What do you get if you cross East Ham with West Ham? Newham of course! Formed of these two former boroughs, Newham is one of the most culturally diverse places in the United Kingdom.
Newham can be divided into the following districts:
- Canning Town
- Custom House
- East Ham
- Forest Gate
- Manor Park
- North Woolwich
- Upton Park
- West Ham
Set in the traditional east end of London, up until the 19th century, Newham mainly consisted of farming communities with little in the way of built up residential areas. In the 1850s, with the creation of the Royal Docks (the largest docks in the world at the time) in its southern border with the Thames, Newham began to flourish as a major industrial centre and people began to flock to the area for the job prospects that were on offer.
Newham’s industrial decline occurred as quickly as industry had started up. With the introduction of mechanisation in the early 20th century, poverty began to take hold in the area. With the First World War, many were fortunate (or unfortunate) to find employment with over 100,000 people from Newham signing up to fight. After the war, people returned home expecting improvement, but were sorely disappointed. Poverty and unemployment still blighted the area.
The Second World War did not see Newham fair much better. The third day of the blitz saw the first bombs rain down in West Ham. Many more were to follow, many of which focused on the Royal Docks which were an important part of the war industry and its supply.
After WWII, the area had lost around a quarter of its homes, and many of its bombed out residents decided not to return. Extensive building did begin to replace the bombed homes, but these were often of poor quality and the infamous council tower blocks started to be built which gained a notorious reputation. It is around this time that immigration from the former colonies began and large numbers of Asians and Afro Caribbean people moved to the area to fill vacant jobs and take up this low quality housing.
The final dip in the rollercoaster of Newham’s history can be seen in the 1980s when containerisation meant that modern ships could not use the docks, and shipping moved to Tilbury further down the Thames. With this final blow, the docks closed, much industry left and the borough was at its worst point.
It is here that the story takes a turn for the better. Over the past few decades, Newham’s fortunes have been rising. In the early 1980s, the London Docklands Development Corporation was tasked with regenerating the derelict docklands. In 1987 the DLR was built offering long needed transport connections to the area. In 1985 the building of Canary Wharf was announced, and built by the early 1990s making the area a financial hub to rival the City of London and offering jobs opportunities to residents of Newham. There was even a shopping centre there for them to spend their hard earned cash! In 1987, London City Airport was built in the middle of Royal Docks which further stimulated industry and commerce. Developers moved in and where factories and warehouses had once stood, luxury apartments now existed.
Development and regeneration is not just seen in the Docklands area of Newham, with the coming of the Olympics in 2012 vast investment has been, and will continue to pour into the borough. In 2009 you will have Stratford International offering Eurostar access to the rest of Europe in just over an hour’s journey time. Stratford City is to be built in preparation for the Olympics offering housing and a huge shopping centre to rival that of Bluewater. Crossrail and various other transport initiatives will make Newham a capital within a capital.
Already a vibrant and cultural place, Newham has a lot to offer. Having a chequered history, in the near future the only way is up as the development money continues to flow into the area and surrounding communities. If you are looking for a place to live or work, it is somewhere I would highly recommend.