Heritage: Havering footpaths have a long and winding history

Some Havering footpaths are now busy roads. Many have vanished, some under bricks and mortar, others

Some Havering footpaths are now busy roads. Many have vanished, some under bricks and mortar, others have been forgotten. Photo: Clarence Barrett - Credit: citizenside.com

Historian Prof Ged Martin searches for some lost rights of way

Centuries ago, it wasn’t always easy to tell the difference between a highway and a footpath.

Some Havering footpaths are now busy roads. Many have vanished, some under bricks and mortar, others just forgotten.

Locals doggedly defended rights of way.

In 1591, the Rainham people complained that the landholders of “Jarpines” had destroyed footbridges and closed the footpath leading to North Ockendon, so that Queen Elizabeth I’s loyal subjects “cannot pass as they have ever done heretofore”.

The rehearsal and recording facilities of the Farm Studios now occupy the site of “Jarpines”. The footpath probably survived as Gerpins Lane, although it’s hard to see how it led to North Ockendon.

When Lewis Betts of Collier Row made his will in 1669, he wanted to ensure that his neighbours could get to church in Romford. (The Ascension and Good Shepherd churches hadn’t been built then).

Most Read

Betts was a wealthy gentleman, who owned the Golden Lion, still standing in the centre of Romford.

He left forty shillings (£2) a year to be divided among eight “decayed” husbandmen (elderly farm labourers) from Romford and Collier Row.

He also left twenty shillings (£1) annually for the “reparation” of the footpath from his Collier Row home as far as the “stile going into the lands of Mr. Osbaston” near St Edward’s church.

Henry Osbaldeston owned Mawneys, a mansion that stood near the south end of today’s Mawney Road.

The footpath, or “causeway”, evidently ran along Collier Row Lane and down North Street, probably as far as the ring road, where the stile enabled churchgoers to cut across fields to St Edward’s.

That £1 a year was used to mend the footpath until 1862.

When Havering’s commons were enclosed in 1814, there was an attempt to block a long distance footpath across the fields between Romford and Hornchurch.

It started at “the mill in Hornchurch Lane”. This stood in a field behind The Goose, a South street pub.

When the railway was built in 1839, the embankment obstructed its puff. It was replaced by a steam mill, recalled in Victoria Road’s Old Mill Parade.

The Romford end of the footpath gradually vanished as housing spread towards Park Lane.

After zig-zagging near today’s Hillcrest Avenue, it emerged opposite Abbs Cross Lane.

The petitioners denounced the threatened closure as “the unprovoked oppression of the Rich”.

Hornchurch Road and South Street were major routes to Romford Market, often blocked by herds of cattle. Cattle drovers were notoriously foul-mouthed.

The footpath enabled “the Women & children of the industrious tradesmen to enjoy the benefit of the Air free from the danger and dread of the numerous droves of Cattle & from the greater dread of insults from the drovers”.

Campaigners threatened legal action to defend their rights.

Although they obviously won their case, only one trace of the footpath remains today – the footbridge across the Ravensbourne in the middle of Grey Towers allotments.

Another footpath ran due east from Romford, until it hit Balgores Lane near the modern Gidea Park Library.

When the railway was extended from Romford to Brentwood in 1839-40, this right-of-way was cut in two.

Local magistrates ordered that a new footpath should run alongside the railway, meeting Balgores Lane at the “north-west corner of bridge over railway”. It’s now Carlton Road.

The decree indicated through precise measurements the exact point where the existing path from Romford met the new railway.

The spot, charmingly called The Bogs, must be the slight dip in Carlton Road (hardly noticeable nowadays) east of the junction with Stanley Road.

There must have been a small stream here, long since piped underground. Maybe when the railway embankment was built, this tiny dell flooded. Luckily the ugly name soon disappeared.

I’m sure Havering’s estate agents are pleased they don’t have to sell desirable homes (for it’s a nice part of Romford) with addresses in The Bogs.