Developers change name of housing development after concerns about link to notorious Hornchurch children’s home

The company behind a new housing development in Hornchurch have been forced to change its name after complaints from angry residents.

Bellway Homes have agreed not to call their new development in Elmhurst Lodge in Torrence Avenue, St Leonard’s because of fears that it was a reminder of the notorious children’s home of the same name.

Cllr Barbara Matthews (RA, Hacton), who received complaints from residents said: “I am really pleased that they have made the decision to change the name.

“It’s still living history for a lot of people in Hornchurch but it shows that they really want to be good neighbours.”

Last Friday a sign went up outside of the development, which is just a site away from the former children’s home.

The residents living nearby claimed it brought back a lot of painful memories about the abuse that happened at the home.

Celebrity fitness trainer Paul Connolly, who grew up in St Leonard’s and wrote a book called Against All Odds about his experiences there, said he was inundated with phone calls and messages from concerned residents.

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He said: “I don’t think Bellway were aware of the history.

“I think they were just trying to cash in on the St Lenoard’s Hamlet, but the name St Leonard’s has really bad connotations.”

In 2000, authorities launched operation Mapperton an investigation into the Tower Hamlets run children’s home after many of the former residents killed themselves.

In 2001 former assistant director of social services, magistrate and Labour Havering Councillor Alan Prescott, of Hornchurch was sentenced to two years in prison after admitting indecently assaulting four boys in his care between 1970 and 1980 while he was superintendant at the institute.

William Starling of Norfolk, a colleague and house parent at St Leonard’s was jailed for 14 years for 19 offences including including two rapes and other sexual assualts.

Cllr Matthews said: “A lot of the friends of the victims live in the area and a lot of them are still very upset that they didn’t pick up on what was happening.

“It’s a legacy that people in Hornchurch will always have to live with, but it’s good that they are not going to be constantly reminded of it.”

A spokesman for Bellway Homes said that they were unaware of the history surrounding the area but ‘as a consequence will select an alternative name for the site’