Historic Stratford, London

Stratford has a long and illustrious history dating as far back as Roman times, when Stratford lay next to a ford on the Roman road from Colchester to London. It’s even mentioned in the Domesday Book. But how did it become the place it is today?

History of Stratford, London

Originally in a rural area, Stratford became a centre for livestock coming from surrounding areas for slaughter. As corn from the mills on Stratford Marsh was easily accessible, Stratford became known for baking bread, with one of the mills giving its name to Pudding Mill Lane.

The arrival of transport links to Stratford ushered in the industrial revolution, slowly and inexorably changing the area from agriculture to one of industry.
The improved connections meant that industry was able to move outside London, and Stratford was a prime location. Engineering, dye makers, printers and coal industries arrived.

Eastern Counties Railways opened its locomotive works in 1847, forming Stratford New Town with its newly built workers’ housing. A mix of new factories and houses continued to spring up in the decades leading up to the end of the 19th century.

With the creation of the new borough of Newham in 1965, Stratford became the centre of local government for the area. Development continued during the 20th century, with more considered improvements undertaken in the 21st century.

From the cultural quarter’s Theatre Royal Stratford East to Stratford East Picturehouse, to the successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, it’s clear that Stratford is now a thriving metropolitan area.

Stratford is a place where impressive new residential developments mix with excellent sporting facilities. The transformation of the lower Lea Valley and the birth of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park have contributed to placing Stratford firmly on the map, creating a strong foundation for growth and prosperity for many years to come.

Facts about Stratford, London

Did you know…

  • The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was born in Stratford in 1844. Famous for introducing new writing rhythms to poetry, he influenced later poets such as Dylan Thomas and W.H. Auden. He died of typhus in 1889.
  • We may all know it as the Lee Valley Velopark, but only man-made additions to the valley are spelled as Lee, including the canal. All references to natural elements are spelt as Lea, such as the river and the Lower Lea Valley.
  • Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has had more than 16 million visits to the Park since its creation.
  • Stratford’s property values saw some of the biggest increases in all of London in the early 21st century.
  • The Church of St. John the Evangelist has a memorial to the Stratford Martyrs. All 13 martyrs were burned at the stake by Queen Mary because of their religious beliefs.
  • The same church’s crypt was used as an air raid shelter during World War II to protect the local community.
  • During the 19th century, the match manufacturer, Bryant and May, was one of the main employers in Bow in the East End of London.
  • The ArcelorMittal Orbit in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is Britain’s largest piece of public art, standing at 114 metres tall.
  • The Abbey Mills Pumping Station in Abbey Lane was built in 1868 as part of the new London sewerage system. An example of Italian Gothic Revival architecture, the building was used as a lunatic asylum in the movie Batman Begins in 2005.