A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
West Ham was an industrial village long before it became a great manufacturing town. The marshes by the River Lea provided ample room for industry. The river was navigable and furnished power for a group of tidal mills which were already important in 1066, and during the next seven centuries served industries as diverse as calicoprinting, paper-making, distilling, and gunpowder manufacture. (fn. 1) Until the 19th century most of the industries of the parish were in or near those western marshes.
During the Middle Ages the mills produced mainly flour, much of which was no doubt sold to local bakers, trading with London. From the 14th century the bakers of Stratford are often mentioned. Some, perhaps most, of these were at Stratford Bow (Mdx.), but others may have been at Stratford Langthorne. (fn. 2) This trade is said to have ceased about 1570. (fn. 3)
From the 13th century St. Thomas's and Spilemans mills, north of Stratford High Street, were used for fulling. (fn. 4) The cloth came steadily from London, despite a protest in 1298 that the City's rights were thereby infringed. (fn. 5) Both mills belonged to corporate bodies within the City, which probably helped them to resist pressure from other vested interests. How long fulling continued is not clear. Spilemans fulling mill is mentioned in 1738, (fn. 6) but there is no evidence that it had operated continuously since the 14th century.
In the 16th century other textile trades appear. Dyers occur at various dates from 1579 to 1751 (fn. 7) and an embroiderer in 1582. (fn. 8) A silk-weaver of Stratford Langthorne, one of the earliest known in Essex, is mentioned in 1594, (fn. 9) and for much of the 17th century that trade seems to have flourished. (fn. 10) Paul Fox, a silk-weaver of Plaistow, was said in 1645 to have lived there for many years, making lace and ribbons. (fn. 11) In 1675 West Ham was affected by the widespread riots of silk-weavers against the use of the Dutch engine loom, recently introduced. On 11 August it was stated that militia had been sent to Stratford Bow, where the rioters numbered 2,000. (fn. 12) On the same day rioters broke into the house of Thomas Foster of West Ham and stole engine looms valued at £100. (fn. 13) Silk-weaving in West Ham seems then to have ended, for it is not mentioned later. An allied industry, the knitting of silk stockings, can be traced in 1668–86. (fn. 14)
Silk-weaving was succeeded by a rival industry, calico-printing. It has been suggested that the first calico-printer in England was William Sherwin of West Ham, who took out a 14-year patent in 1676, and then had a virtual monopoly. (fn. 15) In 1699 a calicoprinter and two whitsters were said to have built sluices and dams in the Channelsea river. (fn. 16) Calicoprinting soon became one of West Ham's main industries. In 1747 the 'calico grounds', of 81 a., formed a separate section of the marshes, lying between Stratford and the Abbey Mill. (fn. 17) Several of the early calico-printers were Frenchmen. (fn. 18) It cannot be assumed that these were all permanent immigrants. In the 1740s John Lefevre (or Lefebure) of West Ham was acting as the English agent of a textile-printer named Le Marcis, who apparently remained in France while carrying on a business on both sides of the Channel. (fn. 19) Richard Newman, calico-printer c. 1749–65, (fn. 20) was evidently employing Irish labourers in 1750, when he received an anonymous letter threatening him with death if he did not dismiss them 'as the English are starving for want of work'. (fn. 21) In 1796 there were two calico-printers, employing about 260 hands, and a third had just taken premises in Angel Lane. (fn. 22) By 1811 the number employed had risen to 360. (fn. 23) Soon after this the local calico-printers began to switch to silk-printing. By 1832 only one firm of calico-printers appears to have remained. This was D. & E. Burford, later E. Burford & Co., of Stratford, which carried on that business until about 1870 and continued as dyers for a little longer. (fn. 24) Silk-printing continued until about 1862, the last firm being John Tucker, of the Abbey Works, successor to R. and E. Littler. (fn. 25)
Tanners are occasionally mentioned in the 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 26) In the early 16th century there was a tannery within the precincts of Stratford Abbey, but it apparently ceased shortly before 1534. (fn. 27) Richard Parker, who had been the tanner there, was also leasing property at Plaistow and elsewhere, and probably continued to ply his trade in West Ham after leaving the abbey. Several tanners occur in the later 16th and earlier 17th centuries, (fn. 28) including Thomas Staples (d. 1592). (fn. 29) At that period various other leather trades have been noticed. Thomas Parker, formerly a currier of West Ham, was living in 1558. (fn. 30) He was possibly a relative of Richard Parker the tanner. The trades of fellmonger, leather-dresser, saddler, bridle-maker, collar-maker, and whipseller all occur in the 17th century. (fn. 31) Most important of all were the cordwainers, from whom Cordwainer (now High) Street, Plaistow, was named. (fn. 32) Since that street is mentioned in 1527 the cordwainers must have been well established by then. (fn. 33) The leather trades were still well represented in the parish in 1848, when a directory lists 42 bootmakers and shoemakers, 2 curriers, and 4 saddlers. (fn. 34)
Gunpowder manufacture appears to have started in West Ham during the Spanish wars of Elizabeth I. Powder mills are mentioned in 1588 (at the Three Mills), 1597 (St. Thomas's mill), and 1615 (Spilemans mill). (fn. 35) They were probably the first in Essex, and were certainly among the earliest in England. (fn. 36) An unidentified gunpowder mill is mentioned in 1645. (fn. 37) No later reference to the industry has been found except in 1738, when a new lease of Spilemans mill prohibited gunpowder manufacture. (fn. 38)
The manufacture of Bow porcelain, the most notable of West Ham's earlier industries, has been described elsewhere. (fn. 39) Recent research has produced new evidence, especially concerning its early years. (fn. 40) The Bow porcelain works, one of the first in England, seems to have been established at Bow (Mdx.) in 1744 by George Arnold, alderman and haberdasher of London, Edward Heylyn of Bow, merchant, and Thomas Frye. (fn. 41) It was in production by the end of 1747. By 1749 it had moved across the Lea to High Street, Stratford. Arnold (1691–1751) probably provided the capital. Frye was the technical expert. By 1750 the factory was trading under his name, and he continued to direct it until his retirement in 1759. During that decade it produced its best pieces. Heylyn apparently left the business in its early days, but was again associated with Frye in 1757. After Frye's retirement the factory was carried on by Weatherby & Crowther, which had previously been handling the sales of Bow porcelain through their London warehouse. John Crowther, the last surviving partner, sold the factory in 1775 or 1776 to William Duesbury, who closed it and transferred the contents to his works at Derby. The Bow works stood on the north side of High Street, west of Marsh Gate Lane. Premises on the opposite side of the road were also used in connexion with the works. (fn. 42) Fragments of porcelain and kiln furniture have been excavated on both these sites.
Spirit-distilling on a large scale was begun c. 1730 by Peter Lefebure and his partners at the Three Mills and later at St. Thomas's mill. It continued at the Three Mills until 1941, and part of the premises was still occupied as a warehouse in 1969. (fn. 43)
Besides these larger industries there were many others before the end of the 18th century. In addition to the usual village craftsmen, there were in the 17th century brickmakers, glaziers, glovers, locksmiths, starchmakers, and lime-burners. (fn. 44) Lime became more important in the 18th century, when it was required by the local calico-printers, (fn. 45) and its production continued down to the 20th century. (fn. 46) Paper was being made at St. Thomas's mill in 1767 (fn. 47) and at Spilemans in 1818. (fn. 48) In the 16th century there was a fishery on the Lea, and another at Ham creek. (fn. 49)
A pamphlet issued by the borough council c. 1910 was entitled West Ham, the factory centre of the south of England. That description was not unjustified. By then the town was fringed by a great industrial belt running from Temple Mills, down the Lea, and along the Thames to North Woolwich; and except for Bristol West Ham was the largest county borough south of Birmingham. A survey made in 1907 had stated that there were 130 'chief factories' in the borough. (fn. 50) The total number of factories was certainly much larger. (fn. 51) In 1910 there were at least 335 manufacturing, engineering, and constructional firms, among which the largest groups were those concerned with chemicals (102), engineering and metalwork (91), food, drink, and tobacco (37). Of these 228 were permanent firms, defined as those which are known to have completed, before or after 1910, a life of 20 years or more in West Ham. Many were probably small, but some, such as those at Silvertown engaged in shipbuilding, sugar-refining, flour-milling, and the production of sulphuric acid and rubber, were very large. The figures do not include firms concerned only with supplying raw materials, equipment, or machinery to other industries nor those providing only transport or storage, of which the largest concentration was at the Royal Victoria and Royal Albert Docks. The Great Eastern Railway Co. and the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Co. both maintained engineering workshops in West Ham and have been included in the above total figure for engineering.
