December 2019


The old East End

Ezra-Street,-Colombia-Road-DSCF5595©Geoff Wilkinson

In the second of a series of articles, local photographer Geoff Wilkinson discusses his new exhibition – entitled ‘Quick! Before it goes’ – depicting London’s East End, an area which resonates with many residents here. Pictured here is Ezra Street in Bethnal Green

Although I have, during my lifetime, continued to be aware of the changing East End, it is only since opening Gallery 84 in 2008 and spending more time exploring the vast area for photographic opportunities that I have realised how much of it has actually disappeared.

Huge swathes of tenement buildings have been replaced by modern dwellings, much better living conditions for the residents, I’m sure, but the loss of the architecture leaves a void not filled by the modern equivalent. Or is that just nostalgic thinking?

Some gems still survive; the Georgian town houses at the southern end of Bethnal Green’s Paradise Row are a fine example. They have survived and live in harmony with the fashionable restaurants and bars that have taken over the railway arches at the northern end.

The shops and houses of Columbia Road remain unchanged since the Victorian era. Its Sunday flower market attracts tourists and shoppers from all over London searching for perfect blooms and garden plants. With the hustle and bustle of a full market, plants being bought and sold, the unchanged shopfronts are the perfect backdrop for the day. Had this example of a market street been swept away, the economic and social benefits to the community as a whole would have been lost.

Change will happen and, of course, it should, but perhaps we should think just a little more before pulling down buildings and thus changing the character of an area.

Living in Wanstead, I never take for granted how lucky I am to live in such a unique place that has people within the community who strive to protect and conserve both buildings and a community environment for future generations.

Geoff’s exhibition of East End photographs runs until 1 March at Gallery 84 on Nightingale Lane, Wanstead, E11 2EZ. For more information, call 020 8530 1244 or visit

Hospice seeks volunteer drivers from Wanstead


Saint Francis Hospice is in need of more volunteer drivers from the Wanstead area to chauffeur patients to and from the hospice grounds.

“As a volunteer driver, you’ll be helping fight isolation and loneliness among people living with life-limiting illnesses. You’ll also be sparing them the difficulties of driving or using public transport,” said a spokesperson for the Romford-based hospice, which provides care to people across Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Brentwood.

Call 01708 753 319


Meet Santa at Wanstead Library’s festive rhyme time


Wanstead Library will host a Christmas rhyme time session for children under five this month.

“Come along to this extra special festive rhyme time with a special visit from Santa. Enjoy rhymes, songs and stories with your child and meet other parents and children,” said a library spokesperson.

The event will take place on 18 December from 2pm to 2.30pm (free). Regular rhyme time events take place at Wanstead Library on Wednesdays (2pm to 2.30pm) and Fridays (11am to 11.30am).

Call 020 8708 7400


Crowdfunding appeal to support night shelter in Wanstead


A homeless shelter will launch at Christ Church hall next month.

Open every Tuesday night from 7 January until the end of March, the project is a partnership with the Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelters. Wanstead Parish is hoping to raise £10,000 to cover the costs of the shelter, including adapting the hall kitchen and buying new sleeping bags.

“It is a disgrace that homeless people are still dying on our streets. This shelter is a small but important step to address this,” said Rev Jack Dunn.



Wanstead resident prepares to deliver gifts to children in hospital

IMG_3495Frank Charles (Santa) at Acorn Children’s Ward last year

Local resident Frank Charles is seeking donations of new toys or books for his annual Christmas visit to Acorn Children’s Ward at Whipps Cross Hospital.

“The presents will go to children aged zero to 16 years who will be in hospital over the festive period and beyond, with this being the 15th consecutive year that I have delivered toys there,” said Frank, who founded the Frank Charles Give A Gift Appeal in 2004. Donations can be left at Wanstead Pharmacy, 75–77 High Street, up until 5pm on 20 December.



Wanstead’s Social Society


Wanstead Society chairman Scott Wilding explains why the group’s social events are just as important as their work to protect, preserve and improve the local area

The Wanstead Society was formed in 1997 with the aim of protecting and enhancing the built environment in Wanstead, Snaresbrook and Aldersbrook. But for a long time now, we have aimed to bring the community together through a series of annual social events in local businesses.

We have long sought to enhance the local environment by working with developers to ensure good design in new buildings, by planting trees in public spaces and funding gardening schemes across the area. But there is little point in improving the area if we don’t bring the people who live in it together.

This year, we held a summer social in the Nightingale pub, and a winter one in More Italy. Both laid on great food and a welcoming atmosphere, and we would like to say thank you to every pub or cafe that has held one of our socials. We are lucky to be spoilt with such good choices in such a small area.

These are informal events with free nibbles and a drink provided by us. We have been overwhelmed by the support from local businesses who have offered us rooms for free and discounted rates on food and drink. This is our opportunity to thank Wanstead Society members for their support and offer a chance to meet other members for a catch-up over a few informal drinks.

