November 2019


Royal tour artist to give painting demonstration at Wanstead House

737260_blue-sky-turquoise-waters-seven-mile-beach-grand-cayman©David Sawyer

Artist David Sawyer – who travelled with the Prince of Wales to the Caribbean as an official tour artist earlier this year – will be demonstrating landscape painting in oils at Wanstead House this month.

“One of the many tips David will be giving at the demonstration is to paint or sketch en plein air, because you will learn what to leave out of the painting and what to leave in,” said a spokesperson for Essex Art Club, which is hosting the event on 24 November from 2.30pm to 4.30pm (visitors: £5).



History and enthusiasm

image001David Williams in the churchyard of St Anne’s Church in Soho, alongside a plaque for his namesake, the founder of The Royal Literary Fund

In the first of two articles by former local resident David Williams, the journalist-turned-tour guide and lecturer explains why he often returns to the area to give talks to local groups.

Whether I am talking to a genealogy group or local history enthusiasts, I know that at some stage there will be a discussion with someone who wants to tell me how far back they have traced their ancestors. The common factor here is their enthusiasm. I suppose we have to thank the TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? for encouraging family history research and I can only imagine how long people spend trawling through census forms, parochial documents, workhouse records and the Old Bailey online.

Without access to the mass of information available now on the internet we would all face hours travelling to libraries large and small, trying to decipher the handwriting of someone in the 19th century who was making notes and taking down details of what we all hope will lead us to that distant relative who finished up in Newgate Prison or made – and subsequently lost – a fortune.

I was chatting with an old school friend the other day and he was anxious to tell me more about his East End roots and, in particular, his Huguenot ancestry. But I had to remind him that although finding out more about the life and the world of his three times great-grandfather was a triumph of his tenacious research, he was unaware of the social background of his discovery. What was the story behind the census return or the death certificate? What did he know about working and living conditions of that period?

I am not a genealogist but my interest in social and oral history has intrigued me for the past 15 years. Trying to find something to occupy my time after retiring from a career in print journalism and the film and television industry, it soon became obvious that concentrating on reducing my golf handicap was not the solution. That was when a casual search on the City of London Corporation website revealed an item which seemed worth investigating. They were inviting applications from people who were prepared to consider becoming tour guides and lecturers.

I applied, was interviewed and offered a place on the year-long course. In 2005 I proudly received my badge and certification in the Egyptian Room of the Mansion House. It was the start of a late, late career as a historian – and leading walks and giving talks about the City of London. Since that day, this ex-Churchfields Primary School boy – who fluffed his educational opportunities in the 1950s – has never improved his golf handicap but can certainly appreciate the value of further education.

David will be giving a talk for the Woodford Historical Society about 19th-century London at Trinity High School, Woodford Green on 18 November from 7.45pm (visitors: £3; call 020 8504 6552).The talk will be repeated for the East of London Family History Society at Wanstead Library on 22 January from 7.30pm (visitors: £1.50; call 020 8554 8414).

Highams Players mark end of 80th anniversary year with Life and Beth

Psarty-Piece-2011The Highams Players perform comedies, thrillers and dramas two or three times a year at Wanstead House

Amateur dramatics group the Highams Players are celebrating their 80th anniversary with a production of the Alan Ayckbourn comedy Life and Beth at Wanstead House on 21, 22 and 23 November.

The group was founded in 1939, performing at Highams House before moving to the Memorial Hall in South Woodford and then to Wanstead House in 1973.

“We are a friendly, close-knit group who delight in rehearsing in each other’s homes, and are always keen to welcome new members,” said Susan Walters.

Call 020 8924 6987


Restoring Wanstead Park

35486439262_0a90b00137_o©Christian Moss

In the sixth of a series of articles looking at the developing plans for restoring Wanstead Park, John Sharpe from the Friends of Wanstead Parklands takes a look at the recently published Parkland Plan. Photo of Perch Pond by Christian Moss

In the October edition of the Wanstead Village Directory, in his article on the lakes of Wanstead Park, Friends of Wanstead Parklands member Richard Arnopp referenced the development of the Parkland Plan, which sets out in detail the vision for future restoration and management of the park.

The latest version has now been published and sets out how the work aspires to improve the park environment and the user and visitor experience.

The intention of this article – and the next instalment planned for the December edition – is to summarise these planned developments, which aim to regenerate Wanstead Park (which since 2009 has been on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register) and put it on the map as the main ‘Southern Gateway’ to the wider Epping Forest landscape.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands have worked with the other major stakeholders to best represent park users within the developing framework. However, it is the main landowners – the City of London, Wanstead Sports Grounds Limited, Wanstead Parish and the London Borough of Redbridge – who will have the responsibility of delivering the project. Part of the strategy will be to improve co-ordinated management by these independent parties, with support from the Friends.

In order to deliver this long-term vision, the conceptual options are varied and range from one-off major capital expenditures, such as restoring the lakes to stabilise water levels, to relatively simple actions, such as re-focusing on-going maintenance in the various parts of the park. The large size of Wanstead Park and the potential need for significant funding means the plan and its delivery is a long-term commitment with some actions more readily achieved than others.

