July 15, 1871 - WANSTEAD FLATS
THE recent destruction of the fences surrounding one of the obnoxious enclosures on Wanstead Flats may have been an act of great imprudence, but it serves to illustrate the angry spirit with which the East Londoners are beginning to regard the continual encroachments which are rapidly depriving them of the broad open spaces to the free use of which they have been accustomed for so many generations. Perhaps there is no portion of the Metropolitan suburbs so largely frequented during holiday-time as are the yet unenclosed portions of Epping Forest lying nearest to the overcrowded districts of Whitechapel and Bethnal Green. On a fine Sunday evening thousands of working men, attended by their sweethearts or wives and families, may be seen proceeding along the Mile End Road in the direction of Wanstead Flats, a large open space, perfectly level and covered with verdure, close to the Forest Gate Station of the Great Eastern Railway. The distance from London is not great, the Flats being within five miles of the Royal Exchange, a circumstance adding considerably to the value of this portion of Epping Forest as a popular open-air resort. But it is on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons during the fine days of summer, that the Flats present their most interesting appearance, for on these occasions they form the playground of immense numbers of children from the myriad courts and lanes of Spitalfields, Shoreditch, and other densely populated districts in East London. No sight can be mare touching than that of the crowds of poorly attired little ones, some of them mere toddlers, who have dragged their limbs hither, regardless of hat stony pavements and dusty roads that they might have a few hours’ romping on the soft grass or load themselves with bundles of buttercups and daisies. It is no exaggeration to say that but for Wanstead Flats, and other open spaces near East London, the late terrible visitation of cholera, which decimated so many artisan families, would have been far more destructive in its results. But the pure, fresh air of Wanstead Flats did much to counteract the unwholesome influences of the fever-reeking atmosphere which still, despite every effort on the part of the sanitary authorities, too often pervades the humble homes of the East London labouring poor. But the Flats are apparently doomed. Earl Cowley’s enclosure is by no means the first of its kind; there, have been several others such as that, the fences of which have just been destroyed. Before Mr. Gladstone promised to take up the question of Epping Forest, the Crown rights over Wanstead Flats had been sold for 12,000l. by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. Nothing but the rights of the commoners remain, and these have been disregarded because there were none sufficiently wealthy to defend them. But the Corporation of the City of London having recently, through their purchases of land for their cemetery at Ilford, become possessed of the rights of common an Wanstead Flats, have announced their determination to defend the same at whatever coat. This is the first time that the system of enclosure has experienced any real check. Should the Corporation gain the day, the free use of Wanstead Flats will have become secured to the East Londoners; but the conflict will be a long and costly one, for the encroachers instinctively scent the danger which awaits them, that they may not only be prevented from making further enclosures, but, also be compelled to give up some of the land of which they have been too easily allowed to acquire possession.
August 9, 1879 (p.139) - MARTYRS' MEMORIAL
MARTYRS' MEMORIAL. - It is certainly well to commemorate the noble men and women who in a past age sacrificed their lives in defence of what, according to their convictions, was the truth ; but one may reasonably doubt the wisdom of the language, applied to one of the great religious bodies existing in our midst, used by Lord Shaftesbury while inaugurating and unveiling the monument last Saturday erected outside St. John's Church, Stratford. Honour may be done to the noble dead without insulting the living ; and his lordship could hardly have hoped to win many from the error of their ways by denouncing the Roman Church as a "great anti-Christian power," or by the expression of his belief that the Church of Rome "would, if she had the power, exercise now the same violence and perpetrate the same atrocities as she had done in the Middle Ages." Language of this sort is better calculated to wound the feelings of many good people than to break down barriers that already too effectually divide the different denominations. Nor is the Roman Catholic respect for Protestantism likely to be increased by Lord Shaftesbury's self-congratulatory reflection that we of this age, although masters of the situation, do not avenge ourselves on the descendants of those who had inflicted tortures upon ancient Protestants, but allow them an equality with us. The monument, designed by Mr. J. Newman, and constructed by Messrs. H. Johnson and Co., is erected near the site where local tradition says eighteen of the Reformation martyrs suffered death. The Committee was formed of Churchmen and Protestant Nonconformists.
September 13, 1879 (p.243) - THE STRATFORD MARTYRS' MEMORIAL
ON Saturday, the 2nd ult., the Earl of Shaftesbury presided at the inauguration of the monument erected in front of St. John's Church, Stratford-le-Bow, to commemorate certain Reformation martyrs who were in that neighbourhood burnt to death. These Christian martyrs (the largest number of Protestants ever burnt together for their religion in this country) were for the most part natives of Essex, and all of them belonged to the laity. They were brought early on Saturday morning, June 27, 1556, in three carts, from London to Stratford, where they were burnt in the Broadway on the village green, now St. John's Churchyard. When offered their lives if they would recant they all refused. having embraced one another, and prayed earnestly to the Lord, the men were fastened to three stakes, the women being left untied in the midst, "and so were all burned together in one fire."
Under the chairmanship of the Rev. W. J. Bolton, Vicar of the parish, a sum of money was collected for the commemoration of this noteworthy incident, and the result is this handsome and substantial monument, engraved on which are the names of the sufferers, and also the principal points for which they braved death. There are six sides to the monument, which is supported by eighteen columns, the whole structure, 65 feet in height, having its spire surmounted by a martyr's crown. - Our engraving is from a photograph by H. Friedmann, Stratford and Leytonstone.