This remarkable industrial development had taken place mainly within the previous fifty years, but had been foreshadowed during the early 19th century. Its course and the main factors behind it have been outlined elsewhere. (fn. 52) West Ham's proximity to London was crucial in several ways, not least because of the constant tendency, stimulated by 19th-century legislation, for obnoxious industries to be driven from the City to the suburbs. Extensive waterways were also vital, for drainage and transport as well as water supply. Plenty of land was available, at first fairly cheap. The earliest 19th-century development was attracted by the absence of by-law restrictions, and even the local board (1856–86) exercised little control over industry. The borough council (from 1886) did not lack powers of control, but it applied them indulgently, no doubt because a stricter policy, besides affecting the rate income, might have aggravated the unemployment which was West Ham's worst problem. When the council set up its own electricity undertaking early in the present century it welcomed industrial consumers, and advertised widely to attract them to the borough. At least one of its publicity leaflets was also published in German. Between 1870 and 1914 Germans greatly influenced the growth of West Ham's industry, especially in chemicals. One important firm, Ohlendorff & Co., was controlled from Germany, while others, like Spencer Chapman & Messel, owed their development to immigrant German scientists or industrialists. Some German factory workers also settled in West Ham. (fn. 53) Scottish migrants played an important part in several industries, particularly sugarrefining and jute-spinning.
The history of West Ham's modern manufacturing industries can conveniently be divided into three periods, 1800–59, 1860–1919, and 1920–69. In 1800–59 34 permanent firms are known to have been established. Chemicals (8 firms) and engineering and metals (7) were the main groups. In the earlier part of that period development, still on a small scale, was mainly in the existing industrial area beside the Lea at Stratford Marsh. The chemical works of Howards & Sons, established at Plaistow in 1797, were transferred in 1805 to the old City Mills in High Street, Stratford, where they remained for over a century. During the 1820s and 1830s Walter Hancock was making steam carriages at Stratford and operating them on local routes. Later he turned to the manufacture of gutta percha. The building of the railway through Stratford (1839) with the North Woolwich branch (1847) prepared the way for more rapid development. The carriage works of the Eastern Counties Railway (1847) at Stratford and the Leathercloth Co.'s factory in Abbey Road (c. 1857) became two of the largest industries in the north of the parish. The shipyard of C. J. Mare & Co. (later the Thames Ironworks, Shipbuilding, and Engineering Co.), opened in 1846, brought industry to Canning Town. Farther south, on the Thames, the factory of S. W. Silver & Co., rubber manufacturers (1852), was followed by that of Odams Chemical Manure Co. (1855). The opening of the Victoria Dock (1855), though primarily of commercial importance, also stimulated the local growth of marine engineering and the manufacture of marine paints and glues.
During 1860–1919 at least 290 permanent manufacturing firms were formed, of which the main groups were chemicals (100 firms), engineering and metals (60), food, drink and tobacco (33), textiles, leather and clothing (23), timber, furniture, etc. (21), and bricks, pottery, cement, glass, etc. (20). (fn. 54) Between 1860 and 1899 the pace of development was remarkably even, with about 50 permanent new firms in each decade. From 1900 it was slower, partly because of economic depression and partly because there was little room left for further expansion. The totals for the whole of the 60-year period, together with those, given above, for 1910, show the pre-eminence of the chemical, engineering, and food groups, and also the importance and the variety of other industries, but there are other significant aspects of the industrial pattern which the totals cannot reveal. The Thames Ironworks shipyard, after many ups and downs, closed in 1912. Jutespinning, brought to Stratford in 1865, ceased in 1904. In both these cases large works were involved, the closure of which caused much hardship, but this was mitigated by the growth of other industries. The manufacture of coarse textiles, rubber, and clothing, the processing of food, timber-milling, and printing, all grew steadily. Some of the largest new factories were at Silvertown, where riverside sites made it possible to handle in bulk such materials as sugar, grain, and rubber. Clothing manufacture, often in small workshops, was to be found in areas, like Forest Gate and Upton, unsuitable for heavy industry. Printing was concentrated mainly at Plaistow and timber-milling at Stratford and Silvertown. Within the two main groups, chemicals and engineering, there was also much diversity. The most important chemical factories during this period were those, mostly at Stratford and Silvertown, producing sulphuric acid, paint, printing ink, matches, fertilizers, and soap. During the First World War TNT was made by one Silvertown firm until 1917, when there was a catastrophic explosion. Engineering was concerned chiefly with railways and steamships, but various other kinds of work were carried on, including chemical engineering.
During the period 1920–69 at least 87 permanent manufacturing firms were formed, of which the main groups were engineering and metals (30), chemicals (11), textiles, leather, and clothing (11), timber, furniture, etc. (11), and food, drink, and tobacco (9). These, of course, were in addition to many earlier firms still surviving. West Ham's factories, especially at Silvertown, were heavily bombed during the Second World War, but most survived, and 243 appear in an admittedly incomplete list of 1948. In 1968–9 there were at least 154 permanent firms, of which the main groups were engineering and metals (41), chemicals (38), textiles, leather, and clothing (17), food, drink, and tobacco (16), and timber, furniture, etc. (13). These figures, of course, ignore the differences of size between factories; an analysis by workers employed per industry would show rather different results. The 1961 census of industry (fn. 55) is not ideal for this purpose, since its figures are presented according to place of residence, and not place of employment, but it is worth quoting, because a substantial proportion of West Ham's residents also work there. (fn. 56) On a 10 per cent sample the numbers of residents working in the main industrial groups were as follows: engineering and metals 11,92(0); food, drink, and tobacco 9,97(0); chemicals 7,57(0); construction 5,95(0); textiles, leather, and clothing 2,95(0); paper, printing, and publishing 2,56(0). In the first group 4,07(0) were employed in marine engineering, while in the second 4,20(0) were sugar workers. During the past 50 years local firms have increasingly been taken over by large national or international (especially U.S.) groups. Those with interests in West Ham now include Unilever, Nestlé, Spillers, Rowntrees, Tube Investments, B.T.R. Industries, and the Corn Products Co.
It will be clear then, that in spite of its reduced population, West Ham continues to be a great industrial centre, concerned mainly with chemicals, engineering, and food. The principal factory areas are still Silvertown and Stratford Marsh. Recently, industry at Stratford Marsh, where in 1969 14 per cent of the industrial land was vacant or derelict, has somewhat declined. (fn. 57) It has been suggested that the factory sites there are too small and inconvenient for large firms, but too large and expensive for small ones. (fn. 58)
West Ham's transport industries, which are described elsewhere, (fn. 59) have been hardly less important in the economic life of the town than the factories. Between 1896 and 1906 the docks were employing an average of 3,102 dockers and 736 stevedores. (fn. 60) In 1961, on the 10 per cent sample, no fewer than 22,72(0) of the resident population of the borough were employed in transport and communication, the main groups being port and inland water transport 9,11(0), railways 5,51(0), sea transport 2,53(0), and road haulage 2,32(0). The most important recent event in transport has been the opening, in 1967, of the Stratford freightliner terminal.
