February 2024


Flat-out protection?

Flats-degraded-1910Looking south-west across Wanstead Flats at Centre Road in the early 1900s. Picture courtesy of Vestry House Museum

There have been numerous plans to ‘improve’ Wanstead Flats throughout history. Here, local historian Mark Gorman discusses seven such attempts

Wanstead Flats, as the southern boundary of Epping Forest, is protected by parliament. The 1878 Epping Forest Act was revolutionary in the history of open space in Britain – the first time a right was recognised for the people to use an open space for recreation and enjoyment. The Act also prevents any building anywhere in the forest. So, Wanstead Flats has been safe from the developers? Not completely!

In 1851, Lord Mornington, the local landowner, offered to rebuild Smithfield meat market on the Flats – for a price. At that time, cattle were still driven to market overland and the Flats was used for fattening cows. Plans were drawn up for stalls, abbatoirs and railway yards. A report to the landowner said this was the ideal spot as it was “not a fashionable area.”

In 1864, a brickworks was set up on the Flats to meet the growing demand for construction materials as the area grew. Lord Cowley had inherited the Wanstead estate from his cousin and was continuing the family tradition of determined exploitation. Despite local complaints about the pollution, the brickworks remained on the Flats until the early 1880s. It’s still possible to see remains of the old workings to the east of Centre Road.

In 1199, the Abbots of Stratford were granted the right to graze sheep on the Flats. The grazing of cattle and sheep continued up until the 1996 BSE crisis

By 1871, Cowley had another plan. He started to put up fences to prevent people getting onto large parts of the Flats. House building was starting in Forest Gate and he saw his chance to turn the Flats into a large estate. A huge demonstration was called and the fences were flattened. This was a major step in the campaign to save Epping Forest.

But the Epping Forest Act didn’t put off the developers. In 1907, plans appeared in a local newspaper to develop “the ragged end of the Flats.” These included the construction of a concert hall on the corner of Capel Road and Centre Road, complete with tram tracks. An avenue was proposed from the hall to the gates of Wanstead Park. Fortunately, it never happened.

Between 1941 and 1946, the Flats hosted prisoners of war from Italy, and after D-Day, Germans too. The camps, on Capel Road and west of Centre Road, were said to be surrounded by flimsy wire, but no PoWs tried to escape. Activities such as visits to Upton Park to see West Ham, and to local council meetings to learn about democracy, may have tempted some to make a getaway.

Prefabs were built along the southern edge of the Flats to re-house homeless families after WWII. The last prefabs were only removed from the Flats in 1962

As the last German prisoners were leaving in 1946, West Ham Council came up with a plan to build a housing estate for 7,000 people on the Flats. Both West Ham and East Ham councils had built temporary housing for bombed-out East Londoners, and parts of the Flats were covered by small housing developments. West Ham argued the land was needed to replace the houses lost in the Blitz, even though a Greater London Plan had been drawn up for housing further out in Essex. Invoking memories of 1871, a massive campaign was organised, including a petition signed by 60,000. After a public inquiry, the plan was turned down.

And finally… In 2012, buildings did appear on the Flats when the Metropolitan Police sited their Olympics briefing centre next to Jubilee Pond. Again, a local campaign was mounted, but despite petitions to parliament, the briefing centre came… and went. Its legacy was funding, which helped to pay for repairs to Jubilee Pond, which had previously been rescued from dereliction by the efforts of the local community.

So, it couldn’t happen again. Or could it? Watch this space!

Mark Gorman and fellow historian Peter Williams are the authors of Wanstead Flats: A Short Illustrated History. Priced £10, the book is available from The Newham Bookshop in Upton Park, Stone Mini Market in Leytonstone and Number 8 The Emporium in Forest Gate. Email markrgorman2@aol.com


Park Life

DSC_5410-copy_Nursery-Spider©Deepak Dembla

In the ninth of a series of articles featuring the images of local photographers who document the wildlife of Wanstead Park and the surrounding area, Deepak Dembla presents his macro shot of a Nursery Web Spider

I am an IT professional by trade, but photography, stargazing, fitness and dancing are my passions. Covid lockdowns made me explore Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park more than ever with my camera. And ever since, nature has always surprised me with something amazing. It’s a genuine treasure on my doorstep!

