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 550546 184276]. 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. It has a slated roof with overhanging eaves, and is of a flat pitched hipped type. The exterior brick walls are covered with a stucco style render.
When constructed it would have originally contained 5 rooms, two downstairs and three upstairs. The room to the left of the front door was probably a kitchen, suggested by evidence of the layout, complete with a cooking-range. A dining room lay to its right. The upstairs would have contained 2 large bedrooms, along with a small one in the middle, now the office.
However, we find at some later point in its history, a single storey brick extension was added to the rear. This has a sloping roof being covered in tiles, and has been partly rendered. This brought the room count of Stoneford to 9 rooms in total, now comprising of 6 downstairs and the 3 upstairs. To the rear of the extension are two small areas for outside storage, each with a door that opens to a largish garden. The much smaller of the two (on the right) was probably a coal bunker. It is this internal layout which I document below that survives in March 2020.
Starting on the ground floor, looking at the front of the house from Rainham Road South, we find the main entrance door, which has 4 panels and is positioned centrally. Above this is a plain semi-circular fanlight. There are 2 front windows, each with 12 lights, complete with shutters, but there are another 7 windows on the hidden sides, making 9 in total. Ivy covers half of the downstairs wall here, barring the windows.
As you enter the main front door into a hallway, the downstairs today comprises (along with the extension) of the following: to the left of the front door and hallway is a bedroom with fireplace (1). As stated, this was probably once a kitchen area. A large dining-room (3) lies behind this, complete with cooker and cupboards on either side.
To the right of the front door and hallway is a living-room (2), also with a fireplace: while behind this is a partition wall where a kitchen (4) complete with wash-basin is located. Entry to this is gained from the dining-room (above), where we find a door leading to a short passageway, where further and separate access doors are discovered: firstly, to the toilet (5) and secondly the bathroom (6). The garden is also reached from this passageway through a third side door. For the record, room numbers 3 to 6 lie within the extension. I was told by Mary White that she designated these rooms by colours: i.e. white, green, blue rooms etc.
The upper floor from the outside of the building 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. These windows are finished with decorative cast iron window-box guards. There are a further 2 windows out of view, making 5 in total.
Again, looking from the front-door, we enter into the hallway to its end, where we find a set of stairs to the upper floor. Climbing up these steps (15 in total) to the landing, we find three doors to separate rooms, each room has one of the 3 sashed-windows. The small middle room was one employed as an office. To its left and right are 2 more bedrooms, each with a fireplace in the south-facing wall: the left-hand bedroom has an extra window to the side. Access to a loft is also gained from this landing, which is reached by 15 risers.
In 1981 the building was Grade II listed, 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 remained in private hands until the death of the final owner Mary Maud White [see occupation below] in February 2018, whereby it passed to the National Trust. In 2019 Carter Jonas drew up fresh plans for the Trust. The 4th March 2020 [Post, p43] saw them apply to the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham for Listed Building Consent [Application No., 20/00090/LBC] in order to implement the plans and make numerous repairs to the outside of the building, along with massive alterations to the interior fittings and decoration. Requirement Of Planning Permission was for change of use from C3 To C4. These submitted proposals to Barking & Dagenham Council are currently pending.
Following an evaluation report the following work was deemed essential: it proposed that the pitched roofs are to be stripped and re-covered in slate/tile, which will match the existing. Mechanical ventilation tiles to the ground floor roof for the extractor fans. Replacing existing PVCu down pipe with cast iron, plus new cast iron down pipe from main roof. The external finishes will be repaired and redecorated, plus timber lintels to be replaced. A new side garden gate will be provided. All ivy and other vegetation is to be removed from the walls. Inside there will be internal changes to fittings and redecoration.
This only tells half the story though... and looking at the plans the inside of Stoneford Cottage will never be the same again. You would think with the National Trust on board it would be safe, but they do buy up property to sell off. Just the change of use from C3 (a dwelling house) to C4 (multiple occupation) will be disheartening to say the least. It means the building will be sold or rented out. We find that virtually all fixtures and fittings will be removed inside, plus a new top of the range kitchen fitted. Sounds great if your not interested in history, but the borough has an appalling record of preservation, so I am not surprised! In my eyes this is another building to be destroyed in the borough, just its outside shell will remain.
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 leased 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, that was once 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 the 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.
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 the late 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. It was a pleasure to have met her!
THE TIMES Obituary
Mary Maud White
White Mary Maud MBE of
Stoneford Cottage, Dagenham, passed
away peacefully on the 4th February,
in her 92nd year. Beloved sister of
previously departed Bill and Betty,
Civil Servant in the Government
Home Office for many years. Funeral,
Friday 23rd February, 12pm, at
Chadwell Heath Cemetery, RM6 5QX
Flowers and enquiries to West & Coe.
Published in The Times on Feb. 9, 2018.