Reverend Reflections


In the seventh of a series of articles, Revd James Gilder of Wanstead Parish asks if Wanstead is too ‘nice’, prays for The George to remain a Wetherspoons and announces new opening times for Christ Church 

Why do you live in Wanstead? Perhaps it’s because you have always lived here. Maybe like me, you moved here for your work, or because you like what Wanstead has to offer for your family. This place is certainly quite different to everywhere around it, and in many ways, that’s a really nice thing. We have lots of green space, good transport links into and out of London, and a variety of pleasant houses and other accommodations that go into making our town what it is. People don’t often end up in Wanstead by accident – there’s no denying it is a very nice place to live, and no-doubt there are many who look on with a degree of envy at an E11 postcode. 

But can a place be too nice? All too often these days, ‘nice’ equals ‘expensive’. And I think we can all agree that Wanstead is definitely an expensive place to live. It is a reflection of our times that I’d be surprised if a single one of the teachers in our local schools, for example, actually lives in our community, because they can’t afford to – let alone those who work in our local shops or who clean our offices and homes. Sadly, we live in a place that has become so ‘nice’ that basically it risks becoming only a partial community, closed off to those on even average salaries. We have seen this happen all over our capital city, and it’s a sad hollowing out of society that I feel we ought to try to fight against.

Which brings me on to The George. This pub often feels like one of the last bastions of ‘old Wanstead’. Whatever you think of the politics of the Wetherspoons management, it is undeniable that, in The George, they have maintained a very decent pub which is affordable to all. It is a pub which is well-frequented from morning ‘til night; and a haven for those who need to make a cup of coffee last all day. When our parish was approached last year about creating a ‘warm room’ for those who couldn’t afford to heat their homes, it was remarked that (a) this was somewhat ironic given the average temperature of the church and (b) that The George effectively provides this facility already and does so extremely well. Its proposed closure is yet another nail in the coffin of Wanstead for ‘normal’ people – for all of us who don’t always want to pay for a pint with a tenner. I hope and pray this decision is reversed, and – if not – perhaps we ought to see if we could open a social club which provides a similar facility.

For those wanting somewhere to cool off and be still over the summer, I’m pleased to say Christ Church will be open every week day from at least 9am to 3pm, from the beginning of May to the end of the Wanstead Festival in September. Please feel free to come in and enjoy the peace and quiet of the space, whether you are religious or not. We would love you to pay us a visit.

To contact Reverend James Gilder, email wansteadparishadmin@uwclub.net