April 2020


Wanstead and South Woodford schools donate equipment to hospital


Schools in Wanstead and South Woodford have joined a number of others across the borough in donating personal protective equipment to healthcare staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff from 20 school communities in Redbridge collected over 3,000 goggles and other equipment their pupils would normally use in science lessons, with the supplies sent to Queen’s Hospital in Romford.

Aldersbrook Primary School, Wanstead High School and Woodbridge High School were among those who contributed.

“We are really happy to be able to make this small gesture to help out our colleagues in the NHS at this difficult time. It is a privilege to do what we can. I am very grateful to our Science and Design Technology departments for their quick action in getting these things together in recent days. We wish all colleagues in the NHS and in the wider care sector the very best, and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for what they are doing for our country and society,” said Steven Hogan, Headteacher at Woodbridge High School.


Respect social distancing to keep parks open

L1220812Christchurch Green, Wanstead. ©Geoff Wilkinson

Temporary fencing has been assembled around play areas in Wanstead and South Woodford’s parks.

“This measure has been taken to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, as it survives on plastic for 36 hours and on metal for 12 hours. This means children can contract COVID-19 by touching infected play equipment,” explained a Redbridge Council spokesperson.

“If our parks are not used responsibly, the government may be forced to close them. Help us to keep our parks open by adhering to the guidelines.”


Council assures residents recyclable materials are not going to landfill

L1210473-2©Geoff Wilkinson

With kerbside recycling collections suspended, Redbridge Council is keen to assure residents that recyclable materials are not going to landfill.

“We can assure residents that recycling materials are not going to landfill. General waste collected from households goes to a waste processing plant, where it is initially shredded and dried. This process reduces the volume of the waste and minimises the production of methane…From the dried waste, recyclates can be extracted, such as metals, glass and organic material. The remaining material, known as Refuse Derived Fuel, can be used for energy generation. No waste from this process is sent to landfill,” said a spokesperson.


Kind words…


In the third of a series of articles documenting the thoughts of local anti-bullying ambassador Elsa Arnold, the founder of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative explains how we can all effect change

I’ve always been someone who has dreamt of ways to make a positive difference and inspire even just a small change in the world. It’s important to me that I am able to have an impact and help others with issues I understand and feel passionately about shaping.

When I experienced bullying and struggled with my mental health, my desire and need to help others got stronger, and after struggling so much, I couldn’t stand by knowing that other people were experiencing similar difficulties. I knew and believed I could make a difference.

But I’ll be honest, taking the first few steps to speak out and stand up was one of the most terrifying things I have done. It hasn’t always been easy. I knew from the beginning I might get a little bit of backlash. I didn’t expect it to be easy, particularly because the issue was still very sensitive for me at the time. But that was never going to stop me. I knew however hard it was, it was completely necessary for me to do what I could to help others and be the change that I wanted to see in the world.

We all have something that we believe needs to change to achieve more equality, fairness and justice in the world we live in. But for real change to happen, hoping for the best and relying on others doesn’t lead to many results. We need to have the courage to act.

All too often, I hear people say their voice and their actions can’t make a significant difference, particularly other teens and young people around me. I’m constantly trying to communicate to others how valuable their actions are in making a difference. It could be the smallest change you want to see within your school or at work, something you believe would make a safer and happier environment for others. You don’t have to start a national campaign; you just have to believe that by taking some regular small actions, you will contribute towards making a big difference.

Ask yourself, what change do you want to see in the world? And how can you be a part of creating it?

We all have a responsibility to look out for one another and shape the future we want, because only we can decide what it holds.

So please, don’t underestimate the power you have to make a difference. Do your little bit to stand up for what you believe in and don’t rely on others, because we all need to help. If we all act more, we will achieve amazing things together, because change starts with us.

