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An extended village situated on high ground three miles north of Romford. The middle word is pronounced ‘atty’ locally, and Havering is pronounced the same way as the verb, despite the fable you’re about to hear. The origin of the settlement goes back before the Norman Conquest, when Edward the Confessor had a hunting lodge built here, which subsequently became a small palace or bower. The name ‘Havering’ probably derives from a landowner called Hæfer, but there’s a story that Edward was once approached here by a beggar asking for alms, to which he replied, “I have no money, but I have a ring,”, which he handed over, and that is how Havering got its name. There’s more: the same beggar later met some pilgrims and passed the ring to them, saying, “Give this to your king, and tell him that within six months he shall die.” Which apparently came to pass. The tale is so far-fetched that it scarcely bears repeating, yet the ring in question retains a central position on the borough’s coat of arms to this day [see image below].

A succession of royal associations came to an end during the Commonwealth when the palace fell into decay and was afterwards demolished. Bower House was built on the site in 1729 with some of the old stones. This is now owned by the Ford Motor Company, which uses it for management training and dealer presentations. The Royal Liberty of Havering extended over most of the area of the present borough from 1465 to 1892. The tower on the coat of arms represents the old Palace of Havering (though it’s topped with the horns of Hornchurch).

coat of arms of the London Borough of Havering
click for area map (opens in a new window)
Bower House is now a Ford training centre

The village is by no means unspoilt but retains enough original elements to give it some character, including weatherboarded cottages and a twelfth century church, and there are glorious views over Essex meadowland. Post-war expansion has been principally northward, but some residents of the Hillrise estate to the south consider their community to be part of Havering. Local landmark the Round House, on Broxhill Road, is an elliptical three-storeyed stuccoed villa, dating from 1794.

Postcode area: Romford, RM4
Further reading: Marjorie K McIntosh, A Community Transformed: The Manor and Liberty of Havering-atte-Bower 1500–1620, Cambridge University Press, 2002
and Winifred Brazier, A Childhood in Havering-atte-Bower, Ian Henry, 1981

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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