Religion and revolt

moseley-2Oswald Mosley addressing a large crowd on Wanstead Flats in July 1938

At next month’s meeting of the Wanstead Historical Society, Mark Gorman and Peter Williams will explain how Wanstead Flats was used as a venue to spread political and religious messages

Take a fascinating journey through the history of the flats showing how this semi-regulated space became the base for the free expression of ideas, whether religious or political, at the end of the 19th century.

Some notable local characters from Leytonstone stand out. Bushwood, it turns out, was our local Speakers’ Corner. The talk will also discuss how the conservators, the City of London Corporation, sought to exercise control and some of the court cases that ensued.

Political and religious groups have long seen Wanstead Flats as a natural meeting place, as ‘public property’ for the use of the people. However, since the passing of the Epping Forest Act in 1878, the City of London, as ‘conservators’ responsible for managing the Flats as part of the wider forest, have tried to control and restrict such uses. This is the story of the struggle between these two differing views of Wanstead Flats.

Up to the mid-20th century, the main means of communicating political or religious messages was through mass meetings and processions with bands and banners. Often unable to afford (or banned from) meeting rooms and halls, radical political and religious groups sought out large open spaces for their gatherings. Wanstead Flats, located within easy reach of the London of earlier times, and since the late Victorian era surrounded by housing, was seen as an ideal meeting place.

Radical politics in Victorian times were dominated by one great issue: the vote. Even after the reform of Parliament in 1832, working people still had no say in running the country, and the vote was a key demand from the time of the Chartists through to the end of the century and beyond. At the same time, many people were seeking alternatives to the mainstream Anglican Church in an era of great religious fervour.

Religion and politics were often interwoven, and open-air meetings were a prime means of passing on radical political and religious messages. The unfenced ‘public spaces’ of Wanstead Flats were an obvious venue for both.

At the same time, Wanstead Flats had for many years prior to 1878 been a temporary home to travelling communities, above all to Gipsies, who, despite local disapproval (and sometimes harassment), were a familiar part of the local scene. We shall see how some members of this community were to become involved with the wave of religious enthusiasm of the Victorian era.

Mark and Peter’s talk will take place at Wanstead Library on 2 December from 7.30pm (visitors: £3). For more information, call 07949 026 212

The old East End

DSCF4946©Geoff Wilkinson

In the first of a series of articles, local photographer Geoff Wilkinson discusses his new exhibition – entitled ‘Quick! Before it goes’ – depicting London’s East End, an area which resonates with many residents here.

Growing up in London’s East End was a fascinating experience for a young boy. In the 1950s, bomb damage from the war was still very much evident. Living mostly in Stratford, I remember the area just to the right of the old Angel Lane street market which had been completely flattened. No houses or buildings remained; it was just a playground or used for parking vans and cars, such as there were. Perhaps it is the memories of this loss of buildings and architecture that has made me so determined to photograph what is left of the old East End.

When I opened my Whitechapel exhibition last year at the gallery, it was interesting to see the various reactions of the visitors when they saw the photographs. Many of my generation were delighted to see pictures of streets where they had grown up and played or perhaps the buildings where their grandparents had lived. My daughter’s generation, mainly young professionals, reminisced about nights out at bars and restaurants and living in fashionable flats in Whitechapel or Hoxton. For many of these visitors now living in Wanstead, Woodford and the surrounding areas, the common theme, regardless of generation, was the sadness of the familiar places disappearing.

It was the memories shared with me and the emotions the photographs evoked in people that persuaded me to continue on this theme, to capture a wider area of the East End, including Hackney, Bethnal Green (as shown here), Mile End, Bow and much, much more.

Geoff’s exhibition of East End photographs opens on 24 November and runs until 1 March at Gallery 84, Nightingale Lane, Wanstead, E11 2EZ. For more information, call 020 8530 1244 or visit

Royal tour artist to give painting demonstration at Wanstead House

737260_blue-sky-turquoise-waters-seven-mile-beach-grand-cayman©David Sawyer

Artist David Sawyer – who travelled with the Prince of Wales to the Caribbean as an official tour artist earlier this year – will be demonstrating landscape painting in oils at Wanstead House this month.

“One of the many tips David will be giving at the demonstration is to paint or sketch en plein air, because you will learn what to leave out of the painting and what to leave in,” said a spokesperson for Essex Art Club, which is hosting the event on 24 November from 2.30pm to 4.30pm (visitors: £5).



Restoring Wanstead Park

35486439262_0a90b00137_o©Christian Moss

In the sixth of a series of articles looking at the developing plans for restoring Wanstead Park, John Sharpe from the Friends of Wanstead Parklands takes a look at the recently published Parkland Plan. Photo of Perch Pond by Christian Moss

In the October edition of the Wanstead Village Directory, in his article on the lakes of Wanstead Park, Friends of Wanstead Parklands member Richard Arnopp referenced the development of the Parkland Plan, which sets out in detail the vision for future restoration and management of the park.

