry regularly. The only exception was John Chamberlayne (rector 1764–87), who attended only once during the last ten years of his incumbency. His absence may have been responsible for the infrequency of meetings during those years. T. L. Cooke (rector 1803–47) rarely attended, but his curate nearly always did so.
Considering the small population of the parish the attendance at vestry, as indicated by signatures, was good. For most of the period 1751–1834 meetings were usually attended by at least 3 or 4 persons. Only between 1779 and 1785 was the attendance less than that. Between 1815 and 1825 it was often 5, 6, or more. In July 1824, when a record number of 10 persons were present, there were still fewer than 20 families in the parish.
The lords of the manor of Little Ilford, who did not live in the parish in the later 18th century, never attended meetings before 1815. In 1815 William Hibbit, who was joint lord of the manor, and was then living in West Ham, (fn. 184) began to attend the vestry, and from 1818 to 1826 he rarely missed a meeting. In this period also he sometimes held parish office and in 1824, as surveyor of highways, he was involved in a lawsuit with a parishioner named Greenhill, who held land in White Post Lane (now High Street North). Hibbit, supported by the vestry, won his case but bore part of the costs himself. He does not appear to have attended any vestry meeting after 1826 though he was occasionally nominated for office until 1832. The lords of Aldersbrook sometimes attended meetings in the later 18th century. Smart Lethieullier attended regularly in 1751–2 and occasionally afterwards until his death in 1760. Edward Hulse, owner and occupier of Aldersbrook from 1769, attended vestry meetings regularly from 1772 until 1786, when he sold the manor. Another regular attendant, from 1755 to 1776, was George Parker, occupier of Aldersbrook farm and steward of the Lethieullier estate, who served several terms as churchwarden, and also as surveyor. Samuel Winmill, who occupied the farm in the early 19th century, was rarely out of office in the years between 1811 and 1836. In that period he was usually either churchwarden or overseer and once he served as constable.
The records for the later 18th century do not furnish an exact list of parish officers, but there were evidently some unusual customs in regard to their appointment. Until 1768 the offices of churchwarden and overseer were held by one person, who usually served for at least two years. After 1768 it became the practice, for over ten years, to appoint two persons, one of whom served in the first half of the period as churchwarden and overseer and afterwards simply as churchwarden, while the other served as overseer. For some years after the appointment of a separate overseer, however, the churchwarden continued to have the main responsibility for poor-relief. It was the churchwarden whom the vestry directed to take action in individual cases of pauperism and it was to him that poor-rates were granted. During the 1780s the parish reverted for a short time to its earlier practice of combining the two offices in one person. From 1789, or possibly a little earlier, two persons were again appointed, and the practice was now for both to serve as churchwardens and as overseers. From 1794 the distinction between the two offices became more marked and it was no longer taken for granted that the two persons serving as churchwardens should also serve as overseers. At this time one churchwarden was being nominated by the parishioners, the other by the rector. From 1802 the offices were always held by different persons and in this period the overseers were responsible for the poor-rates and all matters relating to poor-relief, the churchwarden confining himself to the needs of the church. There were then one churchwarden and two overseers, all of whom served for several successive years. From 1823, if not before, a paid overseer was appointed. There was one parish constable and one surveyor. In the 19th century the constable served sometimes for one, sometimes for two or more years. A parish clerk is occasionally mentioned. In 1804 his salary, which for the past 40 years had been £4, was raised to £6.
Until 1780 separate rates were levied for church purposes and for poor-relief. After that date the church was usually maintained out of the poor-rates, church-rates being levied only to meet exceptionally heavy expenditure. A separate highway rate was occasionally levied, as in 1803 and 1804. There is no evidence of a separate constable's rate.
Officers' accounts were carefully scrutinized by the vestry, although in the early part of the period they did not always submit them annually. Until about 1780 the vestry examined the case of every pauper and if necessary met specially to do so; the parish officers evidently took no independent action. After that time, when vestry meetings became less frequent, individual cases were rarely recorded in the minutes.
Poor-relief took the form of weekly doles, rent allowances, poorhouse accommodation, medical care, or apprenticeship. Between 1752 and 1769 five pauper children were apprenticed. They were evidently not bound to masters in the parish, though details are incomplete. In 1763 the churchwarden was to 'apply to a fisherman at Barking' to take one boy, and in 1769 it was resolved that another should be apprenticed to a blacksmith at Stratford.