The history of local trade unionism and that of the early co-operative movement was outlined elsewhere. (fn. 61) West Ham was the birth-place of the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers (1889), of which W. J. Thorne was for many years the secretary. The Stratford Cooperative Society, founded in 1861, grew steadily, absorbing four other societies by 1898. In 1920 it joined with the Edmonton society to form the London Co-operative Society, with 124,000 members. (fn. 62) The L.C.S. subsequently took over a number of other societies, and by 1969 had a membership of over a million and annual sales of £38 million. Its central premises at Maryland Street, Stratford, were badly bombed in 1941. In 1954 the society bought J. R. Roberts Stores, Stratford Broadway, and between 1957 and 1962 built a new department store on that site. The society's headquarters are still in Maryland Street, where a new office block was completed in 1959.
There follow details of some 180 firms, past or present, which were founded after 1800 and which have been engaged in manufacture, engineering, or construction. Most of them are included because of their size or long life, but some for other reasons. They are grouped according to the Standard Industrial Classification. (fn. 63) Unless otherwise stated those mentioned were still operating in West Ham in 1969, when this survey was completed.
Food, Drink, and Tobacco. (fn. 64)
Corn-milling, West Ham's oldest industry, declined during the 19th century as the ancient mills were demolished or converted to other uses, (fn. 65) but early in the present century three very large mills were built at Victoria Dock. These were the first in the port of London designed to take imported grain direct from the ships. (fn. 66) The Co-operative Wholesale Society's mill was completed in 1901 on a 5 a. site which allowed room also for a food sundries factory (1904). (fn. 67) The Premier Mill was opened in 1904 by Joseph Rank Ltd., which is now part of Ranks Hovis McDougall Ltd. (fn. 68) Millennium Mill, built by W. Vernon & Sons in 1905, was destroyed in 1917 by the Silvertown explosion, but was rebuilt. Vernon & Sons was later taken over by Spillers Ltd. (fn. 69)
Sugar-refining, (fn. 70) which became one of West Ham's major industries, was being carried on at Stratford by 1843 in premises belonging to Elizabeth Reynolds and occupied by Charles Saunders. (fn. 71) This was no doubt the refinery in High Street occupied in 1851 by a German immigrant. (fn. 72) His workers, most of whom resided at the refinery, included several other Germans. In 1852 the refinery was apparently controlled by Law Bros. (fn. 73) By 1853 it was owned and occupied by William Corrie as devisee of the late Charles Reynolds. (fn. 74) This refinery, which evidently gave its name to Sugar House Lane, was set back on the south side of High Street immediately west of Three Mills river. No later reference has been found to sugar-refining there, but the original refinery, a tall gaunt building, with many windows, still survived in 1969.
The later sugar refineries have been at Silvertown. About 1862 the Greenock firm of Duncan, Bell & Scott built Clyde Wharf refinery. (fn. 75) James Duncan (1834–1905), the senior partner, took charge of this and eventually became the sole owner. It was for many years a large and profitable business. (fn. 76) It was closed in 1886, when Duncan was forced into bankruptcy by foreign competition. By 1890 it had been taken over by David Martineau & Sons, but in 1893 it was badly damaged by fire. (fn. 77) This appears to have been the end of sugar-refining at Clyde Wharf. (fn. 78)
The firm of Henry Tate & Sons came to Silvertown in 1877, and that of Abram Lyle & Sons in 1881. (fn. 79) Tate, at Thames Wharf, was best known for cube sugar, and Lyle, at Plaistow Wharf, for golden syrup. The two firms amalgamated in 1921 to form Tate & Lyle, one of the world's largest sugar-refiners. (fn. 80) Under a reorganization scheme of 1968 refining was concentrated at Thames Wharf and Plaistow Wharf was used only for packaging and making golden syrup. (fn. 81)
The earliest manufacturing confectioner in West Ham was Volckman & Sons, of High Street, Stratford, which was in business from 1839 or earlier until about 1890. (fn. 82) James Keiller & Sons, maker of marmalade and other confectionery, came to Silvertown from Scotland about 1880 and built a large factory at Tay Wharf. This firm was taken over in 1920 by Crosse and Blackwell and is now a subsidiary of the Nestlé Co. (fn. 83) Streimer's Nougat Ltd., of Victoria Street, Stratford, was founded about 1898 by Morris Streimer (1857–1935), a Jewish immigrant from Austria. The original factory was in High Street and Ward Road. (fn. 84) Loosé Ltd., cocoa and chocolate manufacturer, had a factory in Marshgate Lane, Stratford, c. 1898–1937. (fn. 85) Whitefields Ltd., chocolate manufacturer, was founded shortly before 1923, when the old tramway depot in Tunmarsh Lane, Plaistow, was converted into a factory; it is now a subsidiary of Rowntree & Co. (fn. 86) Caramel, used both in confectionery and in brewing, has been made by several West Ham firms, including Everest & Co. of Northern Road, Plaistow (1887–1961), and W. Ambrose & Co. (1895–1961), (fn. 87) both of which were taken over by Brown & Polson, now itself a subsidiary of an American firm, the Corn Products Co. (fn. 88)
The refining of edible oils has been carried on principally by Loders & Nucoline Ltd., of Cairn Mills, Silvertown. (fn. 89) This firm originated in 1887, when Petty & Co. began refining coconut oil at Cairn Mills under the management of F. H. Loder, son of F. W. Loder, one of the directors of the company. In 1890, when Petty & Co. went into liquidation, the two Loders opened a factory at Limehouse (Lond.), making coconut oil stearine. In 1898 Loder & Son amalgamated with Nucoline Ltd. to form Loders & Nucoline, and soon after moved back to Cairn Mills. The factory was burnt down in 1909, but was rebuilt and extended; by 1936 it covered 8 a. It was taken over in 1919 by the African & Eastern Trade Corporation, which itself merged with Unilever Ltd. in 1929. In 1940 Cairn Mills was again destroyed, this time by bombing, but refining started again within six weeks. After the war the factory was rebuilt.