For more information and to read Elsa’s blog, visit lostinthought-blog.com, or follow her on Instagram @elsa_arnold

The Hobbs Album


In the second of a series of articles looking at local historic photos found in a 100-year-old family album, historian Richard Arnopp presents a selection of images of the Hobbs at their Forest Gate home

Last month, I introduced the Hobbs family, a talented and interesting clan, some of whom lived locally in Forest Gate and later Ilford. In 2017, I acquired an album, dated 1896–1907, containing over 100 photographs taken by family members.

The patriarch of the family was George Wilson Hobbs, a self-employed artist who had been born in Newport, Isle of Wight, in 1838. With his wife, Fanny, and their family, he moved to Forest Gate around 1880 and resided at 35 Bignold Road until his death in 1913. That house was the setting for a number of photographs from the album which will illustrate this instalment.

In those days, Forest Gate was rather different to what it is today – a quiet, lower-middle-class suburb containing an island of quite exclusive villas in the Woodgrange Estate. Mrs Dorothy Neal was born in 1912 in the corn chandler’s shop owned by her father in Dames Road – not 100 yards from the home of George Hobbs, with whom her life just overlapped. Looking back in 1981, she described the area thus:

“Forest Gate, when my father came here from North London in 1879, was just a village in the process of development. I am not certain of the date, but in Woodgrange Road where the Lister Centre now stands, was a toll gate, the old Toll House stood there for many years until the developers moved in. The Eagle and Child pub, before it was rebuilt, was a small inn called The Bird and Babe.

“Wanstead Flats was paradise for me. With my friends, we spent most of our school holidays in this pleasant place… There was a lovely bandstand where the band played every Thursday afternoon and Sunday during the summer months, and every evening a concert party entertained us – two pence (2d) for a seat inside the enclosure, or free if you cared to stand outside. We used to help arrange the seats, so got free admission. There were paddle and rowing boats on the pond, which appears to have dried up completely these days. On warm summer evenings, the Flats would be alive with people – the chocolate boys with their trays of sweets, and the old ice cream man with his barrow at the top of Capel Road. There were cricket pitches and tennis courts, protected by a single chain, supported by posts. We respected this and nobody trespassed the area.

“On Bank Holidays, the new Centre Road, which was then Woodford Road, was a blaze of lights with the arrival of the fair. The No. 5 trams would reach their destination just past Forest Road, packed with people from the Docklands area – no hooligans, just well-behaved people out to enjoy themselves.

“There were some very high-class shops in Woodgrange Road – Spratts and Raper & Dales being two outstanding ones with their beautiful arcades that looked like fairyland at Christmas. Along Forest Lane was a cab rank where the horse cabs lined up, waiting to pick up the City gents from the station. The horse trough, which is still there, was always filled with water for the horses, also a drinking fountain for everyone.

“I almost forgot the fire station in Forest Street, now Brooking Road – those gleaming fire engines, the firemen with their polished brass helmets, always in readiness for the fires that seemed so few in those days, in spite of open coal fires and candles that were very much in use. Yes, Forest Gate was a lovely place to live.”

To view Richard’s Wanstead Image Archive, visit wnstd.com/imagearchive


At what price equity release?


Equity release is being widely promoted as a way to unlock money tied up in your property. But what are the pros and cons? Geoff Williams from Wiseman Lee explains why it is important to seek legal advice

In recent months, you’ve hardly been able to turn on the TV or the radio without an advert for equity release popping up, offering the release of money from your home as a lump sum or as monthly income.

Before you take the plunge, it’s important to be aware that there are alternative ways to raise capital by selling and downsizing your property or attracting additional income by renting out a room. Make sure you consider all other options first to ensure that equity release is right for you.

If you still feel equity release might be the way forward and you are over 55, it is important to understand what is involved.

There are two main types of equity release. The first is a lifetime mortgage. Here, money is borrowed against the value of your home.  In the future, when the property becomes vacant, after you pass away or move into residential care, the mortgage is repaid from the sale of your home. Interest on a lifetime mortgage is ‘rolled-up’ and added to the loan, which will then reduce the amount your beneficiaries will inherit.

