A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND POOR- RELIEF TO 1836.
The only surviving records for the manor of Leyton are court books, 1713–1880. (fn. 1) Courts leet and view of frankpledge, with twelve suitors, were held in 1713, 1715, 1734, and 1736. The last court baron was held in 1842, after which all business was transacted 'out of court'. The Leyton constable is mentioned in 1381. (fn. 2) The last constable (chosen by the vestry three weeks before) (fn. 3) was sworn in 1715. The lord appointed the marsh hayward, whose duties are described elsewhere. (fn. 4) A pound keeper is mentioned in 1796.
John de Munchensy was holding view of frankpledge in Leyton, probably at Ruckholt, in 1272–3. (fn. 5) Court records for Ruckholt manor exist for the period 1509 to 1848. (fn. 6) Courts leet were usually held once a year between 1509 and 1558, fairly regularly from 1567 to 1618, and at increasing intervals between 1625 and 1658. After 1658 only three were held, in 1686, 1687, and 1705. The distinction between leet and baron business was not always clearly made in Elizabethan times; in 1567 an order against sheltering women was made at the court baron. The courts baron were held at similar intervals to the leets before 1658, usually with them until 1571. No courts were held between 1658 and 1673; between 1673 and 1688 courts baron were held at intervals of one to five years. Between 1705 and 1848 courts were held at irregular intervals of one to four years, but sometimes with two or more courts in a year. The longest interval between courts was the ten years between 1742 and 1752. Between 1509 and 1705 an average of twelve suitors attended courts with leet business or view of frankpledge; the maximum was seventeen (in 1654) and the minimum five (in 1512, 1513, and 1517). Courts described as 'of view of frankpledge' occur between 1509 and 1687. The assize of bread and ale was exercised between 1510 and 1611. Reference is made in 1595, 1609, and 1610 to provision of weights and measures by the lord, and an unlicensed alehouse was presented in 1654. Civil and quasicriminal jurisdiction continued to be exercised at times up to 1705; at the last court leet a cottage built on the waste was presented. The last highway presentments occur in 1686 and 1687; no bridges were presented after 1611. 'Inmates' are last mentioned in 1653. The last case of assault occurs in 1609; an arrest for theft of cloth was made in 1516. A solitary instance of presentment for failure to wear caps according to the statute is found in 1595. The election of a constable, described in 1578 and 1705 as for Leytonstone, is frequently recorded between 1511 and 1705. The last swearing of a constable was in 1727 at a court baron. Ale-tasters were elected between 1509 and 1705. A headborough was chosen in 1578, 1631, 1686–7, and 1705. A tithingman was elected at irregular intervals between 1584 and 1653. In 1532 the lord was ordered to make a pair of stocks and a pair of gallows on the manor boundary; stocks are last mentioned in 1610, when their lack for seven years was presented, together with that of the pillory and tumbrel. A pound is mentioned by name only in 1567, but the last case of beasts being impounded occurs in 1607. The erection of a pair of butts was ordered in 1567; they are last mentioned in 1610 as in decay.
Leyton has a fine collection of parish records, (fn. 7) including vestry minutes from 1618. Before 1681 the only regular vestry meeting was in Easter week, when officers were chosen. Between 1654 and 1657 (fn. 8) and after 1671 the surveyors were chosen at a separate meeting. From 1681 the vestry held another meeting soon after Easter, to nominate pensioners, inspect accounts, and make the rate; from 1698 these meetings were held twice a year. In 1759 the vestry decided to meet monthly. The Easter meeting was held in the church, but others usually in public houses or, from 1715, a coffee house. From 1742 the vestry met in the workhouse. In 1712 the members limited their refreshment to 40s. twice a year; from 1723 this allowance was halved. Attendances, recorded from 1639, were small, about five to eleven, but most of those present were people of influence and wealth. In the 17th century, judging from the signatures, substantial parishioners took the chair. From 1664 to 1695 the chairman was usually the lord of the manor of Ruckholt, or another magistrate; the vicar only signed first when these were not present. From 1695, when Sir William Hicks ceased to attend, the vicar, John Strype, took the chair. Thenceforward the vicar usually presided, and in his absence a parish officer. From 1668 all vicars except John Dubordieu (1738–54) attended regularly. A select vestry was set up in 1819, but discontinued in 1823. (fn. 9)
In 1679 the rateable value of the parish was £2,005. In 1765 it was £3,033, rising to £4,205 in 1776, £6,095 in 1806, and £8,038 in 1826. The vestry took a firm line with rate defaulters. The churchwardens' and poor-rates were usually separate until 1779, when they were combined. They were separated again in 1826. Constables' rates were occasionally made, but their charges were usually included in the churchwarden's or another officer's rate. It is clear from a case in 1761 that the highway 'rate' was made up of fines for not performing statute labour. When the surveyor spent more than he collected, the deficiency was met by a special rate or put into the poor or churchwardens' rate.