About 1760 the vestry acquired two poorhouses by taking them over after the previous tenants had got into arrears with their rent. These houses were still being leased in 1776. (fn. 185) Little Ilford never had its own workhouse. On one occasion, in 1764, an attempt was made to place a pauper in a workhouse outside the parish, but this was an exceptional measure and never became a common practice even at a later date. In 1803 there were 8 persons on permanent relief, 5 of them being old or permanently disabled, but none of the 8 was in a workhouse. In each of the years 1813–15 there were 8–10 persons on permanent relief, none of them in a workhouse. (fn. 186)
For most years between 1750 and 1834 it is impossible to state exactly the cost of relief, owing to deficiencies in the records. At the beginning of the period a considerable proportion of the inhabitants were receiving relief in some form but in this parish, unlike many others, the rates seem to have remained steady right up to the end of the 18th century. The only years when expenditure did rise appreciably were 1756–7, 1759–60, and 1783–5. There are precise, or nearly precise, figures of costs for only six years of the second half of the 18th century. In 1750–2 the cost of relief was probably about £50 a year. In 1776 it was £52. (fn. 187) In 1783–5 the average annual cost was £89. (fn. 188) In 1803 it was £51. After 1804 there does seem to have been an increase. (fn. 189) In the five years ending in 1817 relief costs averaged £70. In the four years ending in 1821 the average was £88. (fn. 190)
Little Ilford was included in the West Ham poor law union, formed in 1836. In 1886 the parish was placed, for sanitary purposes, under the control of the East Ham local board. (fn. 191) Since 1840 Little Ilford has been part of the Metropolitan police district. (fn. 192)
The surviving architectural features of St. Mary's church show that it was built at least as early as the 12th century. In 1650, when parochial reorganization was being considered, it was suggested that this small parish should be divided between its neighbours, Wanstead and Great Ilford, and that Little Ilford church should be taken down and re-erected at Barkingside. (fn. 193) This was not done, however, and St. Mary's continued to be the parish church of Little Ilford until 1938, when it became a chapel of ease to St. Michael's, Romford Road. (fn. 194)
The advowson of the rectory descended with the manor of Little Ilford until 1873, when it was put up for sale as part of the Wight estate. (fn. 195) Then, or soon after, it was bought for Hertford College, Oxford, the present patrons. (fn. 196) On a number of occasions, from the 16th century to the 19th, the presentation was granted away for one or more terms. (fn. 197) Theophilus Leigh Cooke, rector 1803–47, appears to have obtained the living under an agreement between his family and the patrons. (fn. 198)
Although the advowson was held from the 13th century onwards by Stratford Abbey the church was never appropriated. In 1470 the abbey, pleading poverty, sought the pope's permission to appropriate, but this was evidently refused. (fn. 199) The rectory was valued at £3 in 1254 but at only £1 10s. in 1291. (fn. 200) In 1535 the net value was £11 13s. 8d. (fn. 201) In 1650 the gross value was £55, (fn. 202) in the early 18th century it was £110, (fn. 203) and in the three years 1829–31 the average was £450. (fn. 204) Tithes, which were valued at £37 in 1650, were commuted in 1839 for £328, which included £18 for tithes of the glebe. (fn. 205) Sir John Heron (d. 1521), of Aldersbrook, left a rent-charge of £3 6s. 8d. payable by the Fishmongers' Company to the rector of Little Ilford. This was redeemed in 1887 for £111 stock, which was used to augment the benefice. (fn. 206)
Until the later 19th century, when most of it was built over, there were 40 a. glebe, lying mainly in the centre and south of the parish. (fn. 207) In 1610 the parsonage house comprised eleven rooms in two storeys. (fn. 208) This house was on a moated site in Little Ilford Marsh. (fn. 209) Robert Blakeway, when he became rector in 1714, found it so dilapidated, and considered the site so unhealthy, that in 1720 he built a new three-storey rectory on higher ground immediately west of the church, with some financial help from others. (fn. 210) The controversy between Blakeway and his parishioners which preceded the building of the new house is described below. This house, which appears to have been altered in the early 19th century, (fn. 211) was demolished in 1963, when a new rectory was built on an adjoining site nearer Church Road. Part of the old rectory garden was sold for building. (fn. 212)
The most eminent rector of Little Ilford was probably Thomas Newton (1542–1607), poet and physician, who held the living from 1583 until his death. (fn. 213) He was evidently unpopular with the Puritans, who in 1585 included him in a list of non-preaching clergy, and described him as a 'grand drunkard'. (fn. 214) His successor, John Morse (1607–15), was probably identical with the man of that name who occurs, in 1639–46, as the Puritan minister of Romford. (fn. 215) Daniel Cawdrey, rector from 1617 to about 1625, also had Puritan leanings, for in 1662 he was ejected from Great Billing (Northants.) for nonconformity. (fn. 216) Morse or Cawdrey may well have been responsible for placing the communion table in the centre of the chancel, with benches around it, an arrangement noted at Little Ilford in 1638 during the visitation of the archdeacon, who ordered that the table should be cut shorter, placed against the east wall, and railed. (fn. 217) Richard Reekes, rector from about 1625 to 1635, (fn. 218) was in 1630 involved in a dispute with the lord of the manor. (fn. 219) The churchwarden, John Lord, who gave evidence in the case, and had himself quarrelled with Reekes, stated that the rector had recently been absent without making proper provision for serving the cure. When a baptism was necessary Lord, so he said, had to send for a minister to officiate, 'sometimes Motley, who says he is curate to Reekes, and sometimes another'. Humphrey Richards, rector 1639–55, was described in 1650 as an able, preaching minister. (fn. 220) He appears to have held the living until his death. His successor was Henry Osbaldeston, whose Puritanism was well attested in 1655 (fn. 221) but who conformed in 1662, and retained the rectory until his death in 1669.
