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Heritage - 16: A Walk in the Woods, 2. Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats

Not far from where Alan lives are several attractions featured in the 'Heritage' series. Take a few hours out of your routine to investigate

Wanstead - some of the park's seasonal features

Autumnal setting beside the Perch Pond, close to the kiosk

Autumnal setting beside the Perch Pond, close to the kiosk

A front view of the grotto, the folly by the lake - this featured in a later scene in the film 'The Big Sleep' with Robert Mitchum, James Stewart,  Edward Fox, Sarah Miles etc

A front view of the grotto, the folly by the lake - this featured in a later scene in the film 'The Big Sleep' with Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Edward Fox, Sarah Miles etc

Late in the year, 2015, the leaves on most trees in the park have only just turned. The late afternoon sun has caught this young tree in its rays as it sinks to the tree line on the south side of the Heronry Pond

Late in the year, 2015, the leaves on most trees in the park have only just turned. The late afternoon sun has caught this young tree in its rays as it sinks to the tree line on the south side of the Heronry Pond

The 'Repton Oak' in the 'bottleneck' of the park towards Blake Hall Road. It is in fact nine oaks, bound together about 300 years ago by the Tylney-Long family's head gardener, and grown as one. It's suffered on its southern side, with broken boughs

The 'Repton Oak' in the 'bottleneck' of the park towards Blake Hall Road. It is in fact nine oaks, bound together about 300 years ago by the Tylney-Long family's head gardener, and grown as one. It's suffered on its southern side, with broken boughs

The tree would have been visible on its north side from the side of Wanstead House, now the site of the golf course

The tree would have been visible on its north side from the side of Wanstead House, now the site of the golf course

Wanstead Park is a Grade II Listed municipal park that covers around 140 acres (57 hectares).

The site at the southern edge of the London Borough of Redbridge is bordered on its northern side by the A12, on the east by the River Roding and the A406 North Circular road. To the south and west are the Aldersbrook Estate and Wanstead Golf Club's greens.

The park was a deer park owned by the Wanstead House estate, bought in 1880 by the City of London Corporation administered as part of Epping Forest. We need to look at the area's history to understand its present status.

Early Days

A Roman site, believed to have been a villa, was excavated on the land in 1985 and again in 2007, pointing to development between the 1st to 5th Centuries. [An article on the 2007 dig appeared in the LONDON ARCHAEOLOGIST the same year - Vol 11, No.9 see www.londonarchaeologist.org.uk].

The name 'Wanstead' is Saxon and suggests a continuity of settlement. The English Place-names Society accepts the name as being derived from 'wen', a hill or mound, and 'stead', or settlement. It could also derive from the Saxon god Wotan ('Wanstead', equiv. Anglian 'Woden' and Norse 'Odin').

In Christian Saxon days the abbot Aelfric granted the manor of Wanstead to the monks of the West Mynster abbey. This cannot be substantiated due to lack of documentary evidence.

Domesday - Demesde - of 1086 tells that Wanstead Manor was held from the Bishop of London by Ralph, son of the Breton Brian/Breon. The area around Wanstead was thickly wooded at this time, within the bounds of the Forest of Essex (originally Earl Harold's, then his younger brother Earl Leofwin's land), part of the bailiwick of Becontree, latterly of the Leyton Walk.


Around and about the beaten track... scenes by the Perch Pond

Close by the path that divides the Perch Pond from the seemingly impenetrable 'jungle' below. There is a track that joins this path with the next one at a lower level to the east

Close by the path that divides the Perch Pond from the seemingly impenetrable 'jungle' below. There is a track that joins this path with the next one at a lower level to the east

Autumn's with us, most vegetation by the Perch Pond dies back, everything's in abeyance until the sap rises again in four month's time. Some growth thrives whatever time of the year, however

Autumn's with us, most vegetation by the Perch Pond dies back, everything's in abeyance until the sap rises again in four month's time. Some growth thrives whatever time of the year, however

Pea soup? Close to the track that divides the Perch Pond from the Heronry Pond are a pair of islets occupied by water fowl, separated by channels and overgrown enough to pass for the Everglades - I expect to see alligators, but so far none have shown

Pea soup? Close to the track that divides the Perch Pond from the Heronry Pond are a pair of islets occupied by water fowl, separated by channels and overgrown enough to pass for the Everglades - I expect to see alligators, but so far none have shown

The side that faces the main 'Heronry' pond is clear enough but for scum at its easternmost end near the riding stables

The side that faces the main 'Heronry' pond is clear enough but for scum at its easternmost end near the riding stables

On the north side of the Perch Pond where the undergrowth was recently pared back, an autumnal view looking east with the sun behind me to my right

On the north side of the Perch Pond where the undergrowth was recently pared back, an autumnal view looking east with the sun behind me to my right

Tree puzzle - nature's funny sometimes, eh? The way trees grow, for instance...

Tree puzzle - nature's funny sometimes, eh? The way trees grow, for instance...

Since the islands on the Perch Pond were tidied up the landscape doesn't look so much like the Everglades

Since the islands on the Perch Pond were tidied up the landscape doesn't look so much like the Everglades

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The park and where to find it

SE England - the darker green of Epping Forest Area, Wanstead Park is within the pink area to the north-east of the London conurbation

SE England - the darker green of Epping Forest Area, Wanstead Park is within the pink area to the north-east of the London conurbation

Until the mid-1800s part of the Tylney estate's lands, Wanstead Park lies between the Aldersbrook housing estate and Wanstead Golf Club's extensive greens that reach towards the A406 North Circular road.

