The history bit: Stratford Old Town Hall

Stratford Old Town Hall

Stratford old town hall

This Grade II listed building was designed by Lewis Angell and John Giles and completed in 1869.


It is the place where, on 4th July 1892, the votes were counted and Kier Hardy became one of the first socialist MPs in the UK parliament.


Standing as an independent labour candidate (although he had yet to form the Independent Labour Party) he beat the Conservative candidate by 5,268 to 4,036 votes.


He campaigned that:


“Government and local councils …..own and manage all Mines, Banks, Railways, Docks, Waterways and Treasuries” and he introduced the idea of direct labour, which local councils could use to build houses, for example – both to employ people and to provide for social need. He firmly suggested municipalised workshops and the common ownership of land.”


Hardie and Health and Safety

Hardie had been rescued from a pit collapse when he was only 12 [his job at the time was looking after pit ponies].

When MP for West Ham, he famously upset the establishment by mocking the fuss made over a royal baby born on the same day, 28th June 1894, that 251 men were killed in a mining disaster at the Albion Colliery, Cilfynydd, South Wales. Hardie was dismayed to find the House of Commons spent a day on congratulations while there was no mention at all of the disaster. He tabled an amendment offering condolences to the miners families, which at the time was considered a scandal. He also analysed the national press and found that many papers never even mentioned the mining disaster.

See Kier Hardy by Caroline Benn, 1997, Richard Cohen Books.


There is a bust of Kier Hardy by sculptor Benno Schotz at the Old Town Hall.




1893 the Cape Asbestos Company was founded to mine the asbestos at Koegas, near Prieska South Africa, and then ship it to factories in Europe to be woven into fire-resistant materials.


1898 UK factory inspectors first identified the “evil effects” of asbestos and its danger to workers’ health.


1913 the Cape factory opens in Harts Lane Barking – the fourth in the London area. The others were at Carlisle Avenue, Cable Street and Bow Common Lane. Production continued at Barking until 1966.  Cape say a total of 10,142 people were employed at their Barking factory over the years.


1929 the Barking Medical Officer of Health wrote that “many people in Barking are suffering from disease of the lungs due to the inhalation of asbestos dust”.

More about Cape Asbestos at Harts Lane, Barking

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