The latest version has now been published and sets out how the work aspires to improve the park environment and the user and visitor experience.

The intention of this article – and the next instalment planned for the December edition – is to summarise these planned developments, which aim to regenerate Wanstead Park (which since 2009 has been on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register) and put it on the map as the main ‘Southern Gateway’ to the wider Epping Forest landscape.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands have worked with the other major stakeholders to best represent park users within the developing framework. However, it is the main landowners – the City of London, Wanstead Sports Grounds Limited, Wanstead Parish and the London Borough of Redbridge – who will have the responsibility of delivering the project. Part of the strategy will be to improve co-ordinated management by these independent parties, with support from the Friends.

In order to deliver this long-term vision, the conceptual options are varied and range from one-off major capital expenditures, such as restoring the lakes to stabilise water levels, to relatively simple actions, such as re-focusing on-going maintenance in the various parts of the park. The large size of Wanstead Park and the potential need for significant funding means the plan and its delivery is a long-term commitment with some actions more readily achieved than others.

The key objectives of the Parkland Plan are:

Addressing visitor needs to provide an accessible and legible historic landscape. This will include clearing and restoring selected historic features and improving entrances and paths. As well as heritage, the park’s natural aspects would benefit from better management to promote biodiversity and nature conservation.

Improving visitor facilities around the park, including developing the surroundings of the Temple as a visitor hub with improved access, an enhanced catering offering, flexible space for events and a new children’s play area. It is hoped this will also bring future activity and income generation benefits, which will ensure financial sustainability.

Improving water management and ensuring the major package of works to the lakes (designated as ‘High Risk’ in 2018) both respect and benefit the historic significance of the waterscape and surrounding landscape.

Conserving the boathouse Grotto. A Conservation Management Plan has just been completed, which is intended to guide the future care of this unique building.

Promoting research into Wanstead Park, its history, management and biodiversity.

The Parkland Plan also supports increased community and volunteer involvement in the park.

Although the ‘shopping list’ for Wanstead Park’s future is largely settled, some questions over funding and timescales still need to be resolved. Plans and priorities for phasing, including those that can be covered by existing staff and budgets, will first need to be approved. This will enable both capital and corresponding revenue costs to be broadly agreed, prior to the submission of a bid of up to £5m to the National Heritage Lottery Fund (NHLF). The NHLF have only recently revised their funding criteria for projects between 2019 and 2024. Competition for funding is strong, and it is not yet clear how or when this element will be integrated.

Agreement and adoption of the Parkland Plan will then need to be endorsed by the Steering Group, and formally by the Wanstead Park landowners.

The most recent costing for all the planned work is around £14.5m, and it is currently unclear as to which parts of the plan will be fulfilled if, for some reason, there is a shortfall in funding.

A further frustration for the Friends is that the latest starting point for major works to be carried out is further down the road than anticipated. This is said to be due to the requirements of the City of London’s required internal processes for planning and funding major projects, with work on the capital projects now due to commence as late as 2024.

In advance of this, the Friends will continue liaising and working with the City of London and other project partners to establish what work can take place to improve the visitor experience and the overall state of the park and its lakes while plan development is in progress.

If you wish to be involved in the ongoing development of the Parkland Plan, and actively contribute to the thinking behind it and the local community, please consider joining the Friends of Wanstead Parklands.


Wanstead remembers

L1090909Remembrance service at Wanstead War Memorial. ©Geoff Wilkinson

Wanstead resident Colin Cronin started organising local Remembrance services several years ago. Here, the former councillor explains why he continues to do so and why such events provide a valuable lesson.

In 1922, local residents gathered for the unveiling of the Wanstead War Memorial next to Tarzy Wood. Designed by Forest Gate resident and sculptor Newbury Abbott Trent, it has stood as a permanent reminder for Wanstead residents of those members of our community who have given their lives selflessly during times of conflict.

Seventy-five years later in 1997, Snaresbrook’s Garden of Remembrance (off Snaresbrook Road) opened to honour all victims of war.

Now we are in the Remembrancetide period, members of the Wanstead community, young and old alike, are once again ready to stand together at the war memorial on Remembrance Sunday and in the Garden of Remembrance on Armistice Day to pause, reflect and pay our respects to those who, for our tomorrows, gave their today.

I first began assisting the Royal British Legion in organising the Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day commemorations several years ago, and with the closure of the British Legion’s Wanstead branch some time ago, have continued to organise these annual commemorations ever since, with help from the Salvation Army, Vision RCL and officers from Redbridge Council.

