Category: Walthamstow

Church, hall, school, scout hut, performance space, meeting place, pub

From damp orchards and watercress beds to a hodge-podge of terraced housing, shops and small factories and workshops was a short journey for an inoffensive field in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  For the area between Boundary Road to the south and what is now Walthamstow High Street to the north, the transformation …

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The Chestnuts: slave traders, bankers and a long wait for a new chapter

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Hoe Street was still a well kept suburban  road.  The houses along each side were spacious, so were the gardens – these were on a less grand scale than country houses in the shires, but needed perhaps half a dozen indoor servants to run, with gardeners, grooms and …

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Music – and a dark lady?

A time traveller going back five centuries would be likely to get lost In Walthamstow.  St Mary’s Church is in the right place, but is a different shape, inside and out.  The Ancient House is more reliable, but lacks a wing, is weatherboarded and surrounded by farmland.  Hoe Street is there, without a single chicken …

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Six hundred years of shape changing: Walthamstow’s Ancient House

A wing of it, beautifully restored,  recently went on the rental market for around £2,000 a month.  A hundred years ago it was a row of rather sorry-looking shops.  Before the first Tudor became king it was already too small and old-fashioned to be a manor house.  In between it has been a farm, an …

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Shadows and Damp: the early days of The Chestnuts

Three centuries ago the trees met over the head of any traveller up Hoe Street. A time traveller from 2022 would depend on the street layout to be sure of the way – Hoe Street runs the same course, but with an unreliable surface and little lighting.  There are houses, but only a few, mostly …

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Watercress

Watercress sandwiches aren’t really a thing now.  Gone the way of cucumber with the crusts cut off, and unlikely to be included in the riverside picnic of any modern day Ratty along with the cold meats and French rolls.  No watercress for sale in the market either;  just bags in supermarket salad aisles alongside the …

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The Plague Pit: myth, memory or tall tale?

Plenty of  stories out there to choose from, of course – from the Romans leaving the country in two straight, orderly lines in 410, to the dream of crime and conflict free unity in the Blitz.  And a rich selection of people glossed over with layers of storytelling, from the Princes in the Tower to …

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Desperation or Liberty? Life in Lea Bridge Gardens

It vanished piecemeal nearly a hundred years ago.  The “dwellings” were considered a health hazard by the 1930s.   But before the days of building controls, a haphazard development of up to a hundred homes had grown up – Lea Bridge Gardens.  Or the Bungalow Town.   These were the unofficial homes of the poor. And because …

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The quietest millionaire?

“A respected benefactress” – the bonneted  shade of Miss Elizabeth Cass might be forgiven a wry smile at our expense.  She and her equally well regarded sister Phebe have given posterity the slip, and got clean away, thanked, and unchallenged, although their weed-choked memorial would hardly please them. Elizabeth Cass lived in one of Walthamstow’s …

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Annie West: The Saddest Christmas Shadow

Annie West only lived to be ten.  Her unmarked grave, shared with eleven others including five babies, is in Queen’s Road Cemetery, Walthamstow;  the plot was resold many years ago.  In the final decades of the nineteenth century, when Annie lived and died, it was all too common for families to lose a child, sometimes …

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