A History of the County of Essex: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
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The agrarian history of Romford is treated above, along with that of Havering and Hornchurch. (fn. 1) In the three rural wards of Romford agriculture continued to be the main occupation down to the present century. The town grew up during the Middle Ages along the main road to London, and its market, established in 1247, became one of the largest in Essex. (fn. 2) In the 18th century Romford became also a busy coaching town. The railway, besides maintaining the importance of the town as a commercial centre, stimulated the growth of industry, notably Ind, Coope's brewery. During the present century Romford has become a shopping centre for a populous suburban area, with new light industries developing on the outskirts near the main roads.
There are many references to early corn-mills in Romford; these are treated elsewhere. (fn. 3) Romford, like Hornchurch, was an early centre of the leather industry. Tanners are recorded from the 15th century onwards. (fn. 4) The making of leather breeches was by the 18th century proverbially associated with Romford. (fn. 5) It continued until 1830 or later. (fn. 6) There were several curriers and saddlers in the town throughout the 19th century. (fn. 7) The Smith family, curriers, traded in the market-place from the 1830s until c. 1902. (fn. 8) Darke & Sons, saddlers, were in High Street and later in the market-place from the 1880s until 1937 or later. (fn. 9)
Cloth-making is indicated by the name Fullers field (c. 1233–7), which was probably near Chase Cross, (fn. 10) and that of Tayntor Ridden (1616). (fn. 11) There are occasional references in the 17th century to weavers, (fn. 12) including one engine weaver (1694). (fn. 13) Colliers (charcoal burners), recorded in the 15th and 16th centuries, gave their name to Collier Row. (fn. 14) Brewing was often mentioned in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 15) Metal-workers included a brazier (1667), and a cutler's wife who in 1707 was charged with unlawfully trading as a goldsmith. (fn. 16)
A tile-kiln, attached to Wolves and Joys farm, Noak Hill, was mentioned in 1558. (fn. 17) In 1775 John Heaton of Bedfords unlawfully built a brick-kiln on land inclosed from the common in Harold Wood ward. (fn. 18) That was probably the kiln which then lay south of Noak Hill Road, near its junction with the present Straight Road. (fn. 19) In c. 1870 the site was occupied by Tilekiln farm. (fn. 20) The sites of other brick-kilns are indicated by the field name Brick Kiln mead, which occurs twice in 1846: north of Noak Hill Road, and north of Chase Cross Road, Collier Row. (fn. 21) The brickworks of William, later W. & G. Gale, Hainault Road, existed from c. 1890 to 1937 or later. (fn. 22)
Ind, Coope & Co.'s brewery, which has become Romford's main industry, was established in 1799, when Edward Ind bought the Star inn, with a small brewery attached, beside the river Rom in High Street. (fn. 23) It was a fortunate choice of site, for in 1839 Romford railway station was built ¼ mile south of the brewery, and there was plenty of room for expansion in that direction. In 1845, after two changes of partner, Edward Ind was joined by the brothers Octavius and George Coope; two later generations of the Inds and Coopes were associated with the firm. In 1858 Ind, Coope & Co. bought a second brewery, at Burton-on-Trent (Staffs.). The Romford brewery was greatly extended in the later 19th century, becoming a private limited company in 1886, and a public company in 1890. (fn. 24) By 1908 it had extensive railway sidings linked to the station, and was employing 450 workers. In 1909, after a financial crisis, it was reconstituted. In 1934 it merged with Allsopp of Burton-on-Trent. After the Second World War Ind, Coope took over several other breweries, and in the 1960s played a leading part in forming Allied Breweries, one of the largest groups of its kind in the world. Since the war the Romford brewery has been greatly extended, and by 1970 it occupied 20 a., with 1,000 workers. (fn. 25)
The main engineering works of the Eastern Counties railway were opened in 1843 at Squirrels Heath, a mile east of Romford station. (fn. 26) Engineering was transferred to Stratford in 1847, (fn. 27) but the Romford building was retained as a factory making railway tarpaulins and sacks. (fn. 28) It employed about 100 workers, for whom the railway company built houses in Factory Road. In the later 19th century the factory also produced horse fodder, and in 1900 a separate building was erected for that purpose. (fn. 29) The tarpaulin factory continued until c. 1960. (fn. 30)
The original buildings of 1843 still survived in 1976, when they were occupied as warehouses by Rail Store Ltd. (fn. 31) They comprise three blocks. That to the north has a main elevation of three storeys, facing the railway line, behind which there is a single-storeyed workshop with a roof supported on wooden columns. The rear elevation has 13 fullheight openings upon a siding, beyond which a similar elevation opens upon a second workshop which has a central hall with side galleries on castiron columns and beams. Beyond that is the smaller engine shed.
