The Hobbs Album


In the first of a series of articles looking at historic photos of the local area found in a 100-year-old family album, historian Richard Arnopp  presents a selection of images of Wanstead Park

Since 2007, I’ve been involved in the campaign to raise public awareness of Wanstead Park, an important and historic open space. I’ve also been an active researcher into various aspects of the park’s history, to inform the development of plans for the future by shedding light on its past.

One of my projects has been to build up a collection of historic images of Wanstead Park, Bush Wood and Wanstead Flats. In 2017, I acquired an album of photographs taken by members of the Hobbs family, some of whom lived locally. The album is dated 1896–1907 on the cover. There are just over 100 photos, of which at least seven are of Wanstead Park, which was what piqued my interest.

A related album sadly escaped, as bidding pushed the price beyond what I was willing to pay. Many of the photographs in the collection were faded, degraded or damaged to varying degrees, and it took a good deal of time and effort to restore them to the extent I was able.

Over the coming months, I’m going to give you a taste of this treasure trove of unique, original images. As well as local scenes, they incidentally shed light on social history, recreational activities, costume and some interesting personalities.

What makes the Hobbs album fascinating is that most of the people depicted are identifiable individuals. Finding the album was my first stroke of luck; the second was when I was contacted by a relative of the Hobbs family, Alys Wade, from Australia. Ms Wade had come across a selection of photos from the album which I had posted on my Wanstead Image Archive.

Ms Wade told me: “George Wilson Hobbs was born in Newport, Isle of Wight, in 1838. He, with his wife Fanny and their family, moved to Forest Gate around 1880 and resided at 35 Bignold Road for many years. They had previously been resident in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. Three of George and Fanny’s children became self-employed artists like their father and worked from a studio at home. Florence Emily married Frederick Dawe, a commercial artist, in 1901 and they had one son, Cedric, who became an artist and an art director in the film industry. A large silk embroidery was worked by at least one of the daughters, possibly Fanny Marian, on a Singer sewing machine and won first prize for the Singer Sewing Machine Company in the 1900 Paris Exposition. George Edward wrote and illustrated several children’s books on the theme of brownies (elves) and also stories and illustrations for children’s annuals. He painted landscapes and portraits and illustrated cards for the publisher Raphael Tuck.”

I’ll begin the series with some photographs taken in Wanstead Park.

To view Richard’s Wanstead Image Archive, visit


refugee-1Syrian refugees

In the first of a series of articles by Refugee Welcome Wanstead – a community group planning to welcome a Syrian refugee family to Wanstead – Eleanor Taylor explains how local residents can help

I’m sure you will recall the dreadful scenes in the news in recent years of buildings flattened, people killed or injured and families torn apart as a result of the war in Syria. For eight years, the war has raged, creating the world’s largest refugee crisis, and forcing people into camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Life in these refugee camps is precarious, and most families dream of being able to settle down somewhere to start afresh and rebuild their lives.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed when we see these stories, to feel there’s nothing we can do to help. The events are happening so far away, and we don’t make the decisions about how many families are rescued from these terrible conditions.

But there is something we can do. In addition to the standard number of refugee families taken in by the UK government and resettled in this country, the Home Office operates a programme called the Community Sponsorship Scheme. Communities can come together and offer the housing, support and friendship needed to welcome a refugee family into life in the UK. The scheme has already worked successfully across the country, and is currently in action in Dagenham, where a group similar to ours welcomed a family last year.

That’s where we come in. Refugee Welcome Wanstead, established by volunteers from five local parishes in and around Wanstead, is a group set up to apply to welcome a Syrian refugee family into our community through the Community Sponsorship Scheme. Together, we will provide accommodation, advice and support to a family, as well as welcoming them into our wonderful Wanstead community.

If we are to succeed, we need your help. To take part in the scheme, the Home Office requires us to raise money, which is why we have set up a crowdfunding campaign. In time, we will also need volunteers, as well as donations of items of furniture, so please keep an eye on our Twitter page to see how you can help.

With your help, we can make all the difference in the world to one family. We can’t solve all the conflicts of the world, but we believe that if we can help one family, we should.

It takes a community to welcome a family, and we know Wanstead can rise to the challenge. Please help us succeed together.

To donate to Refugee Welcome Wanstead, visit For more information, follow the group on Twitter @RefugeeWanstead or email

For more information on the Community Sponsorship Scheme, visit


Celebrate local wild flowers with the Aldersbrook Horticultural Society


Local wild flowers will be the subject of this month’s Aldersbrook Horticultural Society meeting.

