Friday, 27 April 2012

The Number 325 Route

Prince Regent DLR to East Beckton (Sainsbury’s)
Thursday April 26th 2012

Booted and suited to withstand the weather and not quite sprouting webbed feet we met at Prince Regent DLR.  (The UK has only had one Prince Regent, our resident history teacher explained, because we have only had one (officially) mad king who needed someone to rule in his stead.) The docks must have been named after him, and today the main feature of the area is the Excel Centre due to host several Olympic Sports in less than 100 days. Woo.

Jo just had time to photograph the excellent metal screens that surround the Excel Centre showing a rather jolly elephant being hoisted on or off board a ship. The frieze also includes a Sailor's Alphabet, here for your delectation.    

Although riding a small bus and often passing through deep standing water we did not actually need to sail today. Our first port of call (sorry – nautical theme catching) was the Keir Hardie Estate, named for the country’s first socialist MP – although a Scot he stood and won East Ham.  This is one of several estates named for him – though sadly the estate’s pub seems totally derelict.

By the time we had passed under the A13 trunk road and along the busy Balaam Street many of the passengers we had taken on, got off.  Balaam Street is very popular with buses and we had passed this way before – the area, mainly part of Newham borough, is densely populated and not wealthy, being long time home to successive groups of  incomers. Away from the river there had evidently been less bombing and the older houses remained some retaining fine plasterwork.  Everywhere were hints of the area’s historical heritage: –
The Flying Angel Building – once host to a Seamen’s mission;
Barbers Alley – one could easily imagine  Sweeney Todd though he actually ‘worked’ more towards Fleet Street;

Meggs Almshouses – quite a late build (1893) by the standards of many we have passed; and
a still colourful Brymay matches ‘ghost sign’ advert. Though a website lists many such signs, seemingly it has not encountered this one at the less fashionable end of London?

Then we had the Hudson Bay Company Pub, whose name and local connections are explained in a rather politically incorrect way by this Wetherspoons link

Though now housing (a commodity that Newham is very short of, necessitating the recent furore about sending its homeless families to Stoke and other distant points), the Trebor Sweet Factory is remembered in the still evident signage, which prompted us to eat a peppermint or two.  It still says Trebor on the packets…

If it’s religion you want rather than history or heritage how about this range of options found on a sign just outside a church??

Much more modern is the mural advertising (we think) some kind of car repair or maintenance deal for cars but obviously lovingly customised for the workshop’s wall.

By now we were nearly back down to Plashet and East Ham – this is a really loopy (in both senses) route as if you really wanted to get from Prince Regent to Beckton you could cover it very simply via the DLR.  Plashet School seems to have missed out on new school buildings though I wonder where they would have put them anyway. It has its own metal tube to get pupils across the road safely. East Ham can be slow but on the 325 heading south we were taking the back doubles along Ron Leighton Way and the assorted shrubbery that has been planted there. The police were also checking for valid licences and tax. 

Once back over or under (what did we do?) the A13, the bus map indicates a series of diamonds, which the key indicates means ‘Route or section of route with limited stops’ and indeed we seemed to be in something of a roundabout wasteland.  From time to time the Showcase Cinemas would appear, the Beckton Triangle Retail Park  would pop up or then the Waste Treatment Centre, in the process of being upgraded and proud provider of  sewage treatment  to the Olympics.
(Bet you won’t see that on many t-shirts…)

After seeming to be orbiting in the middle of nowhere it felt slightly surreal to come abruptly to a halt beside an enormous and reassuringly familiar looking Sainsbury’s. This round trip, and as you can see from the map it is nearly a circle to cover these areas, took us just about 45 minutes of solid driving through densely populated east London.  


  1. Regarding the A13, you went along it for a short distance after the big roundabout before bearing left at the first opportunity and then going under it.