Fordham Ellis's candle factory, South Street, existed by 1849. (fn. 32) In 1872, after complaints about nuisance caused by the factory, Ellis agreed to move it on the payment of compensation by the local board. (fn. 33) Joseph Fordham Ellis was trading as a tallow chandler in North Street in 1886. (fn. 34)
The Victoria steam flour mill, Victoria Road, seems to have originated in 1851, as an adjunct to the old windmill in South Street, (fn. 35) and to have been known at first as the Star mill. (fn. 36) The Victoria mill was apparently extended or rebuilt in 1858. (fn. 37) Alfred Dockerill, miller in the 1860s, was succeeded c. 1870 by Henry Whitmore. (fn. 38) The mill was enlarged in 1874. (fn. 39) It was closed c. 1928. (fn. 40) In 1975 the site was occupied by the shops in Old Mill Parade.
Macarthy's mineral water factory, Market Place, existed by 1851. (fn. 41) It was the offshoot of a druggist's business which the Macarthy family had carried on in the Market-place at least since 1823. (fn. 42) The factory had steam power by 1856. (fn. 43) By 1912 it was owned by the Hearn family, who traded there until 1937 or later. (fn. 44)
Spencer's comb factory, St. Andrew's Road, c. 1851–82, seems to have been the first industry on the site of the Old Barrack Ground, west of Romford station. (fn. 45) The next was Alabaster & Wedlake's iron foundry, St. Andrew's Road and Queen Street, opened in 1852. (fn. 46) The firm's name suggests that it was associated with one of two Hornchurch ironfounders: Mary Wedlake & Co., or Wedlake & Dendy. (fn. 47) By 1855, however, Roger Alabaster, ironand brass-founder, was apparently trading alone. (fn. 48) The foundry was extended in 1869. (fn. 49) It apparently continued in the Alabaster family until c. 1880, when it was taken over by Frederick Carter. (fn. 50) Carter was succeeded c. 1913 by B. Rhodes & Son, who traded as brass-founders until 1937 or later. (fn. 51) By 1967 Rhodes had moved to Danes Road, off Crow Lane. (fn. 52) In 1975 the firm was a subsidiary of British Steam Specialities Ltd., and was manufacturing scientific and industrial instruments. (fn. 53)
During the 19th century there were many small workshops in Romford, mostly engaged in metalworking or engineering. Four families of blacksmiths traded for 40 years or more: Staines in Hare Street, c. 1832–98, Randall in Collier Row Road, c. 1845–1958 or later, Martin in High Street, c. 1845–90, and Underwood in the market-place, c. 1848–98. (fn. 54) Underwood's business was apparently continued in the Lamb Yard, North Street, by the James family, c. 1900–08, and later by the Cooks, who c. 1937 moved to the yard of the Duke of Wellington, Market Place, and were still there in 1964. (fn. 55)
There were several braziers and tinplate workers in the town in the 19th century, but none survived for more than 10 or 15 years. There was a millwright, John Carter, in South Street, later in North Street c. 1832–55. (fn. 56) Wheelwrights included James Marchant, St. Andrew's Road, c. 1855–98, and the Brown family, in Straight Road, Romford Common, c. 1878–1926. (fn. 57) Among coachbuilders of long standing was Slipper of High Street, later North Street, c. 1845–1902. (fn. 58) Slipper's business was taken over by Allen Bros., which survived in 1975 as Charles H. Allen, motor engineers, London Road. (fn. 59)
The local tradition of light industry, well established by the end of the 19th century, has since then been continued and extended. The largest modern factory is that of Roneo Vickers Ltd., manufacturers of office machinery. It lies at the junction of South Street and Hornchurch Road, now called Roneo Corner. It was on the Hornchurch side of the old parish boundary. During the 1890s part of the site was occupied by a bicycle factory. (fn. 60) The Neostyle Manufacturing Co., later Roneo Ltd., opened its works there in 1908. (fn. 61) In 1975 Roneo Vickers was a subsidiary of Vickers Ltd. (fn. 62)
Factories opened between the two world wars and still surviving include Colvern Ltd., Spring Gardens, manufacturers of wireless components, May's Sheet Metal Works, Danes Road, and Betterwear Products, North Street, brush manufacturers. (fn. 63) Since the Second World War several new factory estates have been built on the outskirts of the town. The largest of them is on the G.L.C. housing estate, Harold Hill, which includes the slidingdoor factory of P. C. Henderson Ltd., Tangent Road, and the brassière factory of the Lovable Co., Faringdon Avenue. Other estates are in North Street, Lyon Road, Danes and Maldon Roads, London Road, and Spring Gardens. In 1975 there were some 50 factories in Romford. (fn. 64) About half of them were engaged in engineering, electrical, or metal work, and most of the others in food, drink, clothing, footwear, textiles, or plastics.