My talk will explain how historical records give clues about the native flowers that grew in the Wanstead area and their uses… I will suggest reasons why many wild flowers are under threat and how careful management of wild flower areas should be able to enhance local biodiversity,” said Tricia Moxey, whose presentation will take place at Aldersbrook Bowls Club on 10 March from 7.30pm (visitors: £5).



Watch out for pop-up art in Wanstead as art trail organisers take a break

IMG_E2351©Alison Stenhouse

The volunteer team of organisers of Art Trail Wanstead are having a well-deserved rest this September after 10 years of running the large, community visual art event.

But, to keep the local art scene alive, there are likely to be some pop-up art displays to enjoy this year instead, with details to be announced at a later date. And Art Group Wanstead members are again set to have a strong presence at September’s Wanstead Festival. “Having a break will give us time to plan for the years ahead,” said a statement from the organisers.

Last September, about 150 artists showed work at 70 venues.

The group, which has over 300 members, is continuing to offer free membership to artists – professionals and amateurs who have a strong connection to the local area – for its future plans.



Wild Wanstead


In the 20th of a series of articles charting the Wild Wanstead project, Susie Knox reports on a new initiative to stop the decline in British insects and encourages us all to help

Insects. Love them or loathe them, we certainly need to look after them – they are, after all, the foundation of life on Earth. That’s why one sunny lunchtime back in November, I nipped to the Museum of London to join the launch of a new report into the state of insect life in Britain.

It is known that insects are in calamitous decline across the world – ‘insectageddon’ as it has been termed by the newspapers. In 2017, a study reported that flying insects had declined by around 75% in the last 25 years on German nature reserves. But what is the situation in the UK and how should we all be responding? Those are the questions addressed by Insects and Why They Matter, a report by leading entomologist Professor Dave Goulson.

Considering their importance, there is remarkably little data monitoring insect populations. One of the best-studied groups in the world is British butterflies. Our common butterflies have declined by about half over the last 40 years, and despite conservation efforts, numbers of those needing specialist habitats have fallen by 77%. Over a similar period, the ranges of wild bees and hoverflies have shrunk dramatically. There are now large areas of the country where many species are no longer able to live.

This is bad news for birds, bats, lizards, amphibians, fishes and the many other creatures that rely on insects for food. And it’s bad news for us humans too. Insects perform an important function controlling pests on our crops. They help old material decay, recycling nutrients into the soil, and they pollinate the plants we eat. Three-quarters of food crops need insects. No insects mean no tomatoes, apples, coffee and even chocolate.

According to the report, there are three main reasons why insects are declining in Britain: loss of habitat, the intensification of farming and the use of pesticides. Nearly 17,000 tons of pesticides are sprayed on farms every year – not to mention all the chemicals used by councils and homeowners. According to DEFRA, every hectare of arable land in the UK receives 17 applications of pesticide each year.

With less habitats, fewer flowers and an environment contaminated with poison, it’s not surprising our insects are dying. But there is still time to make a difference. Many insects may have reduced range but they are still in existence, so there is scope to rejuvenate their populations. There are two main strategies proposed for addressing this: stopping all routine and unnecessary use of pesticides and creating more and better connected insect-friendly habitats in our gardens, towns, cities and countryside. So, with this in mind, what can individuals do to help? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Never apply pesticides in our gardens.

Use every bit of outdoor space we have to create a habitat for wildlife. Greening up driveways, installing green roofs, planting trees, shrubs and pollinator-friendly flowers in our gardens, and leaving some areas to get a bit wilder.

Email the council to ask them to stop using pesticides and support the creation of more wild areas (like the new Grow Zones, which are slowly being established on verges and parks in Wanstead).

Buy organic food where possible.

Sign petitions asking the government to act.

According to Insects and Why They Matter, ecosystem crashes due to a critical loss of insect abundance and diversity are a real and present threat to society, but they are not inevitable. Insect declines in the UK are mainly caused by a loss of habitat in which to thrive, and the use of pesticides on farmland, urban green spaces and gardens. These can be addressed without major economic or cultural cost. It just needs all of us to act.

To download the Insects and Why They Matter report, visit For more information on the Wild Wanstead project, visit

Old enough to…

DSC_5429Panel members Pearl and Bert

In the seventh of a series of articles looking at the work of Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering, Janet West explains the operation of their user involvement service Voices of Experience

Voices of Experience is Age UK’s user involvement service, which has been established in Redbridge since 2004. It was set up to enable older people to have their say on a number of issues that affect their daily lives. The service consists of a questionnaire group and a citizens panel of 15 members, who meet monthly for discussion and to hear from speakers from the council, Clinical Commissioning Groups and other statutory and voluntary organisations.