Parish offices were customarily served in turn, the order being determined by the antiquity of each house. Experienced substitutes were often employed. There were two churchwardens, each serving one year as junior, then a second as senior warden. In 1760 the vestry ruled that the senior warden should do the business. Between 1847 and 1853 the vicar began to nominate a third warden. In 1852 the vestry objected, and from 1854 to 1873 continued to elect both wardens. From 1874, when E. J. Brewster (1873–80) claimed his right to nominate, the parish had a vicar's (or high) and a people's (or low) warden.
The two overseers of the poor are sometimes described before 1721 as one each for Leyton and Leytonstone, but in 1787 as first and second overseer; the senior overseer is mentioned later. By 1775 it was usual for the beadle, described below, to act as an extra overseer. From 1801 to 1820 these duties fell on the 'out beadle'. From 1821 the office of paid assistant overseer superseded that of out beadle.
There were two surveyors of highways, one each for Leyton and Leytonstone, until the turnpike trustees took over Leytonstone High Road in 1722. Thereafter only one was appointed. A paid surveyor was appointed continuously from 1767. (fn. 10) In 1832 Leyton was reported to be the only parish in the neighbourhood with a salaried surveyor.
There were two constables, one each for Leyton and Leytonstone. (fn. 11) From 1637 the vestry always chose the Leyton constable. The Leytonstone constable was elected by them from 1651 to 1657, and occasionally after 1657 with the consent of the lord of the manor of Ruckholt, or by his appointment. From 1733 the vestry elected both constables.
The office of beadle, paid on the churchwardens' rate, was created in 1718 to deal with inmates, vagrants, and uncertificated newcomers. The beadle became a trusted servant of the vestry, employed on every kind of parish business. In 1801 the duties were divided between a 'church beadle', who was also sexton, and an 'out beadle', to deal with all 'out business', especially investigation of newcomers. From 1821 the out beadle became the assistant overseer. The office of church beadle survived that of out beadle, and continued to be held with that of sexton.
The parish clerk is first mentioned in 1623. (fn. 12) In 1653 he was elected by the vestry, but later clerks were nominated and appointed by the vicar. They were first paid a salary in 1802.
Before 1820 the vestry minutes were usually kept by the vicar. The workhouse master acted as vestry clerk from 1820 to 1836; the former master continued to act after the workhouse closed, and in 1841 a salary was authorized.
Highway defaulters with carts or labour were presented at quarter sessions in 1624, 1642, and 1668. (fn. 13) In 1734 the vestry agreed with the Middlesex and Essex turnpike surveyor to settle the £31 10s. composition due from the parish by sending to work on the turnpike the teams of 13 householders, owing between them 70 days' statute labour; a day's work was worth 9s. The Leyton surveyor had to co-operate with the overseers in the employment of parish labourers on the roads.
The parish repaired the Leyton whipping post in 1651, and built a new one in 1756. A brick watchhouse was built near the stocks, by the vicarage, in 1690; it was pulled down in 1740 and not replaced. New stocks were built in 1756; in 1774 they were removed from the vicarage and put beside the newly-built cage. The cage was demolished in 1843.
To discourage housebreakers in this wealthy neighbourhood (fn. 16) the vestry paid rewards to informers. In the early 19th century they hired night patrols in winter, armed with rattles and swords, to protect both residents and churchyard. In 1821 the Hackney watch were rewarded for apprehending a grave-robber.
From 1840 Leyton, as part of the Central criminal court district, was included in the Metropolitan police district. (fn. 17)
From 1768, when a fire-engine and buckets were bought by subscription, the vestry provided an engine-house by the church porch and maintained the engine on the churchwardens' account. (fn. 18)
To support their poor the vestry had, in addition to the poor-rate, eight endowed alms-houses and accumulating funds for free bread. (fn. 19) There was also ample wealth to tap in hard times, as in 1789, when £63 was subscribed. The poor-rate was calculated on the estimated numbers of pensioners, and of children to apprentice, in the months ahead. Thus in 1672, with four pensioners, the rate was 2½d., raising £24; but in 1675, with seven pensioners, and five children to bind at £6 each, with £4 for their clothing, the rate was 8d., raising £72. The overseers were little more than rate collectors, most of the casual relief being ordered by the churchwardens, and paid on their rate. The vestry relieved the victims of bereavement, sickness, accident, disablement, and lunacy. They paid rents, doctors' bills, and the charges of London hospitals. They released debtors from prison, redeemed personal possessions from pawn, and once gave a man a loan to help him to 'traffic in old iron'. After 1697 the regular poor had to wear badges.
From 1698 the poor rate had to be made twice a year. From 1705 to 1732 it was about 8d., raising about £87, but in the 1720s the number of pensioners, hitherto a dozen or so, increased to over twenty. By 1737 there were 31, 13 of them children. That year the poor-rate was 1s. 1d., producing £145. The churchwardens' casual expenses showed the same upward trend, and the vestry therefore decided to build a workhouse, which was opened in 1742. The poor-rate, however, never again fell below 1s. 1d.
In 1766 the vestry protested to the lords of the manors that grants of herbage and waste were causing hardship to the poor. (fn. 20) The vestry had tried to abolish pensions, but they were being paid again by 1764 and in 1780 cost £104. That year the combined rate was 3s., producing £612. Whereas in 1709 there were 10 poor families in Leytonstone and 21 in Leyton, by 1789 there were 98 in Leytonstone and 111 in Leyton. With this mounting poverty the vestry sought economy in good management, without relaxing efforts to alleviate genuine distress.