Several firms have been engaged in the processing of meat foods such as sausages and pies, including the Excel Co. of Carpenters Road, Stratford, which existed by 1917. It was later taken over by Henry Telfer Ltd. (fn. 90) Among other human foods processed in West Ham have been pickles, at the C.W.S. factory at Silvertown. (fn. 91)
The manufacture of animal foods forms part of the work of Loders & Nucoline. Among other firms in that industry has been C. & A. Gould Ltd., High Street, Stratford (1885–c. 1965). Gould's mill was enlarged in 1932, with storage for 1,000 tons of grain. It was demolished in 1969. (fn. 92) British Feeding Meals & Milk Products came to Carpenters Road, Stratford, about 1929. (fn. 93) During the Second World War it was the pioneer in converting domestic refuse into animal food. (fn. 94) It is now a subsidiary of Spillers Ltd., operating in Carpenters Road as Seemeel Ltd. (fn. 95) Smithfield Animal Products Trading Co. built a factory in Marshgate Lane in 1920. (fn. 96) It is now part of the Smithfield & Zwanenberg Group Ltd. (fn. 97)
The leading firm of brewers was Savill Bros., whose Stratford brewery, Maryland Road, existed from at least 1862 until c. 1926. (fn. 98) Several other brewers have had premises in West Ham, but some of these were probably warehouses only. A few firms of distillers were established in the later 19th century, but none lasted long, or rivalled in size J. & W. Nicholson, of the Three Mills. A distillery in West Ham Lane appears to have passed through several hands between 1848 and 1898 and was probably not continuously open. (fn. 99) Mineral waters were being made by two Stratford firms in 1862 (fn. 100) and later by several others, including A. Wells, Stratford Road (c. 1878–1941), Thomas Curno, Southern Road, Plaistow (c. 1890–1961), Thomas (later Anne) Simpson, of Barking Road, Canning Town (c. 1890–1945), and Tullet, Tomlin & Co., Maryland Square, Stratford (from c. 1908). (fn. 101)
Gill Bros., tobacco manufacturer, has been in Barking Road, Canning Town since about 1906. (fn. 102) J. Wix & Son, maker of 'Kensitas' cigarettes, has had a factory in Livingstone Road, Stratford, since about 1962; it is a subsidiary of the American Tobacco Co. (fn. 103)
Chemicals. (fn. 104)
The manufacture of coke for use by the Eastern Counties Railway was being carried on in 1848 at the railway's depot on Bow creek. (fn. 105) It was a large industry, which in 1851 was employing at least 34 local workers, (fn. 106) but was apparently shortlived. (fn. 107)
The refining of mineral oils and tar has been carried on by over 20 firms at different periods. In Marshgate Lane, Stratford, J. P. Murphy (c. 1818– 63) (fn. 108) and Smith Bros. & Co. (c. 1866–1967) (fn. 109) distilled tar and turpentine. Another Stratford tar-distiller was Thomas Crow (c. 1862–1917), of Crows Road. (fn. 110) At Prince Regents Wharf, Silvertown, Burt, Boulton & Haywood was founded in 1856 by H. P. Burt. (fn. 111) Its original business, importing railway sleepers, was later extended to the distilling of tar, creosote, and disinfectants. It remained at Prince Regents Wharf for over a century, operating during its last years there through subsidiaries, Printar Industries and the Silvertown Tarmacadam Co. In 1969 the works of Printar Industries were closed, and those of the Silvertown Tarmacadam Co. were sold to Tarmac Roadstone Holdings. (fn. 112) Gulf Oil (Great Britain) Ltd., Minoco Wharf, Silvertown, originated in 1896 when the Mineral Oils Corporation (abbreviated as Minoco) was formed by Charles Hunting and others to distill and refine lubricants from Russian crude oil imported by a parent company, the Northern Petroleum Tank Steamship Co. of Newcastle upon Tyne. (fn. 113) The corporation built a jetty, wharf, and works on a 13 a. site at Silvertown. In 1901–2 Minoco was reconstituted as Silvertown Lubricants Ltd., and grew into a profitable business supplying railways and other large users throughout the British Empire and in South America. In 1929 Silvertown Lubricants was acquired by the Gulf Oil Corporation, and in 1950 its name was changed to Gulf Oil (Great Britain) Ltd. The Silvertown works now concentrate on oil blending, and are no longer concerned with distilling or refining.
Sulphuric acid is one of West Ham's main chemical industries. (fn. 114) The Crown Sulphur Works, Marshgate Lane, Stratford, existed for about 40 years, run by T. D. Scott & Co. (c. 1866–86) and later by Johnson & Hooper (c. 1890–1906). (fn. 115) The West Ham Chemical Works, Canning Road (off Abbey Lane), was apparently founded by James Childs, who made vitriol there (c. 1866–82); he was succeeded by W. C. Bacon & Co. (c. 1866–1917). (fn. 116) Near the last in Canning Road was the vitriol works of Thomas Bell & Co. (c. 1870–82), which was taken over before 1886 by F. W. Berk & Co. (fn. 117) Spencer Chapman & Messel (1872–c. 1964), of North Woolwich Road, Silvertown, was founded as Squires & Chapman. (fn. 118) Rudolf Messel (managing director 1878–1916) was an immigrant German chemist who invented new methods of producing sulphuric acid. Some of the local fertilizer manufacturers, notably the AngloContinental Guano Works Ltd., made sulphuric acid for their own use in producing superphosphates.
The manufacture of pharmaceutical, technical, and toilet preparations in West Ham goes back to 1797, when William Allen and Luke Howard opened a factory at Plaistow. In 1805 the partnership was dissolved and Howard moved to City Mills, Stratford, where he established the firm, later known as Howards & Sons, which remained there until its removal to Ilford was completed in 1914. (fn. 119) The Stirling Chemical Works, Canning Road, was founded in 1866 by Dunn, Squires & Co., later Dunn & Co. (fn. 120) Thomas Tyler & Co. leased the works from Dunn & Co. in 1891 and bought the freehold in 1900. In the 1930s Thomas Tyler & Co. became closely associated with the Albright & Wilson chemical group and in 1942 was taken over by them. A. Boake, Roberts & Co., manufacturer of perfumery and flavour chemicals, Carpenters Road, Stratford, originated about 1870. (fn. 121) In 1960 this firm also was taken over by Albright & Wilson and in 1966 was merged with others in the group to form Bush, Boake, Allen Ltd. (fn. 122) Jeyes Sanitary Compounds Co., Richmond Street, Plaistow, was formed in 1885, to manufacture the disinfectant fluid patented by John Jeyes in 1879. (fn. 123) Yardley of London Ltd., manufacturers of perfumes and cosmetics, built a factory in Carpenters Road in 1903. (fn. 124) An extension, in High Street, was built in 1937. Yardley, which is now a subsidiary of the British American Tobacco Co., moved most of its Stratford business to Basildon in 1966. (fn. 125) Brunner Mond & Co. built a caustic soda factory at Crescent Wharf, Silvertown, in 1893–5. (fn. 126) It was temporarily closed in 1912, made TNT during the First World War, (fn. 127) and resumed soda production in 1918. Brunner Mond became part of Imperial Chemical Industries in 1927, and by 1936 the Silvertown works was producing various kinds of chemicals. I.C.I. left Silvertown about 1961. (fn. 128)
Explosives and matches were among the earlier modern industries of the parish. There was a Congreve rocket factory at West Ham Abbey c. 1821–66. (fn. 129) Bell & Black, manufacturer of wax vestas, camphorated gas, and patent wire fuses, established a factory in High Street, Stratford, in 1839, and remained until about 1882. (fn. 130) There were several other match manufacturers during the later 19th and earlier 20th centuries, but none seems to have remained long except Benjamin Daniels (c. 1886–1905), (fn. 131) of Martin Street, and G. M. Judd & Bros. (c. 1908–27), Carpenters Road, both of Stratford. (fn. 132) During the First World War, under government pressure, Brunner Mond & Co.'s factory at Silvertown went over to the production of TNT, using a vacuum process invented by F. A. Freeth, chief scientist of the company. 'It worked,' wrote Freeth, many years later, 'but was manifestly very dangerous. At the end of every month we used to write to Silvertown to say that their plant would go up sooner or later, but were told that it was worth the risk.' (fn. 133) On 19 January 1917 the factory did blow up, causing 450 casualties, including 69 deaths, in the neighbourhood, and widespread damage to buildings. (fn. 134)