The second type of equity release scheme is a home reversion plan. Here, money is released by selling all or part of your home while you continue to live in it. Your property is then ‘leased’ back to you. The terms of the lease may either be rent-free or on a small, nominal-fee basis. As before, when you die or move into residential care, part or all of your home will belong to the equity release company, according to the terms of the contract.

There are pros and cons to both types of equity release schemes, so it is important to seek both independent financial and legal advice to help you decide whether equity release is right for you in the first place and, if so, which option suits your circumstances.

Given that your home is arguably the most valuable single asset you own, it is important to understand that signing up to an equity release scheme is a legally binding contract. A specialist solicitor will check the contract is correct and doesn’t contain any nasty surprises. They will also be able to explain any jargon, so you fully understand what you are signing up to.

Usually, the legal process for dealing with an equity release legal contract takes between six and eight weeks and there will be fees payable to your financial adviser, surveyor and solicitor.

Most equity release companies will be aware you need to take both financial and legal advice before signing on the dotted line and, in fact, all reputable companies will insist upon you doing so. If you should feel you are being rushed into a decision, this in itself should set alarm bells ringing. As the old saying goes, ‘act in haste, repent at leisure.’

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

Driving the point home


Should you ditch your car? Kathy Taylor from Wanstead Climate Action assesses your options if you want to stop contributing to air pollution and reducing the lifespan of your neighbours

Did you know that a mile of congested urban diesel driving takes about 12 minutes off the life of the rest of the population? This stark fact is one of the many interesting ones to be found in the book There is no Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee. 

If you needed a reason to scrap your diesel (or give it to a country dweller) apart from the upcoming expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) area, the fact that an estimated 40,000 people a year in the UK die prematurely from air pollution should persuade you. It’s the nitrogen dioxide and the small particles (PM 2.5s) that are the killers (including those from tyres and brakes).

So, what should you do? Of course, the most environmentally friendly alternative is to ditch the car. Living in London is perhaps the easiest place to live without one. If there were more club cars like Zip Car this would be convenient and make economical – as well as environmental – sense: most cars sit doing nothing for the majority of their lives, wasting resources (per mile use of resources in manufacture and maintenance) compared to a car that is used frequently.

Just think what could be done with all those car parking spaces if we all shared cars! But there are currently only two Zip Cars for rent in Wanstead (Drive Now has just folded due to lack of customers).

Pedal or electric bikes as an alternative may suit some people who do very few car miles, but it’s electric vehicles (EVs) that are getting all the media coverage right now, with both Redbridge Council and the UK government committing to increasing charging points. Should you invest in an electric car? Certainly, the running costs will be lower, but unless you do a lot of driving or have a diesel, it may make sense to keep a car for as long as possible (especially if you already have a hybrid). As with all consumer goods, make them last.

Currently, electricity is still produced mainly from fossil fuels, and until there’s enough green electricity to go around, your pollution will be displaced to power stations.

Carbon Brief – which aims to improve the understanding of climate change – has concluded: “In the UK in 2019, the lifetime emissions per kilometre of driving a Nissan Leaf EV were about a third of the average conventional car (even before accounting for the falling carbon intensity of electricity generation expected during the car’s lifetime).”

Taking all that into account, when it’s time to replace your petrol or hybrid car, and if you really need one, then it’s electric all the way.

For more information on how electric vehicles help to tackle climate change, visit wnstd.com/carbonbrief

For information on the ULEZ boundary extension in 2021, visit wnstd.com/ulez


Hope & Glory

aMembers of group in rehearsal

A project which has been bringing the community together by collating wartime memories of Redbridge was hoping to stage a local theatre production this month. Alfie James reports

From stories of rationing and being evacuated to blackouts and bombings, the Hope and Glory community theatre project set out to explore what life was like living in Redbridge during the Second World War. We have set up two groups: a group of researchers meeting regularly at Redbridge Museum and a group of local performers using performance techniques to explore what life was like in that period.