From 1771 a regular apothecary was employed, salaried from 1780. From 1795 there were two, one for each side of the parish. From 1797 the poor were inoculated at parish expense. In 1798 a dispensary was established at the workhouse. From 1798 a parish midwife was employed; by 1826 there were two.
Trouble was taken to find suitable trades for the children, particularly if disabled. They usually went for a trial period to the master, before being bound, and the beadle had to visit all apprentices from time to time, to report on their treatment. From the 1770s a number went to Middlesex silk-weavers, and from 1802 to Barking fishermen.
From 1786 parish expenditure was always over £1,000, and from 1803 over £2,000. The rate rose to 6s. between 1801 and 1804, and only once fell below 5s. thereafter. The cost of pensioners never fell below £400 after 1812, and rose to £725 in 1818. The cost of casual relief, never below £200 after 1807, rose to £444 in 1817, swollen by the effects of seasonal employment. (fn. 21) In 1819 the general vestry threatened to review the assessments of farmers if they did not stop turning off each winter Irish immigrants hired in spring and summer. A small scheme launched by the vestry in 1813 to employ the casual poor in carding and spinning coarse wool seems to have proved inadequate, for from 1817 the winter poor were set to digging gravel and carting it without horses. A press report suggests that some parishioners opposed this degrading mode of employment. (fn. 22) Of 38 poor carting gravel in one February week in 1819 31 were Irish.
In 1818 the parish expenditure was £3,144, a figure not equalled before or after, and the rate was 7s. The select vestry, set up in 1819, four years later analysed the causes of increasing distress. Though prices had been declining, wages had been reduced proportionately, and the failure of the farmer at Ruckholt in 1822–3 had thrown a number of labourers out of work. There was much sickness, due to overcrowding, not least in lodging-houses full of Irish. But the select vestry could find no evidence of mismanagement contributing to the rising cost, and in 1823 handed back control to the general vestry.
In 1826 resolutions regulating relief included a scaled means test: a married man with four children earning 10s. a week did not qualify. With strict rules, the rate was held at 5s., raising about £2,000, until 1836, when responsibility for Leyton's poor passed to the West Ham guardians.
The workhouse, built in 1742 on ground behind the alms-houses leased for 99 years from David Gansel, was a brick building resembling John Strype's vicarage. (fn. 23) It cost £502, borrowed in the parish, to build and equip. The house was enlarged in 1783. In 1800 the house, its ground, and adjoining coach-houses, were bought for £275, of which £200 was borrowed in the parish. In 1811 a workroom was built on the site of the coach-houses. In 1819 the house had 9 bedrooms and 30 beds.
A salaried master and mistress were employed. A small workhouse committee functioned until about 1761, the overseers paying over their rate to one of its members, as treasurer. From 1775 meticulous accounts were kept. Local tradesmen usually served the house in rotation until 1816, when the vestry ordered that all provisions should go to competitive tender. Unsatisfactory suppliers received short shrift. In 1776 the weekly allowance for each man was increased from 4 to 7 lb. of wheaten bread, and to 36 oz. of meat.
Those in the house picked oakum, and from 1797 also stripped feathers and spun flax. They were allowed part of their earnings. A few went out of the house to work. Between 1797 and 1836 there were seldom fewer than 30 in the house; in 1801 there were 53.
The workhouse was closed in 1836 and demolished in 1842, the site being thrown into the churchyard. The separate workroom, retained as a vestry room, was demolished in 1938. (fn. 24)
From 1709 the parish owned a copyhold property on the west side of Leyton High Road, opposite the William IV public house. (fn. 25) In 1685 the lord of the manor of Leyton had granted John Willett, labourer, a 99-year lease of 16 perches of waste, with an ancient cottage, for an annual rent of 1s. 6d. (fn. 26) In 1709 the parish, which had paid £14 5s. the year before to release Willett's widow, Sarah, from prison, (fn. 27) took over the remainder of the lease 'for the use of the Parish'. (fn. 28) After Sarah's death in 1716 (fn. 29) the parish let the cottage; the rent, applied by the churchwardens to the poor, was usually added to the bread fund. The property was known successively as the parish house, Ballard's houses (after 1758), and High Street cottages. In 1785 the parish bought a renewal of the lease for two lives from the lord of the manor. (fn. 30) From 1820 the rent was transferred from the vicar and churchwardens to the overseer. By then there were six cottages on the site, and by 1842, when they were let at £40 a year, seven, insured for £700. When the apportionment of charity income between Leyton and Leytonstone was considered in 1854, doubt was expressed whether it was correct to apply the rent to the poorrate, or whether it had been given originally for charity. The vestry resolved in 1856 to divide the rent between the Leyton and Leytonstone national schools, in the same proportions as the parish charities. (fn. 31) Doubt about the origin of the property persisted. In 1888 the vestry agreed with the local board to hand over the income for the maintenance of the recreation ground. (fn. 32) The following year the property was enfranchised, the cottages demolished, their materials sold, and tenders for building leases invited. The site was still vacant in 1904, when the Leyton U.D.C. Act settled all doubts by vesting it in the U.D.C. (fn. 33) The land was let for various purposes by the council until 1928, when it was let on a building lease, and is now (1968) occupied by shops. (fn. 34)
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AFTER 1836.