Robert Blakeway (rector 1714–36) had previously been for a short time curate to the non-juring vicar of East Ham, Richard Welton. Early in his incumbency he was involved in disputes with successive churchwardens, John Lethieullier (of Aldersbrook) and John Nurse, and with the patron of the living, Sarah Wight. (fn. 222) The main issue was the rebuilding of the rectory, already mentioned, but the underlying cause of enmity was political. Blakeway was a Whig while they were Tories. According to one statement there was also a private feud resulting from Blakeway's unwelcome and unsuccessful courtship of Lethieullier's daughter, (fn. 223) and these events at Little Ilford must also be regarded as the sequel to Blakeway's quarrels with Welton at East Ham. Feelings ran high in the parish during the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, and continued to do so for some years.
After 1720, when the new rectory was built, most 18th-century rectors seem to have been resident except John Chamberlayne (rector 1764–87) who was absent from 1777 to 1787. (fn. 224) During Chamberlayne's absence two curates were successively employed. (fn. 225) Theophilus Cooke, rector 1803–47, who was a pluralist living in Oxfordshire, depended on curates for most of his long incumbency. (fn. 226) His successors have all been resident. Arthur T. W. Shadwell (1879–93) was a distinguished oarsman. (fn. 227)
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN, Church Road, consists of nave and chancel, north chapel (now the vestry), south porch, and west bellturret. (fn. 228) The walls of the nave, and the lower parts of the chancel, are of flint rubble, faced with plaster or cement. Those of the chapel, porch, and the upper parts of the chancel are of 18th-century brick. The roofs are of slate.
The nave and the chancel were probably built early in the 12th century. In the north wall of the nave, now opening into the vestry, are a window and a doorway, both of that period. The south wall has a window and a doorway matching those in the north wall except that the window has been widened. There is another widened 12th-century window in the west wall, above the gallery.
Until the 18th century there seem to have been no major alterations to the church except for the addition of a bell-turret and south porch. A painting of the church from the south-east, made in 1720, includes those features, and also shows two roundheaded windows, probably of the 12th century, but no longer existing, in the south walls of the nave and chancel, and four others in the east wall of the chancel. (fn. 229)
About 1724, the year in which the wife of John Lethieullier died as the result of a carriage accident, (fn. 230) the Lethieulliers of Aldersbrook obtained a faculty to erect a family vault with a private chapel above it. (fn. 231) Work does not seem to have started for some years, probably not until after the death of John Lethieullier in 1737. (fn. 232) The chapel, which has been used as a vestry at least since 1848, (fn. 233) is a simple structure of reddish-brown brick with a coved cornice and two circular windows. Internally the whole of its north wall is occupied by a handsome classical memorial to members of the Lethieullier family. The chapel is separated from the nave by an iron gate and contains other Lethieullier monuments and a fire-place. In its east window is 15thcentury stained glass depicting the arms of France and England flanked by a Tudor rose and a red rose, both crowned. Around the outer edge are 16th- and 17th-century fragments depicting shields and figures, including a heron. This glass was probably removed from the nave or chancel; some of it may have been connected with Sir John Heron of Aldersbrook. In 1801 part of it was in the west window of the chapel. (fn. 234)
The building of the chapel seems to have been accompanied by the rebuilding of the chancel, porch, and possibly the bell-turret, the alteration of the nave, and the insertion of the west gallery. The upper part of the chancel is built of the same reddish-brown brick as the chapel, having a high dentil cornice and a pedimented east gable. The windows are of wood with gothic lights and semi-circular or segmental heads; there are two similar windows in the nave. The west gallery is supported on squareshafted Tuscan pilasters. On the gallery front are the royal arms of one of the 18th-century Hanoverian kings, probably George II. During the Second World War the church was damaged by bombing. It was reopened, after repairs, in 1951. (fn. 235)
The organ, which in 1892 was removed from the gallery to the south wall of the chancel, and rebuilt, was replaced in the gallery in 1938. (fn. 236) Part of the earlier barrel organ is now in the vestry. On the north wall of the nave is a board recording James Hayes's charity. (fn. 237)
In 1552 the church had two small bells. (fn. 238) There was none in 1683, (fn. 239) but there are references to one bell in 1768 and 1814. (fn. 240) The present bell is dated 1861. (fn. 241) The church plate includes a silver cup and paten of 1890. What happened to the older plate is not known. (fn. 242)
