Forest Gate

Forest Gate, Newham

A truly multicultural district, with no single ethnic group constituting a majority, situated east of Stratford

Forest Gate station CGI

Here was an entrance to Epping For­est, of which the near­by Wanstead Flats are still con­sid­ered a part.

Dr John Fothergill estab­lished the exten­sive Ham House estate (as it was lat­er called) from the ear­ly 1760s, fill­ing the house and its gar­dens with 3,400 species of trop­i­cal plants. The Quak­er phil­an­thropist Samuel Gur­ney acquired the estate in 1812.

For­est Gate sta­tion opened on the East­ern Coun­ties Rail­way in 1841, an excep­tion­al­ly ear­ly date for such a back­wa­ter, and an absence of pas­sen­gers brought about its clo­sure for two years from 1844.

The Ham House estate was bro­ken up and sold to devel­op­ers in 1852. The land was filled by the West Ham and Jew­ish ceme­ter­ies, the For­est Gate indus­tri­al school, the Gur­ney estate of sub­stan­tial, mid­dle-class hous­ing and some less­er streets of arti­sans’ dwellings.

Carved relief of Henry VIII adorning the former Eagle & Child public house, adapted from an original photograph, copyright Julian Osley
Carved relief of Hen­ry VIII adorn­ing the for­mer Eagle and Child pub­lic house*

South of Rom­ford Road, com­pact ter­raced hous­es were built for clerks and skilled work­ers. Shops opened on Wood­grange Road, Upton Lane and Rom­ford Road. Dur­ing the remain­der of the cen­tu­ry an expand­ing net­work of rail and tram ser­vices drew day-trip­pers to Wanstead Flats and the Eagle and Child tea gar­dens became a pop­u­lar resort.

The Eagle and Child was rebuilt in its present form c.1896, with five whim­si­cal wood­en reliefs added lat­er, includ­ing the one shown in the small pic­ture. The pub has since been con­vert­ed to flats upstairs, with Wood­grange Phar­ma­cy occu­py­ing the ground floor.

For­est Gate School must have seemed cursed in the last quar­ter of the cen­tu­ry when more than 40 pupils died in three sep­a­rate inci­dents. The school lat­er became a hos­pi­tal and its site is now occu­pied by hous­ing and a small park.

In the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry church­es and asso­ci­at­ed schools were built, includ­ing sev­er­al Roman Catholic insti­tu­tions.

Most of For­est Gate’s Vic­to­ri­an hous­ing has sur­vived intact, although devel­op­ers have recent­ly been tak­ing every oppor­tu­ni­ty to squeeze in new units. There is a small hotel zone oppo­site For­est Gate police sta­tion.

From Decem­ber 2019, or when­ev­er the Eliz­a­beth line final­ly opens, pas­sen­gers will be able to trav­el from For­est Gate through cen­tral Lon­don with­out hav­ing to change trains. The sta­tion and its neigh­bour­ing pub­lic realm are ben­e­fit­ting from var­i­ous enhance­ments, hope­ful­ly cre­at­ing a vista some­thing like the Cross­rail CGI shown at the top of this arti­cle.

North of the rail­way line the largest minor­i­ty is white, fol­lowed by Asian or Asian British, of which the main sub-group is of Bangladeshi descent, and then black or black British. To the south, the Asian com­mu­ni­ty is larg­er and more even­ly split between those of Bangladeshi, Indi­an and Pak­istani descent. Chris­tian­i­ty and Islam are the prin­ci­pal reli­gions and places of wor­ship have been built, or con­vert­ed, for the minor­i­ty reli­gions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Forest Gate in 1966 and stayed here for over two years, sleeping on the couch at Wag and Dianne Bennett’s house in Romford Road and training as a bodybuilder at the gym they ran.

Postal district: E7
Population: 33,619 (Forest Gate North and Forest Gate South wards, 2011 census)
Stations: TfL Rail (Forest Gate, zone 3); London Overground (Wanstead Park, zone 3)
Further reading: Dorcas Saunders, Forest Gate, Tempus, 1994
* The picture of the wooden carved relief of Henry VIII, Forest Gate, on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Julian Osley, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.