Heritage: Lockdown cabin fever? Let your imagination take wings in Havering skies

St George's Hospital, Hornchurch. Picture: John Hercock

St George's Hospital, Hornchurch. Picture: John Hercock - Credit: Archant

Maybe there’s an old photo that’s right up your street, says Professor Ged Martin

As you’d guess, the Aerofilms company took photographs from planes. But they weren’t vertical, map-like shots, but snaps taken at fly-around angles.

You can see them on www.britainfromabove.org.uk.

Aerofilms first flew over Romford in 1920. The old courthouse at the west end of the Market is clearly visible. It was swept away in the 1930s.

There were fields near the town centre. Mawney Road and Junction Road stand out, but Marshalls Park was still green space.

Air views of Rainham Creek factories in 1921 glimpse the empty South Hornchurch countryside beyond.

In 1927, Aerofilms buzzed Gidea Park’s original “garden suburb”, built around 1910. The zigzag bend in Heath Drive makes a good marker.

The concrete strip of the newly engineered Eastern Avenue (A12) crosses the background, but there’s no sign of Rise Park.

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Near Gidea Park station, the first houses were under construction in Fairholme Avenue. A short finger of Repton Avenue stuck into the fields, but was blocked by a huge pond. Compton Avenue was a hedgerow. Carlton Road didn’t exist.

In 1934, Aerofilms visited Upminster, flying along Waldegrave Gardens. Rectory Gardens in Cranham looked like a sore thumb shoved between two railway lines, too new for gardens to have softened its outlines.

In 1938, St George’s Hospital in Hornchurch received a visit. Suttons Primary and Sanders School stand in lonely grandeur surrounded by fields.

A search for “Clockhouse Lane” brings up striking airviews of Collier Row in 1948.

In 1951, aerial photographs captured the building of Harold Hill. Straight Road is easily spotted. Gooshays farmhouse, later sadly destroyed by vandals, still presided over the bend in Gooshays Drive.

Builders were working on Hilldene Avenue and North Hill Drive. Harold Wood remained attractively semi-rural.

Rainham examples also include Rainham in Kent, while unluckily Cranham and Wennington films aren’t ours, but showed namesake places elsewhere. Type “Brentwood” in to the East Anglian Film Archive (http://www.eafa.org.uk/search.aspx) and you’ll find footage from Maylands aerodrome, Romford’s proto-Heathrow – near today’s A12/M25 junction.

A pilot sent to film Brentwood’s Selo factory soon got bored, flying to Gallows Corner roundabout after four minutes. It was a square-about in those days, and there was almost no traffic.

Nowadays “picture postcard” describes a pretty place. But sixty years ago, people used postcards like emails today, to send simple messages. (Stamps were cheaper then!) The Francis Frith website (https://www.francisfrith.com/) is packed with surprises. Postcards show (among other places) Rush Green Road, Harwood Avenue in Ardleigh Green and Elm Park’s Warren Drive. Not a thatched cottage in sight! With 230 views of Romford and Hornchurch, your home may there.

There are more than 50 postcards of Rainham, 11 of Ardleigh Green, but only two – delightful Victorian cameos – of Collier Row. Elm Park and Emerson Park are included with Romford and Hornchurch.

Log in and send an e-card to greet your friends. Add a personal email to assure them it’s not a scam.

ArtUK (artuk.org) plans to provide thumbnails of every piece of public art in Britain. The “Romford” hits are pretty random, but they include paintings of Romford Market by Louis Bruhl in 1891, and Edith Garner in 1917. There’s a cheerful portrait of Albert Dyer, a local publican about to call closing time. He was mayor of Romford in 1944-45.

Glance at two local artists. Chadwell Heath painter Henry Glindoni was born plain Glindon, but thought he’d sell more pictures if he sounded Italian. Most of his work is embarrassing – historical scenes of laughing cavaliers and gentlemen in powdered wigs.

But Glindoni painted one attractive landscape, of a hay wagon at Marks Gate windmill in Whalebone Lane North – harvest time in bygone Collier Row.

Alfred Bennett Bamford was born in Eastern Road, Romford in 1857. His 100 Essex scenes are very romanticised – the sun always shines and people hang about without a care in the world. But maybe we need a bit of escapism right now.