Thanks to the local press and the power of social media, as well as good old-fashioned word of mouth, the project has already generated a lot of interest. We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of positive support received by the community and we couldn’t thank you enough. We’ve received emails and telephone calls from residents wanting to share family stories of memories. The project has even reached the wider community too. We had one former resident now living in Canada call us with information and we’re sharing our research with a school in Scotland who are learning about London during the war.

The project would not be the success it is without the enthusiasm of our members. Elizabeth McNally is one such member and believes the project is popular because people “love performing and there’s a real interest in local history of that era, and this is a great way of bringing the two together.”

Local history has been at the heart of this project and it’s given us the opportunity to develop our research skills by learning how to use archives, artefacts and how to interview people. One resident told us how she remembers a plane crashing and how the pilot sadly wasn’t able to eject in time. Another remembers the first time she heard the air raid siren as a young child. What has become increasingly evident throughout the project is that there was a great sense of community and that people came together and looked after one another.

The project could not have taken place without the support of The Heritage Lottery Fund and Redbridge Museum. The help given by the staff at the museum has been invaluable and it’s been fantastic to use the rich resources they have available.

The project is working towards developing a small play to be performed at Redbridge Drama Centre in April. We’re all excited to be given the opportunity to share some of what we’ve learnt with the local community. Theatre is a great way of bringing to life and sharing what we have learnt with others. The performance, entitled The Spitfire Club, will bring to life what it was like growing up during the Second World War through the eyes of a group of children and residents.

The performance was scheduled to take place at Redbridge Drama Centre on 24 April from 7.30pm (tickets: £5; subject to change). Call 07858 625 622 or visit alfiejamesproductions.com


IMG_0310Wanstead War Memorial ©Geoff Wilkinson

A talk about local war memorials was due to take place at the Woodford and District branch of the National Trust this month. As with many events, this is likely to be cancelled. So we invited Richard Speller to talk here about Wanstead’s own monument of remembrance. Photo of the Wanstead War Memorial by Geoff Wilkinson

Due to the appalling death toll suffered in the 1914–1918 Great War, virtually every family in the land would have known of someone who had lost their life. Thus, within a very short period, war memorials of every different type – stone pillars, statues, windows, plaques – were erected all over the country. These were, in the main, funded by local communities.

Of course, these memorials not only list those who died in the First World War but also the second (1939–1945) and beyond, and the Wanstead memorial commemorates Marine Tom Curry, who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2007.

War memorials, as we know them, only really started appearing after the Crimean War in the 1850s. Prior to that, sadly, participants who had been killed were buried in mass graves without any identification at all.

The movement gathered pace following the Boer wars, primarily due to far greater and faster communication regarding the events and compassion within the population.

The Imperial War Museum considers there to be over 100,000 memorials in Great Britain, of which approximately 40,000 are listed.

Wanstead was part of this movement. The memorial on the High Street – on a small detached fragment of Epping Forest, known locally as Tarzy Wood – was unveiled on 30 April 1922 by local dignitary and businessman Sir James Roll, who had been Lord Mayor of London the year before.

The main feature of the Wanstead War Memorial is the winged figure of Victory or Peace, sculpted by Newbury Trent, who also produced the figure of the soldier on the Ilford War Memorial. There are 198 names listed, but local research shows the true figure of the losses in Wanstead was nearer 320. The memorial inscription reads: “Men of Wanstead, whom their neighbours hereby commemorate, here numbered among those who in the Great War at the call of king and country left all that was dear to them, endured hardship, faced danger and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their sacrifice was not in vain.”

War memorials in this country are the responsibility of the local authority, and the London Borough of Redbridge has an excellent website under the Redbridge Museum detailing and illustrating a very large number of these in the area. In addition, the charity War Memorials Trust does fine work in helping to identify and list memorials as well as provide expert help and grants to maintain them. It is worth remembering that most war memorials are approaching 100 years in age.

