Stratford's stars: Famous people from East London

There are many famous people from Stratford and wider East London, not just alive today, but who have made an impact on Stratford, its surrounding areas and even the wider world. Many of these people have had a massive impact in their chosen field, providing huge inspiration for future generations. Here is a selection of some of our favourite famous people from Stratford and East London.

Entertainment & Leisure
  • 15 Apr 2024
Entertainment & Leisure
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Dr John Fothergill 

1712 - 1780 

Famous for: Dr John Fothergill was an eminent physician, philanthropist, and plant collector. He gave the first known lecture on mouth-to-mouth ventilation and was so renowned that famous patients such as American statesman Benjamin Franklin came to him for advice and treatment.  

However, his passion lay in botany and he travelled all over the world on multiple expeditions collecting plants for scientific and medical study. In 1762 he bought Upton Park in East London where he created a garden of plants from his travels, curating the largest glasshouses in the country before Kew Gardens. 

Links to East London: John Fothergill’s botanic garden in Upton House was full of stunning and exotic plants. Now West Ham Park, his name has been honoured by a dedicated garden inspired by his legacy. This has been planted with a collection of trees, flowers and plants that he would have grown, or that are very similar to those grown all those years ago. 

Nina Frances Layard 

1853 - 1935

Famous for:  A forward-thinking English poet, prehistorian, archaeologist, antiquarian and human rights activist, Nina Layard was particularly passionate about historical excavation and ancient artefacts. However, as a woman in a man’s world, at every step she had to fight prejudice which she succeeded in doing, building an impressive reputation for archaeology and historical research that outweighed her limited formal education. 

Layard was a trail blazer, unusually directing multiple important excavation sites. She was the first woman to curate at Ipswich museum, one of the first to be admitted as Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and the first to be published in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute for Great Britain and Ireland. 

She was unconventional in other ways for the times she lived in, travelling around the world via New Zealand and having a relationship and living with a woman, Mary Frances Outram.  

Links to East London - she was born and spent many of her childhood years in Stratford, London 

Alfred Hitchcock

1899 - 1980

Famous for: A hugely influential filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock could be said to have created a whole new genre of suspense-horror. Known as the “Master of Suspense” he had a career that spanned six decades and gained 46 Academy Award nominations. His classics, that included The Birds, Psycho, Vertigo, The 39 Steps, Rebecca, North by North West and Rear Window are still watched and admired today. .

Links to East London: With his long career in Hollywood, you might think Alfred Hitchcock would have been an American boy. However, he made his life debut above his father’s greengrocers in Leytonstone, East London. The family also lived in other areas of the East End including Poplar and Limehouse, where he was educated, and his first job in films was in Hoxton back in Hackney. 

Alan Sugar 

1947 - still alive 

Famous for: Lord Alan Sugar is a world-leading businessman, with an estimated net worth of around £1.07 billion. At the age of only 21 and with just £100, he set up AMSTRAD selling radio aerials for cars from the back of a van. From these humble beginnings he is estimated to have become the 165th richest person in the UK according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2023. 

Aside from his wealth and business prowess, Alan Sugar has been an adviser to several governments, Conservative and Labour, and has found wider fame from his television show ‘The Apprentice’. He hasn’t, however, forgotten his council-estate roots, contributing heavily to charities to help those in need. 

Links to East London: Born and bred in Hackney, East London – a stone’s throw away from Stratford - his father was a tailor in the East End’s garment industry.

Idris Elba OBE

1972 - Still alive

Famous for: Idrissa Elba is an actor, R&B singer, rapper and DJ and has had starring roles in series such as The Wire, Luther, and in films such as Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, American Gangster and The Harder They Fall. 

Elba has received major accolades for his dedication to acting, such as an OBE and multiple BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations. In 2016, Idris was named in Time magazine’s 100 list of the Most Influential People in the World.  As a DJ he uses the moniker DJ Big Driis. 

Links to East London: Next door to Stratford, Idris was born in Hackney and raised in East Ham. 

David Beckham OBE 

1975 - Still alive

Famous for: David Beckham is famous for his prodigious football talents, having played for teams throughout the world and being Captain of the England national football team for 115 games from 2000-2006 .

A UNICEF ambassador and regarded as a British cultural icon - or the ultimate “metrosexual” - Beckham is also renowned for being married to ex Spice Girl, and fashion designer, Victoria Beckham, and having a movie based around a young girl’s wish to play just like him - Bend it Like Beckham. 

Links to East London: David Beckham is another Leytonstone, East London boy, sharing his birthplace with Alfred Hitchcock. He was educated in Chingford. 

Christine Ohuruogu MBE

1984 - Still alive 

A former British track and field athlete, Christine specialised in the 400 metres and was an Olympic, World and Commonwealth Champion winning the gold in 2008 and the silver at the London Olympic Games in the London Stadium. With 17 global medals to her name, she is  a double World Champion and was the first woman ever to secure a championship medal in six consecutive World championships. Among her many huge achievements she was only the second British track and field athlete to win medals at three successive Olympic Games.     

Links to East London: Christine has extensive links to her roots. Born in Newham, raised in Stratford, she studied for an undergraduate degree at UCL in Central London but kept training with the Newham & Essex Beagles Athletics Club. She has an honorary Doctorate awarded to her by the University of East London and was made an Honorary Fellow by UCL. After retiring she completed a two year law degree course at Queen Mary University in East London and was honoured by UCL when they asked her to “push the button” to open their new centre of innovation and learning at UCL East at East bank, Stratford. 

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