Heritage: Manor Park station the result of a pompous petition

Manor Park station

Manor Park station - Credit: Archant

Following the first article last week, Prof Ged Martin continues to explore the history of stations along the line to Liverpool Street

Opened in 1839, Stratford has seen many changes. There was a major reorientation of platforms when the Central Line interchange opened in October 1946.

The station was rebuilt in the 1990s to integrate Liverpool Street services with the Docklands Light Railway and Jubilee Line. Architects love it; passengers are just keen to get away.

Maryland is a double mystery. Why is part of London apparently named after somewhere in the United States? Usually it’s the other way round!

And why is there a station here at all, just around the corner from Stratford?

Maryland Point (as the station was called until 1940) first appeared on a map of 1696. In 1768, it was reported that the “cluster of houses” here had been built by a merchant, who’d made his fortune in the American colony of Maryland.

This may refer to Richard Lee, a London tobacco dealer who lived for a time in Virginia. He returned to England in 1658, leaving a son to run his plantations. Robert E. Lee, the Southern general during the Civil War, was a descendant.

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Richard Lee bought property around Stratford, and lived somewhere nearby. But the link can’t be proved. Anyway, Lee’s estates were mostly in Virginia.

At Kelvedon in Essex, a farm called Marylands probably owes its name to an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a boundary. This may also be true of Maryland Point, which was close to West Ham’s northern border. Perhaps the apparent link with the USA is accidental.

Nobody knows why Maryland Station opened in 1873. Maybe it aimed to serve West Ham’s workhouse (later Langthorne Hospital, closed in 1992), about a mile north. In 1864, it had opened a general “infirmary”.

Perhaps the station was a favour to local resident, retired civil servant Sir Antonio Brady. His son was rector of Wennington.

Nowadays, street access is difficult, and there’s no room for platform extension. Crossrail wanted to close Maryland, but Newham Council campaigned to save it.

Forest Gate Station first opened in 1840, closed in 1843, and reopened in 1846. The open space of Wanstead Flats, half a mile north, is part of Epping Forest.

It’s said the station took its name from a gate preventing cattle from straying off the Flats.

Manor Park originated from a pompous petition of 1871 to the Great Eastern Railway from residents of Little Ilford, a hamlet across the River Roding from Ilford proper.

Promising to “use your Railway if favourable facilities were offered”, the signatories explained they were important people with “business transactions which call them frequently to and from London”.

Existing stops at Forest Gate and Ilford were inconvenient. The owners of plots near the proposed station “would deal liberally with you for the sake thereof”.

Essex had a county prison at Little Ilford. Criminals could be moved by train to and from court appearances.

But the petitioners’ clinching argument was the nearby City of London Cemetery, opened in 1854. With 140 burials every week, its funeral trade would be “a source of large and progressive traffic to the said Station”.

After such a fawning petition, “The Chairman and Honourable Directors of the Great Eastern Railway Company” could hardly refuse. The station opened in 1872.

But calling it “Little Ilford” would cause confusion.

The City of London Cemetery occupied the former Aldersbrook Manor. A local mansion was called Manor House.

Hence the invented name, “Manor Park”. Although a bit twee, it sounded a nice place to live, and the suburb grew.

The gaol closed in 1878, and was soon demolished. So much for long-term planning!

The original Manor Park Station was rebuilt in 1893-4.

There’s still a Little Ilford Lane about a mile east of Manor Park Station. It’s so narrow, it’s a one-way street.