The coordinator of the service engages with older people through questionnaires, face-to-face discussions with groups of older people, as well as one-to-one phone discussions, so people get the chance to have their views heard in a way that suits them. It might be about a current local authority consultation, for example, and their views can be given back to the council to ensure their voices are heard. Discussions are also held at the Allan Burgess Centre in Wanstead with older people who have popped in for a coffee and a chat or for lunch.

In fact, Alex Wilde and the Redbridge Rhymesters, who frequently attend the Allan Burgess Centre along with children from Snaresbrook Primary School, first got to know us through a chance discussion with me when I was the coordinator of the service. I had come across a poem of Alex’s and contacted her to ask permission for the poem to be used in the Voices of Experience newsletter. Alex was delighted and thereafter a wonderful relationship between Alex and Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering was established!

Sometimes, the group participates in Age UK’s campaigns, most notably on improving social care, accessible transport and tackling loneliness. The panel has met with MPs at Westminster and been given the chance to question them on their plans for social care. The photo shows panel members Pearl and Bert – both very active members of the group for many years – during the campaign ‘On the Buses’, which was aimed at making bus travel safer for older people by providing appropriate training for drivers to help prevent falls on buses. (Bert sadly passed away recently, but remained an active member up until the end of 2019.)

Members of the group have said it makes them feel valued and listened to and some have been with us for many years. There is now a new coordinator in post, Pat Fitzsimons, as I have moved on to another role in the organisation. Pat has some new and innovative ideas for the service and is looking forward to 2020 and new ways to include older people and give them a voice.

For more information on Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering, call 020 8220 6000 or visit

The old East End

Park-Lane,-Stratford_DSCF5660©Geoff Wilkinson

In the fourth 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

Preparing a new photography exhibition about London’s East End for my Wanstead gallery invariably involves a lot of walking. Cold, dark, wet nights are my preference as the light from street lamps, shops and traffic bounces in the rain and reflects on the pavements and roads, filling the pictures with energy and life, unlike daylight.

The other thing I can’t resist is an alleyway or a street with a curious name; in this case, it was Park Lane. The very name conjured up for me mental images of grand hotels and luxurious apartments overlooking London’s Hyde Park. This particular Park Lane, however, is just off Stratford High Street and is a wonderful example of the old and the new.

As you can see from the photograph, at the north end of this short road stands an old, small, white-painted building now used as a house of worship. Surrounded and dwarfed by its modern neighbours, the photograph shows a prime example of how change continues. Like the Thames that flows through it, the East End also changes continuously, albeit at a slower pace than the river.

The Huguenots, Jewish and Asian families have all passed through Spitalfields over generations. When the East India, West India and King George docks were working at their frenzied height, ships from all over the world were unloading passengers and cargo, adding to the mix of nationalities and languages. Not really surprising then that change continues, although at a faster pace, with architecture changing dramatically as well.

What I want to discover before they disappear are the buildings, streets and alleyways our parents and grandparents grew up in. There must be many more places for me to find, discover and photograph, so the search will continue.

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

Kind words…


In the first of a series of articles documenting the thoughts and work of local anti-bullying ambassador Elsa Arnold, the founder of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative explains her motivation

I’m Elsa. I’m 18 and an A level student. I have been an anti-bullying ambassador for The Diana Award charity since the age of 15, but this topic has always been close to my heart because of my own experiences, which led to me struggling a lot with my mental health.

I really value being able to turn my negative experiences into something positive, and I am so grateful to have had so many opportunities to have been able to do that.

I believe school is an experience you never forget and that everyone has the right to enjoy and make the most of it. I want to be a part of ensuring that happens for everyone.

In 2017, I started doing more work in the local community, teaming up with Redbridge Libraries to deliver anti-bullying workshops, which are honestly one of my favourite things to do. I’ve been lucky enough to have also worked with some local youth groups and schools.

I’ve experienced bullying at different times in my life, but the memories from primary school cross my mind most often. I was never really aware of what bullying was in primary school, so I didn’t identify what was happening at the time. I believed I deserved to feel the way that I did, and often, one of the hardest parts was trying to find a friend in myself. So, being able to work with children now, at the same age as I was when I struggled, means a lot because I see it as my duty to be a part of ensuring the same experiences don’t happen to anyone else.

I am also a member of the youth panel for the charity YoungMinds, who do amazing work for young people’s mental health and are an amazing, inspiring organisation to be a part of.

But one of the best and most heartwarming things I feel I have done is team up with Mark Mountney (owner of Zoology) in 2018 to launch a local initiative called Spreading Kindness Through E11, because that’s what has always been at the heart of everything I have aimed to do. I have also enjoyed teaming up with local businesses over the last couple of years to continue spreading the messages about which I am passionate.