Under the General Highway Act, 1835, (fn. 35) the vestry remained responsible for parish roads not maintained by the turnpike trustees, and continued to employ a paid surveyor. (fn. 36) In 1851, following the example of Walthamstow, it appointed a highway board of six members, (fn. 37) though not qualified to do so, as the population of the parish was under 5,000. The board employed a surveyor, clerk, and rate collector. (fn. 38) From 1857 the vestry was referring to this board complaints of sewage discharged into open ditches from newly-built houses, and from 1859 applications for new roads to be adopted. In 1859 the vestry appointed a nuisances removal committee. In the 1860s, with new building continuing, opinion was divided as to the best machinery of government. In 1864 a movement to set up a local board was defeated as premature. But the highway board's membership was increased to 12 or more and in 1865 it was also constituted the nuisances removal committee. The same year Leytonstone's water supplies and sewerage were reported inadequate. In 1866 the vestry, under government pressure, resolved to constitute it a special drainage district comprising the whole parish east of the Woodford railway line, including the Wanstead ditch. Under the Sanitary Act, 1866, appointment of the nuisances removal committee was taken over by the West Ham guardians, (fn. 39) but the vestry's powers were restored by the 1868 Act. The same year a government inspector, looking into complaints against the vestry as sewer authority, urged the formation of a local board. But the vestry continued to rely on the highway board, delegating to it its powers under the sanitary acts, requiring the submission to the board of drainage plans before buildings were begun, and appointing a sanitary committee with strictly limited powers. Attempts to discredit the board by challenging their accounts, and even accusing them of 'chewing up the ratepayers' money in sundry dinners', (fn. 40) were rejected by the justices. In 1867 the vestry successfully opposed a proposal to include the parish in a highway district under the Highways Act, 1862. But when the Public Health Act, 1872, threatened to transfer to the unpopular West Ham guardians the powers of the parish for sewerage and sanitary purposes, the vestry at last petitioned for the appointment of a local board.
In 1873 the Leytonstone special drainage district was dissolved and the civil parish of Leyton, together with the Walthamstow Slip, constituted an urban sanitary district. (fn. 41) The Wanstead Slip was added to the district in 1875. (fn. 42) Minor boundary adjustments with Wanstead were made in 1887 and 1900. (fn. 43) The board's membership was 15, increased to 24 in 1893, when the district was divided into 4 wards. (fn. 44) In 1888 the board was constituted also a burial board, (fn. 45) and in 1894 the electric lighting authority under the Electric Lighting Acts, 1882 and 1888. (fn. 46)
The board met in the vestry room until 1882 when public offices, designed by J. Knight, were opened in Leyton High Road. (fn. 47) These were outgrown by 1892, and in 1894–6 a new town hall was built beside the old one. (fn. 48)
The board's staff was headed by the part-time clerk, who was also vestry clerk and had been clerk to the highway board. (fn. 49) From 1877 he also became the board's solicitor, on a fee basis. When he resigned in 1879 his successor was required to be resident and attend three hours a day at the board's offices, and his salary included the legal business. By 1882 the clerk's duties required daily and regular attendance during office hours, and from that date he was allowed a small sum on the petty cash account for clerical help. The local board's surveyor had also worked for the highway board. In 1881 a resident full-time road surveyor was appointed to help him. When the surveyor resigned in 1882 the board advertised for a full-time resident engineer and surveyor. The appointment of William Dawson, a civil engineer experienced in municipal work in London, Portsmouth, and Bristol, at this crucial stage of Leyton's growth introduced vigour and confidence to the board's work. (fn. 50) The rate collector received a commission until 1885. In 1886 a salary was substituted, and a second collector appointed. The board also appointed, on an annual basis, a sanitary inspector and a medical officer. In 1890 the board stopped paying on commission for assistance with private street improvements. Instead, this work became the responsibility of the clerk's and surveyor's offices. In view of this, the terms of both appointments were altered, to include allowances for the employment of staff. But in 1894 the board invited its finance committee to consider the advantages of all departmental staff being engaged directly by the board.
The press were being admitted to the board's meetings by 1878. In 1887 malpractices in tendering for road contracts, exposed by the press, were investigated, and two contractors who admitted operating a 'knockout' were debarred from tendering. A succession of ratepayers' associations kept watch on the board's proceedings from 1879.
The board held office just before and during the years when Leyton had a bigger proportionate growth rate than any other English town with over 50,000 inhabitants. (fn. 51) It took over from the vestry a loan debt of £5,150; (fn. 52) by 1893 it had borrowed £197,234. In its first year of office the board's estimated district expenditure was £5,000, requiring a rate of 2s. 6d. on a rateable value of about £50,000. (fn. 53) By 1892 the estimated year's expenditure was £24,319; though with the district's increasing value the poundage was still under 3s.