The key objectives of the Parkland Plan are:

Addressing visitor needs to provide an accessible and legible historic landscape. This will include clearing and restoring selected historic features and improving entrances and paths. As well as heritage, the park’s natural aspects would benefit from better management to promote biodiversity and nature conservation.

Improving visitor facilities around the park, including developing the surroundings of the Temple as a visitor hub with improved access, an enhanced catering offering, flexible space for events and a new children’s play area. It is hoped this will also bring future activity and income generation benefits, which will ensure financial sustainability.

Improving water management and ensuring the major package of works to the lakes (designated as ‘High Risk’ in 2018) both respect and benefit the historic significance of the waterscape and surrounding landscape.

Conserving the boathouse Grotto. A Conservation Management Plan has just been completed, which is intended to guide the future care of this unique building.

Promoting research into Wanstead Park, its history, management and biodiversity.

The Parkland Plan also supports increased community and volunteer involvement in the park.

Although the ‘shopping list’ for Wanstead Park’s future is largely settled, some questions over funding and timescales still need to be resolved. Plans and priorities for phasing, including those that can be covered by existing staff and budgets, will first need to be approved. This will enable both capital and corresponding revenue costs to be broadly agreed, prior to the submission of a bid of up to £5m to the National Heritage Lottery Fund (NHLF). The NHLF have only recently revised their funding criteria for projects between 2019 and 2024. Competition for funding is strong, and it is not yet clear how or when this element will be integrated.

Agreement and adoption of the Parkland Plan will then need to be endorsed by the Steering Group, and formally by the Wanstead Park landowners.

The most recent costing for all the planned work is around £14.5m, and it is currently unclear as to which parts of the plan will be fulfilled if, for some reason, there is a shortfall in funding.

A further frustration for the Friends is that the latest starting point for major works to be carried out is further down the road than anticipated. This is said to be due to the requirements of the City of London’s required internal processes for planning and funding major projects, with work on the capital projects now due to commence as late as 2024.

In advance of this, the Friends will continue liaising and working with the City of London and other project partners to establish what work can take place to improve the visitor experience and the overall state of the park and its lakes while plan development is in progress.

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.


Wanstead remembers

L1090909Remembrance service at Wanstead War Memorial. ©Geoff Wilkinson

Wanstead resident Colin Cronin started organising local Remembrance services several years ago. Here, the former councillor explains why he continues to do so and why such events provide a valuable lesson.

In 1922, local residents gathered for the unveiling of the Wanstead War Memorial next to Tarzy Wood. Designed by Forest Gate resident and sculptor Newbury Abbott Trent, it has stood as a permanent reminder for Wanstead residents of those members of our community who have given their lives selflessly during times of conflict.

Seventy-five years later in 1997, Snaresbrook’s Garden of Remembrance (off Snaresbrook Road) opened to honour all victims of war.

Now we are in the Remembrancetide period, members of the Wanstead community, young and old alike, are once again ready to stand together at the war memorial on Remembrance Sunday and in the Garden of Remembrance on Armistice Day to pause, reflect and pay our respects to those who, for our tomorrows, gave their today.

I first began assisting the Royal British Legion in organising the Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day commemorations several years ago, and with the closure of the British Legion’s Wanstead branch some time ago, have continued to organise these annual commemorations ever since, with help from the Salvation Army, Vision RCL and officers from Redbridge Council.

It is always wonderful to see the RAF and police cadets parade along the High Street, the mayoral party being led to the memorial field by the golden Wanstead mace, gifted to Wanstead Urban Council by Winston Churchill, and members of the clergy from local Wanstead churches joining together to lead us in prayer. From the hymns and wreath-laying through to the sounding of the last post by a lone bugler, I am always struck by the solemnity and peacefulness of both occasions, which is in marked contrast to the chaos and cacophony that war brings.

But perhaps the most poignant aspect of Remembrance Sunday for me is seeing the youngest members of our community from the local Beavers, Cubs and Scouts laying their own personal poppy tributes at the base of the memorial.

I firmly believe that observing a moment’s silence on both Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day not only allows members of our community to show respect and remember those who have lost their lives but it also reminds us of – and will continue to teach the generations that come after us – an incredibly valuable lesson: that war should never be the solution.

Surely, there can be no greater tribute to the victims of war than that?

A service of Remembrance will take place at the Wanstead War Memorial on the High Street on 10 November from 12.30pm. An additional service will take place at the Snaresbrook Garden of Remembrance on 11 November at 11am.

Local milkman to switch on Wanstead’s Christmas tree lights

IMG_1517Switching on the Christmas lights in Wanstead is always a popular event

Parker Dairies milkman Steve Hayden will be switching on the George Green Christmas tree lights on 22 November at 4.30pm.

“The theme will be that of a cleaner, greener, plastic-free Christmas. There will also be local school choirs, a band and some panto characters,” said Councillor Paul Donovan.

Last year, more than 150 residents attended the event, at which milk and treats were distributed to the children.

