Knocked ‘im in the Old Ford Road (well, nearly)

In an idle moment I decided to have a look at some old maps, census records etc. and see if I could find the location of Woodland Cottage, the residence in Old Ford, east London, where Archibald Richardson breathed his last.

According to the report of an inquest into Archie’s death, on Monday 12 October 1846 he ‘sat down to dinner with his family. After partaking of some boiled beef, he suddenly exclaimed, “I am gone,” and fell back and expired.’

Old Ford in about 1862 - possible site of Woodland Cottage circled.

Old Ford in about 1862 – possible site of Woodland Cottage circled.

The inquest report gives Archibald’s address as Woodland Cottage, Old Ford. Meanwhile his burial certificate gives his address as Wick Lane, Old Ford (he was buried in Tower Hamlets cemetery … hmm, better look for his grave sometime I suppose). So a process of deduction leads me to suppose that Woodland Cottage was in Wick Lane. And this is confirmed by the 1851 census, which lists Woodland Cottage somewhere between the Wick Lane Lock (on the present-day Hertford Union Canal – then apparently called Sir George Duckett’s Canal) and a terrace of houses called Eliza Place. Not far away, at the junction of Wick Lane and Old Ford Road, was  the White Hart public house, where Archie’s inquest was held.

Old Ford Road at the junction with Wick Lane, some time around the middle of the 19th century. The White Hart is the building on the left side of the road, just beyond the junction.

Old Ford Road at the junction with Wick Lane, some time around the middle of the 19th century. The White Hart is the building on the left side of the road, just beyond the junction.

I found a map dating from 1862 which shows Eliza Place. There are not many buildings marked on the map, so it’s a reasonable guess that the only isolated house between the lock and Eliza Place might be Woodland Cottage.

I will probably have a look round what’s left of Wick Lane sometime soon, but I’m not expecting to find any trace of Woodland Cottage. The site is right next to the Olympic Park, but development of the area (including the construction of the A12) has probably done away with anything old that was ever there. The White Hart, I suspect, is gone from Old Ford Road, so I won’t even be able to have a pint there to toast Archie’s memory.

The rough site of Woodland Cottage on a modern map

The rough site of Woodland Cottage on a modern map

13 Responses to “Knocked ‘im in the Old Ford Road (well, nearly)”

  1. Lucy says:

    I’ll come with you when you go to have a look round. When shall we go?

  2. rpkemp says:

    I don’t know … any time that suits you.

  3. Lucy says:

    Well if it was a Tue or Wed we’d have to drag old Ciaran along, but I don’t mind. You probably have more commitments than me, so you pick. I can pretty much do any day.

  4. Will Kemp says:

    Judging from the satellite image, it doesn’t look like there’d be very much to see. A Buildbase warehouse is right on top of that site now by the looks of it.

  5. Will Kemp says:

    And, of course, not only has the White Hart gone, but Old Ford Road has gone too – from that side of the A12, anyway. The tail’s called Crown Close now.

  6. rpkemp says:

    Should have gone 100 years ago. But I can still look for Archie’s grave, know I know the cemetery he’s supposed to be in. It might even be marked! Probably not though.

  7. Will Kemp says:

    I lived almost exactly a mile away from that spot (as the crow flies) in 1982 – on Kingsmead estate, on the edge of Hackney Marshes. I wish i’d known the old bloke had lived just down the road then – i would have walked down there and had a look. The area probably would have been a bit more like it was in his day then!

  8. Will Kemp says:

    The cemetery map might even be online by now. And Archie must have had a few bob, not like our farm labourer ancestors, so there should be a monument of some sort.

  9. Will Kemp says:

    If you have a look at Google Earth, and enable historical imagery (“View” menu), you find there’s (incredibly) an image from 1945. It looks like that house was still standing when that photo was taken!

  10. rpkemp says:

    That’s amazing. There are probably postcards with it on, in that case. I foresee many hours of wasted time looking for old pictures etc.

    Archibald appears in the electoral register for 1845 at Wick Lane, Old Ford, qualified by being a householder – in those days (post-1832) you had to be a householder owning property valued at £10 or over. So he probably was reasonably well off & might well have a gravestone. There seems to be some digitization of cemetery records for Tower Hamlets but it’s either off line at the moment or suspended I think. Might have to go to the London Metropolitan Archives in person.

  11. rpkemp says:

    Actually, I think the building that appears on the historic image might be part of Eliza Place, rather than Woodland Cottage.

  12. Will Kemp says:

    Ha ha! Good luck! It’s incredible how much of this stuff is kicking around on the web nowadays!

  13. Will Kemp says:

    Yeah, you may be right about that. It’s tricky comparing that map and the photo, but it looks just a little bit closer to the sewer embankment than the house you’ve circled on the map.

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