My life is dedicated to helping other people and being part of making the world a better place. I can’t wait to see where I can take this and who I can work with next to help achieve this.

I’d like to thank the Wanstead Village Directory for giving me this platform to share a bit of my story and let you know how you can get involved. I hope you enjoy reading my articles.

For more information and to read Elsa’s blog, visit, or follow her on Instagram @elsa_arnold

Mama’s back!

d1931Mama G of Petite Pantos, which produces ‘pantomimes with a social conscience’, championing LGBTQ+ issues, feminism and positive representation of race and gender

After cementing herself as a family favourite during Fabula Festival 2019, Mama G is back in Wanstead for LGBT+ History Month celebrations. Here, the pantomime dame explains the importance of stories

Hello lovelies! I’m so excited to be visiting Wanstead Library in February that I absolutely insisted the editor let me write something for this delightful little tome, to make sure none of you miss out.

Some of you may have seen me last time I visited, and if you didn’t, let me tell you what I do. I do fabulous! I do it all the time! And I try and encourage everyone else to be fabulous too!

And I do all of this by telling stories. That’s right: I’m a pantomime dame storyteller! My stories are all about being who you are and loving who you want. They’re aimed at children and their families but everyone can enjoy them. I always try and make sure there’s some humour that the adults will enjoy, but mostly I want everyone to leave knowing that who they are is wonderful and that everyone else is wonderful too!

My stories are about all sorts of things. I have two fairies (Fran and Vera) who fight over who their friend Silly Billy should love. Then there’s Eunice the horse who goes on quite the farmyard adventure to discover who she really is (no spoilers, but it does involve eating glitter!). And my personal favourite story is about Little Roar, the fashionista dinosaur. If you come to hear my stories, you might also meet the firefly without any fire, Valentina Tereshkova (the first lady to go into space), some goats with a wind problem and even Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (well, maybe just at Christmas).

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Why would a panto dame want to tell stories?” Well, it’s kind of what we do. We always make sure you know what’s going on when it comes to Aladdin or Dick Whittington’s latest adventures and we love being in front of an audience. Wearing a fabulous frock and making every generation of a family laugh really is a wonderful way to make a living!

And I think it’s important to tell the stories I do because everyone has the right to know that who they are is valued and loved and appreciated. My stories also promote an understanding that you should respect and appreciate everyone else for who they are too. If children grow up understanding that everybody should be able to live their lives their way, don’t you think the world and our community will become a friendlier place?

It’s only a small act, but I can’t help feeling that the impact could be huge. So, why not come and join me for storytime? You never know, it could change your life!

Mama G will be sharing her tales at Wanstead Library on 12 February from 2pm to 2.30pm (free; suitable for children aged three and over). For details of other local performances, visit For more information on Mama G, visit

Swan lakes

4bbo9©Tracey Adebowale-Jones

In the first of a series of articles celebrating the swans that reside on the lakes of Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats, Tracey Adebowale-Jones explains her love for these graceful birds.

After some years of being captivated by and photographing the swans of Wanstead Park, I was walking one day around the Heronry Pond when I spotted a very forlorn-looking swan sitting in the reeds of a muddy, shallow estuary. I was struck by its sadness, condition and reluctance to come over to me for food (unusual for most swans).

After that first encounter, I started to take bread and seed, eventually coaxing it across the water so she would eat. Each day I went at the same time and each day she began to wait on the bank, but she seemed unable to preen, remaining dirty and unkempt and thin.  I happened to see a friend who was carrying bags of bird food and I expressed my concern to her. Immediately, she told me about Gill Walker, who rescues swans and other birds and takes them to The Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton, Middlesex for care, healing and, hopefully, a return to the water. I contacted Gill and a day or so later, my swan was carried off in an Ikea bag (just the right size) to the sanctuary, where she remains to this day.

Since that swan encounter, I have become an avid swan watcher. Still taking photographs, but now much more aware of their behaviour and needs. Learning all the time about them, and wanting to impart everything I have learnt, I have begun to develop a network of swan watchers in the park so that we can all keep them safe.

Swans are vulnerable to uncontrolled dogs, foxes, abandoned fishing line and floats, and when very small, the cygnets can be carried away by hungry crows or terrapins that lurk in the waters. Their nests are sometimes ransacked by humans who smash the eggs, and we believe our swan population in the park last year was depleted because of this cruelty.

We have four lakes in the park and usually, there is an adult pair on three of them – one greedy pair takes two lakes as their own and often you will see a territorial of great drama when another pair attempts to intrude. Already this year, we have been able to rescue a juvenile from the Shoulder of Mutton Pond who was driven off by an adult pair.