Shooting spiders can be tricky at times; some hide and some keep moving among bushes. But it’s easy with Nursery Web Spiders – as pictured here – as they love sunbathing. It means plenty of light and opportunities to shoot. A good tripod is often required while doing macro photography like this, but I generally tend to shoot handheld. This shot was taken with a Nikon D610 camera and Sigma 105mm macro lens. I used manual focus and my settings were 1/160th second shutter speed at F-stop 11 and ISO 640.

Both Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park are a great place to do macro photography. You can typically spot bees, hoverflies, common flies, hornets, wasps, caterpillars, insect eggs, butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers, craneflies and, of course, numerous spiders, to name just a few.

The Nursery Web Spider is a common spider of grassland and scrub. It is often seen among brambles and stinging nettles, and typically holds its front two pairs of legs together pointing forwards. They are relatively large, ranging between 10mm and 50mm. They vary in colour from grey through to orange and dark brown, and their legs have small black spines sticking out.

Nursery Web Spiders are roaming hunters, which means they don’t use webs for catching prey (it gets its name from the delicate care the female takes of her egg sac). Many can walk on the surface of still bodies of water and may even dive temporarily to escape enemies.

To view more of Deepak’s wildlife photos, visit wnstd.com/deepak


Power planning


Anna Orpwood from local solicitors Edwards Duthie Shamash encourages you to put a plan in place for the future management of your affairs, and explains why Lasting Powers of Attorney are important to get right

Have you put a plan in place for the future if you can no longer manage your property and financial affairs or make decisions about your health and welfare? As a solicitor working in this field, I see so many clients who very sadly leave these decisions too late. 

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) can only be put in place when you have full mental capacity. There is a real misconception that LPAs are only for very elderly clients and those on the verge of dementia – often, at that point, it is too late to action, and the only option then is lengthy court proceedings with the Court of Protection.

There are two types of LPAs, both very different. It is important you understand the benefits of both when making plans and decisions about your future. You need to consider who your attorneys might be and what extent of authority you are happy for them to have. And you need to talk through all of the options and ensure you make the right choices.

There has been much in the news in recent years about how husbands and wives have been left shocked when they realise they have been unable to access their loved ones’ funds when it is needed, for example, to manage their care or investments. People assume that as they are married, they will automatically be able to access such accounts – this, however, is not the reality. A Lasting Power of Attorney would prevent upset and stress at a time when it would be most unwelcome.

Research by Solicitors For The Elderly shows that 65% of us think our next-of-kin will make medical and care decisions for us if we are no longer able to. In reality, this is not the case unless a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney is in place. Whilst there’s been a rise in the number of enquiries made about LPAs during and since the pandemic, only 22% of people in the UK actually have one in place.

To avoid this difficult kind of legal situation, it is important to use a specialist lawyer who is experienced in this area of the law and is trained to support people making these crucial, complex and difficult decisions. According to Which?, 22,000 LPAs are rejected every year, so it is essential you get your legal documents right.

There are many things to think about with Lasting Powers of Attorney and using a specialist will ensure you have fully considered all of your options. I understand making these decisions can seem daunting, and setting up LPAs is a big decision, but it will give you peace of mind in future years once you have done so.

Edwards Duthie Shamash is located at 149 High Street, Wanstead, E11 2RL. For more information, call 020 8514 9000 or visit edwardsduthieshamash.co.uk


Wanstead men invited to join The Proper Blokes Club

team-upminster-image-768x523Members of The Proper Blokes Club

A community project which aims to break the stigma of men’s mental health will launch in Redbridge next month.

“Our mission is to get men talking about mental health. We do this by offering free walk and talk groups across London. You don’t have to be in a bad place to join us, but at the core of what we do is create a safe environment where you can talk if you want to. It would be great to see Wanstead’s men joining us for our Redbridge walks,” said Scott Johnson, who launched The Proper Blokes Club in 2020.