One of the largest groups of West Ham's industries includes paint, varnish, dye, and printing ink. Paint or varnish has been made by some 50 firms at different periods, mainly at Stratford. Jenson & Nicholson, of Carpenters Road, maker of 'Robbialac' paints, came to West Ham from London in 1871. (fn. 135) The factory was badly damaged by bombing in the Second World War but was rebuilt. In the 1960s this firm became part of the Berger, Jenson & Nicholson group. (fn. 136) Pinchin, Johnson & Co., paint and varnish manufacturer, was established at Channelsea Road, Stratford, about 1905, and moved to North Woolwich Road, Canning Town, about 1920. (fn. 137) It has absorbed two other West Ham firms, Ingham Clark & Co. and R. Gay & Co. The first, which came to West Ham about 1882, established a large varnish factory in Abbey Lane, which ceased to produce c. 1930. (fn. 138) R. Gay & Co., paint manufacturer, Abbey Road, was in business by 1900. (fn. 139) A. T. Morse Sons & Co., paint, varnish, and distemper manufacturer, was established at Stratford about 1890, with works first in Ward Road and later in High Street and Chapel Street. It moved to Upper Road, Plaistow, about 1920, and to Hammersmith (Lond.) in 1958. (fn. 140) C. W. Schmidt (F. A. Glaeser) Ltd., varnish and japan manufacturer, Carpenters Road (c. 1886–1912), was succeeded there by the London Varnish and Enamel Co., now a subsidiary of Berger, Jenson & Nicholson. (fn. 141) Among varnish manufacturers at Canning Town have been Charles Turner & Sons, North Woolwich Road (from c. 1878), and Andrew G. Soutter, Liverpool Road (from c. 1906). (fn. 142) Soutter is now a subsidiary of Craig-Hubbuck Ltd. (fn. 143) Several firms have specialized in the manufacture of paints designed to prevent the fouling of steam boilers or ships' bottoms, including Suter, Hartmann & Rahtjen's Composition Co., Royal Albert Docks (c. 1882–1912) (fn. 144) and Charles G. Poupard, Romford Road, Forest Gate (c. 1886–1935). (fn. 145) The first dye manufacturer in the town seems to have been Harry Hodson & Co., Sugar House Lane, Stratford (c. 1862–1939). (fn. 146)
The production of printing ink was no doubt stimulated by the considerable growth of printing itself in West Ham. (fn. 147) Most of the printing ink firms have been at Stratford, especially in Sugar House Lane. Dane & Co. (founded 1853), Blackwell & Co. (at Stratford from 1871), and Johnstone & Cumbers Ltd. (from c. 1878) are all in Sugar House Lane; Blackwell & Co. is now a subsidiary of Johnstone & Cumbers. (fn. 148) B. Winstone & Sons, also of Sugar House Lane, opened a factory in 1875, enlarged it in 1935, and left West Ham about 1956. (fn. 149) UsherWalker Ltd. opened a factory in Sugar House Lane about 1892, which was bombed in 1940, and rebuilt in Marshgate Lane in 1948–54. (fn. 150) The Usher-Walker group also includes Slater & Palmer Ltd., Marshgate Lane, founded about 1882. (fn. 151) Coates Bros. & Co. had a factory in Canning Road from 1883 to 1937. (fn. 152) The only important ink firm in south West Ham is the Empire Printing Ink Co., Boyce Way, Plaistow, which in 1920 took over the business of Mason & Mason (founded c. 1866), of Mason Street and Anne Street, and which is now a subsidiary of Ault & Wiborg Ltd. (fn. 153)
Tallow, soap, glues, and fertilizers form a group based on the processing of animal or vegetable oils. John Wilton was making candles in Stratford Broadway, and later in Carpenters Road, c. 1839–96. (fn. 154) James Palmer, of Warton Road (c. 1876–1939), made candles and later also soap. (fn. 155) Cockman Bros. & Co., Barbers Road, Stratford, tallow melter, has been in business since 1905 or earlier. (fn. 156) Edward Cook & Co., maker of soap, tallow, and fertilizers, settled in High Street, Stratford, in 1859. (fn. 157) In 1936 it was taken over by T. H. Harris & Sons, which had been in Marshgate Lane since 1873 and in 1929 had become a subsidiary of Unilever Ltd. (fn. 158) T. H. Harris & Sons left West Ham about 1952. (fn. 159) The Royal Primrose Soap Works, Knights Road, Silvertown, was opened in 1880 by John Knight Ltd., previously at Wapping (Lond.). (fn. 160) In 1959 this well-known firm had over 1,200 employees, making soap, tallow, glue, fertilizers, vegetable adhesives, and dripping; it also is now a subsidiary of Unilever Ltd. (fn. 161) The earliest firm specializing in fertilizers was Odams Chemical Manure Co., North Woolwich Road, Silvertown. (fn. 162) This was established in 1855 by James Odams, originally to make manure from liquid blood. Odams ensured a supply of raw material by opening a slaughterhouse, adjoining his factory, for cattle imported through the Victoria Docks. His firm was taken over in 1920 by the neighbouring Anglo-Continental Guano Works Ltd. AngloContinental, originally Ohlendorff & Co., had been founded in 1873, and remained a German company until the First World War, when it was reconstituted under British control. (fn. 163) It was taken over in 1937 by Fisons Ltd. and closed in 1946. Fertilizers were closely linked with sulphuric acid. From the 1880s Anglo-Continental were making their own sulphuric acid for use in superphosphates. Gibbs, Bell & Co., of Victoria Docks, appears to have started as a vitriol manufacturer about 1862 and to have extended the business to fertilizers by 1866. (fn. 164) It was probably the predecessor of James Gibbs & Co., later Gibbs Fertilizers Ltd., which apparently ceased c. 1939. (fn. 165) Frederick Hempleman's manure works, Abbey Lane, later Crows Road, established by 1866, appears to have been slower to abandon the old blood-boiling processes. As F. S. Hempleman & Co. his firm survived until about 1912. (fn. 166) J. T. Hunt & Son, now Hunt's Animal Products, moved to High Street, Stratford, in 1868, to escape from the by-law restrictions at Lambeth. (fn. 167) Hunt's products have included superphosphate, bone meal, and also, from c. 1883, animal charcoal. (fn. 168) Harrison, Barber & Co., manure and glue manufacturer, appears to have started at Forest Gate c. 1886, but has been in Sugar House Lane, Stratford, since 1890; it is now part of the Smithfield Zwanenberg Group Ltd. (fn. 169) Alfred Jeffery & Co., makers of marine glues, came to Marshgate Lane, Stratford, in 1879. (fn. 170)
Engineering and Metals. (fn. 171)
Firms engaged in engineering and metal-working in West Ham have ranged from huge concerns like the Thames Ironworks to railway-arch workshops containing one man and a lathe. Small workshops have been much more common than large ones. Among firms in metal manufacture was Morewood & Rogers, later E. Morewood & Co., tinplate worker, Bridge Road, Stratford (c. 1862–74), which was succeeded by Shimwell & Co. (c. 1878–1928). (fn. 172) George Cohen & Sons, steel manufacturer, Bidder Street, Canning Town, came to West Ham in 1881; it is now part of the George Cohen 600 Group Ltd. (fn. 173) Wilmer Lea Foundries Ltd., iron-founder, High Street, Stratford, originated as Ashton & Green, which from c. 1820 was making cast-iron accessories for the building trade and which was recorded at Stratford from 1874. (fn. 174) Ashton & Green became Wilmer & Sons about 1900. It was sold to a new directorate in 1939, took over the neighbouring Lea Foundry (Bow) Ltd. in 1942, was renamed Wilmer Lea Foundries in 1945, and left West Ham about 1962. (fn. 175) Boiler makers have included A. W. Robertson & Co., Victoria Dock Road, Canning Town (c. 1878–1917), (fn. 176) and Towler & Son, Sugar House Lane, Stratford. Towler & Son came to West Ham about 1896, occupying premises at Plaistow until works were built at Stratford in 1909. (fn. 177) The present factory, acquired in 1926, was badly damaged by bombing in 1940–1, but was repaired. (fn. 178) G. Pidduck & Co., sheet metal worker and thermal insulation contractor, Shirley Street, Canning Town, was established in 1877. (fn. 179) The Globe Foundry Ltd., engineer and iron-founder, Chatsworth Road, and the V.W. Co., sheet metal worker, Victoria Street, have been at Stratford since c. 1910 and c. 1922 respectively. (fn. 180) William Biggs & Sons, working cutler, traded in Stratford Broadway and later in the Grove (c. 1839–1943). (fn. 181) Among wire workers were Henry Aiano & Son (founded c. 1878) and G. & F. Dupree (c. 1882–1926), both of High Street, Stratford. (fn. 182) Aiano's business was taken over about 1927 by Robert Crampton as the Stratford Wire Works; it was later moved to Frederick Street, where it still continues under R. and A. Crampton. (fn. 183) Directories of 1905–26 list several tin box manufacturers. Venesta Ltd., now Aluminium Foils Ltd., North Woolwich Road, Silvertown, is described below. (fn. 184)
