North Street began life as a quiet Romford backwater
- Credit: Archant
Hundreds of people walk up and down it every day know little of its history. Prof Ged Martin looks at the story of North Street
North Street Romford is not Britain’s finest streetscape, but it has some interesting history.
The building of the ring road in 1970 cut the old North Street in two. The southern end is now part of the pedestrian area.
In 1880, a local historian claimed it had once been called Woolford Street, but this can’t be confirmed.
Until the 19th century North Street was Collier Row Lane, still the name for its extension across Eastern Avenue, which was built in the 1920s.
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Compared with High Street and the market, it was a quiet backwater.
Just behind the Golden Lion, the vicarage stood in shady gardens. The vicar moved out in 1909.
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On the west side, now under the ring road roundabout, stood Roger Reede’s almshouses. Founded in 1482 for five poor men, they were built in a field called Joyes Mead, alias Hoo Croft. In 1959, they were relocated to nearby Church Lane, where there are now 38 units.
At the opposite edge of the roundabout was the Congregational church. Critics of the Anglican Church founded a chapel here in 1717 – on the edge of town.
In 1823, the Congregationalists erected a handsome building, with a classical facade. They moved to a larger church in South Street in 1877. In 1909, the old building became the first home of the Romford Recorder. It was demolished around 1934.
Tall trees along the east side of North Street screened Marshalls, one of Romford’s country mansions.
Ornate gates opened on a driveway, now The Avenue. The house was replaced by a school in 1959, but the area had been developed from 1924, with comfortable streets like Havering Drive.
There was still enough spare ground to build Romford’s 12,000-square metre bus station in 1953. One of the district’s earliest – and best – examples of modern architecture, it demonstrates North Street’s role as a local transport hub.
There are stories to three turnings off the west side of North Street. Como Street began in Victorian times as a short cul-de-sac. Sometime around 1900, it was extended to Mawney Road, with impressive terraces along an elegantly wide road.
A glimpse of old Romford, Brooklands Lane led to Stickleback Bridge, a plank footbridge over the Rom.
Opposite the bus garage, Brooklands Approach once gave access to a football and speedway stadium, home of Romford football club (“the Boro”).
One of England’s leading non-League sides, the ambitious Boro invested in a stadium with room for 25,000 spectators as part of a drive to join the Football League.
Automatic promotion into Division 4 (now League 2) only started in 1986. Sadly, the Boro had run into financial trouble a decade earlier, and Brooklands was sold.
You can still see the concrete boundary walls among the light industry.
At a 1953 cup tie, 18,000 fans had streamed along Brooklands Approach – Romford’s Wembley Way!
Boutiques and restaurants avoided North Street, because the Rom was liable to flood.
In 1975, buses ploughed through water a foot deep.
Remedial work has eased the flow, but as the Rom runs through culverts in the town centre, there’s still a danger of flooding upstream during heavy rain.
Once a country lane leading to Collier Row, nowadays North Street is the link between downtown Romford and the A12.