© Benedict Hilliard 2008
In this area of the East End of London, farming used to be the major activity, until the construction of the docks in the 19th century. The transformation was accelerated by the building of the Royal Docks in the 1850s to make space for new, larger steam ships. That led to the development of other industries and triggered movements of population from other places in Britain to this part of London, as well as from other countries of the world.
At a time when the docks of Newham were the largest docks in the world, directly linked to the railway, industrialisation thrived, and migrant workers from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland and Russia settled in the Docklands locality.
After 1900, Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe also moved to the area. In the 1920s, after the First World War, many West Indian and Asian sailors and troops who had been demobbed chose to stay. By 1930, the area had the largest number of Black settlers in London.
In the decade after the Second World War, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Caribbean families moved to the area, responding to the government’s campaigns to get people from the Commonwealth to come and work in England. Many settled.
"I got to know some things about the people close to
me that I did not know before"
In 1965, the “Borough of Newham” was created from the amalgamation of the old boroughs of East Ham and West Ham. Extending from the East of the City of London to the North of the river Thames, the borough now comprises about 250, 000 inhabitants.
It has become the ethnically most diverse borough of the UK: there are more than 30 different communities in the borough, and more than 300 languages are spoken.
Newham has the lowest white population in London, with 61% of the population drawn from Mixed, Asian or Asian British, Black African, West Indian or Black British, Chinese, and other groups. The borough has the second highest percentage of Muslims in Britain (24.3%). In recent years, Eastern Europeans from countries who joined the EU have also settled.
As the population has grown substantially in the past 10 years, the proportion of the young population aged 0-24 years has increased by 23% in that period of time, making it the youngest borough in England with the highest proportion of poeple aged 0-24 in England (41%), and the lowest proportion of population over the age of 65.
"This project helped me a lot, especially the topic ‘Belonging' which really got me thinking about where I actually belong. It was also a lot of fun and it improved my creativity and my research skills"
In 2007, a Channel 4 television programme branded Newham the "4th worst" place to live in the UK. The study took into account crime rates, school results, pollution, economic activity and property prices.
At that time, the unemployment rate was of 6.7%, the second highest rate in London. It is a densely populated borough where over one quarter of households are overcrowded.
The borough of Newham is going to be hosting the 2012 Olympics in Stratford, where an Olympic village is being built at present. As part of a regeneration plan, the local authorities have highlighted the change in opportunities for the local residents, and the intended improvement in their standard of living. Local people have, however, been concerned about whether it will bring long lasting benefits to the area and its inhabitants.