Should you wish to discover more, visit the War Memorials Trust website or come along to my talk this month.

Richard’s talk was scheduled to take place on 15 April from 2.30pm at All Saints’ Church hall in Woodford Green (visitors: £3; subject to change). Call 07774 164 407

For more information on the War Memorials Trust, visit warmemorials.org

For more information on Redbridge’s war memorials, visit wnstd.com/memorials


Wild Wanstead

6F2E0E62-14F9-44C0-A865-635660DFED07©Geoff Wilkinson

In the 21st of a series of articles charting the Wild Wanstead project, Iain Ambler considers the natural history of George Green and its future as a special site for wildlife in Wanstead. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson

George Green has an interesting environmental history that we can see many remnants of today. It appears to be a fragment of old acid grassland or heathland, probably in or at the margins of Epping Forest. In 1683, John Evelyn visited Wanstead and recorded the costly planting of avenues of trees by Sir Josiah Child around his recently acquired estate. The remaining massive sweet chestnut trees standing on the Green today (four in a line, three together, one towards the St Mary’s end of the green) formed part of one of these double avenues of trees radiating out for some distance from the focal point of the grand house, which was located on part of what is now Wanstead’s golf course.

With the break-up of the Wanstead Estate in the 19th century, the Green remained as a patch of poor quality pasture surrounded by buildings. It is owned by the City of London Corporation and protected by the Epping Forest Act of 1878. The day-to-day management of this urban amenity has been passed to the London Borough of Redbridge.

The tall plane trees you can see today along the western edge of George Green were likely planted under the supervision of Alexander Mackenzie, who was superintendent of Epping Forest from 1879 until his death in 1893. In the 1990s, it became an environmental battleground, focused on one of the chestnut trees on the site due for removal as part of the M11 link road construction, and probably the inspiration for environmental activists like Swampy later in the decade. And, of course, it’s named after the beloved pub.

These days, George Green is the site of a new environmental initiative. Last summer, you might have noticed the back part of the Green looking shaggier and more beautiful than usual. That’s because the park now includes a number of ‘Grow Zones’, areas where the grass is being left to grow long over summer to naturalise with wildflowers. The initiative is a collaboration between Vision RCL, Redbridge Council and Wild Wanstead, who are working together to create a network of Grow Zones across Wanstead. When we undertook a botanical survey of the area, it revealed more than 80 plant species, as well as insects that thrive in long grass habitats like the Essex Skipper Butterfly. In fact, meadowland supports eight times more biodiversity than regularly mown grass, and acid grassland is of particular importance, considered a nationally important habitat and priority for nurturing in London.

As well as the Grow Zones on George Green, there are others on Christ Church Green, Nutter Lane Field and Elmcroft Avenue Recreational Ground, as well as a number of road verges. Hopefully, as the grass and flowers grow, so too will the populations of insects, birds and other creatures that rely on them for food and shelter, helping nature to thrive on our doorsteps.

For more information on the Wild Wanstead project and how you can create a mini grow zone in your garden, visit wnstd.com/growzone

Secrets of the Temple

IMG_1974The Temple in Wanstead Park. ©Richard Arnopp

Richard Arnopp was one of several participants in last month’s Museum of London Archaeology workshop exploring the history and secrets of Wanstead Park’s Temple

Anything to do with the history of Wanstead Park is almost guaranteed an audience and, with that in mind, Epping Forest hosted two free archaeology workshops in the park last month as part of Layers of London, an interactive online mapping project. The events – led by Paul McGarrity of Museum of London Archaeology – took place in the Temple, a building dating from about 1760, originally constructed to house a menagerie.

Paul explained that archaeology isn’t just about digging – archaeologists record buildings which are still standing too. He said that the analysis of buildings is based on the same principles as other archaeological fieldwork. In excavations, archaeologists use the sequence of buried layers to reconstruct the history of a site, while the development of buildings is phased using the relationship between 3D structures.

