Self-isolating in Havering? Get online and explore the history of your neighbourhood

Once large parts of Havering were covered in marshes like this at Rainham. Picture: Paul Bennett

Once large parts of Havering were covered in marshes like this at Rainham. Picture: Paul Bennett - Credit: Archant

Professor Ged Martin suggests how to find out what your area looked like in days gone by.

If you’re stuck at home, why not research how your neighbourhood looked in olden times? There’s an amazing amount of information on the internet. With simple computer skills, you can bring old maps to life.

Start with the first detailed atlas of Essex (which, until 1965, included Havering).

The work of mapmakers Chapman and André, it was published in 1777. Romford was called Rumford, and Gallows Corner still had a gallows (it even has some dangling criminals sketched in).

There were large areas of common land across northern Havering, and squelchy marshes alongside the Thames. Most of Havering’s modern-day main roads were country lanes. It’s on

The first Ordnance Survey maps of Essex were made to help the Army resist the threatened invasion by Napoleon in 1805. The scale was one inch to the mile, but you can zoom in to see more detail.

Go to, click on “Maps” at the bottom left of the home page, and search the 1:10,560 series.

When the one-inch map was republished in 1843, Havering was at the corner of four sheets, so you need different keywords – Brentwood, Upminster and so on – to get the right one.

The versions now online were updated around 1870, showing railways running to Romford and Rainham, but not to Hornchurch or Upminster, which only got their train service in the 1880s. The commons have been enclosed, the gallows has gone, but the marshes still look muddy.

Switch now to, the website of the National Library of Scotland, one of five UK institutions entitled to free copies of everything published in Britain. That’s how a library in Edinburgh has so many maps of Essex. Thanks to a generous and tech-savvy programme, Scotland’s National Library has made them available online.

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From about 1860, the Ordnance Survey re-mapped Britain, at a highly detailed 25 inches to the mile. These maps show individual buildings in some detail. Zoom into a world where there was a plant nursery on the site of Frances Bardsley School, and a huge rifle range alongside the Ingrebourne at Rainham.

Best of all is the side-by-side geo-referencing option: the original map, alongside a satellite view of today’s suburbs. Point the cursor at your house (oh yes, satellites have spotted you!) and the exact point on the old map will pop up too.

The developers who built modern Havering ripped out most of the landmarks. But there are places where you can trace the bendy line of an old hedgerow at the bottom of modern gardens.

In 1836, Parliament allowed tithes – a tax levied by the Church – to be paid in cash. Tithe maps were made of most parishes to show who owned which fields.

The Essex Place-Names project has put many online at

Unluckily, there’s no tithe map for Collier Row and Harold Hill. But Cranham, Hornchurch, Rainham, Upminster and Wennington are all available.

The tithe maps name individual fields. Some are disappointingly boring – Five Acres, Ten Acres. But Turnspit Field, on the corner of South Street and Brentwood Road, sounds like Romford’s fun barbecue spot. And what was wrong with Mouldy Piece – somewhere off Suttons Lane in Hornchurch?

There’s a similar map of Hornchurch and south Romford, dating from 1812, on the Havering Libraries online catalogue. Search for PA/MAPS/1.1, and sample through the “calmview” images listed at the foot of the entry. The segments are a bit awkward, but the mega-zoom is terrific.

The Essex Record Office Seax website has a humdinger coloured map showing the fields north of the A12 near Harold Hill in 1633. You’ll need to log in (free) to see it in detail.

Havering Libraries Local Studies section has a detailed map of downtown Romford from 1853. It’s on:

In 1812 there was a field in Romford called “Nova Scotia”. Probably a joke name, it’s now Western Road. Maybe you’ll find a similar gem near you!