West Ham's engineering firms have varied greatly in speciality as well as size. E. J. Davis & Co., general engineers, Great Eastern Road, Stratford, was founded in 1901 and remained until c. 1955. (fn. 185) Two constructional engineers of long standing have been the Whitford Armstrong Structural Co., Wharf Road, Stratford (c. 1910–67), and Cearns Concrete Co., Carpenters Road (from c. 1917). (fn. 186) Woodward Bros., electrical engineer, Sugar House Lane, has been in West Ham since c. 1902, at various addresses. (fn. 187) Troup, Curtis & Co., electrical and general engineer, Victoria Dock Road, was established in 1897. (fn. 188) This was one of the first firms to specialize in electrical equipment aboard ships. Among firms making machinery or machine tools have been the Holbrook Machine Tool Co., Martin Street (c. 1862–1960), (fn. 189) and S. H. Johnson & Co., chemical engineer, Carpenters Road (founded 1876), now a subsidiary of Johnson-Progress Ltd. (fn. 190) Makers of precision instruments have included W. & T. Avery, scale makers, High Street, Stratford (from c. 1910). (fn. 191) William Goodacre & Sons, manufacturer of mechanical grabs, Butchers Road, Canning Town, and Young & Marten, Romford Road, Stratford, formerly manufacturer of fire-grates, are treated elsewhere. (fn. 192)
Shipbuilding and marine engineering have been important in West Ham's industrial growth. The history of the Thames Ironworks, Shipbuilding, and Engineering Co., Victoria Dock Road, Canning Town, has been outlined elsewhere. (fn. 193) This firm, which originated in 1846 as C. J. Mare & Co., survived until 1912. (fn. 194) Throughout its life, and especially in its early years, it was one of the largest local employers. It built many warships, including the battleship Thunderer (1911). Another shipyard, that of Campbell, Johnstone & Co., was opened at Silvertown in the early 1860s, but closed about ten years later. (fn. 195) The leading marine engineer in West Ham is R. & H. Green & Silley Weir Ltd., formed in 1910 by the union of two firms. (fn. 196) R. & H. Green, shipbuilder at Blackwall (Lond.), had a branch at Canning Town in 1882, and in 1906 one at the Victoria Dock. (fn. 197) Silley Weir, which first occurs under that name in 1908, had acquired the Albert Dock Engine Works (dating from c. 1890) and later A. W. Robertson & Co., Victoria Docks, engineer and boiler maker (from c. 1878). (fn. 198) After the First World War R. & H. Green & Silley Weir expanded rapidly, in West Ham and elsewhere. (fn. 199) It is now a subsidiary of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (fn. 200)
The building of road vehicles has never been one of the main industries. Few wheelwrights or coachbuilders are known to have survived for more than ten years. An exception was Stephen Gowar & Co., coachbuilder, the Broadway, Stratford, which survived from 1839 or earlier until 1886, when it was taken over by Bonallack & Sons, an old London firm. (fn. 201) Bonallack & Sons later built a factory in Nursery Lane, Forest Gate, to make motor vehicle bodies, and opened showrooms in Romford Road. The factory was transferred to Basildon in 1953. Bonallack is now a subsidiary of James Booth Aluminium Ltd. (fn. 202) The building of steam carriages was carried on by Walter Hancock in High Street, Stratford, c. 1824–40. (fn. 203) He was opposed by the owners of horse-drawn coaches and turnpike authorities, and could not secure adequate financial backing. (fn. 204) Several bicycle-makers are listed in directories of the 1890s and later. The Constrictor Tyre Co., Nursery Lane, Forest Gate, which was founded about 1906, makes cycle tyres and accessories. (fn. 205)
Railway engineering started in the 1840s. The Eastern Counties Railway had a small repair depot at Stratford by 1839 (fn. 206) and in 1847 the main works were transferred there from Romford. (fn. 207) By 1848 the works already employed about 1,000. During the next sixty years the works was greatly enlarged: by 1906 it covered 78 a. and employed over 6,000. Locomotives and rolling stock were manufactured as well as repaired. James Holden (d. 1925) was in charge of the works during its most notable period, as locomotive superintendent of the Great Eastern Railway, 1885–1907. During his time new wagon shops were built at Temple Mills, (fn. 208) a chemical laboratory was opened, and the company's printing works was provided with a new building in Burford Road. (fn. 209) The Stratford railway works was closed in 1963. (fn. 210) A much smaller works was built in Plaistow Road by the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway soon after 1875; it was closed about 1934. (fn. 211)
Textiles and Clothing. (fn. 212)
In 1851 there were about 300 textile workers in West Ham. (fn. 213) Most of them were engaged in silk- or calico-printing, older industries, already described, which were soon to disappear. The new industries which began to replace them in the 1860s were mostly concerned with coarse textiles. William Ritchie & Son, jutespinners, built a factory in Carpenters Road, Stratford, in 1864. (fn. 214) By 1876 this was employing about 1,000, mainly women. It closed in 1904. (fn. 215) The firm later turned to making jute sacks and bags, and cotton goods for industrial purposes, first in Carpenters Road and then at Caxton Street North, Canning Town. The Canning Town factory was bombed during the Second World War but was rebuilt after the war. William Goodacre & Sons, manufacturer of coconut matting, opened a factory in Abbey Lane in 1863, from which it had moved, by 1890, to Ceylon Mills, Russell Road (later in Butchers Road), Canning Town. (fn. 216) Early in the present century Goodacre also built up an engineering business, specializing in making and repairing mechanical grabs. Soon after the Second World War matting manufacture ceased at Ceylon Mills but the grab department continues. In 1964 William Goodacre & Sons was taken over by Beautility Ltd. (fn. 217) S. Lomas & Co., tarpaulin manufacturer, High Street, Stratford, first occurs in West Ham about 1870, under Thomas Lomas. (fn. 218) It has occupied successively various premises in or near High Street. It is now a subsidiary of Thomas Thomson Sons (Barrhead) Ltd. (fn. 219) John Alderson & Sons, rope and twine manufacturer, had a factory in Marshgate Lane by 1870 and perhaps by 1861. (fn. 220) It remained until about 1934. (fn. 221) John Slater, Son, & Slater, silkweaver, had a factory in Queens Road, Plaistow, from about 1882; it was taken over in 1887 by Bailey, Fox & Co., which remained until about 1943. (fn. 222)
