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Custom House

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Redeveloping dockland locality squeezed between Canning Town and Beckton. It takes its name from the Port of London’s custom house, which stood next to the station beside the Royal Victoria Dock. Following the establishment of the Royal Docks, the need for accompanying housing encouraged the brisk growth of Custom House in the 1880s. The area became notorious for its poverty and slum conditions and its housing was almost entirely replaced by council flats after the last war. The Admiral’s Reach development, completed in 1993 by Barratt, occupies the site of the Freemasons estate. Among its nine tower blocks was Ronan Point, which partially collapsed after a gas explosion in 1968, killing five people. The disaster has been called ‘modern architecture’s Titanic’ and it had a pivotal influence on subsequent designs for tall buildings. It has even been suggested that the effects of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre’s twin towers might have been less catastrophic had lessons from Ronan Point been incorporated into their construction. Custom House was the home of West Ham stadium, a speedway and greyhound track with a capacity of over 100,000, replaced by a maze of curling cul-de-sacs after its demolition in the 1970s. This part of Custom House is also known as West Beckton and many of its streets are named after former speedway champions. North of Newham Way, the Terence McMillan stadium has facilities for squash, football, and athletics. The ward of Custom House has a significant black African community, mainly speaking Yoruba, Twi and Swahili. 15 per cent of homes in the ward are lone parent households with dependent children.

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Opened in November 2000, the ExCel exhibition and conference centre has 90,000 square metres of event space on a 100-acre site north of the Royal Victoria Dock. The 250 million construction project was the largest in east London since Canary Wharf. Three DLR stations serve the site: Royal Victoria and Prince Regent for the western and eastern entrances respectively, and Custom House for the centre. That station has been renamed ‘Custom House for ExCel’. The stylish Custom House hotel is opposite the centre. ExCel will host boxing, wrestling, judo, weightlifting and taekwondo in the 2012 Olympics.

Postal district: E16
Population: 11,875
Station: Docklands Light Railway, Beckton branch, and Silverlink Metro (Zone 3)

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