Visit wnstd.com/pbc


Colourful past

cuckHigh Street Wanstead, 1925

Local resident Roland Saunders discusses his interest in giving old photographs a new lease of life by recolouring them using artificial intelligence 

Recently, I’ve been looking at my digital collection of local photographs of Woodford and Wanstead. I have lived in South Woodford for most of my life, as did my parents and grandparents before me. During lockdown, I set up a Facebook group called Woodford, South Woodford and Wanstead Memories and Life. Some of the older photographs have been exciting to see, capturing times gone by. Using software to enhance photos brings a new level of realism.

In the digital age, our ability to interact with and enhance photographs using artificial intelligence (AI) has reached unprecedented levels. One fascinating technique that has gained popularity in recent years is palette recolouring – a process that breathes new life into old photos. By applying modern colour schemes to vintage images, we revive memories, making them more vibrant and relatable to contemporary audiences.

Palette recolouring involves selecting a new colour palette for an image while preserving its original structure and details. This technique is not about altering the content of a photo but rather reimagining it through a fresh set of colours. It can be applied to black-and-white photos, sepia-toned images or faded colour pictures, effectively transporting them to a different era or infusing them with a contemporary aesthetic.

One of the key challenges in palette recolouring is maintaining the authenticity and emotional resonance of the original photograph. Artists and enthusiasts must strike a delicate balance between introducing new colours and preserving the historical or sentimental value of the image. Careful consideration of the subject matter, historical context and cultural nuances is essential to ensure the recolouring enhances rather than detracts from the photo’s significance.

Palette recolouring offers a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the past and present. By infusing old photos with contemporary colour schemes, we can relate to historical moments in a more personal and engaging way, such as seeing photos of Wanstead and Woodford from 100 years ago in colour.

Recolouring vintage images allows us to gain a renewed appreciation for the past, fostering a stronger connection between generations. It’s a means of ensuring the stories and memories encapsulated in old photographs continue to resonate with those who come after us.

We still have some way to go before, as in the film Blade Runner, we can actually go inside the photograph and explore, but I’m sure we will be heading that way. Using AI technology, currently, we can already build missing parts of the picture, upscale the resolution, and, of course, colour a black-and-white image. Software is improving all the time, and I’m sure in a few years, the images will be taken to new levels of realism.

To join the Woodford, South Woodford and Wanstead Memories and Life Facebook Group, visit wnstd.com/wml


Away from home

Salzburg---Maria-in-the-hills© Carole Edrich

In the first of a series of articles charting the experiences of a Wanstead-based travel writer, Carole Edrich takes us on a trip to Austria in search of something original to write about The Sound of Music 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a freelance journo looking for something original to write about The Sound Of Music and Salzburg must be in need of a good drink.

It was the summer of 2015. I had been up packing ‘till the early hours (natural corollary of starting at 8pm) and was on the Tube at OMG in the morning. I then spent my time in the airport trying not to fall asleep, and my time on the plane wishing I could. Loads of journalists were there for the 50th-anniversary celebrations of The Sound of Music. I had to stay awake for ages while the hotel bus slowly filled with them.

Salzburgerland is beautiful. It begs for the taking of photos, the eating of strudel and the drinking-in of atmosphere and – naturally – beer. We wanted to stop for different reasons; that beer, for the view, to visit a schloss… I didn’t care, so long as there was coffee. Johann-the-driver’s mission – to deliver us unto the hotel, and let us do no evil – prevented that. But what he said while driving inspired my first Salzburger-ish story: “We go to the coffee house for everything. To read or to be alone, to concentrate or learn something, for the news or to watch people. A good coffee house is like a club; you can do everything there.” I asked: “How do you know if people want to talk?” With a glint in his eye, Johann replied: “We are not stupid. That’s why we have different-sized tables! There are tables for one, two, or three, or more. Tables for every situation and every emotion. That’s why every coffee house has at least two rooms. Also, the ceilings are very high, so you don’t have to smell each other.”

Johann’s banter – pure schmäh – is classic coffee-house culture. Interactions between people with schmäh are a charming, anarchic and friendly battle of wits. Salzburger coffee house habitués Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his father; Max Reinhardt; Marlene Dietrich; Thomas Mann and Arthur Miller would have all played with schmäh. It grew from how below-stairs servants made fun of their masters and has been an aspect of coffee-house society for hundreds of years.

