June 2020

Features

Building history

The-Shrubbery-1940-bombingBombing of The Shrubbery in Grosvenor Road in September 1940

In the second of two articles, Dr Colin Runeckles continues the discussion of his findings following research into a Wanstead and Woodford Borough Council building survey carried out in 1949

Understandably, much post-war building activity was focused on rebuilding and making good housing that had been damaged by enemy action, but there was some new construction going on too. Of the eight houses that were destroyed in Blake Hall Crescent, the surveyor noted that workmen were “clearing the site in readiness for rebuilding”.

House building in Deynecourt Gardens had begun in 1939 and more than 50 new houses were built to complete the road. A few new houses were built around Broadwalk and Hermitage Walk, but the majority of new units of accommodation were provided by council building. Seven buildings named Oakhall Court, comprising 42 flats, were built on vacant land along the Eastern Avenue. The large house known as The Hermitage on Snaresbrook Road was severely damaged by a bomb in October 1940. The survey records that 78 two-room, 192 three-room and 70 four-room flats had been built in 1949 on what it called the Hermitage Estate. Proper road names had presumably not yet been decided.

Wanstead Station was built in 1946, replacing the temporary structure that can be seen on pre-war maps, and ready for opening the following year. The two Plessey’s canteens were converted into government offices as Ministry of Labour and National Service recruiting centres, although the building in The George car park had been extended.

The British Restaurant in the High Street was now a Ministry of National Insurance, and 38 Cambridge Park (opposite Highstone Avenue) had been taken over as an Area Office for the National Assistance Board. The survey also reveals several shops in the High Street had been bricked up because they were vacant. Built around 1938–1939 in front of the old Stone Hall and Mall houses, they were the last of the single-storey shops to be built in that section of the High Street between the wars. Had they been vacant since they were built? Possibly – they are not listed in the 1939 Kelly’s Directory.

Another mystery building shown on the post-war OS maps to the east of Clavering Road, near Wanstead Park, was a mortuary built in 1944 after the Isolation Hospital in that area was bombed. On a lighter note, the survey lists 2 Seagry Road as having a stable at the rear, and notes that it is “in use (1 horse)”! The survey also records the name and type of business for commercial buildings. Although some familiar names remain from the pre-war period, new businesses are also apparent.

Once the entries for Woodford have been entered, the completed database will become a welcome addition to the Heritage Centre’s resources for those researching the history of their house or of the local area.

For more information on the Redbridge Museum and Heritage Centre, visit wnstd.com/rmhc
Features

The Hobbs Album

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In the third of a series of articles looking at historic photos found in a 100-year-old album belonging to the Hobbs family, local historian Richard Arnopp presents a selection of images of the Hobbs in Brighton

In 2017 I acquired an album, dated 1896–1907, containing just over 100 photographs taken by members of the Hobbs family. In the last article, we looked at the home of George Wilson Hobbs, in what was then the quiet, lower-middle-class suburb of Forest Gate.

George’s wife, Fanny (née Viner), came originally from Brighton, and it was there that they were married in 1865 in St Nicholas’ Church. Thereafter, the couple and their growing family led a rather peripatetic existence before settling in Forest Gate around 1880. However, their family album shows that they maintained their links with Brighton, and photographs of their visits show the Victorian seaside resort as well as more traditional scenes of fishing boats and rural Sussex life.

In the early 18th century, Brighton had been a declining fishing town, suffering from a fall in demand for fish, coastal erosion and a series of natural disasters. Salvation had come from an unexpected quarter: in the 1730s, a local doctor began to extol the medicinal qualities of seawater and the virtues of sea bathing. Over the following decades, the town became a fashionable resort, attracting wealthy visitors during the summer season. From 1771, these included the Duke of Cumberland, a member of the Royal Family. In 1783, he was joined by the young Prince of Wales, who was later to become the Prince Regent and King George IV. The prince enjoyed his stay, and in 1786 rented a farmhouse and began to spend much of his time in Brighton, where he set up a discreet establishment for his mistress, Mrs Fitzherbert (whom he had secretly, and illegally, married the previous year). The farmhouse was gradually transformed into the fantastical Royal Pavilion, still Brighton’s greatest attraction.

