This long wide alley was an alley turned into a road and now back into an alley and passes to the north of a now demolished Tudor mansion in Plaistow.
It runs behind a row of Victorian houses, and to the north of a large park, and that park was formerly the site of Essex House, which used to stand on the eastern end of the park. It was demolished in 1836, but some of the materials were reused in the construction of the nearby Essex Lodge, which is today part used by the park staff and a GP surgery.
It seems that this is around the same time that Barbers Alley was laid out, along with the construction of the row of houses it backs on to. The land to the south was left untouched, probably reserved for housing, but was sold to the local council and turned into a park, Balaam Street Recreation Ground in 1894.
Well, some of it was, as about a third of the land was taken over by a tram garage. It seems that’s also around the time that the footpath was widened and turned into a road, although with barrier posts at the western end it was not a through road, but probably just for access to a school that occupied some of the modern park.
The trams though, they were operated by West Ham Corporation Tramways between 1901 and 1933, when they were nationalised. One of their trams in its distinctive chocolate and cream livery is in the London Transport Museum.
The garage was used for petrol buses for a number of years, but closed in 1992 and was demolished. Today the heritage of the garage lingers on though in the housing that was built on the site around a new street called Routemaster Close.
The alley today has been given a recent make-over, but is still very much an oversized path that fortunately gives easy access to the park so people use it, otherwise it would likely be desolate.
A couple of years ago a series of large murals were painted on the site to try and spruce it up a bit, and on my visit, the mural was serving as a target for young footballers. There is a local community group seeking to make more use of the alley as it is an unusually large paved space in a part of town than lacks a town square of any note.
The western end looks very different thanks to the actions of German bombers who managed to destroy the line of houses here, so we have some very municipal looking council flats instead.
An entrance to the park is here, leading to a recent extension that was added when the school on this site closed down. The park was renamed Plaistow Park in 1999.
What I’ve been unable to find out though… why it was called Barbers Alley in the first place.
Location map and local interesting places
- 5] Crockett's Leathercloth Works War Memorial
- 6] Iron from HMS Warrior
- 7] Minnie Lansbury Memorial Clock
- 8] George Lansbury memorial