December 2019


History & 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 second of two articles by former local resident David Williams, the journalist-turned-tour guide and lecturer explains why he often returns to the area – as he is doing this month – to give talks to local groups.

I am not a genealogist but my interest in social and oral history has intrigued me for the past 15 years. After retiring from a career in print journalism and the film and television industry, I was keen to find something which would occupy my time. A casual search on the City of London Corporation website revealed they were inviting applications from people to become tour guides and lecturers. That was for me!

After qualifying as a guide in 2005, I went on a number of short courses about various aspects of London’s rich heritage. So, it was on to Birkbeck, University of London, to complete four years of part-time study in the evenings to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. The journey continued by spending two years distance learning to get a Master’s degree in Sport History and Culture at De Montfort University, Leicester, and finally, a second Master’s degree in Heritage Studies at the University of East London.

At school, history was all about kings and queens, politicians, dates of battles won and lost, the Empire, rebellions… and so the list goes on. Do I get an extra mark if I remember the date of the Battle of Waterloo? I passed the subject at GCE O level but that was all. Yet, here I am, almost 60 years later, living and breathing history, going around the Home Counties talking about London, its people, heritage, status, social development, influence and reputation over many centuries. I am fortunate to meet so many people who share my enthusiasm.

Without doubt, my journalistic background, including a year-long period as a cub reporter on the Woodford Times, has sharpened my instincts for investigation and research and confirmed a long-held theory that everyone has something to contribute to the social mix of how we live our lives now, in the recent past, and even long after people have gone to meet the grim reaper!

My talk this month is entitled Pounds, Shillings and Poverty and will explore London in the 19th century, which was an age of invention, mechanisation, railway building and urbanisation. Fortunes were made – and lost. Squalid living conditions added to the misery of those who also struggled against disease and rising crime. But there were also those who devoted their lives to improving the working and social conditions.

Whether I am giving an illustrated historical presentation on a cruise ship or talking to a small group in a village hall, the message, whatever the theme, is that London has a rich vein of history, good and bad. It’s always worth talking about.

David will be giving a talk for the East of London Family History Society at Wanstead Library on 22 January from 7.30pm (visitors: £1.50; call 020 8554 8414). For more information on David’s guided walks and talks, visit

Good neighbours


Helping others can be both fulfilling and fun, says Ron Jeffries of Redbridge Voluntary Care, a good neighbour scheme that has been running for over 40 years and is in need of volunteers in Wanstead.

From time to time, most people will know someone who needs help with transport to a hospital, the doctors, a clinic or the dentist. You may be aware of someone who is lonely, sick or elderly, someone who would welcome the company of a visitor.

You may have wondered if you might be able to help but are unsure how to go about it. If so, help is at hand! And it will be both fulfilling and fun for you, and a lifeline for someone who needs your support.

Redbridge Voluntary Care (RVC) is a good neighbour scheme and registered charity which started in 1973 and offers help to any resident of the London Borough of Redbridge. We help residents in many ways, by visiting lonely people, sitting with the sick or elderly when their carers go out or providing transport for people to attend medical appointments. We also take people to hospital to visit their partners or relatives. This can be a one-off visit or a regular commitment. In an emergency, RVC can get shopping or collect prescriptions. We also have volunteers who are willing to act as escorts during a visit to the doctor or hospital. This can be of benefit to patients who are hard of hearing, visually impaired or just nervous.

We have a small band of volunteers able to change light bulbs, check batteries, carry out small repairs, sort out bills or move furniture. However, what we cannot do is gardening, decorating, regular shopping or housework, or transport people who cannot get into an ordinary car.

At present, we have over 100 volunteers. Some act as duty officers, working from their homes for a day once a month or so. A dedicated telephone line is transferred to the home, taking calls from residents who need help. The duty officer has a contact list of volunteers who are able to assist when needed. When a request for help comes in from a client, carer, Age UK or social worker, the duty officer has to match up volunteers to the request and see who is available for the required task.

New volunteers in the Wanstead and Woodford area are always welcome, and we also need more duty officers. The work is rewarding in that we are able to offer help to those who are vulnerable and who need our assistance. Volunteers meet from time to time to share experiences, and so RVC is also a means of getting to know members of your local community.

Are you up for it? Can you spare an hour or so now and then to help someone who is lonely or vulnerable? If you are interested in finding out more, please get in touch. You will be warmly welcomed.

For more information on Redbridge Voluntary Care, call 020 8514 0980 or visit

Change of venue for Wanstead Village ward councillors’ surgeries

Screenshot 2020-01-03 10.24.16Left to right: Councillor Paul Donovan, Councillor Jo Blackman and Councillor Daniel Morgan-Thomas

Wanstead Village councillors have changed the venue of their surgeries, with meetings to be held at the Allan Burgess Centre from January onwards.

Surgery times remain the same, taking place from 10am to 12 noon on the second and fourth Saturday of the month. “We look forward to meeting more residents in our new setting to discuss local issues… We also encourage those who cannot join us on Saturday mornings to contact us by email or phone at other times,” said Councillor Daniel Morgan-Thomas.



New Year split


Jonathan Diamond, a partner at Wiseman Lee Solicitors, explains why divorce proceedings tend to spike in the New Year and how couples can avoid falling into the trap of the marital ‘blame game’.

Sadly, January is one of the busiest times for couples to consider divorcing. Some researchers have suggested the stress of spending time together at Christmas can be the final straw for some relationships that have already been under strain.