The railway came to Brighton in 1840 and brought Brighton within the reach of daytrippers from London. The Royal Family now felt too hemmed in to enjoy the town, and Queen Victoria sold the Royal Pavilion to the town council in 1850. However, although the new visitors mostly lacked the wealth or glamour of their Georgian predecessors, they more than made up for it in numbers, and the town continued to grow and prosper. Fanny Viner’s family were beneficiaries of this tourist boom – her father Henry was for nearly 40 years landlord of the Eagle Inn. Located in Charles Street, off Marine Parade, the pub was well-located in a busy area with numerous boarding houses. The building still stands, though it ceased to be a pub in 1927.

In the later 20th century, Brighton, in common with many other British seaside resorts, lost much of its popularity and became rather dilapidated and seedy. However, these photographs from around 1900 show it at the height of its late-Victorian popularity.

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

Post-COVID-19 world

L1100878©Geoff Wilkinson

What will Wanstead and Woodford look like in a post-COVID world? In the first of a series of articles, Chair of Wanstead Society Scott Wilding, who is exploring these issues as part of his job, offers his thoughts

The past few months have been difficult and challenging for everyone. Our normal way of life has completely changed, and we have an enhanced appreciation for frontline workers, not just the NHS, but our refuse collectors, HGV drivers, shelf stackers, transport workers and many, many more.

But as we begin to emerge from lockdown, what will our lives look like? We all want to return to how it was, but maybe now it’s time to consider what we want to rush back to, and what we don’t. And although this disease is a tragedy that has affected everyone, some positives have come from the bad.

Traffic and travel
When the lockdown came into force, we turned off the white noise of the A12, the flights from City Airport and others. We started to hear the birds again. We began to breathe cleaner air. It’s going to be much harder to return to pre-COVID levels of noise and pollution – and we might not have to. TfL estimates traffic fell by almost 50% during the peak of lockdown, with London’s worst pollutants (NO2 emissions) down by 27% and, in some spots, pollution fell by almost 50%.

Do we really want to return to a world where that goes back up again? With many office workers now at home for the foreseeable future, the opportunity can be measured in time. Time to walk or cycle the kids to school, if you can. Time to walk and cycle to the High Street to shop rather than drive to the big supermarkets. Time to take socially distanced exercise rather than drive to a gym. It’s also worth taking the time to consider how we support essential traffic like deliveries, vans and HGVs, and how we can encourage more sustainable travel.

Now may also be the time for airports to consider whether they need to expand. Do we need another runway now business travellers have got used to video conferencing? It’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Air travel will, for the next 12 months, be at historic lows. And the UK holiday industry could reap huge benefits.

Society
It’s been tough. We have all been at home. But from road-based WhatsApp groups to shopping for vulnerable people and Zoom quizzes with mates, my guess is more of us know more of our neighbours than we did before – and that can only be a good thing. Humans are sociable animals, and from adversity has sprung hope. Hope that we will continue new-found friendships to form a more cohesive and positive place to live.

The ‘new normal’ is going to be different, but it’s not going to be all bad. We just have to choose which bits of the old life we want back and which bits we’d rather leave in the past.

Features

Not on hold

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Lockdown may have prevented South Woodford resident and Samaritans volunteer Barbara Collins from meeting people face to face, but volunteers are still answering the phone … and listening

When the lockdown began, I wondered how I could continue my volunteering work with Samaritans. I joined Redbridge Samaritans about five years ago after I retired. I really appreciated the chance to meet new people and felt I was contributing something useful to the community.