Ideally, we would like to have a social event every quarter in a local venue and open the society up to more people interested in what we do. Our aim is to hold a different event in a different part of Wanstead throughout the year. This is not only our chance to showcase what we do and bring people together to discuss local issues, but also to showcase a local business and what it can offer. The High Street, and its shops, cafes and restaurants, are more than just businesses. They are part of our community too. We need to support our many independent businesses as much as possible, and what better way than over a glass of wine and some good food?

The Wanstead Society has long campaigned for good urban realm and quality design for our area, but there is little point in protecting the fabric of a place if the people who live in it don’t feel part of a community.

Wanstead is lucky in that, unlike many parts of London, it has a thriving community. We hope we can play a small part in bringing people together and showcasing our fantastic local businesses.

If you would like to help us organise a social event, or offer your business as a venue, please let us know and together we can continue to help our community grow.

For more information on the Wanstead Society, visit or email

Restoring Wanstead Park

32286359618_b6f9537b89_o©Christian Moss

In the seventh of a series of articles looking at the developing plans for restoring Wanstead Park, John Meehan, chairman of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, looks at what has been achieved in the park so far and explains what is still to come, and invites anyone who cares about the park’s future to become a member. Ornamental Waters photo by Christian Moss

The present campaign for Wanstead Park was started in 2005. Initially an ad hoc committee of concerned local people, the founders delivered a successful lottery-funded project to raise awareness of the park. About a decade ago, we reactivated a membership-based group called the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, which had been dormant for some time.

The Friends has grown into a dedicated group of volunteers, which works tirelessly with the City of London and other stakeholders to improve the Wanstead Park experience – both for its human users and resident wildlife!

The Friends has constantly been implementing small, much-needed projects to improve the park, for instance, a successful bid for £8,000 of Tesco funding to pay for new picnic tables and benches by the tea hut. They also paid for the restoration of the antique tables in the Temple.

More recently, the Friends also convinced the Field Studies Council to run a two-year education programme in the park for local schools and children, and they are currently agreeing a sponsorship with the Corporation to provide additional signage to help people navigate the park.

We have already been successful in convincing Redbridge to put signage on roads leading to Wanstead Park, which are now in place.

The Friends also runs events throughout the year, including children’s events at the Temple, talks by historians and historical novelists, information stalls at local fayres and shows, music concerts, quiz nights, walks and an upcoming Christmas event at the Temple.

One of the most important jobs the Friends do is to keep the local community informed of the park’s history, ecology and events through a variety of media. Our website is very informative and well used and we also produce four newsletters per year for members. However, our most impactful work is on social media, where the Facebook page has 1,366 members and the Twitter account has 1,867 followers (and 4,465 tweets).

In recent years, our work has focused on attracting a substantial funding package from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and we have played a very active part in shaping and producing a Parkland Plan to guide that work, in partnership with the Corporation and others.

The latest draft of the Parkland Plan has been completed and was featured in the November Wanstead Village Directory, whereas the implementation of the lottery bid awaits the structural assessment of the four lakes in the park, which involves checking their stability under flood conditions (see our feature in the October Wanstead Village Directory).

The Friends committee meets every month to coordinate our work. We are now a registered charity, with stated charitable objectives agreed with the Charities Commission and properly maintained accounts.

Our Annual General Meeting, usually held at Wanstead Golf Club, gives regular members and interested members of the public an opportunity to ask questions about the work of the Friends and quiz speakers from the Corporation of London.

If you wish to be involved in the ongoing development of the Parkland Plan, and actively contribute to the thinking behind it and the local community, please consider joining the Friends of Wanstead Parklands.

To join or donate to the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, visit or email

Would you like a cycle hangar installed near your home?


Redbridge Council is rolling out cycle hangars across the borough.

“The response from residents so far has been very positive, with the vast majority looking forward to having somewhere safe to put their bikes. In neighbouring boroughs, hangars have proved popular and helped foster a cycling culture – hopefully, the same will happen in Redbridge,” said Councillor Paul Donovan.

“If you are interested in having a hangar close to where you live, please get in touch.”



Wildlife group counts record number of moths and butterflies in 2019

29_1742_Yellow-ShellYellow shell, a common moth in this area. ©Tim Harris

At the start of 2019, members of the Wren Wildlife Group set themselves a challenge to find 300 species of moths and butterflies in the local area, including Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park.

“It has proved to be the best year on record, locally, with 308 species of moths and 27 butterflies at the time of writing. About 20 of the moths have not been recorded previously in the local area, although some expected species have clearly suffered as a result of the fire damage on the Flats last year,” said Tim Harris.



Sights and sounds of Christmas: brass band and screening of The Snowman

Image---The-Snowman-flying©Snowman Enterprises Limited

A performance of The Snowman soundtrack by Redbridge Brass Band will accompany a local screening of the festive film this month.

“That magical sound of a brass band is something many associate with Christmas. It conjures up the aroma of hot chestnuts, tinsel, fairy-lights, carols and, of course, Christmas shopping trips,” said band member Dave Wallace. Three performances will take place at St Gabriel’s Church in Aldersbrook on 14 December (3pm, 5pm and 7pm; adults: £12; under-15s: £6; under-2s: free).