The clothing industry was critically examined in 1904, when 1,475 persons, including 1,355 women, were employed in workshops, and about 1,100 others, all women, as home workers. (fn. 223) It was fostered by the poverty of many casual male workers who needed the earnings of their wives and daughters to supplement their own. Many of the clothing factories stood in or near residential areas, such as Forest Gate and Upton. About 70 have been recorded at different periods, but most were small and short-lived. H. Wheeler & Co., maker of industrial overalls, founded in 1884 at Maud Road, Plaistow, later moved to London Road. (fn. 224) McIntyre, Hogg, Marsh & Co., maker of 'Radiac' shirts, collars, and pyjamas, opened a factory at Selsdon Road, Upton Park, in 1904. (fn. 225) About 1961 this firm was taken over by English Sewing Cotton (now English Calico) Ltd., which in 1964 merged McIntyre, Hogg, Marsh & Co. with another of its subsidiaries, Tootal Ltd., and closed the Selsdon Road factory. (fn. 226) E. Rosenthal & Son, maker of men's clothing, Romford Road, Forest Gate, was established in 1918. (fn. 227)
Building Materials, Abrasives, and Glass. (fn. 228)
With so much building going on in and near West Ham in the later 19th century it is not surprising that one group of local industries was concerned with bricks, stone, cement, and similar building materials. In these industries it is sometimes hard to judge from the sources available whether a particular firm was manufacturing in West Ham or merely had a storage depot there. John Meeson & Co., lime-burner and cement manufacturer, High Street, Stratford, appears to have been founded before 1839 by Thomas Meeson. (fn. 229) John Meeson, who became head of the firm from about 1860, was a prominent member of West Ham local board. The Meesons were also in business at Grays Thurrock, and about 1866 the firm appears to have been reconstituted as Grays Chalk Quarries Ltd., which continued until about 1929. (fn. 230) William Lee & Son, later Lee & Eastwood, lime-burner and cement manufacturer, Stratford wharf, High Street, existed c. 1852–1906. (fn. 231) W. H. Lascelles, of Sugar House Lane, is listed (1878–1908) as a concrete building manufacturer. (fn. 232) Among several firms making paving materials have been the French Asphalte Co., Sugar House Lane (c. 1878–1930), (fn. 233) and the Lawford Asphalte Co., High Street, Stratford, which came to West Ham in 1913. (fn. 234) Many stone-masons occur in directories. Much of their business was no doubt the supply of monuments to the local cemeteries. The firm which survived longest was probably Theodore Druitt & Co., High Street, Stratford (c. 1862– 1926). (fn. 235) A new and unusual business was being carried on in 1969 by John Rogers in Barking Road, Plaistow. This was the manufacture from fibreglass of period reproduction ornament and decoration for public houses, including panelling, fire-places, brickwork, armour, and complete façades. Much of this was exported to the United States. (fn. 236)
Emery cloth and other abrasives were being made in High Street, Stratford, by Barsham, Lonsdale & Co., later W. J. Barsham & Co., from about 1839. (fn. 237) W. J. Barsham was probably identical with the man of that name (d. 1862) who was clerk to the local board. (fn. 238) In 1862, or shortly before, the firm passed under new management as the Stratford Emery and Glass Cloth Co., later Charles Poupard & Son. It apparently ceased or moved soon after 1870. (fn. 239) Mann & Benford, later T. E. Mann & Co., manufacturers of emery cloth and glass cloth, Kelland Road, Plaistow, is recorded from 1878. (fn. 240) In 1928 it was taken over by the Universal Milling Co., abrasives manufacturers. The factory was transferred in 1953 to Bidder Street, Canning Town. (fn. 241)
The manufacture of glass, a small but highly skilled industry, was in 1904 employing 123 men and boys in West Ham. (fn. 242) The first glassworks in the parish had been opened at Silvertown in 1851 but soon failed. (fn. 243) In the 1890s two glassworks were opened at Canning Town, and one at Stratford. Of these three two had a long life. The City Glass Bottle Co., St. John's Road, Canning Town, is recorded from 1890 to 1953; its factory was demolished in 1955. (fn. 244) Robinson, King & Co. have been in Marshgate Lane at least since 1898. (fn. 245) In 1916 it took over the British Challenge Glazing Co., and the Marshgate Lane site was later enlarged to accommodate both firms. (fn. 246) Their factories were badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War but were rebuilt. They are now subsidiaries of Pillar Holdings Ltd. (fn. 247)
Timber and Furniture. (fn. 248)
Among West Ham's timber merchants Charles Deason & Son, High Street, Stratford, has had the longest history. It claims to have been founded early in the 19th century and has certainly been in High Street since 1851. (fn. 249) Scrutton & Campbell, Barking Road, Canning Town, is said to have existed in 1865. William W. Howard, who joined the firm in that year, became its owner in 1876. He was later joined by his brothers and the firm became W. W. Howard Bros. & Co. (fn. 250) The Saw Mills Co., Cooks Road, Stratford, is said to have been founded in 1854. (fn. 251) It appears to have been brought to Stratford about 1869, by Joseph Wilmott, and it operated until 1964, when its premises were taken over by W. I. Brine & Sons (Furniture Veneers) Ltd., as lessees of the Saw Mills Co. (fn. 252) J. Gliksten & Son, one of the largest timber merchants in Britain, is sometimes listed among Stratford firms, but the main part of its premises in Carpenters Road is just outside West Ham. (fn. 253)
Several firms have made barrels or packing cases. John Burton, Stratford Broadway (c. 1839–70), and Thomas Bush, Plaistow Road, West Ham (c. 1882– 1922), were coopers. (fn. 254) The Albert Cooperage Ltd., Albert Square, Stratford, was founded about 1918 by S. A. Fisher; it now makes steel drums. (fn. 255) Venesta Ltd., maker of packing cases, plywood, and metal foil, came to North Woolwich Road, Silvertown, in 1910. Its factory was wrecked in the Silvertown explosion (1917), but was rebuilt, and by 1936 was employing 1,300. (fn. 256) It later concentrated on metal foils, and in 1960 Venesta sold it to Tube Investments and the Reynolds Metal Co., under which it now operates as Aluminium Foils Ltd. (fn. 257) Lawrence & Bathe & Co., shopfitter, and export case and joinery manufacturer, Shirley Street, Canning Town, was established in 1879. (fn. 258)
Among those making furniture or joinery have been John Meggs, ladder maker, High Street, Stratford (1862–6), whose business appears to have descended in his family until about 1926. (fn. 259) Mrs. M. E. Bates, Victoria Dock Road, Canning Town, was listed as a bed and bedstead dealer (1882–6) but later (1890–1917) as a bedding manufacturer. (fn. 260) William Matthews, High Street (1863–86), and Samuel Robinson, Leytonstone Road (1878–1917), both at Stratford, made window blinds. (fn. 261) Young & Marten, Romford Road, Stratford, builders' merchant and manufacturer of joinery and leaded-light windows, was founded in 1872 by William Young, who was later joined by H. H. Marten. (fn. 262) The firm once had an engineering department, notable for its manufacture of the 'Hue' fire-grate, but this no longer exists.
Paper and Printing. (fn. 263)
The manufacture of paper was apparently being carried on at Spilemans mills, Stratford, in 1818, (fn. 264) and by Warren & Simpson also at Stratford, in 1852. (fn. 265) A few paper-stainers, and several firms making paper bags and wall-paper, occur in directories, but none survived long. In the manufacture of business stationery Lamson Paragon Ltd., Fords Park Road, Canning Town, has been outstanding. (fn. 266) This firm originated in 1886, when the Paragon Check Book Co. was formed to manufacture in England the Paragon check book invented in Canada by J. R. Carter. In 1889 the Paragon Check Book Co. amalgamated with the Lamson Store Service Co. to form Lamson Paragon. The firm, previously in London, built its Canning Town factory, which has been several times enlarged, in 1893. The company has also built factories elsewhere in England and overseas.