Through our growing network, we are able to tell each other when we have concerns about a swan’s health or safety, and we thank the many people of Wanstead who share a love for these birds for their support in looking after our beloved swans.

For more information on The Swan Sanctuary, visit To report any concerns about the health and safety of a local swan, call 01932 240 790

Future for Whipps

Whipps Cross Hospital

In the fourth of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Gordon Drakes is pleased to report that being environmentally friendly will be a key design principle in the new build

Campaigners were informed last month that an environmentally friendly hospital and the lowest possible carbon footprint will be a key design principle in the new Whipps Cross Hospital, and that the redevelopment team want this to go further and enable the whole of the site to achieve a carbon neutral footprint.

To cover additional costs, a 3% uplift to the capital bid for building the hospital is to be included. They are aiming to achieve the ‘Excellent’ level of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). Alastair Finney, the Whipps Redevelopment Director, said they will appoint a dedicated sustainability consultant to the team for the next phase: “We will also make sure there are opportunities for expert stakeholders and local people to be engaged and involved in the work as it progresses.”

The recent election has demonstrated that, aside from the ‘B’ word, securing a sustainable future for the NHS and the planet are perhaps the two most important issues for the British public. So, this is welcome news indeed.

In the summer of 2019, the government enshrined into law a commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2050 (not soon enough, but a positive starting point), and it is clear that if governments of the future are to achieve this target, it will be because of action taken now and over the coming years. Given the scale of the task, the principle of net zero carbon needs to infuse and influence all government decision-making going forward.

How the government spends tax revenue on large-scale land development projects must surely be a prime area for implementing this new environmental modus operandi. Indeed, in the government’s response to a recent report issued by the Climate Change Commission, it acknowledged that the built environment accounts for 40% of national energy use and around one-third of emissions.

Whipps Cross is one of the six hospital developments the government has announced will benefit from a share of a £2.7bn funding allocation. The plans are still in flux and the amount of funding for Whipps is still not confirmed – do sign and share the Waltham Forest Save Our NHS petition to the Secretary of State for Health, which is to be handed in on 14 February. But by putting the environment at the centre of the plans, there is an opportunity to reap many benefits.

Members of Wanstead Climate Action (WCA)joined with local health campaigners to urge Barts Health Trust to ensure that low carbon or net zero carbon is a core principal of the Whipps redevelopment plans. Now that we have a positive response to this plea, we need to keep on the case. There are many hurdles to go through yet.

For information on the future of Whipps, visit To view the petition, visit For information on WCA, visit

How was that?


Wanstead and Snaresbrook Cricket Club players Nanette Kritzinger and Saba Nasim reflect on their experiences representing England at the Indoor Cricket Masters Series in 2019

The 2019 Indoor Cricket Masters Series proved one thing: the England women’s team made their mark on the international stage in every possible way; performance, team spirit, sportsmanship, determination, friendship and courage.

Heading into the World Series 2019, England was considered the underdog and very much a developing country in the sport of indoor cricket, about to square up against the well-established masters of the game, Australia, New Zealand and hosts South Africa.

The fighting spirit of the England team could not be dampened, and it was soon clear that we are now becoming a force to be reckoned with. In our fifth appearance, we beat the mighty New Zealand by sticking to our game plan and ensuring the basics of the game were done right.

This moment was made even more special when we realised it was not just us celebrating this historic moment (this was our first ever win at a World Series competition), but also the local crowds and teams from other countries. Everybody there had an unstoppable passion for the sport and were excited by the prospect of the sport growing and developing in England.

The experience gained by each and every player in such a high standard tournament is immeasurable. Indoor cricket has many skill sets that can transfer and improve the players’ outdoor game. Players learn more control over the shots they play while batting by finding the gaps and scoring faster; their fielding becomes faster and more accurate; bowling becomes smarter, having to react quickly to the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing   batsman; and fitness levels increase drastically. All things considered, this is the ideal sport to play during the winter months in preparation for the outdoor season in the summer.

Wanstead and Snaresbrook Cricket Club is proud to say we had four players in the England Indoor Cricket Women’s Masters squad (Nanette Kritzinger, Saba Nasim, Natasha Bourke and Jen Liu).

We are now looking forward to our 2020 outdoor season, where we will be playing in the Essex Women’s Premier League for the first time since the Women’s Southern League removed the regional divisions. This is to allow the counties to create their own leagues (so teams have less distances to travel for matches) with the winner of each league competing in a semi-final and final for a place to go up into the Southern League Championship Division in 2021.

For more information on Wanstead and Snaresbrook Cricket Club, visit