25 February 2010

The Original Officers Mess in Stratford

With the very helpful interest shown by Kathy Taylor at Newham Heritage I've been able to establish that this building was originally the Alexandra Temperance Hotel in Stratford High Street.

image courtesy of Newham Heritage

Designed by SB Russell and TE Cooper in 1901, it had 42 bedrooms, 1st and 2nd Class dining rooms for 200 people, with the added bonus of 'Palms & Music'.

Most importantly, it had a billiard hall and became, in 1914, the location of the Officer's Mess for the West Ham battalion.

Lieut Holthusen, the Signals Officer, was named 'Alexandra Snooker Champion' prior to the Hammers leaving for France, having faced stiff competition from Lt's Bernard Page and Lt William Busby.

All three men were from Forest Gate. Bernard Page and WW Busby were killed leading attacks in 1916. Leonard Holthusen suffered extreme shell shock that finished his War after being buried alive in the HQ Dugout during the 1916 fighting in Delville Wood.

The details of the location of the Officer's Mess at the Alexandra came from the personal 1915 diary of WW Busby.

Originally numbered 377, it is now numbered 383-385 High Street and is currently the 'Discover' Children's Centre.

A few doors along is where the original mystery began, now seeming to have little or no connection.

This is Essex House in Stratford High Street, between the Magistrates Court and The Rex and two doors up from the Alexandra Hotel.

I'm still investigating, but there is a clear connection with the Essex Regiment contained in this beautiful building. Do you notice the three Eagles on the roof?

Those are the 'Salamanca Eagle'.

The 2nd Battalion 44th (East Essex) Regiment won great glory for itself at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812 when it captured the Eagle, the equivalent of a British Regiment's Colours, of the French 62nd Regiment. The Eagle was carried on parade by the Essex Regiment, a tradition inherited by the 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment and now the 1st Battalion.

I'll be getting down there soon to see if there is a dedication stone of some sort which might help tell more of the story of this building and to take some photo's. There's only one photo on the net, on Flickr, and I'm grateful to DiamondGeezer for taking it and hope he doesn't mind me using it.

What adds to the mystery is that at the end of the row, originally Parr's Bank, is now called Burrows House.

J.W. Burrows wrote the Official Regimental History for each of the Essex battalions, including the 13th Essex hammers, after the Great War...