The cause of this increasing expenditure was the acceleration of building. In 1871 there were 1,768 houses in the parish. (fn. 54) Building was steady but not unduly heavy in the 1870s, the number of houses rising to over 3,000 by 1879. But by 1881 about 700 houses were being built each year. The board's first building by-laws came into force in 1877. In 1881 the board's sanitary committee stated that builders were ignoring them. When Dawson became surveyor in 1882 he immediately inspected every house being built. With few exceptions he found the by-laws were indeed being contravened, and he charged 32 builders by name. The board supported him, authorizing the serving of notices and, if necessary, legal proceedings. A deputation of builders to the board was rebuffed, and within a year or two most of them had come into line or left the district. By 1892 the by-laws were being generally observed. In the previous ten years some 7,000 plans had been approved. (fn. 55)
Building on this scale created problems. The provision of sewerage and other public services is dealt with below. (fn. 56) The streets taken over by the local board from the vestry were in a bad state, but by 1884 the board had borrowed £85,000 for their make-up and improvement, and in 1887–8 a further £21,000 was spent. Between 1874 and 1893 the mileage of maintained streets rose from about 20 to over 45. In 1884 Frog Row was pulled down to widen Leyton High Road, and Moyers Lane (now Hainault Road), Church Lane in Leytonstone, and James Lane were also widened. In 1894 the board took compulsory powers to widen Leyton High Road and Holloway Road. (fn. 57)
The health of the district was consistently good, with the exception of the Harrow Green area, where, in the early 1880s, the death rate from infectious diseases was above the national average, owing to the insanitary state of the small shared houses built in the 1860s. The sanitary inspector's visits were concentrated there with noticeable improvement. Milk was often the source of infection. A smallpox epidemic in 1885–6, with 98 cases involving 24 deaths, was mainly at Harrow Green, among families employed over the district boundary in the infected area of West Ham. An isolation hospital was provided from 1889. (fn. 58)
Under the Local Government Act, 1894, the local board was replaced by an urban district council (fn. 59) of 24 members, representing 4 wards. (fn. 60) In 1903 the district was redivided into 9 wards, each with 3 members; in 1920 the number of wards was increased to 10, bringing the membership to 30. In 1910 an extension to the town hall was opened in Ruckholt Road. (fn. 61)
The council's staff in 1895, taken over from the local board, numbered fewer than 20. As wages were paid by the clerk a small book-keeping section developed in his department. In 1897 the council resolved that all officials, except the clerk and medical officer, should be full-time; that the next clerk should be full-time, and that, while the bookkeeping should remain under the control of the clerk, the next vacancy should be filled by a professional accountant. (fn. 62)
From 1905, pressed by the Local Government Board, the medical officer gave up his private practice and became a full-time officer. From 1906 an accountant replaced the book-keeper, though a local bank manager continued to act as treasurer until 1926. From 1923, when Ralph Vincent, clerk since 1879, resigned, that appointment, too, became full-time.
After the district council took over from the local board, the rate of building did not slacken until about 1904; 8,602 plans were approved in the council's first eight years of office. By 1907 it had 66 miles of road, including 10 miles of main road. (fn. 63) Between 1891 and 1901 the population grew by 56.7 per cent (fn. 64) and by 1904 exceeded 100,000. (fn. 65) The sanitary and financial powers of the U.D.C. were increased by an Act of 1898 which also authorized it to provide recreational amenities and to take over private tramways. (fn. 66) An Act of 1904 (fn. 67) strengthened its existing powers, including those as electricity authority, and empowered it to extend the tramways and acquire the remaining lammas lands. (fn. 68) In 1897 the charity commissioners had appointed the district council trustees of the vestry room and adjoining fire-engine shed; the 1904 Act transferred the premises absolutely to the council. (fn. 69) Under the Education Act, 1902, the council became the local education authority. (fn. 70)
Most of the services provided or improved by the council are described elsewhere. (fn. 71) It adopted the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, 1899, (fn. 72) in 1909. In the next eighteen years 430 applications were dealt with and £143,486 advanced. (fn. 73) In 1915–16 about 1,300 houses were damaged or wrecked by bombing (fn. 74) and after the war the council took the first steps to provide municipal housing. (fn. 75) Road widening and improvement continued. (fn. 76)
By 1903 the council's loan indebtedness was £568,009 (fn. 77) and by 1926 £848,182. The district rate after 1895, still made half-yearly, was usually over 3s. a year, but did not exceed 4s. until 1916. It had been steadied by the continuing rise in rateable value, from £303,190 in 1899 to £512,614 in 1913. After the war, however, the poundage rose sharply, to 9s. by 1921, though it fell thereafter to 6s. Consistently the separate poor-rate (which included the county and police rates) was higher than the district rate, rising from 1921 to over 16s.
