Historic homes in Snaresbrook

White Lodge, Snaresbrook RoadWhite Lodge, Snaresbrook Road

Ahead of a talk about old houses in Snaresbrook, local historian Lynn Haseldine Jones takes a look at some historic dwellings in the area, although many have sadly disappeared. Photography by Geoff Wilkinson.

Snaresbrook in the middle of the 18th century was a desirable place to live for London merchants and craftsmen. Centred on The Eagle (originally the Spread Eagle) and with easy access to the city by means of two turnpiked roads, the Woodford Road from 1724 and Snaresbrook Road from 1757, it was a place of clean air and good water supply.

Birch Well can still be seen on the edge of the forest, and at least one house in Snaresbrook still has its own well to this day. Snaresbrook is unusual in that its boundaries are not clearly defined; it is formally in Wanstead Parish, but Forest School is in Snaresbrook although in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, and the postcode of many properties is E18, South Woodford.

I have been researching the history of various houses in Snaresbrook, following on from my study of the history and interesting inhabitants of Snaresbrook House. Of great note was the Hermitage, a fine Georgian mansion in Snaresbrook Road, which was destroyed during the Second World War. Early occupants included Jeremiah Harman, at one time director of the Bank of England. Jeremiah, a well-known art collector, later inherited Highams, which is now Woodford County High School (and 250 years old this year). He gave his name, although slightly altered, to Hermon Hill. A later occupant was Sir James William Morrison, Deputy Master of the Mint. His widow, Lady Morrison, was a great benefactor to Wanstead, leaving money to the Weavers' Almshouses and donating the bells and a clock to Christ Church. She also paid for the building of the chapel at the Seamen's Orphanage (which is now a synagogue). She died in 1871. Later occupants such as the Good family were also supporters of the Royal Infant Orphanage (now Snaresbrook Crown Court) and the Duchess of Kent attended a fete at the Hermitage in aid of the Orphanage in 1938.

Other buildings of note which remain include White Lodge on the corner of Snaresbrook and Woodford Roads, one-time home of Sir Christopher Musgrave, chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board, and what is now James Hilton House on Woodford Road, where the author of Lost Horizon lived in the 1930s and which was originally two houses, Bellgrove and Ingoldsby.

Buildings we have lost include Snaresbrook Hall, replaced by flats in the 1930s, Copsfield, the home of the Scrutton family, and Gowan Lea, a school for many years. The grand houses of The Drive were begun in the late 1890s, replacing another large mansion known as Wanstead Hall or Hunters Hall.

Hollybush Hill still has Kingsley Grange, a fine Victorian mansion originally called Mornington Lodge. Two houses in that road were once Barnardo children's homes, Staffa and Iona.

Lynn's talk for the Woodford Historical Society will take place at Trinity Catholic High School (Lower Site Hall), Sydney Road, Woodford Green from 7.45pm on 19 November (visitors: £3). For more information, call 020 8505 3640

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