The delights of Wanstead Park, just beyond the Forest Gate borders are one of the real, little appreciated, joys of living in this area.
They and the buildings that have stood within them have a fascinating history, laden with riches, royal scandal, landscape and architectural splendour and infamy that should fascinate any historian.
Below we produce the flimsiest of chronologies, hoping it will arouse enough interest for you to delve further into the pleasures of this part of our locality.
1042 - Wanstead Manor, conferred by Edward the Confessor.
1078 - Held by Bishop of London, and let for 40/- per year to Ralph Fritz Brien.
1217 - Let to Sir Hugh de Hodeing.
1271 - Let to Sir John Huntercombe.
1368 - Death of Sir John Huntercombe, junior.
1446 - John Tattersall, who had purchased the Manor, died and house remained in his family, until ...
1457 - William Keene became lord of Manor.
1487 - Sir Ralph Hastings becomes Lord of the Manor. Succeeded by Sir John Heron, who was followed by his son, Sir Giles Heron - son-in-law of Sir Thomas More. The Herons created the Park's Heronry - which remains - as a pun on their name.
1531 - Sir Giles Heron - accused of treason by Henry V111, and had his estate confiscated, because of his adherence to Catholic faith.
1549 - Manor granted by Edward V1 to Lord Richard Riche, who rebuilt the Manor House, (then called Naked Hall Hawe).
1553 - Queen Mary stayed there on her way from Norwich to London, to assume the crown. She received Princess Elizabeth, who rode out from London to meet the queen, attended by 1,000 knights, ladies and gentlemen, on horseback, at Wanstead.
1578 - Queen Elizabeth paid a five-day visit to Wanstead Hall, as it was known at the time, then owned by the Earl of Leicester, who had purchased the house from the Riche family. Leicester was widely assumed to be a lover of the so-called "virgin" queen. He greatly enlarged and improved the house, and married the Countess of Essex in this year.
|Robert Dudley, later 1st |
Earl of Leicester, Wanstead Hall
owner and royal lover 1
1588 - Earl of Leicester died and Wanstead passed to his widow, who the following year married Sir Christopher Blount. An inventory of the house, contents and grounds, at the time valued the estate at a mere £1,120.
1603 - Sir Charles Blount created Earl of Devonshire.
1606 - On the death of Earl of Devonshire, the manor passed to the crown.
1615 - James 1 stayed at Wanstead.
1617 - James 1 revisited the house, which was purchased and occupied during his reign by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham - widely rumoured to be the king's lover - the second royal lover to occupy the house. Is there something in the river Roding?
|George Villiers - 1st Duke|
Wanstead Hall owner
and royal lover 2
1619 - Wanstead estate sold by Duke of Buckingham to Sir Henry Mildmay (after whom parts of modern Islington are named), one of the judges by whom Charles 1 was subsequently condemned. Sir Henry was succeeded by his son, Sir John, from whom the estate was taken by Charles 11.
1662 - Wanstead sold by James, Duke of York, to whom it had been given by Charles 11, to Sir Robert Brooke, who held it until 1667.
1667 - Pepys writes:
Sir William Penn (Quaker, and founder of the US state of Pennsylvania) did give me this afternoon an account of his design for buying Sir RW Brooke's fine house at Wanstead, which I so wondered at; and did give him reasons against it, which he allowed of, and told me that he did intend to pull down the house and build a less, and that he could get £1,500 for the old house, and I know what fooleries. But I will never believe he intended to buy it, for my part, though he troubled Mr Ganden, to go and look upon it, and advise him in it.
The manor was however, bought in this year by Sir Josiah Child, a goldsmith, Governor of the East India Company and founder of Child's Bank, which was taken over by William and Glyn's in the 1920s and is now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Child greatly improved the house and grounds. In another piece of local punery around Wanstead House names, the Child name may have been incorporated in Forest Gate's former pub, the Eagle and Child.
|Sir Josiah Child (1630 - 1699)|
1678 - Josiah Child created baronet.
1683 - John Evelyn wrote: "I went to see Sir Josiah Child's prodigious cost in planting walnut trees about his seate and making fish ponds many miles in circuit in Epping Forest, in a barren place, as oftimes these suddenly monied for the most part seate themselves."
|Pre 1715 Wanstead Hall, residence of Sir Josiah Child|
1699 - Sir Josiah Child died.
1715 - Sir Richard Child, son of Josiah, pulled down Wanstead Hall and built the mansion, in the Palladian style, that remained until 1822, which a contemporary writer , of The Complete English Traveller, described as "more magnificent than Blenheim", and "one of the most elegant in England - both for the building and the gardens".
|Fortifications, Wanstead House, 18th century|
1718 - Sir Richard Child created Viscount Castlemaine.
