Visit to “Under Ground London” by Frances Bulwer

PLSG Visited the Under Ground London exhibit at London Metropolitan Archives on 21 October 2019

London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell have kilometres of material about the capital available to consult – a veritable treasure trove of information about every aspect of London life and history.

Underground London brochure‘Under Ground London’, happily now extended until 4th December, makes fine use of their fantastic resources for a small but fascinating exhibition of what lies, lay, lived, moved/moves, worked/works below street level from Bazalgette’s sewers, public conveniences, road and rail tunnels to the rat catchers and ‘toshers’ of Victorian times.

PLSG was lucky to have LMA archivist Sharon Tuft to explain the Thames aspects of the exhibition and the thinking behind what has been included and we are grateful to her for giving us her time.

LMA also has an interesting sister exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery, The London That Never Was running to 8th December.

The Trebor Story by Jill Napier

Presented on 4 November 2019

Trebor is an iconic British sweet brand which has its roots in the East End of London. Britain’s big role in the slave trade led to a new availability of sugar by the mid 18th Century, mainly from the West Indies. Once an exclusive and expensive product, sugar was imported into England in huge quantities to satisfy a growing demand. The West India Docks supplied raw sugar to the boiling houses of the East End and then to the great refineries, like Tate & Lyle. By the mid 19th Century, sugar was a main staple of the working class diet, mostly in the form of cheap jam. Sugar was cheap, addictive and pleasurable; there was also a huge market for children’s sweets.

Trebor was a Victorian start up begun in 1907 by four men looking to make extra money and start a  new enterprise. All of them – with their different work and business experiences – had grown up and moved on from the Old East End into the new suburbs of East London where new communities and markets were made possible by the arrival and growth of the railways. Sweet making was a good business prospect; there were other factories in the East End (Clarnico, & Whites) and Barrett & Co., Confectioners & Maynards, North London as well as many other smaller enterprises.

Trebor had small beginnings in premises in Trebor Terrace, St Katherine’s Rd., Forest Gate, E7.  It began life as Robertson & Woodcock, named after the two founders who had a full time role in the business. The trade name Trebor was adopted in 1918.

The business survived the difficult restrictions of World War 1 and early on demonstrated that it was flexible, adaptable and innovative. It pioneered new methods of transport and distribution and new technical processes imported from Germany. It invested in new machinery and  the new power source, electricity; it pioneered new marketing techniques, advertising and new working practices. From a small East End base, it had achieved a national presence and network by World War 2.

The Forest Gate premises were bombed in 1944 and production there suffered some interruption but careful expansion before WW2 meant that Trebor could relocate production also to a base in Chesterfield. It had both a market in the Midlands, N. England and Scotland and a distribution system to utilise. It provided sweets for Government contracts, moved into chocolate making and had survived sugar rationing again by buying up small sweet making firms and their sugar quotas.

Trebor was in a relatively strong position at the end of the War and developed international markets and production bases. Steered by loyal and talented management staff and with a long standing  and settled employee base, it was effectively a family business run by Marks Family alone. The Chairman, Sydney John Marks was the son of one of the original founders of the Company. His sons, John and Ian, were also to have leading roles in the business.

Trebor bought out its rivals – Clarnico, Maynards and Sharps – and it developed the Moffat Group in the 1960s – 1980s. This was a distribution network company which diversified its interests into supplying other goods like cigarettes.

By the mid 1980s, it was one of the largest sweet making firms in the UK, with a fourth generation of the Marks Family already involved in the business. Global trading was changing, however. In 1988 the British chocolate manufacturer, Rowntree, was sold to Nestle. Trebor found itself exposed. Unable to raise the capital to buy Bassett and unable to continue competing in an aggressive and acquisitive world of huge multi nationals, the Marks Family took the decision to sell to Cadbury in 1989. Gradually, the Trebor factories were closed by 2003 and production moved North. Cadbury itself was bought up by Kraft in 2010.

The Trebor name still exists and includes their most popular and successful  product, Extra Strong Mints, invented in 1935. At the Company’s height it had 423 sweet products on its list; today there are only 4. Trebor is part of the Mondelez global snacks empire.

The Forest Gate Art Deco Factory, built to house a thriving business, is now a set of apartments.