Since then, I have spent about three hours a week at our Ilford centre, taking phone calls, answering emails and seeing personal callers. I have enjoyed being a leader for other volunteers and leading our recruitment team. Both the update training and the ongoing support from other volunteers have been great.

As many readers will know, Samaritans has, for many years, provided a confidential listening service for people in emotional distress. People of all backgrounds contact us about all kinds of problems. These could be depression, loneliness, stressful situations at home or work, debt or abuse. We listen, give them a chance to get it out, and talk things through. Only about one in five calls or messages are from people feeling suicidal, and the vast majority of these aren’t actively planning to end their lives. Our branch has about 70 volunteers and answers 10,000 calls a year.

During lockdown we have had to make a few adjustments. For example, we are unable to meet callers face to face. Also, some of our volunteers are self-isolating. Across the country, about 30% of Samaritans volunteers have needed to self-isolate. Arrangements have been made to allow some of us to answer Samaritans emails from home, through a secure connection. Most Samaritans have continued to go into their branches to take calls. They have been designated as essential workers, allowing them to travel. In April, Samaritans worked with other organisations to set up a confidential telephone helpline dedicated to support NHS workers.

During this time, we have appreciated the many offers from people who want to volunteer. Due to Covid-19, we had to stop our face-to-face training, but please continue to register your interest online. We will get in touch as soon as we can start training volunteers again, either in person or online.

Fundraising for branches and for Samaritans nationally is a problem as many of our usual activities are not happening: no quiz evenings or other events involving gatherings. If you would like to donate to Samaritans nationally or locally, please do so online.

And most importantly, if you need our help, don’t forget we’re here to listen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We listen. We won’t judge or tell you what to do.

For more information on Redbridge Samaritans, visit swvg.co.uk/samaritans

If you need help, call 116 123 for free or email jo@samaritans.org

News

Tour guide launches virtual tours of Wanstead in aid of foodbank

chimage001Where is this, and what does it say? Find out on Chris’s next tour on 9 June from 8pm (£5)

A London tour guide is offering virtual tours of Wanstead to help raise funds for the Tin in the Bin Network.

“During lockdown, I have spent some time learning about my home for 20-plus years, Wanstead. I never really fully appreciated the incredible history that is alive here, so I began putting together a local walk for when this madness ends. Then, after watching a few online lectures, I thought I would try and present my walk as a virtual tour,” explained Chris O’Donnell.

The next tour takes place on 9 June from 8pm (£5).

Email cod@hipstours.com

Features

School friends

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The newly formed Friends of Aldersbrook Riding School is seeking community support to help the much-loved venue jump the lockdown hurdle. Tracey Adebowale-Jones reports

Nestled among the woodlands of Wanstead Park, in an unlikely corner of east London, you will find Aldersbrook Riding School and Livery Stables. Founded in 1973 as a way to engage children with the joy of horses, the school has grown over the years into a place where young and old alike can learn or improve their horse-riding skills.

From beginner to professional, the stables offer a range of activities. The large indoor school provides all-weather provision and owners Steven Kiley and Jack Seager offer instruction for all levels.

Many in the local community have learned to ride there, as have the children and grandchildren of those horse riders, and there are many tales of adventure and fun to be told. Sara remembers: “I absolutely loved being at Aldersbrook in the late 1970s… my favourite was Tzar, but Rusty was adorable too. Fantastic memories… my daughter has the horse bug now… wonder how that happened!”

But, of course, like all businesses, the current pandemic meant the stables had to close its doors to the public. Staff (and horses) were furloughed and the stables ran on fresh air and determination. So, as a way of supporting the school, a group of volunteers set up Friends of Aldersbrook Riding School as both a way of advertising the venue and raising funds. To keep people, especially children, engaged with the horses, we ran a painting competition and placed information posters around the perimeter fences. So many people were visiting the horses that ‘Do Not Feed’ signs were needed to stop the horses growing too fat from carrots!