Until the mid-1800s part of the Tylney estate's lands, Wanstead Park lies between the Aldersbrook housing estate and Wanstead Golf Club's extensive greens that reach towards the A406 North Circular road.

Heron Gate (what there is now), leading into the park from Wanstead Park Avenue, at the other end of which is Wanstead Flats, the southernmost extremity of the historic Forest of Essex, latterly Epping Forest

Heron Gate (what there is now), leading into the park from Wanstead Park Avenue, at the other end of which is Wanstead Flats, the southernmost extremity of the historic Forest of Essex, latterly Epping Forest

The refreshment kiosk - between the  Heronry Pond and the Perch Pond was built in a style similar to the nearby 'Temple' to replace the old snack bar in the dilapidated boathouse.

The refreshment kiosk - between the Heronry Pond and the Perch Pond was built in a style similar to the nearby 'Temple' to replace the old snack bar in the dilapidated boathouse.

The 'Temple', now a listed building that houses an information and exhibition centre  was designed as a feature for the formal  gardens. Classical and modern music concerts are also held here

The 'Temple', now a listed building that houses an information and exhibition centre was designed as a feature for the formal gardens. Classical and modern music concerts are also held here

Autumn is well and truly in the air at around four in this Sunday afternoon shot. A conversation takes place on the lakeside bench ahead

Autumn is well and truly in the air at around four in this Sunday afternoon shot. A conversation takes place on the lakeside bench ahead

Tudor era

Until the 14th Century the manor house remained insignificant, hardly different from those around the area. By 1499 it had been acquired by Henry VII and was by now big enough for use as a hunting lodge. The site became his country retreat, within easy reach of Greenwich Palace.

Henry, Duke of York - later King Henry VIII - lived here for a time. Lord Richard Rich, High Chancellor of England was keeper of the park in 1543; his son Robert sold the lordship of the manor to Robert Dudley, fated 1st Earl of Leicester, who bought the local manor of Stonhall at nearby Ilford around the same time. Successive owners kept the manor of Wanstead together with Stonhall.


Stuart - Georgian

In 1619 Sir Henry Mildmay held the manor but forfeited it to the crown, having fought for Parliament. In 1673 or 1674 the manor was sold yet again, this time to Josiah Child, made 1st Baronet Child of Wanstead in 1678, by this time Governor of the East India Company. His successor Sir Richard commissioned Scots' architect Colen Campbell to design a great mansion in the grand Palladian style. When built it occupied an area of 260 feet by 70 feet (79 X 70 metres). The facade was completed with a portico of six Corinthian columns, the earliest in England. The grounds were landscaped and planted with formal avenues of trees by George London, a leading garden designer of the era.

Child was made 1st Viscount Castlemaine in 1718, the house finished four years later. A succession of marriages raised the family through the Tylney and Long families. On the death of the 7th Baronet Tylney-Long the estate passed to his twelve-month old heir, Sir James Tylney-Long, who died aged 11 in 1805. The estate passed to his eldest sister Catherine Tylney-Long, the richest heiress in England.

A couple of shots of the bluebell wood...

One view looking across the wood from west to east and...

One view looking across the wood from west to east and...

from near the Temple green looking north-west

from near the Temple green looking north-west

Regency folly

Catherine Tylney-Long made the spectacular error of wedding William Pole-Wellesley, nephew of the Duke of Wellington.

William was a 'rake', a gambler and spendthrift who, although becoming an MP in 1812 developed a taste for the extravagant. He single-handedly ruined his wife's estate. To get away from his creditors he took the office of Usher to George IV, which made him immune from arrest for debt. He then fled abroad.

In June 1822 the trustees of the settlement auctioned off the contents to pay off the debts on the settled estate, protecting the son's future inheritance. In 1825, without a buyer for Wanstead House it was demolished by order of the trustees and the sale of building materials offset against the debt. The profits from selling the materials amounted to £16,000 - against the £360,000 paid for building just over a century before.

A copy of the Auction Brochure for the sale of the contents can be seen in the 'Temple', the architectural feature near the site of the house now a visitor centre.

The Auction was held on Monday, 10th June, 1822 for thirty-one days, the sale conducted by a Mr Robins each day from 11am (Saturdays and Sundays excepted). The contents were available for inspection from Wednesday, 22nd May until the auction period.

Catherine died in 1825 shortly after the demolition of Wanstead House . Sir Josiah Child's heritage was further destroyed by Pole-Wellesley in selling off much the timber from the estate, the vistas and avenues. The rake died in humble lodgings in 1845 after continuing his Parliamentary career.

What was left of the estate was kept in trust by his son William for Pole-Wellesley's cousin Henry Wellesley, 1st Earl Cowley, who sold 184 acres (0.74 km 2)of Wanstead Park to the Corporation of London to be kept as part of Epping Forest. The land was opened to the public as a park in 1882. The earl's family sold more land to Wanstead Sports Grounds Ltd in 1920.

The Palladian mansion stood 275 yards east of the ornamental lake known as 'The Basin' near the golf course club house, a remnant of the 18th Century stable yard. The cricket ground is on what would have been the front lawn, the nearby St Mary's church its private chapel. The entrance to the Overton estate was where Blake Hall Road (A1008) passes the western end of Overton Drive. A pair of capped pillars with Sir Richard Child's cipher visible)

Come on, let's take a look around. Come with me to the vista

Another view of that grotto, this time from the front with more of the willow herb that flourishes on ruins and waste ground

Another view of that grotto, this time from the front with more of the willow herb that flourishes on ruins and waste ground

This is the grotto seen along the lakeside from near the vista