Romford's commercial growth has also been rapid since c. 1930, and especially during the past ten years. (fn. 65) The new shopping precinct, south of the market-place, has over 100 shops, including branches of the main department stores. One of the largest stores, Debenhams, has grown from a small shop opened in 1864 at 62 Market Place by Denny Stone, and extended by his son Leonard F. Stone. (fn. 66) Stones was burnt down in 1945, after a burglary, but it was rebuilt and further extended. L. F. Stone & Sons became a private limited company in 1947. It was taken over in 1960 by Debenhams, which in 1960–63 rebuilt it on the frontage of 60–72 Market Place.
EARLY MILLS. (fn. 67)
About 1355 and in 1420 the manor of Dagenhams included a windmill near the South Weald boundary. (fn. 68) An earlier mill, apparently in the same area, was mentioned in 1222 and 1236. (fn. 69) In 1365 there was a windmill called the New Mill on the Havering part of the manor of Marks. (fn. 70) There was a post mill about ¼ mile east of Marks house c. 1618. (fn. 71) The name of Mill Dam field (1846), which lay about 600 yd. north-east of the site of Marks, indicates that there had once been a watermill there. (fn. 72)
In the mid 17th century there were three windmills in Romford town: one on the manor of Mawneys, one on Stewards, and one in Main Road. The Mawneys mill existed in 1637, but the site is not known. (fn. 73) The Stewards mill, mentioned in 1642, was in 1696 in the same position as the later South Street windmill. (fn. 74) In 1642 there was also a water-mill, in Stewards park, but that had apparently disappeared by 1696. The Main Road windmill was c. 1618 on the north side of the road, near the market-place, where a mound still survived in 1921. (fn. 75) East of it, near the present Black's bridge at Raphael park, there seems to have been a watermill c. 1618. (fn. 76) Richard Emes (d. 1678) was holding at his death a windmill on Romford Hill, which he had acquired along with the manor of Gidea Hall, but had evidently retained when he sold the manor. (fn. 77) It may have been the windmill mentioned c. 1618.
There were three windmills in the town in 1777: in London Road, Hornchurch Lane (South Street), and Main Road. (fn. 78) The London Road mill, a post mill, was on the south side of the road about 130 yd. west of St. Andrews' Road. (fn. 79) In 1751 the owner was Thomas Green. (fn. 80) William Gunn was the miller in 1773. (fn. 81) From c. 1793 the mill was occupied by Stephen Collier, who by his will, proved 1820, left the reversion of it to his nephew Pratt Collier. (fn. 82) The Collier family continued to operate the mill until c. 1860. (fn. 83) It was put up for sale in 1861. (fn. 84) There was still a miller in London Road in 1863, but apparently none in 1866. (fn. 85) The mill had gone by 1871. (fn. 86) The mill-house may survive as Yew Tree Cottage.
The South Street mill was almost certainly the one which from the 17th century to the 19th century descended with the manor of Stewards. (fn. 87) It was a post mill on the east side of the street near the corner of the present Victoria Road. (fn. 88) The railway embankment, built c. 1840, passed within a few yards of the mill, cutting off the wind. A steammill was built beside the windmill, c. 1850–1. (fn. 89) The windmill is said to have remained standing, behind the Rising Sun inn, until the 1880s. (fn. 90)
The Main Road mill, a post mill, lay opposite Pettits Lane, on the south side of the road. (fn. 91) It may have been the successor to the Main Road windmill mentioned above. Edward Collier, who is said to have been the last miller, (fn. 92) was there c. 1829–60. (fn. 93) The mill had been demolished by 1871. (fn. 94)
In the earlier 19th century there was also a post mill at Collier Row, on a site which is now part of Lawns park, Lawnsway. (fn. 95) John and Benjamin Miller were occupying it in 1815, when they took William Blakeley as their apprentice. (fn. 96) The Millers remained there until 1832 or later. (fn. 97) John Collier was there in 1839. (fn. 98) William Blakeley, who married into the Collier family, was the owner and occupier by 1846, and was still trading there in 1855. (fn. 99) He is said to have built Lawn House, which survives as a social club. (fn. 100) The mill had gone by 1871. (fn. 101) The site of an earlier mill at Collier Row is indicated by the name Mill field (1846), which lay north of Chase Cross Road and West of Havering Road. (fn. 102) Another Mill field (c. 1618) was south of Noak Hill Road at Noak Hill. (fn. 103)
MARKET, FAIR, AND CORN EXCHANGE.