Before the First World War party politics were unknown in the council chamber, (fn. 78) and elections were fought not on party lines but on matters of burning local interest. (fn. 79) According to the Leyton ratepayers' association, which was active from 1903, it was the Labour party which introduced the 'political virus'. After the 1920 election Labour members virtually controlled the council, which became the target for the protests of the middle classes union and the ratepayers' association against the soaring combined rate (£1 6s. 4d. in 1921), though the council was responsible for less than half of it. As a result of this organized hostility the council's attempt in 1921 to promote a Bill providing for a staff superannuation scheme, improved borrowing facilities, and increased powers for street improvements (all proposals later brought into effect) was defeated. The 1921 election produced stalemate on the council, followed from 1922 by domination by the association's candidates up to the time of incorporation. (fn. 80)
Municipal incorporation was being seriously discussed in Leyton as early as 1891, but without result. A formal petition to the Privy Council in 1920, held up by two royal commissions on local government, was granted in 1926. The borough retained the urban district's division into 10 wards, each thenceforward represented by one alderman and three members. (fn. 81)
In 1936 part of Kirkdale Road school was adapted as offices for the education department. When classes began at the South-West Essex Technical College in 1938 the old technical institute became an extension to the town hall. In 1948, as part of a general office reorganization, the health department moved out of the town hall to premises in Sidmouth Road. By 1962 the corporation employed 680 officers and staff. (fn. 82)
After 1926 local elections were never free of party politics. In the 1920s and 1930s the choice lay between the Labour candidates and those of the ratepayers' association, who denied that they represented a combination of the political enemies of the Labour party or received support from political funds. Labour members controlled the council from 1924 to 1931, but thereafter, up to the Second World War, control alternated, with two-thirds of the electorate never voting in local elections. (fn. 83) After the Second World War the council was always controlled by Labour. (fn. 84)
The corporation obtained additional powers in 1928 to widen both High Roads, Cathall Road, Church Lane, and Mount Grove Road; (fn. 85) and in 1929 to lay out and develop surplus land bought under this order, and the earlier order of 1894. (fn. 86) An Act of 1950 strengthened all the council's existing powers, particularly those concerning defective buildings. (fn. 87) In 1961 Leyton's first smoke control order came into force. (fn. 88)
During the Second World War Leyton, though part of the administrative county of Essex, came under the operational control of the London civil defence region. (fn. 89) After the war the corporation's overriding problem was housing. Bombing had demolished 1,757 houses and damaged 26,181 more. (fn. 90) At the same time much outworn property needed replacing: about one-fifth of the land for residential development was occupied by houses built before 1875, and three-fifths more with those built between 1875 and 1914. Of the total estimated capital expenditure of £1,386,000 for 1959–60, £830,000 was for housing and a further £360,000 for advances to house purchasers. (fn. 91) The council's schemes are described in another section. (fn. 92)
In 1965 Leyton was combined with Walthamstow and Chingford to form the London borough of Waltham Forest. (fn. 93)
The Lea Bridge gasworks were built in 1853 by the South Essex Gaslight and Coke Co. (fn. 94) They only supplied part of Leyton, and were later sold to the County & General Gas Consumers Co., established in 1856 and incorporated in 1857. (fn. 95) In 1864 the company's operation in Leyton was statutorily restricted to the area north of Park Road, Coopers Lane, and James Lane. (fn. 96) The company was bought out in 1868 and the Lea Bridge District Gaslight & Coke Co. formed. (fn. 97) In 1878 this was reincorporated with statutory powers as the Lea Bridge District Gas Co. (fn. 98) The rest of Leyton was supplied by the West Ham Gas Co., incorporated in 1856. (fn. 99) This had laid pipes in Leytonstone by 1857. (fn. 100) In 1871 the Park Road, Coopers Lane, James Lane line was agreed as the boundary between the two companies. (fn. 101) The West Ham Gas Co. was absorbed by the Gas Light & Coke Co. in 1910. (fn. 102) From 1910 to 1949 Leyton was supplied by this and the Lea Bridge company. In 1949, after the Gas Act, 1948, the assets of both companies were transferred to the North Thames gas board. (fn. 103)
Under powers obtained by the local board in 1894 (fn. 104) the urban district council built an electricity generating station in Cathall Road, which supplied the district from 1896. (fn. 105) The works were progressively enlarged (fn. 106) to supply street lighting (fn. 107) and the tramways. (fn. 108) By 1924, besides building substations, the council was obtaining a bulk supply from Walthamstow (fn. 109) and by 1926 also from the County of London Electric Supply Co. (fn. 110) In 1948 the undertaking was vested in the London electricity board. (fn. 111)
