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Northern block and courtyard walls of Alice Billings House

A Grade II Listed Building in Stratford and New Town, London

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Latitude: 51.5401 / 51°32'24"N

Longitude: 0.0017 / 0°0'6"E

OS Eastings: 538916

OS Northings: 184255

OS Grid: TQ389842

Mapcode National: GBR KX.R3Q

Mapcode Global: VHGQV.ZK86

Entry Name: Northern block and courtyard walls of Alice Billings House

Listing Date: 27 June 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1443788

Location: Newham, London, E15

County: London

District: Newham

Electoral Ward/Division: Stratford and New Town

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Newham

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

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Firemen’s accommodation of 1905-6 for the West Ham Fire Brigade, probably to designs by the Borough Engineer, John G Morley. Extension added to the N block c1965.


Firemen’s accommodation. 1905-6 for the West Ham Fire Brigade probably to designs by the Borough Engineer, John G Morley. Extension added c1965.

MATERIALS: yellow stock brick with red brick dressings. Pitched slate roofs.

PLAN: a rectangular block separated from a corresponding southern block (extant but not part of the listing) by a walled former garden and drying area. On each floor of the three-storey block is a pair of two room flats, one either side of a spine corridor/stairwell. A projecting wash house/WC range on the north elevation is extended above gable level by two stages to form a hose drying and practice tower. A flat-roofed, single-storey extension has been added to the south elevation.

EXTERIOR: the north elevation is of seven bays (including the washroom range of three bays) and the south (courtyard) elevation is of five bays. Windows are mainly one-over-one timber sashes set in openings with arched red brick lintels and concrete sills. Some windows are later replacements. Many of the windows were boarded up at the time of the site visit (September 2016) and ground floor windows have metal security bars. The window arches on the north elevation are of good quality gauged brick while those on the south elevation are of two courses of cruder brickwork. The central windows on the south elevation are wider with the first floor opening being square with a concrete lintel. There is a central entrance on both elevations. These have red brick arches and jambs. The courtyard entrance has margin glazing in the timber surround but the doors themselves are modern replacements. The gable walls are blind. Originally the block had four chimneys but the eastern stack has gone. The building retains its original cast-iron water goods.

The hose drying/practice tower has four openings on the north elevation above the arched entrance to the block. The lower three openings are square with concrete lintels (the second floor opening with later timber glazing) and the top one has a brick arch. The tower is surmounted by a concrete cornice and brick parapet with four piers giving a castellated effect. The north elevation of the tower has a metal practice ladder, various fixing points and a projecting hose drying frame of steel girders with metal fittings.

The brick, late-C20, single-storey, flat-roofed south extension incorporates the original western courtyard wall. The east elevation has openings onto a late-C20 covered walkway with sloping roof and timber supports extending between the courtyard entrances of the two blocks.

INTERIOR: the plan form survives largely intact with each flat accessed off a short passage between the flat and WC/wash house. The entrance gives access directly into the parlour/kitchen with a centrally placed door through to a bedroom on the courtyard side. Some historic cornices, skirtings, cupboards, window surrounds and hearths survive. All fireplaces have been removed and doors are mainly replacements. The main spine corridor has plain brick walls (largely overpainted as a result of use as a film set) and cantilevered concrete stairs with wrought iron balustrades and hand rails. Internal horned timber sash windows in arched openings light the parlours of the eastern flats.

SUBSIDIARY STRUCTURES: a stretch of the high stock brick courtyard wall is attached to the south-east corner of the block and is included in the listing.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 06/02/2019


Alice Billings House (named as such in the 1980s to commemorate a local Victorian Sanitary Inspector) was built 1905-6 to provide accommodation for firemen of the West Ham Fire Brigade. In 1869 a fire station in Stratford had been included as part of the new Town Hall, augmenting a fire station in Plaistow. Based on the evidence of the ground plan of the winning competition entry for the Town Hall by Lewis Angell and John Giles, this was a shed containing a pair of horse-drawn fire engines, located in the court to the west of the Town Hall. By 1877 this had been replaced by a narrow building between the Town Hall and Bonallack and Son’s Carriage Works (built in 1842) with access to the Broadway via a Portland stone entrance building. The Town Hall was subsequently extended southwards (in 1885) and a Court House built along the southern boundary of the site.

By the turn of the C20, the existing fire station was deemed inadequate and plans were drawn up in 1901 for a new site on Stratford High Street. However, other priorities intervened and the plans were shelved. Instead, in 1905-6, the existing fire station was enlarged (possibly designed as a temporary measure pending a new station) by incorporating Bonallack’s carriage shop which was refronted on the ground floor and provided with four bays for motorised fire engines. This opened in August 1906. At the same time, the workshops at the rear of Bonallack’s were demolished and two matching blocks of firemen’s accommodation were built, probably to designs by the Borough Engineer, John G Morley. The blocks provided accommodation for six firemen per block and the northern block had a practice tower incorporated as part of the design.

The fire station at Stratford was closed in 1964 and in 1965 the West Ham Fire Brigade became part of the London Fire Brigade. Part of the Town Hall including Alice Billings House became Newham Council’s Education Department offices. A flat-roofed extension between the two blocks of Alice Billings House was probably built at this time. In 1982 the fire station building was badly damaged by a fire and subsequently rebuilt. In 1986 the south block of Alice Billings house was refurbished as council office space. Alice Billings House is currently (2017) used as a venue for hire and as a film set.

Although having origins in fire prevention in the C18, the West Ham Fire Brigade as an organised body dated from 1856-7 when the West Ham parish vestry formed a voluntary fire brigade with a sole trained fireman. The local Board of Health took over the fire service in 1858 and it was reorganised on a full-time basis in 1877. It remained an independent fire brigade until the County Borough of West Ham became part of the London Borough of Newham in 1963.

Reasons for Listing

The northern block of Alice Billings House and courtyard walls, Stratford, a block of firemen’s accommodation built for the West Ham Fire Brigade c1905-6, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: a rare example of the incorporation of a practice/hose drying tower into purpose-built fireman’s accommodation separate from the fire station building;
* Historical interest: an early-C20 provision of purpose-built housing representative of the increased professionalism of fire brigades nationally;
* Degree of survival: it has a generally intact plan-form;
* Group value: for its group value with the other Grade II-listed buildings in this municipal complex.

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