In 1247 Henry III ordered the sheriff of Essex to establish a market at Romford, to be held on Wednesdays. (fn. 104) In 1250, by a similar order, he established a fair there, to be held annually throughout Whit week. (fn. 105) There seems always to have been a Wednesday market since 1247. (fn. 106) A Tuesday market had been established by 1633, and a Monday market also by the later 18th century. The Monday market was discontinued shortly before 1816, and the Tuesday market later in the 19th century. A Saturday market, which existed by 1907, still continues. In 1919 daily markets were inaugurated as a temporary measure. That ended in 1925, but the Friday market was then retained, along with Wednesday and Saturday. The annual fair was by the 18th century being held on one day only, 24 June. (fn. 107) It was abolished in 1877. (fn. 108) It was then stated that in recent years the fair had been held on the last Thursday in June.
The market remained the property of the Crown until 1828. In 1619 James I leased the market tolls for 99 years to trustees for the Prince of Wales, later Charles I. (fn. 109) In 1631 the trustees sold the lease to John Edisbury of the Inner Temple (Lond.). During the rest of the 17th century the lease changed hands several times, and sub-leases were occasionally created. As a result of these transactions the control of the market sometimes passed to strangers, who found it difficult to enforce their authority in Romford. The final owner of the 99-year lease, a brewer from Bow (Mdx.) named Mark Frost, between 1710 and 1741 bought from the Crown three consecutive leases running up to 1772. The main lease later passed to Mrs. Anne Freeman of Boreham, who secured its renewal up to 1793. Between 1793 and 1813 the tolls were let from year to year. (fn. 110)
In 1828 the market, along with the manor of Havering, was bought from the Crown by Hugh McIntosh. (fn. 111) He paid £4,700 for the market, which was then held by Charles Willoughby on a 31-year lease granted in 1813. The market continued to descend with the manor until 1892. Between 1882 and 1887 Romford local board made at least two unsuccessful attempts to lease the tolls from Mrs. McIntosh, (fn. 112) and in 1887 they became involved in a legal dispute with her over the installation of a weighbridge in the market. (fn. 113) In 1889 they rejected an invitation to lease the tolls, saying that the market was declining, but in 1892, when it was threatened with closure, they bought the freehold from Mrs. McIntosh for £7,000. (fn. 114)
The Market Place developed along both sides of the main road to London, on the eastern side of the town. It is about 400 yd. long and 50 yd. wide. (fn. 115) At its western end, in the 18th and 19th centuries, lay the court house and gaol of the liberty of Havering, sometimes, but not officially, called the market house. (fn. 116) That was demolished in 1933. (fn. 117) At the eastern end of the Market Place, until the later 19th century, was the Loam pond.
By the later 17th century Romford was 'a great market town for corn and cattle'. (fn. 118) It continued to flourish as an agricultural centre in the 18th and 19th centuries. (fn. 119) In 1824 most of the Market Place was reserved for cattle. (fn. 120) In 1876 the eastern end was used for pigs and cattle, and the western end for farm tools, clothing, fruit, and vegetables. The market was then thought to be the largest near London for corn and cattle. (fn. 121) The cattle trade remained important until the Second World War. After the war it declined rapidly, and the cattle market was closed in 1958. (fn. 122) Since then the market has been devoted mainly to food, clothing, and household goods. In 1973 there were about 325 regular traders there. (fn. 123) In 1969, after the construction of St. Edward's Way, the Market Place was closed to through traffic by sealing its eastern end. (fn. 124)
The Romford corn exchange was opened in 1845 in a converted building adjoining the Golden Lion in High Street. (fn. 125) It was enlarged in 1861. (fn. 126) It was put up for sale in 1924 and was closed soon after. (fn. 127) The corn exchange was used by traders on market days and at other times for public meetings; it was always privately owned. (fn. 128)
The history of the forest is treated under Havering. (fn. 129)