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Remembering Stratford’s Lost Industries

September 26, 2017
by the gentle author

Too often when the story of the Queen Elizabeth Park – site of the 2012 Olympics – is told, the place is referred to as a former ‘wasteland’ prior to the ‘regeneration’ that we see today. Yet the truth is that this was once the location of hundreds of thriving local industries, many established over generations. Most of these premises were compulsorily purchased and demolished by the Olympic Authority, and a great proportion of these businesses closed down with a consequent loss of employment, skills and community, all for the sake of three weeks of sports events.

I have selected this gallery of dignified portraits from DISPERSAL, Picturing urban change in East London by Marion Davies, Juliet Davies & Debra Rapp which is published today, documenting these important industries and asserting the existence of this ‘lost’ manufacturing district in Stratford that has been conveniently marginalised from history in less than a decade.

Engineer Joe Mahari with a stator at Dowding & Mills, an electro-mechanical company founded in 1913 and established in White Post Lane over forty years but closed in Hackney Wick in 2010.

Brian Paverley finishing a stained glass panel at Goddard & Gibbs Studios Ltd, established in 1868. They did work for Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal at St James Palace, moved to Cooks Rd in 2001 but closed down when the Olympics arrived.

Tim Bird at New Image Upholstery. Tim ra the company with his wife Valerie since the mid-nineties but decided not to renew the lease due a rent increase at the time of the Olympics and they closed down the company.

Ahmed Rafik checking glass firing at the kiln at Bowdens Glass Ltd. This company specialising in curved glass had been established on this site since before the 1820s but closed in 2007.

Mandeep Sandhu  in the milk store at Capital Dairy. Established in Bishopsgate, the dairy moved to Carpenters Rd in 1993 and then to Barking in 2007.

Paul Alexander adding ink to a printing duct at Club Le Print Ltd. This printing business was established for twenty-three years in King’s Yard but moved out to Thurrock in 2007.

Harry West, rag trade waste and textile merchant, at A&S Trading Company, set up by grandfather in the forties by dismantling Anderson shelters. He moved to Stratford in 2001 and was forced out by the Olympics but now trades from Epping and has weekly market stall in Hackney.

In the cold store at H.Forman & Sons, Salmon Smokers. Formans were first established in the East End in 1905. They moved to Stratford in 2002 and moved again to Hackney Wick in 2006 when they were displaced.

Jenny Mann owned the Golden Dragon take-away in Barking and ran a mobile catering van offering congee, rice and noodles until she sold up in 2011.

Waheed Rahman owner at Jay J Autos Ltd traded for ten years offering recycled spare car parts and repair work, until 2007 when he moved to South Woodford but the cost of relocation caused his company to close in 2013.

Mechanics Ghazansar Hussain & Jamshed Khan at Jay J Autos Ltd

Amerjeet &  Gurdeep Singh at Lucky Wholesale Company, established by their father who worked as a door-to-door salesman in 1955 when he arrived from Delhi. Beginning in Shepherds Bush Market, they were in Aldgate East for thirty years, before moving to Straford in 2001. Before the Olympics, the brothers closed down the company and retired.

Erdal Oyak (centre), son Kozan and Uncle Andy at M&M Taxis

Seamstress checks coats made for Hackett at the finishing station at Panache Outerwear Ltd in Marshgate Lane. They were forced out from their factory by the Olympics but continue to operate from another location nearby.

Steve Goodchild, Transport Manager at Parkes Galvanising Ltd, established in Marshgate Lane since the fifties but closed in 2007

Cutting cloth at Panache Outwear Ltd

Pentaluck Ltd, wholesale dealers in Chinese vegetables, was established by Chin Check in Camberwell in 1991, moved to Waterden Rd in 2001 and then to Leyton in 2007.

Martin Walrand packing boxes at Tyrone Textiles Ltd in Marsgate Lane. Founded in 1978, this family-owned wholesale cloth business was in Stratford for seventeen years before moving to Enfield in 2007

Bradlee Priest cutting bracket feet at Priest Brothers. Established by his grandfather Ron Priest in the fifties in Bethnal Green, they relocated to Marshgate Lane in 2000 and moved to Chelmsford in 2007

Bow Tyres occupied a site that had opened as a car mechanic in 1917 under the name W J Cearns

Photographs copyright © Debra Rapp

Click here to buy a copy of DISPERSAL, Picturing urban change in East London published by Historic England. Spitalfields Life readers get 20% discount by entering code DISPSL17

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. September 26, 2017

    Sorry that so many lost their livelihoods, and that the powers that be sacrificed so much and so many in the name of greed and prestige, disguised with sport.

  2. September 26, 2017

    So many London entrepreneurial enterprises have closed down along with their expertise as shown here, a natural progression for many however others will rise up, technology and comps will help a new breed of start up people I am sure. Poet John

  3. Dean Armond permalink
    September 26, 2017

    Wonderful memories of all the small businesses that provided jobs and opportunity only to be swept away and replaced by corporates and chain stores, thank you for keeping their memory alive!

  4. Helen Breen permalink
    September 26, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, what a sad story – to lose such a variety of enterprises for such a short term event. Does any city throughout the world ever profit by these Olympics extravaganzas?

    After a great deal of contention in Boston in 2014, the city withdrew its bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Nobody that I know regrets the decision…

  5. Peter permalink
    September 26, 2017

    Back in 2005 I took 100 pictures of Hackney Wick (the old bit now the Park) the Saturday before it closed. Never done anything with them. To be fair they aren’t the greatest but then they are worth preserving I feel. Any ideas out there?

  6. Margaret permalink
    September 26, 2017

    I thought the Olympics were supposed to help businesses not force them to close because of the higher rents demanded of their workshops and shops. How sad.

  7. Marcia Howard permalink
    September 26, 2017

    What a fascinating insight into all the independent traders, craftsmen, and industries in the area. Very sad though to hear of the casualties caused by the 2012 Olympics, and yes, I think the majority who didn’t live in the area were certainly misled by what we were being told about the area being a ‘wasteland’. I just hope those with workshops etc. were given a lucrative reward, although concerned about the related number of employees who would have also lost their jobs. Thank you for sharing the story, and showing such wonderful images.

  8. Jonathan permalink
    September 29, 2017

    The reality of the London Olympics is more complex than . Forman’s owner has been outspoken in his criticism of the Olympics but had suffered greatly before the Games arrived with flooding from the River Lea and a fire – neither of which were due to the Olympics – and used the opportunity to get a better location, overlooking the Olympic Stadium. The regeneration of the area has also enticed in several new independent businesses, benefiting from upgraded infrastructure as a result of the Olympic investment. These include both small scale manufacturers, such as a microbrewery and food companies, and tech start-ups, employing skilled workers. It has also attracted a life to the area with new restaurants and bars.

  9. peter mcmanus permalink
    October 7, 2017

    the first picture of worker at dowding and mills working on a stator is me not joe mehari joe worked in laythe shop next door. in 2010 dowding and mills became sulzer but shut down in june 2015

  10. Robert Land permalink
    June 29, 2018

    An interesting post. Stratford was full of small firms, most of which are now gone and largely forgotten. Spittles Engineering, The International Refining Co and Macleans Printed Packaging are three that I worked for.

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