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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): LMA/4220
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1894-1966
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 0.3 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Engineer's Department | West Ham Borough Council


Administrative/Biographical history:

The municipal borough of West Ham, formed in 1886, was divided into four wards, with a council comprising 36 councillors and 12 aldermen. It became a county borough in 1889 under the Local Government Act, 1888. The number of wards was increased to 12 in 1899, and to 16 in 1922, when the council was also enlarged to 48 councillors and 16 aldermen. Of the chief officers taken over by the borough council from the local board in 1886 only the engineer, Lewis Angell, was serving full-time. His department included his nephew John Morley, and John Angell, probably his son. When Lewis Angell was dismissed in 1899, as described below, John Angell left also, but Morley succeeded his uncle, and served until 1924.

In 1888 the council carried out several building projects, having obtained powers to widen several main streets and to issue loan stock. A new public hall, opened in 1894, was built at Canning Town. The West Ham Corporation Act, 1893, provided at last for the town's sewage to be admitted to the northern outfall sewer. The necessary scheme was carried out in 1897-1901. By 1898 the council had also built two public libraries and a technical institute, had started building mental and smallpox hospitals, opened two recreation grounds, put in hand an electricity and tramway undertaking, and was planning public baths, council houses, and an isolation hospital.

In 1897 the Socialists and some of the Progressives on the council formed a Labour group with a policy including, among other things, the establishment of a works department. At the election of 1898 this group, with 29 seats, won control. The new council proceeded vigorously with the schemes for the baths, council houses, hospitals, the electricity undertaking, tramways, and sewage disposal already started or planned. Its most controversial measure was to set up an independent works department, which brought it into collision with the aged borough engineer, Lewis Angell, who had held office for 32 years. He had already fought one successful battle against an independent works department. That had been set up in 1894, but its manager proved ineffective, and in 1896 Angell forced his resignation and annexed his department. In 1899, when the Labour council decided to re-establish the works department, Angell bitterly resisted the proposal and was dismissed. The works department, under a new manager, was given the task of building, by direct labour, the new isolation hospital at Plaistow.

In the period 1919-1940 the Council erected some 1,200 dwellings, mainly under slum clearance schemes, in which its record was second only to that of Bermondsey among the boroughs in Greater London. Two major engineering works were undertaken. Silvertown Way, by a viaduct and bridge, carried a new arterial road from Canning Town to the docks over railways and the dock entrance. In the north of the borough a joint scheme was carried out for widening High Street from Bow Bridge to Stratford Broadway, and, with the Lee conservancy board, for the improvement and flood relief of the river and its branches. Large indoor baths were built in Romford Road, open air baths at Canning Town, and a number of new schools.

The West Ham area was heavily bombed during the Second World War. This damage made it possible to undertake large-scale redevelopment, especially in the south of the borough, and between 1945 and 1965 the council built over 9,500 dwellings, of which 8,000 were permanent. Public buildings completed since 1945 included a new fire station, new municipal offices in the Grove, Stratford (1960), two libraries, a health centre, a junior training centre, and a youth centre, as well as several schools. Under the London Government Act, 1963, West Ham became part of the London borough of Newham.

From: 'West Ham: Local government and public services', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 96-112 (available online).


Scope and content/abstract:

Plans made by the Engineer's Department, West Ham Borough Council, 1894-1966. The collection includes building plans, site plans, proposals for projects and Ordnance Survey maps. The maps have been amended by the engineers to show proposals or extent of works. The proposals include swimming pools, recreation grounds, public baths, sewers, new roads and unemployment relief works. There is a large amount of material relating to Whipps Cross Hospital, including contract plans. A detailed index of the plans can be found in hard copy at the LMA Information Area.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

A attempt was made to restore the plans to their original order using printed registry numbers found on the plans.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Given to the LMA by an archaeological survey company which found them in the course of its work (B98/069).

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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