Search

Heritage: Romford shopkeeper who helped build Trinity Methodist Church

PUBLISHED: 15:00 27 August 2017

Frederick Westgate was a driving force behind building Mawney Road Methodist church, now known as Trinity Methodist Church. Picture: Ken Mears

Frederick Westgate was a driving force behind building Mawney Road Methodist church, now known as Trinity Methodist Church. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

Businessman Frederick Westgate’s 50 years in Romford made him a rich man, as Prof Ged Martin explains

Frederick Westgate was born in 1839. Son of a Norfolk farmer, he was one of thousands who left the countryside for the growing cities.

The 1861 census records Frederick, aged 22, living near the Elephant and Castle, in a hostel packed with drapers’ assistants. It was probably run by a London store, where the young man was apprenticed.

After marriage to Sarah Maddams in 1866, Frederick launched out for himself. In 1871, the Westgates lived off Romford’s Victoria Road. The first three of their 11 children had already arrived. Only seven would survive childhood.

In 1871, the family could afford to employ a 13-year-old girl as a servant. Somehow, they also squeezed in five shop assistants as lodgers into their Victorian house in Kings Road.

By 1881, the growing family occupied an imposing building at the South Street end of Romford Market. Now a leading Romford shopkeeper, Frederick employed nine staff. There were also 12 young lodgers, 11 of them drapers and one a dressmaker.

Like many shopkeepers, Westgate was a Wesleyan Methodist. Methodists were hard-working and trustworthy teetotallers who formed a handy business network.

Over the years, he “held every office which it was possible to hold” in Romford’s Wesleyan congregation, including 13 years running the Sunday School.

In 1887, Frederick Westgate was a driving force behind building Mawney Road Methodist church. Nowadays it’s awkwardly squeezed alongside Romford’s ring road. His daughter Kate laid a foundation stone on behalf of the family.

Westgate’s prime market location was a mixed blessing. In 1888 he complained about the way it was run. Market day was Wednesday, but the organisers started setting up stalls early on Tuesday, and often did not clear them until Thursday.

Stalls were crammed close to shops, forcing Westgate to rent a space himself to keep his entrance clear.

Itinerant fairground operators were another nuisance. They would set up roundabouts on Thursdays, and churn out raucous music until Saturday.

On Sunday mornings, the fairground people washed themselves in public, “nearly naked”.

Soon after Westgate made a career change, becoming a house agent in Eastern Road. His main business was renting properties (few people purchased in those days) in the fast-growing suburb.

Westgate was also elected to the Local Board of Health, distant forerunner of Havering Council. He clashed with the board’s medical officer, Dr Alfred Wright. Westgate thought Dr Wright was officious and over-zealous.

In October 1893, Romford was hit by an outbreak of scarlet fever, a throat infection especially dangerous to children.

The epidemic was part of wider local public health crisis. Diphtheria was rampant in Hornchurch.

In the first 10 months of 1893, Rainham had 100 cases of diphtheria and scarlet fever. Even the dreaded disease smallpox had appeared.

Dr Wright advised headteachers to close Romford’s schools.

Westgate was furious. Wright was their servant, not their master.

Dr Wright had been “disrespectful” in not consulting the board. Newspaper reports of a town “stricken with a plague of fever” were “most detrimental to the letting of houses”.

Of course, Westgate was wrong. Scarlet fever did not hang around waiting for Romford’s civic leaders to hold meetings. Covering up the crisis would have been irresponsible.

Relocated in Romford’s rising commercial heart, South Street, Westgate’s business flourished. He moved to a large house in Mawney Road (near Palm Road). Sarah died there in 1909.

Soon after, Frederick’s health broke down. A partner now ran the business. His daughter Annie, now a widow, returned to nurse him.

An honoured citizen, Frederick Westgate died in May 1917, during the First World War. One of his sons attended the funeral in uniform.

He left almost £10,000 – worth about £350,000 today. But property prices have risen faster than general inflation, and Frederick had also set up his children with their own houses. Fifty years in Romford had made him a rich man.

Related articles

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Romford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Romford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Romford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Romford News Stories

Now that Brexit is finally getting under way, the Conservative government is keeping its promise to the British people by investing in our NHS.

Yesterday, 14:32

A man who followed a Rainham OAP driver and stole her car and threatened a mum at knifepoint while she was dropping off her children at school in Seven Kings has been handed six years in prison.

Yesterday, 12:00

A man has fractured both his ankles after a 70-year-old mobility scooter driver collided with him in Harold Wood.

Yesterday, 12:00

I saw huge moth and presumed I’d shrunk

Yesterday, 10:08

On Thursday night the Royal Free London NHS Trust held their annual awards ceremony.

Yesterday, 08:00

It’s hard to believe that the nightmare Alan Gowing has been living through for four years is worth just £6,000 compensation.

PROMOTED CONTENT

The next step in renewable energy could be right beneath your feet as you walk through a Romford shopping centre.

There are many reasons people decide to join a gym. Some want to pack on muscle for strength, train for endurance, or lose weight. But did you know it also does wonders for your mental health? Two members at Romford’s Better Gym in the Market Place talk about their personal fitness journey and the importance of replacing bad habits with good ones.

Sean Watson, director at the family-run St Michaels Homes which runs Howard Lodge and Dudbrook Hall, answers the common questions people have about care homes.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now