Residents will recall the conversion of the Old Cottage Antiques shop on the High Street into two small houses in 2018. But were there more of these cottages? Dr Colin Runeckles takes a look back in time
Before the entire High Street was numbered completely in the mid-1920s, 6–8 High Street were known as Wanstead Cottages. But when I began to look back at census returns in the 1800s, I found in 1871 not the two that can be seen today by the side of Wanstead Church School, but seven. Intrigued by this, I decided to find out what happened to the remaining five.
If you go back to the Ordnance Survey maps of the 1860s, you can indeed see seven small cottages in a row from the High Street, and the 1871 census lists them as 1–7, 1 being on the High Street and the remainder in a terrace behind it. Presumably, like 6 High Street does today, their front door would have faced north towards the school. Occupations of those listed in the 1871 census included a grocer (at number 1), laundresses, gardeners and labourers. This was clearly housing for the working classes, unlike the Georgian townhouses on the other side of the road, occupied by those of professions such as solicitors and physicians.
But then, by 1874, a man called John Maughfling had appeared on the Wanstead scene with a butchers shop on the High Street. Like some other successful traders in the area, he decided to enter the business of property development.
In 1880, Maughfling had two houses in Wanstead Place built – these are now 43–45. In 1888, he built three shops on the corner of the High Street, numbers 10–14, but then known as Rose Terrace. And then in 1893, another house in Wanstead Place, number 47, was built, in which Maughfling lived until his death in 1900 and his widow until around 1920.
But what have houses in Wanstead Place got to do with the seven Wanstead Cottages? Well, the gardens at the back of these houses were planned to extend right up to the boundary with the school. This meant that some of the cottages would have to be demolished. By the time of the 1891 census, there are only 1–6 Wanstead Cottages, and later in the decade, the 1893–4 Ordnance Survey map shows only the two that remain today.
I assume Maughfling bought the entire corner plot of land between the school boundary and Wanstead Place on the corner of the High Street. Unless they were simply demolished for being unfit for habitation, then a new owner wanting the land for his own use can be the only explanation as to why they disappeared off the map.
When you next pass the restored cottages, spare a thought for the other five that were occupied by some of the area’s working classes, until John Maughfling came to Wanstead.