A main drain was constructed at Leytonstone soon after it was constituted a special drainage district in 1866. (fn. 112) By 1878, under pressure from the Lee conservancy and the Havering and Dagenham commissioners, (fn. 113) the local board had built filtration tanks, and a sewer connecting to them the private drainage of the Grange Park area; a scheme had also been prepared for a main drain in Leyton High Road. (fn. 114) But the commissioners were not satisfied, and West Ham local board, which had been protesting for some ten years, (fn. 115) joined its complaints to theirs. In 1878 the West Ham board secured a Chancery order restraining the Leyton board from passing sewage into the Wanstead ditch and polluting the Channelsea river. To meet this crisis, the board in 1879 commissioned a consulting engineer to carry out a sewerage scheme. In 1883 new works were opened in Auckland Road to dispose of all the district's sewage by chemical precipitation in tanks. The Rivers Purification Association contracted to run the works, but by the end of 1884 was in financial difficulties and abandoned them at two days' notice. The board's surveyor, Dawson, (fn. 116) took them over, and under his management they became among the finest in England. (fn. 117) Schemes were soon in hand to separate surface water drainage from the main sewers. By 1892 most roads had separate stormwater drains and the sewage works were being enlarged. (fn. 118)
In 1906 Leyton applied for admission to London's main drainage system, (fn. 119) but this was not agreed to until 1925. (fn. 120) From 1927, when the district's sewage was connected by a new main outfall sewer to the L.C.C. system at Hackney, the Leyton tanks were used for storage of stormwater only. (fn. 121) In 1962 a £2 million programme, spread over fifteen years, was in progress to enlarge the sewers laid down in the late 19th century. (fn. 122)
The accumulation of residual sludge at the sewage works (fn. 123) was dealt with by installing a destructor in 1896, which also burned household refuse. (fn. 124) The local board had adopted a regular system of dust collection in 1894, (fn. 125) and with the success of its destructor Leyton gained some reputation as a pioneer of sanitary improvement. (fn. 126) From 1909 increasing quantities of pressed sludge were sold as manure. (fn. 127) In 1962–3 the corporation adopted a scheme for bulk disposal of refuse, after salvage, by tipping outside the borough. The destructor continued to consume material unsuitable for this method. (fn. 128)
From 1853 Leyton was included in the area within which the East London Waterworks Co. was empowered to supply water. (fn. 129) In 1834 the company had moved its intake works from Old Ford to Lea Bridge, (fn. 130) and in 1852 and 1853 was empowered to construct filter beds there. (fn. 131) By 1878 its mains served the whole district (fn. 132) but with the rapid growth of population both mains and storage proved inadequate, especially in Leytonstone. In the 1880s complaints of interrupted supplies were frequent, and in 1884 47 wells were still supplying domestic users. (fn. 133) The local board put pressure on the company, which disclaimed in 1891 any liability to furnish a constant supply to districts outside the metropolitan area. (fn. 134) The board and, from 1895, district council, persevered, however, and in 1898 the district was brought within the limits in which the company was statutorily bound to maintain a constant supply. (fn. 135) In 1904 the company was taken over by the Metropolitan water board. (fn. 136) By 1914 every house in Leyton had a piped supply from the board. (fn. 137)
The Lighting and Watching Act, 1833, was adopted in Leyton in 1863 and in Leytonstone in 1869. (fn. 138) The streets were lit by gas supplied by the two companies (fn. 139) in accordance with their boundary arrangement. (fn. 140) Conversion to electricity began in 1901, the last gas lamps being discontinued in 1908. From 1909 until nationalization in 1948 the whole district was lit by electricity supplied by the local authority. (fn. 141)
The forest land open to the public from 1878 was controlled by the conservators. (fn. 142) The James Lane recreation ground was bought in 1885 by the lammas land commoners and local board (fn. 143) and enlarged in 1902. (fn. 144) In 1901–2 a 4 a. plot near the town hall, bought by the U.D.C. in 1898, was laid out like East Ham's central park and named the Coronation Gardens. (fn. 145) The gardens were extended to Oliver Road in 1913. The lammas lands acquired in 1904 (fn. 146) were at once laid out as playing fields. (fn. 147) By 1920 some 125 a. of recreation ground and open space were being maintained by the council. (fn. 148) In 1930 the corporation bought the football ground in Brisbane Road, (fn. 149) and the recreation ground in Skelton's Lane, which was opened in 1931. The Seymour Road recreation ground was laid out about 1952, partly on land bought in 1931 for allotments.