Mega press trips are once-in-a-lifetime experiences, so it was amazing that this mere freelancer had been invited. More amazing that I got a commission to write about the anniversary of a film I don’t particularly like, and yet more amazing that another article idea popped into my head before I got to the hotel.

Could I write stories combining coffee-house culture with the film’s 50th anniversary? My answer – a mash-up of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Jane Eyre – was fantastically, wildly improbable. Like most fantastically, wildly improbable ideas, it was at least as worthy of consideration as a mundane one with the facts bent to fit. Reader, I’ve written it.

To contact Carole or to read more of her work, visit caroleinnit.com


Classically-trained artists to perform free concert at Christ Church

shwansteadA Songhaven concert performed at Christ Church last year

A Valentine’s Day-inspired concert featuring songs from stage and screen will take place at Christ Church on 25 February from 2.30pm.

“This relaxed performance will be family-friendly and dementia-friendly, concluding with an uplifting singalong. The event will feature classically-trained professional artists Andrea Tweedale (soprano), Matthew Palmer (baritone) and Jenny Trew (pianist),” said Vivien Conacher from Songhaven. The 45-minute concert is free to attend (booking required).

Visit wnstd.com/sh


The high life


In the fourth of a series of articles to mark Wanstead High School’s 100th anniversary, former student Paul Donovan (class of 1980) reflects on his memories of the characters he encountered at the school 

The 100th anniversary of Wanstead High School in 2024 is a momentous event. The school became Wanstead High when it turned comprehensive in the early 1970s. Previously a grammar, the school was known as Wanstead County High School. Something some ex-pupils from that era like to emphasise.

I went to Wanstead High from Aldersbrook Primary in the September of 1973. At the time, the school was still split over two sites in Wanstead and Aldersbrook, the school having been created by bringing together Wanstead County High School and Aldersbrook Secondary Modern. The first term, we were at Wanstead, second term at Aldersbrook and in the third term, the whole school came together on the one site on Redbridge Lane West. A whole new building had been created, including science labs, music area and theatre.

The head was Donald Mackay, who had a rather austere persona. I tended to bracket him with Mr Mackay, the prison governor played by the actor Fulton Mackay in the Ronnie Barker comedy Porridge. Mackay was ably supported by deputies Michael Jones and Nick Wheeler-Robinson. The team had a real commitment to the ideal of comprehensive education, giving everyone a chance, regardless of background. The austere image, though, did come crashing down early on when a relationship between Mackay and a former sixth-former was revealed. The national media were out around the gates of the school. We pupils were told not to speak to them. Mackay left the school. He remained with the former sixth-former for some years thereafter. After an interim period when Jones was in charge, Phyllis Taylor took over as head, and she remained so for the rest of my time there.

The school had a number of characters over the years. Head of English, Bernard ‘Bugsy’ Doyle was someone many ex-pupils will remember. A small, at times rather angry, aggressive man. Unsurprisingly, the Bugsy nickname came from his resemblance to a rabbit. Whilst English could be testing with Doyle, he knew his stuff and there were never any disciplinary issues in his classes.

The last big celebration at the school was for the 75th anniversary in 1999. It was fascinating to go back for the day, meeting staff and former pupils. One conversation I remember that day was with Daniel Levy, now chairman of Tottenham Hotspur. Daniel was in my year, a member of House 4. Another who rose to fame from my time at the school was Nick Berry. Nick was a couple of years younger than me but came to play football on the top field during lunch times. Nick, of course, went on to find fame as an actor in EastEnders. 

Wanstead High was a great place to be educated with good, committed teachers. The present custodians appear to be carrying on the school traditions. Long may it last.

For more information on Wanstead High School, visit wansteadhigh.co.uk


‘The discoveries made on the site of Wanstead’s Co-op were far-reaching’

Screenshot-2024-01-29-at-11.31.14Astronomer James Bradley

At this month’s meeting of the North East London Astronomical Society, Dr John Fisher will give a presentation about James Bradley (1692–1762), a local unsung hero of science who proved the Earth orbits the sun from observations made in Wanstead.