Paul began by saying protection for archaeology had increased since 1990 with measures which had greatly increased the level of recording. In the case of a standing building, this would depend on its nature and the purpose for which the record was intended. Standing building records typically addressed location, form, function, materials, setting, context, phasing, history and significance. They ranged from Level I (a basic visual record) to Level IV (a comprehensive analytical record appropriate for buildings of special importance).

After explaining the principles involved, Paul took the group on a tour of the Temple, which is Grade II listed, commenting on a variety of visual clues to its development. The Temple has a complicated history, both of construction and use. It is possible only the central part, behind the portico, had originally been planned, but two symmetrical wings had been added early, possibly while construction was in progress. It was also possible the entire back of the building had been reconstructed when the plans changed. A small extension to the south had been added subsequently using a similar style and materials, and then a rather larger extension in the 19th century using London stock bricks. Paul pointed out the vertical sequences of cut ‘closer’ bricks, which disclosed the locations of successive end walls, as well as repairs from a bombing raid in 1917, changes to the windows and clues from old paintwork to alterations to the mound at the front. Participants also got access to the cellar space under the porch, which now serves as a plant room and is normally closed.

Following the tour, the group undertook an exercise in describing a single wall of the room they were in. Nobody managed to record all the features they should have done, which included temporary notices! All participants were very enthusiastic about the workshop and found it informative and enjoyable.

The Temple is open on the first full weekend of every month from 10am to 3pm (free entry). Visit wnstd.com/temple

Making a difference

jw2-1John with a fellow volunteer in Walthamstow

There’s a team of dedicated Wanstead folk working on a daily basis to help local rough sleepers and those less fortunate than many of us. Could you help them? Samantha Earl reports

John Wagstaff of Petty Son and Prestwich is one of these dedicated folk who can often be found sorting, organising and distributing various donations to different shelters and food banks. And until recently, John was helping out Wanstead charity worker Frank Charles and T-Space’s Jason Harris every Friday by giving out clothes, sleeping bags and other much-needed items at the Stratford Centre.

Every week, John, Frank and Jason would arrive at the Stratford Centre at 6am – early because those sleeping rough are moved on by security. But out of sight shouldn’t ever be out of mind, so the team arrived with a large estate SUV full to the brim with bags of donations, generously provided by the amazing Wanstead community. Frank brought a huge bag of food to hand out, while John and Jason set up a large table of the clothes.

The team encountered 20 to 40 rough sleepers each week, and one in 10 were female. In the team’s experience, these people were often timid but always grateful, only taking as much as was essential, often commenting that “someone else might need it more.”

Seeing faces light up momentarily when handed a warm hoodie and something to eat drives this team to keep doing what they do. But once fed and briefly warmed up, these people then have to move on as there is nowhere for them to go in Newham, certainly not in Stratford. There are no washing facilities for those whose home is the Stratford Centre, no public toilets and very few shelters that open during the day. It’s a dire, desperate situation, and whilst it was once worse with rows and rows of tents lined up under the flyover (Tent City), which have thankfully now gone, there is still a long way to go.

Frank, John and Jason look out for those who literally have nothing. Frank knows the streets, and his experience and knowledge can point these desperate people towards the very few places available.

As Frank continues with his breakfast trips to Stratford, John has more recently started helping Waltham Forest Feet on the Streets. ”This takes place on Thursday evenings alongside the Christian Kitchen in Mission Grove car park, Walthamstow. We accompany Mags Drummond and her volunteers, who bring coffee and tea, with our large selection of clothes. Mags is extremely active within the homeless community and sees those without a home as an extended family. She is incredibly inspirational,” said John.

And while food and warm clothes go a long way, a little humour, kindness and time goes even further. A handshake, an exchange of names and a friendly chat can leave them with the one thing that could make a difference: hope. Hope that could help them through another week.

For more information, call 020 8989 2091