The name Bethell frequently occurs in the history of the boroughs of East Ham and West Ham.
Rt. Hon. Lord John Henry Bethell (1861-1945) was active as a "progressive" in both Boroughs. Some important dates in his career are:
1886 Bethell commenced his public career in as a member of East Ham Ratepayers' Association and was its chairman for seven years.
1886-87 was elected to the first Council of the new West Ham County Borough Council
1895 as a member of the East Ham Urban District Council Cllr he moved the motion for the adoption of the Public Libraries Acts, beginning implementation of a programme of free library provision.
1904 (November) elected first mayor of East Ham a position held for two years.
1906 elected Alderman and granted the Freedom of the Borough of East Ham the same year.
1911 becomes Sir John Bethell upon granting of a Baronetcy.
1915 (April) a councillor new County Borough of East Ham, for which he had vigorously campaigned.
1906 elected as a Liberal MP for the Romford Division.
1914 -18. active inside and outside government during the war; was Honorary Colonel of a Motor Transport Corps and worked tirelessly especially in helping secure work etc., for returning servicemen. Lord and Lady Bethell lost their eldest son Frank, a lieutenant in the Connaught Rangers
1918 elected to the newly-formed parliamentary constituency of East Ham North.
1922 raised to the Peerage and becomes First Baron Bethell of Romford -taking the name from his Parliamentary seat
Lord Bethell was immensely active in a wide range of legislation and social action. He was engaged in the passing of the National Health Insurance Act; and did much to promote the development of "council houses" under the 1890 Act - seeing over 400 dwellings erected in West Ham alone, between 1899 & 1905. Active in many ways to secure improvements to health and social conditions including the founding of East Ham Memorial hospital, and on acquiring land for open spaces - Little Ilford, Plashet and Hermit Road Parks among them.
He continued his interest in hospitals and in his long life was variously President, Hon Treasurer and Governor of numerous hospitals in east London and Ilford areas, and was sometime a director of Barclays Bank. Bethell Ave in Canning Town is named for him. It was said of the Right Honourable Lord and Lady Bethell that, "they sought to imitate the Master [Christ], before them, who 'Went about doing Good'."