Public baths were opened in Cathall Road in 1902. (fn. 150) In 1931 an adjoining public wash-house was built. (fn. 151) More modern baths were opened in Leyton High Road in 1934. (fn. 152) In 1923, with the forest conservators' consent, Leyton and Walthamstow councils agreed on improvements to a swimming pool dug by the unemployed at Whipps Cross in 1905. (fn. 153) Under this joint management the pond was converted by unemployed labour into a bathing lake opened in 1932, (fn. 154) and in 1937 into a modern open air swimming pool, now called the Whipps Cross Lido. (fn. 155)
From 1768 the vestry housed and maintained the parish fire equipment (fn. 156) and from 1778 paid an engine keeper. For some years after 1809 it was appointing 12 engine men. In 1865 it bought a new manual engine, and a volunteer fire brigade was formed (fn. 157) based on the engine house by the vestry room in Church Road. From 1877 the local board paid for horsing the appliances, and in 1878 contributed to the cost of a second engine house, built in St. John's churchyard, (fn. 158) Church Lane, Leytonstone, by the churchwardens, who had bought a hose cart. From 1880 the board maintained both stations and paid two engine keepers. In 1881 it bought a manual engine for Leytonstone, so a third station was set up at Harrow Green for the hose cart. In 1893 the board and the volunteers each bought a steam fire-engine. (fn. 159) Well equipped, connected by telephone to the police, with electric call bells to its members, the brigade's reputation became international. It won a prize at the Paris Exhibition in 1900. (fn. 160) In 1903 the U.D.C. appointed the first paid fireman, (fn. 161) and by 1909 was employing a duty man, day and night, at each station. (fn. 162) In 1914 the council rebuilt the Harrow Green station, which became the main station, (fn. 163) and in 1919 it replaced the horse-drawn engines by three motor engines. (fn. 164) By this time it was entirely responsible financially for the brigade, (fn. 165) though in 1927 there were still only 12 professional firemen, as defined by the Fire Brigade Pensions Act, 1925, (fn. 166) in a brigade of over 30 members. The combination of professional and auxiliary manning continued until 1941, (fn. 167) when the brigade became part of the national fire service. (fn. 168) In 1948 it became part of the Essex county fire brigade, (fn. 169) and in 1965 was absorbed in the Greater London fire brigade. (fn. 170)
The district council made advances to ratepayers to buy small houses from 1909. (fn. 171) In 1920 work began on its first housing scheme, 142 houses on the Barclay estate. (fn. 172) In 1925, of its loan debt of £824,284, £195,199 was attributable to housing, more than any other single service, including education, and excluding £42,297 for house purchase loans. (fn. 173) In 1926 146 houses were being built on the Nursery Park estate. (fn. 174) By 1938 over 350 municipal dwellings had been built, including 19 under a slum clearance scheme. (fn. 175) After the Second World War, to ease the immediate shortage, 418 temporary dwellings were erected, some of them on forest land at Whipps Cross, others scattered on vacant plots and bomb sites. Some were still occupied in 1965. (fn. 176) Between 1945 and 1954 161 war-destroyed houses were rebuilt, and of 762 new permanent dwellings 733 were built by the local authority. (fn. 177) In 1951 sites available for housing totalled only 13½ a. To overcome this land shortage, the redevelopment of substandard property begun in the 1950s was planned on a 'leap-frog' system, a reserve of housing being created ahead of each clearance. The process began with Villiers Close, completed in 1959, on the site of the council's old works depot at Ive farm; this rehoused Crescent Road families, whose old houses were then demolished, clearing a site for the next stage. (fn. 178) Building upward at higher population densities also compensated for lack of land. In 1961 the first eleven-storey tower block was completed on the Leyton Grange estate, followed in 1963 by a second at Leyton Green, and the seventeen-storey Livingstone College Towers block. Between 1948 and 1964 the corporation completed nearly 2,000 dwellings. (fn. 179)
Before 1889 the local board sent infectious cases to Plaistow or to London hospitals. When the London hospitals refused to accept any more, a few beds were set up as a temporary arrangement, first in Ruckholt farm-house, then, from 1891, in cottages at the sewage works, while abortive discussions went on with neighbouring authorities for a joint scheme. (fn. 180) In 1896 an iron hospital with 48 beds was erected on another part of the sewage works site, in Auckland Road. This, later enlarged to 94 beds, served until 1939, closing after Leyton bought a half-share in Walthamstow's isolation hospital at Chingford. (fn. 181)
Langthorne hospital, built in 1840 as the West Ham union workhouse, (fn. 182) was enlarged in 1865, 1883, 1897–8, 1913, and 1930. (fn. 183) After the First World War it became known as the central home. (fn. 184) Following the Local Government Act, 1929, (fn. 185) it was transferred in 1930 to the West Ham borough council, which ran it as a home for the chronic sick, aged, and infirm; in 1936 there were about 1,800 beds. (fn. 186) Under the National Health Service Act, 1946, (fn. 187) it became part of the Leytonstone group of the N.E. Metropolitan regional hospital board, (fn. 188) and was renamed Langthorne hospital in 1948. (fn. 189) New wards were opened in 1960. (fn. 190) Since 1965 it has become part of the Forest group, and in 1966 had 600 beds for long-stay cases. (fn. 191)
In 1889 the West Ham guardians bought Forest House and its 44 a. of grounds at Whipps Cross. (fn. 192) An infirmary was built in the grounds and opened in 1903. (fn. 193) After the First World War it was known as Whipps Cross hospital. (fn. 194) From 1930, like Langthorne hospital, it was managed by the West Ham council. (fn. 195) In 1936 it provided 741 beds for acute medical and surgical cases; it was recognized as a training school. (fn. 196) It was enlarged in 1938–40. (fn. 197) Since 1946 it has belonged to the same hospital groups as Langthorne hospital. (fn. 198) It was enlarged again in 1953 and in 1966 had 955 beds for acute cases. (fn. 199)
The Leyton, Walthamstow and Wanstead Children's and General voluntary hospital, now known as the Connaught hospital, is described under Walthamstow. (fn. 200)
Leyton's public libraries from the adoption of the Public Libraries Acts in 1891 to 1955 have been described elsewhere. (fn. 201) The new Harrow Green branch library was opened in 1960. (fn. 202) The total bookstock of the Leyton libraries in 1964, shortly before they were combined with the Walthamstow and Chingford libraries to form Waltham Forest public libraries, was 257,008. (fn. 203)