As we enter the new phase of lockdown, the school has been able to reopen in a small way, offering individual private lessons as opposed to the many group lessons that keep it going.

The school is a much-loved fixture of the community of Aldersbrook and Lakehouse residents. It offers access not only to riding skills but also to nature. But all of these are on hold until we are fully out of lockdown, so can you help?

We would like to invite businesses or individuals to sponsor a horse or buy a bag of feed. You could also support children in poverty to ride by ‘paying it forward’. Donations of plants, buckets, wheelbarrows or timber will help us to keep the stables well maintained. There is also a large indoor arena where we can display advertising banners. And as we head into 2021, the stables will be running small shows and sponsors will be able to appear on rosettes and trophies.  

For more information on the stables and how you can help, visit wnstd.com/fars or call 020 8530 1087

 

Features

Swan lakes

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In the second of a series of articles celebrating the swans that reside on the lakes of Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats, Tracey Adebowale-Jones welcomes new life, locally and across the waterways of Britain

In Wanstead Park, we have three breeding pairs of swans on our four lakes (known to swans as territories), Perch Pond, Heronry Pond, Ornamental Waters and Shoulder Of Mutton Pond. Over on Wanstead Flats, we have a breeding pair (and very unusually a mistress!) on Alexander Lake, and on Jubilee Pond, we have a non-breeding flock.

Swan pairs will nest on the same territory every year unless they are driven away by another pair looking for a nesting site. The early months of spring often see many territorial spats on the lakes, which can result in injury or even death. Once established, however, it is a journey of hard work and waiting for the breeding pair.

The swans will spend many hours building their nest from twigs, leaves and vegetation. Sadly, as our litter problem becomes more of an issue, we will see plastic and bits of rubbish in the nest, so it is important that we keep our parks clean. The female (pen) will create a hollow in the middle of the nest as she builds the walls higher to keep safe from predators. The nest will usually be surrounded by water and hidden from sight as much as possible.

From late April, the pen will start laying and incubating, leaving the nest only to eat and bathe – but only for short periods. The male (cob) will be seen displaying his feathers as a sign to stay away and will stay close by to protect his mate and soon-to-be new family. Swans will lay up to 10 eggs; hatching occurs from May to June/July. Once the cygnets are hatched, it is a testing time for the parents as they protect them from gulls, pike, terrapins and, sadly, humans.

Last year, Wanstead Park saw eggs taken and smashed and the Perch pair lost all their cygnets to predators. The Ornamental pair were much luckier, having immediately moved their clutch to a safer nest site following hatching, and managed to keep seven of their eight cygnets.

It’s a difficult time for the swan volunteers too, as we keep close guard over the breeding pairs and monitor their nests and their cygnets. We all feel a sense of loss when we see one cygnet has gone missing, let alone all of them. Within a day of the Perch pair hatching eight eggs this year, one went missing.

This breeding season has obviously fallen in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, and the park has attracted so many more visitors.  The swans and their cygnets have become used to a number of photographers at any one time, bringing their youngsters onto the bank for food and attention. But this leaves them vulnerable, as people still do not put dogs on leads or children run to see them.  It is at this point that swans can show their more protective side and hiss and raise their wings. It is not only humans who are sent off; Canada geese, coots and ducks are all sent away, often by the cob, if they come within a wing length of the swan family. Their little downy, fluffy babies are well protected by their large parents.

By eight to 10 weeks old, if they have survived, the cygnets will have reached half their adult size and have their grey-brown plumage. At 13 to 17 weeks, those once tiny cygnets are ready to learn to fly, and by September they are practising their flight techniques with the help of mum and dad. In the park, you are often able to witness the whole family taking off and returning after a flying lesson.

In the next article, I hope to be able to show a chronicle of the new swans of Wanstead as those who survive grow up and become independent.