Printing, mainly at Plaistow, has been among West Ham's more important smaller industries. Some 30 printers occur in directories at different periods and over half survived for at least twenty years. W. H. Thodey & Son, Balaam Street (c. 1839–90), appear to have combined printing with other activities. (fn. 267) George Harmer (1808–92) is said to have opened a printing office in 1848. (fn. 268) This was at first in Upton Lane, but by 1862 in West Ham Lane. (fn. 269) It was continued by the founder's son until 1911. The Curwen Press, North Street, Plaistow, originated in 1862, when John Curwen started printing music with the tonic-sol-fa notation. It became a large music and general printing business specializing in high-quality work. (fn. 270) Wilson & Whitworth Ltd., High Street, Stratford, originated in 1866, when Alfred Harvey began to publish the Stratford Express newspaper in the Broadway. (fn. 271) It was printed at Romford. Soon after 1870 the business was bought by two employees of Harvey, F. Wilson and J. C. Whitworth, who transferred the printing to William Street, Stratford, and later, about 1875, built larger works behind the office in the Broadway. The present works in High Street was opened in 1966. (fn. 272) The Whitwell Press was founded in 1901 by the Society of the Divine Compassion. (fn. 273) It was originally housed in two shops in Balaam Street, but in 1910 was moved to a larger building in the garden of the society's premises in the same street. (fn. 274) It was concerned mainly with religious printing and government contracts. In 1919 the Whitwell Press was closed, but two of the staff, William Ramsey and Benjamin Buckey, bought the machinery and established the Plaistow Press in Plaistow Road. (fn. 275) The Plaistow Press also took over much of the work of the Whitwell Press. About 1928 it moved to a new building on the opposite side of Plaistow Road. When that was compulsorily purchased by the borough council in 1955 the firm built new works in New Plaistow Road. Among other long-established printers are W. S. Caines Ltd., Balaam Street (founded in 1876), now a subsidiary of Turret Press (Holdings) Ltd., Godbold & Sons, Barking Road (c. 1898), and Helliar & Sons (1900). (fn. 276)
Rubber, Leathercloth, etc. (fn. 277)
West Ham was an early centre of rubber manufacture. The Gutta Percha Co., High Street, Stratford, was established in 1846 by Charles and Walter Hancock in association with Henry Bewley. (fn. 278) The Hancocks were brothers of Thomas Hancock (1786–1865), the pioneer of rubber. (fn. 279) Bewley, with financial backing from Samuel Gurney the banker, soon gained control of the company, and developed a second and larger factory in Wharf Road, City Road (Lond.). In 1850 he dismissed the Hancocks, who then founded a rival firm, the West Ham Gutta Percha Co., probably in Abbey Road, West Ham, on the site of the old parish workhouse, where it continued until about the end of 1856. (fn. 280) The original Gutta Percha Co. had left Stratford by 1862. (fn. 281) At that period gutta percha was used mainly in the manufacture of submarine cables.
S. W. Silver & Co. originated in the 18th century as colonial and army agents, clothiers, and outfitters. (fn. 282) Stephen Winckworth Silver (d. 1855), who greatly expanded the firm, is said to have opened a waterproof clothing factory at Greenwich (Kent). About 1852 he moved this to the north bank of the Thames in West Ham; by 1859 that area was known as Silvertown. He was succeeded by his sons Stephen William Silver and Col. H. A. Silver. S. William Silver (d. 1905) was closely associated with Charles Hancock, and in 1862 they took out a joint patent for making waterproofing and insulating materials. In 1864 the Silvers promoted a new public company, called the India Rubber, Gutta Percha, and Telegraph Works Co., to take over the Silvertown factory. In the same year they took over Charles Hancock's West Ham Gutta Percha Co., then at Smithfield. (fn. 283) From 1866 to 1901 the company was effectively directed by Matthew Gray. During that period it specialized mainly in making and laying submarine cables, but from the 1880s it also made other electrical products. It supplied electrical plants to many towns, at home and abroad. From the 1890s the production of bicycle and later motor tyres became increasingly important. By 1923 the works covered 17 a. and employed more than 4,000. (fn. 284) The company also had factories at Burton-on-Trent and Persan (Seine et Oise, France), and depots in many towns in Britain and abroad. About 1927 it fell into financial difficulties, which continued until 1933, when a controlling interest was acquired by the British Goodrich Rubber Co. (later the British Tyre and Rubber Co.), an associate of the B. F. Goodrich Co. of Akron (Ohio). Between 1935 and 1938 the Silvertown buildings were reconstructed on a smaller scale, part of the site being sold to Tate & Lyle. The factory was bombed in 1940–1 but had been rebuilt by 1962. In 1955 the firm was re-named the Silvertown Rubber Co., and became a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Tyre and Rubber Co. The parent company, now called BTR Industries, was completely reorganized during the 1960s and its Silvertown site was sold for redevelopment as the Thameside Industrial Estate. The company stopped making rubber at the site, but retained on lease a small factory on the estate for making plastics and gutta percha.
The Greengate & Irwell Rubber Co., Stephenson Street, Canning Town, originated in the 1880s. (fn. 285) In 1882–6 the Irwell (later Salford and Irwell) India Rubber and Gutta Percha Works Ltd. had premises at the Royal Albert Dock. In or before 1904 it merged with the Eastern Rubber Co., Tidal Basin, first listed in directories in 1886, to form the Irwell and Eastern Rubber Co. It is not known how far these firms made rather than sold rubber before 1914, but in that year the Irwell & Eastern Rubber Co. built a factory in Stephenson Street. In 1921 Irwell & Eastern merged with I. Frankenberg & Sons of Salford (Lancs.) to form the Greengate & Irwell Rubber Co. The firm lost its Canning Town works by bombing in the Second World War and afterwards retained only a small depot there. Greengate & Irwell is now part of a large and diverse industrial group, Slater, Walker Securities Ltd.
About 1857 the Leathercloth Co. acquired the sole rights of making leathercloth, patented in 1849 by J. R. & C. P. Crockett of Newark (N.J.). The company built a large factory in Abbey Road on a site previously occupied by the gutta percha works and originally by the parish workhouse. (fn. 286) An exten sion, housing a cotton-mill, was added in 1866. Shortly before 1936, when there were 500 workers, the factory also began to make rubber cloth. In 1955 the firm was taken over by James Williamson & Son of Lancaster, which closed the Abbey Road works in 1961. (fn. 287)
Among other products in this group have been asbestos, baskets, and brushes. Dick's Asbestos and Insulating Co., North Woolwich Road, Silvertown, came to West Ham about 1906; it was at first in Trinity Street and later in Stephenson Street, Canning Town. (fn. 288) It is now a subsidiary of Thomas W. Ward Ltd. (fn. 289) William Gadsby, maker of baskets and sieves (c. 1874–1917), was in Windmill Lane, and later in Leytonstone Road, Stratford. (fn. 290) Augustus Smith, brush and mat manufacturer, Marshgate Lane, is recorded from 1862 to 1898. (fn. 291)
Construction. (fn. 292)
It was stated in 1907 that hundreds of small builders had taken part in the development of the borough, chiefly in its southern districts, but that few of them had attained a sound financial position. (fn. 293) Later research confirms the latter conclusion, for few builders have long survived. James (later William J.) Rivett was a builder and undertaker in Chapel Street, and later in High Street, Stratford, from 1839 to 1878, but after 1878 was only an undertaker. (fn. 294) Members of the Curtis family, of the Broadway, Plaistow, through several generations (c. 1839–1904) were concerned with land development, as builders, and later as brickmakers, architects, surveyors, and estate agents. (fn. 295) Robert Leabon Curtis, mayor of West Ham 1889, built up a large estate agency and also bought the manor of Vange Hall, near Southend-on-Sea, part of which he exploited as brickfields with a depot at Stratford. John Dyer, builder, of Forest Gate, listed in 1852, appears to have been the predecessor of Henry Dyer & Sons, Woodgrange Road, builder and undertaker until the 1890s, after which it was an undertaker only. (fn. 296) Alfred Reed (c. 1852–98), High Street, later Burford Road, and John Chaffins (c. 1866–1902), Bridge Road, were both builders at Stratford. (fn. 297) Arthur Webb Ltd., builder and shopfitter, Romford Road (founded 1885), and J. T. Luton & Son, Forest Lane, Stratford (1897), commercial and industrial builder, both survive. (fn. 298) A. E. Symes Ltd., building and civil engineering contractor, High Street, Stratford, founded 1892, has grown from a small local firm into a large company active throughout the Home Counties and the Midlands. Its original premises in Carpenters Road were bombed during the Second World War and the present ones were built in 1956. (fn. 299) J. & R. Rooff Ltd., Barking Road, Plaistow, had been a maintenance builder at Poplar (Lond.) until about 1902; the business moved to Plaistow under J. H. Rooff, who greatly expanded and diversified it. (fn. 300)