West Ham

"West Ham" is a location which frequently causes confusion to those starting to look at history in the area as it is the name of a village which became a Metropolitan Borough in 1886, a Poor Law union, and a Registration District.
In 1889 the borough was large enough in terms of population to become a County Borough and a local board of health was formed in 1856
In 1840 the parish was included in the Metropolitan Police District
The parish of West Ham was divided into three wards, Church Street, containing the village of West Ham, Upton, Forest Gate, and Canning Town; Stratford and Maryland Point; Plaistow containing the village of Plaistow, Hallsville, and Silvertown.

The most enduring use of label "West Ham" is from the registration district, which existed up to 1967. The name comes from the West Ham Poor Law Union (see below). Thus births, marriages, and deaths registered in Leyton and Walthamstow from 1837 to 1965 show as being registered in "West Ham", being the registration district, not the parish.

Cemeteries & Grave yards.

The proximity of several cemeteries to Leyton, Leytonstone, and Cann Hall makes them possible places of burial for residents of that area, as does the location of the union workhouse in the parish.
  • West Ham Cemetery at Forest Gate opened 1857 by the burial board. 13 acres. 2/3 conc 1858. 2 chapels. later 22 acres. West Ham Board of Health and Burial Board, established in 1856, had juristiction. The board was disolved in 1901 and the cemeteryresponsibility taken over by the borough council. Records may be found on deceased online, but the original grave and burial registers are held at the cemetery
  • West Ham Jewish cemetery opened 1858
  • The City of London Cemetery at Aldersbrook, was opened in 1856 by the City of London Corporation. The first Crematorium was opened in 1904, with a new one being opened in 1971.
  • Woodgrange Park Cemetery at East Ham, was created in 1889 by the Tottenham Park Cemetery Company. See also FoWPC
  • Manor Park Cemetery opened in 1875 at Forest Gate
  • The East London Cemetery opened in 1872 at Plaistow and covers 33 acres.


West Ham was a member of the Becontree hundred of Essex


Poor Houses & Poor law

The Poor Law Union, formed in May 1836 under the poor Law Ammendment act 1834, comprised the parishes of East Ham, West Ham, Little Ilford, Leyton, Walthamstow, Wanstead, and Woodford. In a rapidly changing area there were tensions over where where most money came from and where it was most spent. By 1872 the strains on the Union were such that it was having difficulty in accomodating the poor in its workhouse, despite having enlarged it several times. It appeared that West Ham had most of the needs but that the other parishes in the Union were paying for them. An attempt was made to split West Ham and East Ham off from the rest of the union but this did not succeed.

The West Ham Union Workhouse was built at Leytonstone in 1840. It was specified for 500 paupers. By the 1860s it had room for about 700 paupers, and it had a chapel. In 1901 there were over 1700 inmates.
Further details can be found on www.workhouses.org.uk
Book: Essex Workhouses by John Drury gives a useful introduction to the union workhouses and their parish predecesors.

In 1894 the West Ham Union opened an infirmary on the Forest House estate at Whipps Cross which it had purchased. This was known as the Forest House Annexe, and was used until a new infirmary could be built.

In 1900, the West Ham Union established a Convalescent Home in Northumberland Road, Margate, with capacity for 150 patients.

In 1903 a new West Ham Union infirmary opened at Whipps Cross. it had 672 beds in 24 wards in four blocks. The infirmary became Whipps Cross hospital.

In 1906 the Guardians removed all the children from the workhouse and lodged them at houses in the area. In 1907 the Guardians purchased a site at Aldersbrook and built five receiving homes there. When the 1929 Local Government Act abolished Poor Law Unions in 1930, the Aldersbrook homes were transferred to East Ham as the local government unit with administration most able to manage them.

Around 1912 the West Ham Union acquired the buildings of the Forest Gate Hospital from the Poplar Union, and opened it as the Forest Gate Sick Home. An increasing number of maternity patients were also admitted. In 1929 it was transferred to the West Ham Public Assistance Committee.

In 1930 control of the workhouse passed to West Ham Borough Council and it became Central Home, Leytonstone, a home for the chronically sick, the aged and infirm. In 1948 it became Langthorne Hospital under the NHS. From 1948 the Aldersbrook childrens home appears less active with youngsters being admitted to Central Home (Langthorne Hospital) with their mothers.

WFFHS has transcribed the surviving women's Registers of Inmates for the Central Home, Leytonstone, 1929 - 1939 and 1940 - 1960. Registers for male inmates have been lost.

  • Guardian minute books and records generally for the West Ham Union are held by Newham Archives.
  • Plans relating to the workhouse are held by Waltham Forest Archives
  • The specification for the infirmary at Forest House (later Whipps Cross Hospital) and administrative records are held by the Barts Health Trust Archives
  • Most records for the Forest Gate Sick Home and later Maternity Hospital (1913-1976) are held by the Barts Health Trust Archives Some information may be found in the West Ham Board of Guardians and West Ham County Borough minutes (at Newham Local Studies Library)
  • Records of West Ham Union Relieving Officers can be found in the National Archives MH68/79. Correspondance with the local Government Board and predecessors is in MH12/3769-3836, possibly including vaccination and school attendance returns, employment and neglect/ill treatment cases. Workhouse staff registers should be in MH9/18/663 and MH9/20/200 (1837-1921)


  • Gas: The West Ham Gas Company was established in 1846 and supplied West Ham, Woodford, Snaresbrook, etc.. In 1912 it was absorbed by the Gas Light and Coke Company.


Trams East Ham was the first local authority in the area to run an electruc tramway. It opened in 1901, and was followed by West Ham in 1904. In 1909 West Ham connected to the London County Council system at Bow Bridge and the Leyton system at Bakers Arms.