Whatever the reasons, as the law currently stands, the quickest way to obtain a divorce is to apportion blame on your spouse. In this day and age, it may seem grossly unfair to resort to finger-pointing to end a marriage that has irretrievably broken down.

In fact, earlier this year, the government heralded an end to such practices and instead promised new ‘no fault’ divorce laws. That was back in April 2019 but, sadly, parliament ran out of time to pass the new legislation, and although it could still become law in the future, as things stand, the old – and some would argue antiquated – law remains.

In order to divorce, one spouse must petition the court and demonstrate the marriage has broken down irretrievably as a result of either unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two years’ desertion or two years’ separation (five years if one party refuses to give their consent).Three of these five reasons involve blaming the other party, while the other two require couples to wait either two or five years to split formally. Understandably, many people feel it is unreasonable to have to wait so long.

In a rush to make a clean break and move on with their lives, some couples might consider turning to online divorce. When it was first launched, it made headlines after 13 people used the system to apply for a divorce on Christmas Day! However, even when divorce is amicable, there are real risks in opting to apply for a divorce online rather than through a solicitor. Couples are, after all, making a number of hugely important decisions with wide-ranging implications. Getting it wrong can cause serious issues affecting property, finances and pensions, even for people with relatively modest incomes and assets.

An added problem is that many online divorce centres have a huge backlog of cases, with some reporting delays of more than a year. The reality is that a ‘quickie online divorce’ is anything but quick and could lead to serious problems over the split of assets.

Any couple considering divorcing this January needs to be aware of the effect the divorce blame game can have. Although the current law may mean they can feel forced to blame the other party, even when the couple has simply grown apart, it is important not to let this set an unfortunate tone for the rest of the process. Effective and sensitive communication really is key. This is especially important where children are involved, and good legal advice will help divorcing couples reach as amicable an agreement as possible.

Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000

Fundraising success for the Wanstead Parish winter night shelter


Fundraising for the Wanstead Parish winter night shelter – which will open on 7 January – has reached over £6,600 at the time of writing.

“This includes £2,000 from the Aviva Community Fund, a £1,000 anonymous donation, £250 from the Wanstead Business Network and a multitude of smaller donations,” said Rev Jack Dunn. “People have really got behind the work of the parish in seeking to help some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society find shelter and safety.”



Cricket club’s new nets to be ready for the 2020 cricket season

20191114_105418Work is underway on installing the club’s new nets

Wanstead and Snaresbrook Cricket Club’s new nets will be installed in time for the new cricket season.

“Our new nets are now a reality thanks to grants from the London Marathon Community Trust, Sport England and the National Lottery Community Fund, as well as fundraising by club members. Work started in November, with the old nets being ripped up and the initial base for the new nets being laid. The contractors will finish construction of the new nets in time for the 2020 cricket season,” said club chairman Martin Pluck.


Green up your street in 2020: January deadline to adopt tree pit near your home


Residents keen on beautifying the streets of Wanstead for the year ahead are urged not to miss the 2020 deadline for adopting a tree pit near their home.

“Planting bee-friendly flowers under a street tree will make your road look beautiful, reduce chemicals being sprayed and help wildlife,” said a spokesperson for Wild Wanstead, which is aiming to increase the number of street trees across the neighbourhood planted at their base to support pollinating insects.

“Just email the council by 25 January to tell them the location of the tree you’re adopting and they’ll provide a label to stop it being sprayed. Plant the base with wild flowers, geraniums, herbs or any other small plants.”

Email or visit for more information and street gardening safety advice.


Council keen to hear suggestions for electric vehicle charging points


Redbridge Council is seeking feedback from residents as to where communal charging points for electric vehicles should be located.

“The advance of this technology has been slower in this country than some others, but gradually the electric car revolution is taking off. Redbridge Council is keen to support this form of transport, providing charging points across the borough. This is an ongoing process, so expressions of interest are invited regarding possible sites,” said Councillor Paul Donovan.



Hope and Glory community theatre project: volunteers needed


Volunteers are needed to take part in a World War Two community theatre project.

“The Hope and Glory project aims to explore what life was like in Redbridge during the Second World War through performance and research techniques,” said project leader Alfie James. Participants will work towards creating a show to be performed at Redbridge Drama Centre in April. “This will be a fun and enjoyable project, which will bring local history to life on stage… No previous acting experience is required.”

Call 07858 625 622


Children create Christmas stockings for residents of local nursing home


As part of her Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative, anti-bullying ambassador Elsa Arnold launched an ‘outreach for loneliness’ project earlier this month.

“We held an event at The Duke, where children designed Christmas cards and stockings, which we filled with gifts for the residents of Cambridge Nursing Home,” said Elsa. “The stockings were delivered by local families, who also spent time at the home to spread Christmas cheer… I would like to thank The Duke and the wider community for their enthusiasm in getting involved.”


A word from the UK’s youngest parliamentary candidate


Henry Scott stood as an independent candidate for the Leyton and Wanstead constituency in December’s General Election.

Having recently turned 18, he was the UK’s youngest candidate.

“The election has been brilliant, and it’s given me a lot of experience, but also educated me a lot on the issues in our area and in the country. From the homeless to business owners, everyone has problems that need to have a change in the way they are dealt with… I was surprised at some of the abuse myself and other parties received, but I’ve been told that’s just how politics works… I am definitely going to run for a councillor position next time. The campaign has spurred me on and built me up with enthusiasm,” said Henry, who received a 1% vote share with 427 votes.