Further resources:

A Job for David – Trebor Careers Film, 1957 (YouTube)

Matthew Crampton, The Trebor Story, 2012

E7 Then & Now, The Trebor Story, Forest Gate’s Sweet Success

East India Dock Road by Ian McBrayne

East India Dock Road owes its existence to the docks and provided housing and other facilities for those connected with the docks throughout their life.

The road was built between 1806 and 1810 to complete a route for wagons carrying goods between the East India Company’s warehouses in the City and their ships in the newly-built East India Docks. Gradually over the next 50 years, houses were built along its length, ranging from substantial detached villas to modest terraces.

The 1871 census shows 342 houses in the road, a very small proportion of which had been converted into shops or pubs, and only 11 purpose-built non-residential buildings. The latter comprised two Anglican churches and three non-conformist chapels, two schools, a sailors’ home, a hospital, a railway station and a public bath-house. Only All Saints church survives in the same form and use; the baths have been substantially rebuilt and the sailors’ home is now flats.

The larger houses were generally occupied by businessmen or white collar workers, often associated with the docks. They lived in some comfort, usually with servants to look after them. The occupants of the more modest houses had more modest jobs to match. Overall, this was a comfortable middle-class street, with no evidence of real poverty.

The street changed relatively little for another 70 years. In the Second World War, many of the buildings were damaged, sometimes beyond repair. With the clearance of bomb damage, the building of the Lansbury Estate to the north and, more recently, redevelopment of the docks, the character of the road has now changed enormously. Recent arrivals which are signs of the times are a mosque, an NHS well-being clinic, an Idea Store (library) and the London campus of the University of Cumbria. One building on the site of the docks, opened in 1988 as headquarters of the Financial Times, is already a Grade II* listed building.

East End Educators (1536-1769). by Ann Evans

Presented at the Port of London Study Group on 7 October 2019


East End Educators – 1536 – 1769

During this period a number of schools were established in the East End of London.

They were founded by wealthy citizens of the East End, many with connections to City Companies. These citizens were united, in wishing to use their wealth, to support the education of poor children, in accord with their Christian faith.

Nicholas Gibson

The Nicholas Gibson free school, was founded in 1536, by Nicholas Gibson a prominent grocer in the City of London. After his death in 1549, Gibson’s wife Avis took over the running of the school, which could take up to 60 boys. Avis asked the Coopers’ Company to undertake the management of the school and to include their title in its name.

The school was situated in Ratcliff, between Shadwell and Limehouse. Schoolhouse Lane is still there and marks the place where the School and the Coopers’ Company Alms Houses were located for over three hundred years.

Prisca Coborn

The widow of Thomas Coborn, a brewer, established a co-educational school in Bow in 1701as a result in the terms of her will, investing the school with lands let to tenants in Bow, Stratford and Bocking. The School was first sited near Bow Bridge.She was buried at Bow Church.

In 1891 the two foundations were united as Coburn girls and Coopers’ boys. In 1971 the schools were amalgamated as the Coopers’ Company and Coburn School, and moved to Upminster.

Ralph Davenant

The Reverend Ralph Davenant, Rector of St Mary’s Whitechapel, drew up his will, leaving his household goods and plate, to his wife, with the provision, that it should eventually be sold and that the monies raised should be used to build a school for 40 of the poor boys of Whitechapel. Further funds were raised to educate 34 poor girls.

Boys were to learn reading, writing and arithmetic; girls were to learn reading, writing and sewing. A site for the school was found on the Whitechapel, the old school buildings still stand on the site.

The School moved to Loughton in Essex in 1966, as a two form entry boys’ grammar school. The school became co-educational in1980, for 1,000 girls and boys.

Henry Raine

He was a devout Christian, and lived in Wapping between 1679 and 1738. He made a fortune in brewing, and built a fine home in Woodford in 1714, on the proceeds.

Henry Raine believed that he should do some good with his money and established a charity school for 50 boys and 50 girls in the hamlet of St George’s in the East.

At the school, poor local children were clothed, fed and taught to read. The boys were also taught to write and to handle accounts; the girls were instructed in sewing.

