Nostalgia: How new developments of the industrial age changed the face of Havering

Cllr Andrew Curtin

Cllr Andrew Curtin - Credit: Archant

The development of the modern economy will form part of the history curriculum at Key Stage 3 from next year.

By 1818 Upminster windmill had a Boulton and Watt steam engine

By 1818 Upminster windmill had a Boulton and Watt steam engine - Credit: Archant

In 1829 the historian Thomas Carlyle said: “We war with rude nature; and, by our restless engines come off always victorious and loaded with spoils.”

Romford Brewery expanded after 1845 after the Liverpool to Manchester railway was opened. Picture Lo

Romford Brewery expanded after 1845 after the Liverpool to Manchester railway was opened. Picture London Borough of Havering Local Studies - Credit: Archant

New developments in machinery and the organisation of production occurred in the late 18th century.

James Watt and Matthew Boulton invented a steam engine that no longer relied on rivers to power it, Richard Trevithick made the steam engine mobile, and Matthew Boulton brought all stages of production together under one roof at his Soho Manufactory in Birmingham. Over the 19th century these innovations spread throughout Britain.

In 1810 the brothers Thomas and Robert Wedlake opened a foundry-making agricultural implements in Billet Lane, Hornchurch. By 1818 Upminster windmill had a Boulton and Watt steam engine. An animation of the engine produced by Cliff Featherston for Friends of Upminster Windmill can be seen on YouTube by searching for “Upminster Steam Mill”, and is embedded here.


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Since the early 18th century coal (essential to the new machines) had been imported to the area via Rainham Wharf.

In the mid-nineteenth century factories began to cluster in Romford. Its strong road links and market facilitated distribution of finished products and delivery of raw materials.

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Romford Gas and Coke Company was founded in 1847. There was a candle factory in South Street in 1846, a comb factory and an iron foundry on St Andrew’s Road and Queen Street by 1852, McCarthy’s mineral water factory in Romford Market was steam powered by 1856, there was a steam mill in Victoria Road by 1858, and Romford Brewery expanded greatly after 1845. In 1839 the railway arrived in Romford just 9 years after the Liverpool to Manchester railway was opened.

Attitudes to industrialisation were mixed. In 1833 one local landowner said: “While machinery had done wonders for the manufactures of the country but little improvement has taken place in the implements used in the cultivation of the soil.” In 1850 the Vicar of St Edward’s Church, Romford, wrote “we all now share in many higher social advantages than our predecessors” including clothing, food and medicine, but in 1849 one of the reasons advanced for rebuilding the church had been the town’s proximity to the “contaminating influence” of “the vast metropolis” which had been worsened by “the opening of the railroad.

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