To report any concerns about the health and safety of a local swan, call 01932 240 790
Features

Wanstead cares

510A9820-1-1©Dan Clarke

Dan Clarke has produced a photo book documenting Wanstead’s creative window displays

I’ve been amazed by the huge effort people have made to create window displays and wanted to document this in the form of a book. Just think how many smiles your bears or rainbows have brought to people who might not be having the best day.

I know so many children have enjoyed not only seeing the displays on their walks but making the displays themselves and being creative. They should be very proud of themselves for sharing happiness! I wanted to document this and the community spirit being generated throughout this time in Wanstead. I feel it’s important to record the positive aspects of this time we’re living through, and it will provide a nice memory for the children who have created displays.

The book is available to pre-order, with at least £5 from each sale going to the Wanstead Community Hub, which supports a number of foodbanks and initiatives as well as NHS frontline staff working on COVID-19 wards. The project provides fresh fruit, snacks and pamper bags to several big hospitals for use in their ‘wobble’ rooms, a safe space for staff to escape and have some essential downtime.

To get the money to the frontline workers as soon as possible, we are using a pre-order system, so you will receive your copy once printed, which should be mid-June when I have liaised with the printers and it can all be done safely. I would also like to find some local shops to stock the book, so please get in touch if you can help with that.

To order a copy of Wanstead Cares (£15), visit wnstd.com/cares. To contact Dan, email hello@thedanclarke.co.uk
News

Family research war graves at St Mary’s Church to mark VE Day

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To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day last month, a family from Wanstead spent time learning about the lives of war heroes buried at St Mary’s Church on Overton Drive.

“The grave of an 18-year-old girl killed by enemy action really resonated with my daughter, 14. My son, 12, enjoyed finding out about them as well. One of the soldiers was Russell Edwin Campbell Roberts. He was born in Snaresbrook in 1899 and served in WWI. He almost made it and died just a month before the end of the war,” said Michelle Linaker.

Features

Reaching for help

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With first-hand experience of domestic abuse, Councillor Rosa Gomez (Churchfields, Labour) knows only too well how important Redbridge Council’s Reach Out service is

It all started in a subtle way – criticisms regarding cooking, how I dressed, my hairdo – and progressed, so that before I realised it, I had been physically abused and was running for my life with the help of the police.

Somehow, in between, I had slowly got used to the drama in my life, struggling to remember living without an abusive relationship. Dependent upon my abuser, I struggled to escape. My home had become a prison where I was not safe and my children were silent victims. I lived in an abusive relationship for too long, afraid that peace and safety would never exist for me.

We have been in lockdown to keep us safe and to protect ourselves and our communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. But as I know, lockdown may be forcing some of us closer to a danger we can’t shut the front door on.

The Met Police recently reported making an average of 100 arrests a day for domestic violence under lockdown, a 9% rise on figures from the same period last year. In addition, they are receiving a third more domestic violence calls.

As well as violence and threats of violence, there are victims who are being controlled financially or emotionally, so these increases represent the tip of the iceberg.

I am proud Redbridge Council has worked proactively to address this side effect of COVID-19. Our Reach Out service was launched in April, designed to help families and couples struggling in abusive situations. It offers support not just to victims but also to perpetrators, helping both to break free from the cycle of abuse.

If you feel the fear I felt all those years ago, please don’t allow yourself to be isolated. Share any concerns you may have with friends or the local agencies. Never put up with words that put you down. Like me, you can make it alone and discover a world out there which will recognise your worth and potential.

Government legislation allows you to leave, and to use public transport to do so if necessary; just take the first step. Reach Out is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and Refuge can be contacted 24 hours a day for support. If you are in immediate danger, please call 999 for help.

I know how great the communities of South Woodford and Wanstead are at supporting each other, having seen the care shown for those vulnerable and in need during lockdown. If you have a concern about possible domestic abuse, please share the details of Reach Out so those who need help can get it and stay safe.

To contact Reach Out, call 0800 145 6410 or email reachout@redbridge.gov.uk. To contact Refuge, call 0808 2000 247