The building still stands, the stone over the door bears the school motto and in stone niches each side are two statues of a boy and a girl in the school uniform.

In 1736 Henry Raine built a boarding school for girls, named the “Asylum”. It allowed the foundation to rescue 40 girls from sometimes chaotic home lives. The students would be clothed, educated and provided for, and after four years training, would go into domestic service at the age of 19. He also established a fund of £210 for two marriage portions available by lottery to students of Raine’s Asylum.

The Asylum and marriage portions are long gone, but the school continues.

In 1964 the two schools merged and became co-educational. They are now located in Approach Road, to the north of Bethnal Green, near Cambridge Heath Railway Station.

Francis Bancroft

In 1737 Francis Bancroft, a wealthy city merchant left the bulk of his fortune to the Drapers’ Company “to establish a school for one hundred poor boys aged between seven and fifteen”. The Drapers’ Company became Trustees of Bancroft’s School

The boys were to be instructed in “reading, writing and casting accounts”.

Bancroft’s School was set up in Mile End on what is now the site of Queen Mary University of London. The first boys were all day boys, the first borders were not admitted until 1802.

The site in Mile End proved increasingly unsuitable as Victorian London expanded. The school sold the site and moved to Tottenham for three years, and then to its present site in Woodford Wells. The Charity Commission insisted that the poor of London retained the right to foundation scholarship. Until 1964, 50 scholars from the administrative County of London, were admitted to the boarding house.

Sarah Bonnell

Sarah Bonnell School is one of the oldest girls’ schools in England.

Sarah Bonnell, a rich resident of Walthamstow, left £3,500 in her will for the setting up of a school for poor girls in West Ham.

The first school, established in 1769 was situated opposite West Ham Church and was known as Miss Bonnell’s School. There was one school room, one teacher and forty girls.

In 1905 the school moved to Stratford, and in the 1920s it became part of the state education system. In1944 it became the Sarah Bonnell Grammar School, and is now known as the Sarah Bonnell Schoool, and is one of the comprehensive schools in Newham. It moved to Cannon Street in Stepney in 1883 and then to Arbor Square in 1913.

Free Screening: The Living Thames

Courtesy of The Thames Estuary Partnership, The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) will host a free screening of the Film “The Living Thames” on Thursday 24 October, 6:30-8:30PM followed by a post-screening Q&A with the Partnership’s Director and others.

Registration is required at

The free screening also affords registrants the opportunity to view the beautiful ICE headquarters and visit the free exhibition “Water – from Source to Tap.”


Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem

Lara MaiklemMudlarking cover’s Mudlarking book is a personal, social, geographical, archaeological  and historical journey along the Thames foreshore from West London to the Estuary, detailing the remarkable finds that she and others have made as mudlarks. Combing through centuries of dropped and discarded objects from Bronze Age and Roman London to the present, thrown up by the tidal Thames each day, she paints a fascinating picture of layers of London life, some of it not for the squeamish. The longest archaeological site in Britain is a source of endless fascination to Lara Maiklem and her experience of it makes a deep impression on her readers who may well now be tempted to scour the Thames foreshore at low tide for themselves.

Autumn Term Schedule

Our autumn schedule of talks and visits has been finalised as follows:

  • 7th October: East End Educators (Ann) and Lara Maiklem’s Mudlarking (Fran)
  • 14th October: Lara Maiklem’s Mudlarking – continued (Fran) and East & West London: Creation of the Social Divide (Anne)
  • 21st October: Visit to the London Metropolitan Archives for the “Underground London” exhibition with archivist Sharon Tuff
  • 28th October: Salters Kingston to Oxford Steamers (Barry) and East India Dock Road (Ian)
  • 4th November: The Trebor Story (Jill) and The Marchioness Disaster (Sheila)
  • 11th November: The Illuminated River Project (Sarah) & TBC (Gillian)
  • 18th November: The Chartered Companies (Peter) & The Thames Islands (Sue)
  • 25th November: Visiting Speaker – Carolyn Clark on Thames Plastics
  • 2nd December: Visiting Speaker – Ian Blair from MOLA on the Prittlewell Burial Site
  • 9th December: Shorts, poems, paintings, etc. and Christmas lunch!

New members are always welcome. Email us at to confirm location details for any given week.