It is always wonderful to see the RAF and police cadets parade along the High Street, the mayoral party being led to the memorial field by the golden Wanstead mace, gifted to Wanstead Urban Council by Winston Churchill, and members of the clergy from local Wanstead churches joining together to lead us in prayer. From the hymns and wreath-laying through to the sounding of the last post by a lone bugler, I am always struck by the solemnity and peacefulness of both occasions, which is in marked contrast to the chaos and cacophony that war brings.

But perhaps the most poignant aspect of Remembrance Sunday for me is seeing the youngest members of our community from the local Beavers, Cubs and Scouts laying their own personal poppy tributes at the base of the memorial.

I firmly believe that observing a moment’s silence on both Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day not only allows members of our community to show respect and remember those who have lost their lives but it also reminds us of – and will continue to teach the generations that come after us – an incredibly valuable lesson: that war should never be the solution.

Surely, there can be no greater tribute to the victims of war than that?

A service of Remembrance will take place at the Wanstead War Memorial on the High Street on 10 November from 12.30pm. An additional service will take place at the Snaresbrook Garden of Remembrance on 11 November at 11am.

Local milkman to switch on Wanstead’s Christmas tree lights

IMG_1517Switching on the Christmas lights in Wanstead is always a popular event

Parker Dairies milkman Steve Hayden will be switching on the George Green Christmas tree lights on 22 November at 4.30pm.

“The theme will be that of a cleaner, greener, plastic-free Christmas. There will also be local school choirs, a band and some panto characters,” said Councillor Paul Donovan.

Last year, more than 150 residents attended the event, at which milk and treats were distributed to the children.

“It’s great when the community comes together to celebrate in this way… Christmas is also a time to reach out to others.”


Preserving the Aldersbrook Conservation Area

alders19Woodlands Avenue – a typical streetscape in the Aldersbrook Conservation Area. ©2019 Google

A public workshop took place last month in Redbridge Council’s first steps towards preparing a management plan for the Aldersbrook Conservation Area.

The ideas put forward will help develop an up-to-date appraisal, and identify how best to preserve and enhance the character and significance of the area.

“A full and formal consultation will take place to further enable residents to express their views. This will include drop-in sessions, which will take place towards the end of the year,” said a council spokesperson.


Anti-Bullying Week 2019: make new friends at a Wanstead Library


Children aged nine and over are invited to make new friends at a Wanstead Library event this month.

“As part of Anti-Bullying Week, this is an opportunity to make new friends, enjoy some fun activities and discuss how to spread kindness in our community,” said a library spokesperson. The free anti-bullying workshop will take place on 13 November from 4pm to 5.15pm.

Run by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, this year’s Anti-Bullying Week theme is ‘Change Starts With Us’.



Greatest Briton


Sir Winston Churchill was a world leader, statesman and local MP. Ahead of a talk at Wanstead Library about the iconic politician, Jef Page, president of the Ilford Historical Society, reviews the life of a man he believes was the ‘greatest Briton of all’

Winston Spencer Churchill (1874–1965) was a larger-than-life character, lucky to be born in Blenheim Palace with a massive silver spoon in his mouth, son of the beautiful American heiress Jennie Jerome (he worshipped her) and Lord Randolph Churchill.

Winston attracted both tragedy and attention – hardly surprising as he liked smoking massive seven-inch long Cuban Havana cigars and stuck up a V-sign second to none.

From being reviled in Tonypandy, South Wales where, as Liberal Home Secretary, he sent troops onto the streets during the miner’s strike (1910–1911) and promoted the disastrous Gallipoli and Dardanelles campaign in 1915, he led Britain to victory and triumph in 1945. He almost seemed to like war. He fought at the battle of Omdurman (1898), as a journalist was at Spion Kop (1900; as was Gandhi) and escaped from a prisoner of war camp during the Boer War. And he got himself onto the front line of the Western Front during the First World War. A world-renowned statesman, when asked what his favourite period of his long life was, he immediately replied without hesitation: “1940,” when Britain stood alone during the Second World War and he became Prime Minister. He said history would be kind to him – because he would write it – and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was bumptious, pushy, an adept ‘string-puller’. Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken, owner of the Daily Express) said of Winston that on the crest of a wave he had the makings of a dictator.

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, more recently questioned Churchill’s status as a hero following a 2002 BBC poll in which he had been voted the greatest Briton of all.

Wanstead and Woodford’s MP from 1924 to 1964, just months before his death aged 90, a skilful artist and bricklayer, he suffered periods of “black dog” depression. Out of office, depressed and mistrusted by the Conservative Party (Winston had been Home Secretary and a member of the Liberal Party from 1904 to 1924), he was considered a political adventurer. His cavalier attitude to party loyalty during the 1930s left him isolated and his was a lone voice against the rise of Fascism, Hitler and the Nazis. So, when in 1939 he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, they sent out just a two-word telegram to all ships: “He’s back”. He had changed sides from the Liberals to Conservative, winning the seat of Epping in 1924. But in Britain’s darkest hour in 1940, after the failure of Neville Chamberlain, Churchill was the only man the Labour Party, led by Clement Atlee (he lived on Monkhams Avenue, Woodford from 1921 to 1931), would serve under in the wartime coalition cabinet and government. Yet, this success didn’t stop Winston being immediately voted out of office as soon as the war was won, though he did return again as prime minister in 1951.