“It’s great when the community comes together to celebrate in this way… Christmas is also a time to reach out to others.”


Preserving the Aldersbrook Conservation Area

alders19Woodlands Avenue – a typical streetscape in the Aldersbrook Conservation Area. ©2019 Google

A public workshop took place last month in Redbridge Council’s first steps towards preparing a management plan for the Aldersbrook Conservation Area.

The ideas put forward will help develop an up-to-date appraisal, and identify how best to preserve and enhance the character and significance of the area.

“A full and formal consultation will take place to further enable residents to express their views. This will include drop-in sessions, which will take place towards the end of the year,” said a council spokesperson.


Wanstead’s former butchers remembered in book of shopfronts

A-G-Dennis,-Wanstead-1000px©Eleanor Crow

A Wanstead butchers has been remembered in a new book celebrating London shops.

“I painted AG Dennis in 2015, and I’m pleased now that I did, as I wasn’t to know it would close the following year… All the shops in my book are painted because they had wonderful shop frontages with beautiful lettering and design, but also because they were or are excellent neighbourhood businesses,” said artist Eleanor Crow.

Shopfronts of London is published by Batsford and Spitalfields Life Books (£14.99).



Speaking up about noise


A packed hall gave London City Airport representatives a tough time over their expansion proposals at the public meeting in Wanstead last month. John Stewart of campaign group HACAN East reports

London City is proposing to almost double flight numbers from their current level, end the 24-hour weekend break and operate more planes in the early morning and late evening.

Airport representatives came under particular fire during October’s public meeting for not knowing the noise impact for Wanstead if the plans went ahead.

The proposals are part of London City’s Master Plan, which sets out its vision for the airport until 2035. Tim Halley, Director of Planning at London City, argued the airport believed the demand would be there to justify its expansion proposals. But he was at pains to stress they were only proposals and that the airport would take account of responses to the consultation before coming out with any final plans. The consultation ended on 18 October.

The airport expects to publish a final Master Plan towards the end of this year. If it decides to go ahead with any of the expansion proposals, it will need to draw up a detailed planning application to go before Newham Council, the airport’s planning authority. If Newham Council turns it down, the airport has the right to appeal, which would involve a public inquiry.

At the Wanstead Library meeting on 3 October, there was a lot of passionate criticism of London City’s decision in 2016 to concentrate its flight paths. It means that certain areas get all the planes. The fear was expressed that if the expansion proposals go ahead, people in the affected places will be living under a ‘constant sky of sound’.

However, London City is now being required to reassess its flight paths as part of airspace changes that will be introduced at all airports in London and the South East around 2025.  In a couple of years’ time, London City will consult on options for its new flight paths. These are expected to include the idea of multiple flight paths which can be rotated each day to ensure each community gets a break from the noise.

Whatever the future holds, it is certain there will be many more public meetings in Wanstead on aircraft noise, flight paths and any expansion proposals London City comes up with.

For most of its history, London City Airport has concentrated on the immediate area surrounding the airport. Now, Wanstead is very much on its radar. That is not going to change. My sense is the local people will keep Wanstead on the agenda. There was a determination at the meeting that London City be held to account. I expect a locally based campaign will start up to make it an issue in the forthcoming mayoral and London Assembly elections.

For more information on HACAN East and future meetings, visit

More to read


Housebound residents need not have their reading material confined to free magazines that drop through their letterbox, says Rose Meredith, Home Library Service Volunteer Co-ordinator for Redbridge Libraries

Now the autumn is here, it’s that time of year when we start thinking about the gradual approach of winter and spending more time in the comfort of our own homes.

Some of our residents may start thinking about having falls and slips in icy winter weather, and this can make winter a time of staying at home a lot more, perhaps not having much of an opportunity to socialise.

This can happen at any stage of our lives, especially if we are recovering from illness or perhaps a fall, which has resulted in a temporary disability keeping us indoors.

The Redbridge Library Service – which is managed by Vision RCL on behalf of Redbridge Council – can help with your reading needs if something occurs in your life which, for any reason, means you are likely to be at home for the winter or for any longer period of time.

It might be that you have an operation and know it will take several months to feel yourself again and have the confidence to go out and about. Or it may be that you are at home on a more permanent basis and friends and neighbours are currently helping you but you are unable to reach your local library.   

We run a volunteer service for anyone who is unable to get to a library and is either temporarily or long-term housebound.

Age is not a barrier; we deliver to all age groups. However, being a Redbridge resident is a requirement to receive this service, but it doesn’t matter if you own or rent in the borough.

A member of staff will visit you with a volunteer and will assess your reading needs with you – usually, we have great chats about books and about what you like to read and even what you have read in the past – this is all part of our service.

Then, your volunteer starts to get an idea about what you like to read – they visit you on an ‘as and when basis’ – you decide when you want more books and your volunteer will bring them into your home.

All of the library volunteers have been chosen for their roles because of their approachable and vibrant personalities and, of course, their love of libraries, books and reading.

For more information about the Home Library Service, call 020 8708 2031 or email Alternatively, phone any local Redbridge Library and leave your details with a member of staff.