20/20 Wanstead vision: part IV

A real village?A real village?

This year, the Wanstead Society celebrates its 20th anniversary. In the fourth of a series of articles, Chairman Scott Wilding considers whether Wanstead really is a village, or if it's just a marketing ploy.

With the redrawing of local council ward boundaries, what most people consider to be the centre of Wanstead – its High Street – will be renamed, at least politically, as Wanstead Village ward. So, are we really a village?

As someone who was lucky enough to grow up in Wanstead, go to its local primary and high schools and has lived here for 30 years, I know Wanstead isn't a conventional village. In reality, it's a suburb of London. But it does have a village feel to it, which is a result of the people who live here, as opposed to being a small community in the countryside.

Wanstead has gone through many changes over the last 100 years. The centre of the village used to be Nightingale Green, not the High Street, and even up to the 1960s, Wanstead was part of Essex, not London. But with the coming of the railways and suburbanisation of villages like Wanstead, it has a distinctly urban look – but not necessarily an urban feel.

The UN estimates that 80% of the world's population will live in cities by 2050, but that doesn't mean we can't keep the positive elements of community that are associated with villages rather than cities.

When the local children's playground needed renovation that the council wouldn't pay for, the community stepped in and raised the funds required. At the start of March, the Wanstead Society and local residents took part in a mass litter pick, so tired were we of the rubbish that people throw on the floor. We also take part in regular 'Tidy Tarzy Wood' days, plant bulbs and maintain flower beds in the High Street. Each year in Wanstead there are at least a few street parties to bring neighbours together. And all that doesn't fit with a conventional city mindset. So perhaps Wanstead has a village mentality set in an urban context. Sure, marketing Wanstead as a village is the same as saying Hampstead or Walthamstow has a village. They too are suburban parts of London. But they also have local societies like ours that seek to protect and promote their areas. They too are places families want to live, socialise and work in. There are similarities between them.

So, to those who think Wanstead isn't a village and that it's all a rebranding exercise to push up your house price, think of it this way: we are not a village by name, but a village by nature. Maybe that is why house prices go up; people want to live here not just because of the good schools, transport links, shops, green spaces and so on, but because of you and the community of which you are a part. However, it's only as good as we make it, so let's look after it together.

The Wanstead Society is an independent, non-political organisation that works to protect, preserve and improve the local area. Membership is £10 per household per year. Email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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