On the north wall of the nave are a brass to Thomas (d. 1517), son of Sir John Heron of Aldersbrook depicting a schoolboy with inkhorn and pencase, and another to William (d. 1614) and Anne (d. 1630), children of Bernard Hyde, lord of the manor of Little Ilford. (fn. 243) The Heron brass was formerly on the floor of the chancel, and that of Hyde on the floor of the nave. (fn. 244) On the north wall of the chancel are a coloured marble monument, with kneeling figures, to William Waldegrave (d. 1610) and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1589), and a tablet to Francis Osbaldeston (d. 1678) of Aldersbrook and his two infant sons. On the east wall is a tablet to William S. Fry (d. 1844), of the Manor House, his two eldest daughters and his son. (fn. 245) The principal monument in the chapel takes the form of a marble colonnade of three bays with Tuscan columns and a central pediment. The central bay contains a sarcophagus of coloured marble commemorating John Lethieullier (d. 1737) and his wife (d. 1724). In the flanking bays two urns carry inscriptions to their son Smart (d. 1760) and his wife Margaret (d. 1753). On the south wall of the chapel is a tablet to Charles Lethieullier (d. 1759).
It was stated in 1810 that Little Ilford contained one family of Quakers and three of other dissenters, (fn. 246) but no nonconformist congregation appears to have been formed until about 1860, when Little Ilford chapel, Greenhill Grove, was registered by a non-sectarian body, possibly of Brethren. (fn. 247) This is probably the small building on the west of Greenhill Grove now (1965) used by the Salvation Army, adjoining which is a row of houses inscribed 'Chapel Place, 1864'. About 1865 this chapel appears to have been taken over by Congregationalists, who remained there until 1890, when they moved to a new church in Manor Park Road, East Ham, called Manor Park Congregational church. (fn. 248) The Greenhill Grove chapel was subsequently used by Baptists before being taken over by the Salvation Army. (fn. 249) In and after the 1880s, as Manor Park expanded, many nonconformist churches were built. These are described under East Ham. (fn. 250)
There was an Anglican Sunday school at Little Ilford from 1820, and in 1830 a visitor reported seeing the parish clerk 'or some such dignitary' conducting a school in the church, but it was not until 1865 that a National day-school was built on glebe land in Church Road with the aid of grants from the government and the National Society. (fn. 251) The average attendance at the National school increased from 53 in 1867 to 149 in 1882. In 1883 two new classrooms were built and the school was divided into separate departments for boys, girls, and infants. (fn. 252) Places for 400 were thus provided, but by 1886 average attendance had reached 300, and in 1887 a school board was formed. (fn. 253) The school was immediately taken over by the board, which in 1890 transferred the boys and girls to new buildings in Fourth Avenue. The infants, who from 1887 to 1890 were in temporary accommodation elsewhere, then moved back to the Church Road buildings and remained there until 1892, when a new infants department was completed on the Fourth Avenue site. (fn. 254) The National school buildings were reopened as a temporary board school in 1895 and continued in use until 1901. They were subsequently used for church purposes. (fn. 255) In 1951 they were sold to the East Ham borough council, which shortly afterwards demolished them and built flats on the site, now called Leamington Close. (fn. 256)
Schools built since 1887 are described under East Ham. (fn. 259)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
By a deed of 1630 Bernard Hyde, lord of the manor of Little Ilford, provided that the Salters' Company of London should pay £1 a year to the churchwardens, to be given to four poor persons of the parish. (fn. 260) In 1835 the money was being used to give a bag of coal to every poor family at Christmas, any deficiency being made up by private contributions. (fn. 261) By 1894, however, it was used to give four poor people 5s. each. In 1961 it was being administered with Hayes's charity. (fn. 262)
James Hayes (d. 1821) left £1,000 stock in trust for the poor of the parish. In 1835 £30 a year was being distributed in sums ranging from 10s. to £2 10s. (fn. 263) In 1961 the income of £18 15s. was distributed, along with that from Hyde's charity, in £1 and 10s. portions. (fn. 264)
Elizabeth Bayne, by declaration of trust of 1960, gave £350 stock in memory of her husband Oswald Bayne, the proceeds to be used for charitable work by the church in Little Ilford parish, particularly for the assistance of students at university or training college. In 1961 £2 each was given to two students at King's College, London, and one at University College Hospital, London. (fn. 265)