Churchill didn’t visit the constituency much and he didn’t have a home in the borough. However, he got on well with Conservative politician and businessman Sir James Hawkey (1877–1952) and in 1955 it was Churchill who came here to open the hall named after Hawkey (Winston laid a foundation brick in 1954). Hawkey was chairman of Woodford Urban District Council (UDC) from 1916 to 1934 and the newly merged Wanstead and Woodford UDC from 1934 to 1937, and later three-times mayor.

During the war years (1939–1945), it was his wife Clementine who really nursed the constituency. Winston said “my most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me”. Clementine nursed him through his “black dog” periods, helped the PDSA to care for animals in Woodford during the war, attended many fetes, balls and constituency meetings, especially during the Blitz, and in 1951 opened the door to the 1,000th new house built in the borough.

Churchill’s statue on Woodford Green was unveiled in 1959 by Viscount Montgomery. Was Churchill worthy of his number one spot as the ‘Greatest Briton’? Definitely!

Jef’s talk – which has been organised by Vision RCL – will take place at Wanstead Library on 13 November from 2pm to 3pm (free). For more information, call 020 8708 7400

Guide Dog Training School seeks temporary homes for its students


The Guide Dog Training School in Woodford Bridge is seeking local residents to become volunteer ‘boarders’ and give a temporary home to one of their dogs while it is being trained.

“The dogs live with their boarders for varying periods from seven days to seven months,” said a spokesperson for the centre, which pays for all expenses during the stay. Volunteers must be able to bring their dog to the school between 7am and 9am each morning and collect it between 4.30pm and 7pm.



Future for Whipps

Whipps Cross Hospital

In the third of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Wanstead resident Charlotte Monro explains why campaigning must continue, despite government funding confirmation

At a public meeting on 15 October, Barts Health Trust presented their current proposals for the new hospital and the other developments on the Whipps Cross site. There was intense interest from the 200 people attending, with pertinent and searching questions asked, and discussions continued as the meeting was breaking up.

Whipps is one of the six hospital developments the government has announced will benefit from a share of a £2.7bn funding allocation. A letter has been received from the Secretary of State for Health confirming government support for a ‘brand new hospital’. “We don’t know how much yet,” said Alastair Finney, Director for Whipps Cross Redevelopment, but the total divided by six gives £450m. Not nearly sufficient for a new-build hospital, he added, so the campaign needs to continue (please sign our petition!). At the meeting, we heard the reworked proposals for the strategic outline case:

A hospital of similar total size as the current one but compacted to a smaller footprint (about a fifth), between eight and 12 storeys high, with A&E, maternity and core services.

Fewer beds, apart from more in critical care and maternity, and more space for day surgery, including for children. The rationale for this, despite a growing population, is based on hospital and primary care clinician working groups’ vision of models of care.

Becoming a specialist centre for the treatment of frail older people, including residents from Newham and Tower Hamlets.

Some community or social care facilities next to the hospital.

Much of the site to be disposed of for housing and community amenities, with up to 1,700 new homes envisaged.

No commitment to sustainable building and energy design was evident.

“I fear you may be overestimating how much your plans will reduce the need for hospital beds,” said the final questioner to applause. No evidence has been presented as to how far their proposed model of care closer to home can or will reduce the need for hospital admissions, or the resources needed for this. Without additional beds, the future in reality will be a cut, and a new hospital under as much pressure as now, or more.

This is our hospital. Our say in it has to be real. This will only happen by our action. The next two months will be critical as the revised outline business case will be resubmitted at the end of the year, which includes the total capital needed. The new hospital must be based on need, not the funding on offer.

Let’s make it happen.

For information on the future of Whipps Cross Hospital, visit

To view the petition, visit


Wanstead Park’s historic Temple remains open as usual despite ongoing repairs

temple-1©Richard Arnopp

Repairs taking place at Wanstead Park’s historic Temple are set to continue.

“As well as painting, the contractors have carried out repairs to the columns and tympanum and repointed brickwork. But additional problems have been found, and the work will take longer than expected,” said the Friends of Wanstead Parklands.

The work follows recent refurbishment of the toilets, which were in poor condition. CCTV has also been installed outside the building to deter vandalism and misuse.

The Temple was built around 1760 by John, 2nd Earl Tylney of Castlemaine and originally housed a menagerie. It has since been used as accommodation for keepers and is now a visitor centre, open on the first full weekend of every month from 10am to 3pm.

Call 020 7332 1911