Its name is derived from a southern gate of Epping Forest which once stretched continuously down from Epping. Fragments of the forest remain throughout north east London and the heathland of Wanstead Flats, which borders Forest Gate, is an example.
Forest Gate is home to the oldest public house in the borough, The Old Spotted Dog (now closed), and nearby Clapton Football Club; the northern half of the famous and busy Green Street also runs through it. To the west lies Stratford town centre. High Speed 1 runs underneath Forest Gate on its way into Stratford and London. Forest Gate also houses West Ham Park, providing a place for sports to be played and a contrast to the otherwise urban environment.
The Woodgrange Estate is a residential conservation area in Forest Gate with predominantly double fronted Victorian houses. There are sets of flats are certain ends of most of these roads replacing houses which were bombed during World War II. The Woodgrange estate consists of four roads Windsor, Claremont, Osbourne and Hampton; all of which link to the Woodgrange road. Nearby Godwin Junior School in Forest Gate was recently honoured with the prestigious British Council’s International School Award. The school is among only 127 schools in the country to have received the three-year accreditation. The school's headteacher was named Teacher of the Year.
Forest Gate has various associations with music and acting; it was for many years the home of the Tonic Sol-Fa Institute, which taught large numbers of people to play music without learning conventional notation. In December 1966 Jimi Hendrix wrote Purple Haze in the Upper Cut Club, which later became the Ace of Clubs in Woodgrange Road Although born in Plaistow, Ronnie Lane of the Small Faces spent his childhood and early adulthood in Forest Gate, living at 385 Romford Road, while members Steve Marriott and Jimmy Winston lived nearby in Manor Park. Two of the top-selling Grime artists are Forest Gate; Kano, whose debut album 'Home Sweet Home' made number one in the urban charts and rapper Plan B, whose song, Raking the Dead, refers to a friend who discovered a body on Wanstead Flats The Newham Generals (D Double E & Footsie) are also from Forest Gate, and the video for their song 'Frontline' was filmed at Forest Gate railway station. The former Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, star of a string of very successful movies including The Terminator and True Lies, was known to have lived in Forest Gate and weight trained at Wag Bennett's famous gymnasium in Romford Road well before he achieved fame. Another is the award winning actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, born in Forest Gate in July 1974, who has had significant roles in films such as American Gangster with Denzel Washington, and Amistad with Matthew McConaughey. Forest Gate is, also, referred to in the 6th episode of the first season of a the sketch show Goodness Gracious Me. In this case a character is comparing reincarnation to music being released in a new format. If you are unlucky you "come back as a Peter Andre track in a car boot sale in Forest Gate".
Forest Gate formed part of the County Borough of West Ham since its creation (initially as a municipal borough) in 1886. The county borough was abolished to form part of the present-day London Borough of Newham in 1965.