“The consequences of Bradley’s discoveries made in a modest dwelling on the site of the present Co-op were far-reaching,” said Dr Fisher, whose presentation will take place at Wanstead House on 18 February from 1.30pm (visitors welcome).

Email stevek1951@hotmail.com


A love of music: top organist’s Valentine’s performance in Wanstead


One of England’s top electronic and theatre organists will be performing in Wanstead this month as part of the East London and Essex Electronic Keyboard Club’s programme of events.

Michael Wooldridge – who has performed at film premieres in Leicester Square and on BBC Radio 2 – will be bringing his eclectic mix of show tunes and classical and big band music to Wanstead Library on 14 February from 7.30pm.

The performance is open to visitors (doors open at 7pm; tickets: £12; under-16s: £2).

Visit wnstd.com/ekc


Listen and learn

Screenshot 2024-01-29 at 11.49.15

In the 36th of a series of articles, David Bird from the Redbridge Music Society introduces mezzo-soprano Annabel Kennedy and pianist Daniel Peter Silcock, who will be performing in Wanstead this month

Two main aims of Redbridge Music Society, now in its 75th season, are to bring high-quality, live chamber recitals to the people of Redbridge and to support and promote young talented musicians. This month, Annabel Kennedy, accompanied by Daniel Peter Silcock, will give a recital with the theme A Sundial of Love, which will include works by Richard Strauss, Mahler, Brahms, Grieg, Vaughan Williams, Eric Coates and others.

Annabel Kennedy recently graduated from the Royal College of Music’s International Opera Studio as a Siow-Furniss Scholar. She is a Samling Artist, a Britten-Pears Young Artist for 2022–2023, a Making Music PDGYA Young Artist, a Glyndebourne Jerwood Young Artist for 2023 and a Garsington Alveraz Young Artist for 2024.

Annabel has already sung in many operas, including Die Zauberflöte, Hänsel und Gretel, Orpheus in the Underworld, Don Giovanni, Der Rosenkavalier, La Traviata and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her concert highlights include a solo debut at London’s Cadogan and Wigmore Halls. Annabel’s many awards include first prizes in the Royal Over-Seas League music competition, the Ashburnham English Song Awards, the Dame Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition and second prize in the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards Competition at Wigmore Hall.

Daniel Peter Silcock studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where he was awarded MMus (distinction) and BMus (first-class) degrees in piano performance. Currently, he is a scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music and is already recognised as a distinguished song accompanist.

Daniel has won a number of prizes for song accompaniment, including the Marjorie Thomas Art of Song Prize and the Major Van Someren-Godfrey Prize. He has also received the A Ramsay Calder Debussy Prize, second prize in the Roma International Piano Competition in 2019 and the Franz Schubert Institute UK prize. 

Daniel has performed in prestigious venues, such as the Wigmore Hall, Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, the Caird Hall in Dundee and St James’s Church, Piccadilly. This year, he returns to the Wigmore Hall with the Royal Academy of Music Song Circle, performing with tenor Samuel Stopford, and in January, took part in Renée Fleming’s SongStudio at Carnegie Hall.

Please come and support these very talented young musicians.

Annabel and Daniel will perform at Wanstead Library on 13 February from 8pm (tickets on the door; visitors: £12; members: £8). Call 07380 606 767. Redbridge Music Society is supported by Vision RCL and affiliated to Making Music.


Rare diving duck spotted for the first time in Wanstead

39_Ferruginous-Duck-1J5A6405©Tim Harris

A rare diving duck was spotted for the first time on Wanstead Flats last month.

“While scanning Jubilee Pond on 16 January, I noted a drake Ferruginous Duck asleep on a small, unfrozen part of the lake. It later woke up and could be seen swimming and diving. Although there was no sign of it the following day, three days later it relocated to Eagle Pond in Snaresbrook, where it was admired by many. This very rare diving duck is native to south-east Europe,” said Tim Harris of the Wren Wildlife Group.