The land where Stoneford Cottage was later constructed was once known as Dagenham Beam Field and is illustrated on the plan of Spurrell’s Farm, dated 1790. It was Beam Lands in 1806. The origin of these field names is from the nearby Beam River.
The Tithe Map & Award of 1841 gives us a glimpse into its land use prior to the cottage’s construction. It was then designated for arable crops, still being called Beam Land, and is numbered plot 1662, which comprised of 2.92 acres. It was owned by Sarah Stone, who was a minor Dagenham property-owner of around 8 acres in total. She had leased Beam Land out and it was in occupation of James Kittle.
These tithe documents enable us to identify this piece of land in the early to mid-19th century. It lay on the Dagenham to Rainham road, between the old brick cowsheds of Cranbrook (later Rookery) Farm, and Beam Bridge, which was then open land, bordered by hawthorn hedges and ditches. This thoroughfare today is part of Rainham Road South.
The cottage was erected on what is today a corner location, but was once where this highway met with a private roadway, owned by John Joyner. This led into the Leys fields, and became known as Chase Lane, before becoming Leys Avenue.
Local rate books, along with map evidence, tell us that Stoneford cottage was built c.1858, by a farming family called Warren. They first came to Dagenham in the mid-late 18th century. The cottage itself was constructed on merely a tiny portion of plot 1662 [NGR = TQ 50546 84276]. This today equates to only 0.0173 of an acre or 84 square yards.
A Dagenham historian Mr John G. O’Leary stated that the name of 'Stoneford' stemmed from an earlier innovation of nearby Beam Bridge. It had been built of stone by 1427, replacing an earlier wooden or ‘plank bridge’, but prior to this was probably a ford with a stone surface.
A very basic description of Stoneford Cottage is as follows: being a two-storey villa of mid-nineteenth century architecture, which contains 6 rooms. It is covered with a stucco style render. The house has a central panelled front door, beneath a plain semi-circular fanlight. The ground floor has 2 windows, each with 12 lights, complete with shutters.
The upstairs has 3 sashed-corded windows, finished with 6 lights in each half, making 36 in total. All the windows are held into position with glazing bars. The upper floor windows are finished with decorative cast iron window-box guards. The slated roof has overhanging eaves, and is of a flat pitched hipped type. The rear has been vastly altered, and a much later extension has been built onto the principal building.
The building was Grade II listed in 1981, along with the fine cast iron railings, found along the front garden perimeter wall. There is said to be a plaque on the cottage wall, but this has long been concealed by ivy.
Stoneford Cottage, 1920s, showing Chase Lane to the right (colour by I. Vickers)
Stoneford Cottage 2001, Chase Lane is now Leys Avenue (I. Vickers)
Rear garden, 2002 (I. Vickers)
Back garden, chicken run, 2002 (I. Vickers)
Stoneford Cottages appears to be let out shortly after its construction, and the first tenant was Mr Henry Gentry [born in Hornchurch in 1827]. He was the son of a thatcher also named Henry [born 1786: Woodham Ferrers, Essex] and his mother was Elizabeth Ainsworth [born 1791: Stapleford Abbotts, Essex. Henry & Elizabeth married in 1814: St Dunstan, Stepney].
Henry, the younger, first learned his trade in Hornchurch from his father in 1841, and later became the Dagenham village thatcher. He is found in the 1861 census, along with his wife Sarah [born c.1816, Stapleford Abbotts], and two daughters: Sarah & Louisa [born Dagenham,1853 & 1855 respectively]. They had both had become dressmakers by 1871. Henry was still noted as a thatcher and reed layer from 1881, and was still in the house in 1895. Mr Gentry utilised the reeds from Horseshoe Corner, Dagenham, which grew along the River Thames to carry out his trade. He is said to have thatched ‘Stebbing’s’ the butchers, situated on the northern corner of Crown Street & High Street.
Alfred Griffiths became the owner of Stoneford Cottage. He was originally a London publican [born c.1849: St James, Middlesex]. In the 1881 census, he is found as landlord of the Havelock Arms at 38 Meeting House Lane, Peckham, along with his first wife Annie [born 1851: Spalding, Lincolnshire]. His second wife was called Millicent [born Millicent Mary Clark, 1864, Chatham, Kent], and they married in 1888 [married Jul-Sep 1888, Poplar]. He had 2 daughters Ethel [born 1889: St Lukes, London] and Edith [born 1891: St Lukes, London], in addition to 1 son Ernest [born 1900: Dagenham].
Alfred had bought ‘Stoneford’ circa 1895-98, and was listed as a ‘brewer’s publican’ in the 1901 census. He is not recorded in any of the Dagenham regions alehouses, and his job title leads me to believe that he may have been an early type of relief landlord. He was still residing at Stoneford Cottage between 1908-1917, but the 1911 census shows this information a being contradictory. It notes that Alfred had strangely vanished from here, but his wife Millicent, and her children remained, and her status is still that of being married. She passed away in 1940, aged 75 [BMD: Jul-Sep 1940: Romford].
Alfred in turn sold the cottage to William Herbert White in 1918 who had married Maud Bales, also in that year [born c.1891: Dagenham: married Jul-Sep 1918: Romford]. The Directory of 1922 notes that a Samuel J. Whitey was residing here during this time; so perhaps it was leased out briefly?
The White’s family tree is hard to follow due to the prevalence of the surname. Nevertheless, William Herbert White’s father was named James White [born Hoxton, Shoreditch, Middx: Oct-Dec 1838], who was a coach smith (maker) by trade. He married Susan Hickford [born Oct-Dec 1838, Risbridge, Clare, Suffk: Married Oct-Dec 1859, St Luke, Middx], who went on to have numerous children [see below]:-
James White Oct-Dec 1838, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Middlesex
Susan Hickford Oct-Dec 1838, Risbridge, Clare, Suffolk
James White married Susan Hickford, Oct-Dec 1859, St Luke, Middlesex
Emma Georgina Susannah White Jan-Mar 1861, Islington
Ada F White Jul-Sep 1863, Islington?
Jane Louisa White Oct-Dec 1865, Mile End
Alice Francis White Jul-Sep 1873, Mile End
Ernest Albert White Jul-Sep 1875, Mile End
Ethel Jessie A White Jan-Mar 1878, Mile End
Sidney Arthur E White Jan-Mar 1880, Mile End
William Herbert White Jan-Mar 1883, Mile End
On Maud’s family tree we find her father was George Bales [born 1846: Wymondham (Wyndham), Norfolk]. He married Mary Ann Brown in 1875 [born c.1856: Beacontree Heath: Married Jul-Sep 1875: St Olave, Southwark]. George became a Dagenham police constable by 1881, but had retired from the force by 1891. Ten years later he was a Dagenham contractor in the 1901 census, and gradually built up a carrier and cartage service. Their daughter Mary still lived in the cottage in the early 2000s.
Order for papers from Mr White of Stoneford Cottage from 1950 (Mary White)
For the record, George was the son of Robert Bales [born c.1813: Kimberley, Norfolk], who was an agricultural labourer (1841-71), and Elizabeth Bales [born c.1814: Wymondham, Norfolk]. They had two children Mary Ann [born c.1836: Wymondham] a dress-maker & George [born c.1846: Wymondham].
A big thank you must go to Mary White, who allowed me into her cottage, and passed on useful information, and photographs, and allowed me to photograph the back of the house in 2002..