Last time I posted about the boundaries of the London borough of Havering my readers left only one comment and that was about a defunct bus route. I expect a similar level of interest today.
This is the Havering Stone. You'd be forgiven for not noticing it in the rough beside the High Road in Chadwell Heath, and even if you did spot it there are no clues to suggest how significant it once was. It's just over a foot high, it's ancient and if there were ever inscriptions on it they're no longer evident.
It sits a short distance back from the pavement on a grass verge in the shadow of a single tree. It's also protected by a low railing all around it, presumable to keep mowers at bay, although nobody's cut the surrounding grass for some considerable time. In the background is a big billboard targeting Romford-bound traffic plus a brick wall attached to a block of flats on Kings Avenue. The number 86 bus stops just up the road, but there really is no reason for anyone to be walking past because there are no houses along the next half mile of pavement, only a golf course and a farm.
It's significant that this is where the houses stop because the stone marks the boundary between the boroughs of Havering and Barking & Dagenham. What's impressive is that there's been a stone at this spot since 1641 and that the boundary has been fixed since the 14th century. When the Barking & Dagenham street sweeper truck turns around here it's essentially because King Edward II said so.
All of this was once Essex and Essex was once mostly forest. In this case forest doesn't necessarily mean woodland, just that the king had hunting rights, particularly over deer. The largest such area was Waltham Forest (not the borough, although that was eventually named after it) which covered much of the southwest corner of the county. In the west it stretched as far as the river Lea and to the south as far as the Roman Road between London and Colchester (which not uncoincidentally is the road in the photo).
Waltham Forest was later split into Epping Forest and Hainault Forest, the dividing line being the River Roding. Additionally Edward II split off the eastern chunk of Hainault Forest and gave it to his wife Queen Isabella, which became the Liberty of Havering because it was no longer subject to forest laws. Part of the Hainault/Havering boundary followed the River Rom, or the Bourne Brook as it was known back then. But the rest was less well defined so in 1641 Charles I had stones erected at key points to help resolve disputes.
• Richard's Stone: This one's on the common at Curtishall Green, very close to the M25 (roughly halfway between J27 and J28), where you can still see it.
• Navestock Stone: This one's half a mile south beside the fledgling River Rom, but in a private field so you can't see it.
• Park Corner Stone: This one's three miles downstream in the corner of a former playing field off Lodge Lane, where you won't see it.
• Collier Row Stone: This one's on the B174 at the point where Havering meets Redbridge meets Barking & Dagenham, which I wrote about in that previous post only one person commented on. I didn't spot the stone in the verge but apparently it's obvious.
• Warren Stone: This was in the middle of a field east of Whalebone Lane but was twice damaged and is currently in the care of Valence House Museum.
• Mark's Stone: This pair of stones, one from 1641 and the other from 1772, can be found in a hedge beside Whalebone Lane. They were the very last thing I documented as part of my jamjar tour of London boroughs.
• Forest Bounds Stone: This was on Whalebone Lane South between Warren School and the Golf Kingdom driving range, but was "inadvertently removed and destroyed" in 1993.
• Havering Stone: This is the stone in all the photos, on the A118 where High Road becomes London Road. There's also a coal tax post just across the street but that's another story.
For centuries everyone heading east would have passed the Havering Stone, but its primacy was lost in the 1920s when Eastern Avenue was built as an arterial bypass for Ilford and Romford. And that's why it's still there in a verge, unmodernised and unmowable, but still doing its job of telling everyone where Havering begins.