1732 - Viscount Castlemaine created Earl Tylney (hence Forest Gate street name).
1748 - Peter Kalm, a Swedish botanist, having visited the house described it: "My Lord Tylney's magnificent house resembles a royal palace rather than a private man's home ... many rooms furnished in the most costly way ... one room was not like another".
1749 - Earl Tylney died and succeeded by his second son, John, who brought many art treasures from Italy to Wanstead.
1764 - House guests included George 111 and Queen Charlotte, escorted by the Light Horse cavalry.
1775 - Horace Walpole wrote: "I dined at Wanstead. Many years had passed since I saw it. The disposition of the house and prospect are very fine".
1784 - Earl Tylney died, succeeded by his nephew, James Long, who became the second Earl, Tylney-Long.
1794 - Second Earl died and succeeded by his daughter, Catherine - a minor, with an estimated wealth exceeding £1m and an annual income of £80,000. Some Bourbon aristocrats, fleeing the French Revolution, took up temporary residence in the house.
1810 - John Britton wrote:
From the entrance to the park in the west, through the main gates, the road to the house is skirted by rows of fine elms, and winds round a circular piece of water, extending considerably beyond each extremity to the mansion, from which this approach has an aspect of much grandeur ... Near the River Roding is a curious grotto, constructed by the second Earl of Tylney, at an expense of £2,000, independently of the cost of materials.
The grotto was constructed of shells, pebbles, rare stones, fossils, looking glasses and fine painted windows, with a domed roof.
|1909 postcard of the ruins of the grotto|
1812 - Marriage of the very eligible Catherine Tylney-Long to the feckless William Pole-Wellesley (son of Lord Maryborough, later Earl of Mornington; nephew of Duke of Wellington).
|Wanstead House and gardens, looking east|
1813 - Pole-Wellesley makes an abortive attempt to close a public footpath through Wanstead Park. He was a profligate playboy, who soon ran up considerable debts.
|The feckless William |
Pole-Wellesley (1788 - 1857)
1815 - Pole-Wellesley holds a grand fete in Wanstead House and its gardens to celebrate his uncle, the Duke of Wellington's victory over Napoleon. The Prince Regent attends along with a number of other royals and over a thousand leading dignitaries.
|Wanstead House, c 1820|
1822 - Sale by auction of the furniture and contents of Wanstead House, in over 6,000 lots - which lasted thirty-two days - for £41,000, for the benefit of Pole-Wellesley's creditors.
|Catalogue for sale of Wanstead|
House furniture, 1822
1823 - Wanstead House pulled down, and sold piecemeal, for £10,000, for the further benefit of Pole-Wellesley's creditors. After the house was pulled down, the grounds were leased for shooting. The grounds were allowed to grow wild, to improve the habitat of the game.
1825 - Catherine Pole-Wellesley died, aged 35.
1851 - Sale of Tylney-Long family portraits by Christies (including some by William Hogarth).
1859 - Earl of Mornington (formerly Pole-Wellesley) died, aged 69, not before marrying for a second time a "noble" woman who ended up in the workhouse, as a result of his reckless ways. One obituary described him thus:
A spendthrift, a profligate, a gambler in his youth - he became a debauchee in his manhood. Redeemed by no single virtue, adorned by no single grace, his life has gone out, even without a flicker of repentance.
1882 - The 184 acre grounds of the house were purchased by the Corporation of London, for £8,000, and turned into Wanstead Park, which was opened to the public. The Corporation then built roads to connect the park to Leytonstone and to Forest Gate railway station (Centre Road).
1884 - The grotto was burned out.
|Unemployed relief, dredging Lake in |
Wanstead Park, 1909. Grotto ruins in background
Today - Some remnants to be seen:
• The two stone pillars at the entrance to Overton Drive - facing Bush Road on Blake Hall Road were originally the entrance gates to Wanstead House. The monogram RC that remains on the pillars, refers to Richard Child, who had the 1715 house built, at a cost of £360,000.
|Gatepost with Richard Child's monogram, |
at entry to Overton Drive, today
• Sir Josiah Child's memorial can still be seen in the chancel of Wanstead church.
|Monument to Sir Josiah Child,|
still in chancel of Wanstead church
• The stables of the estate survive today, to the east of Wanstead church, housing Wanstead Golf Club.
• The Temple - built c 1760, has recently been refurbished in Wanstead Park and acts as a visitors' centre.
|The Temple, built c 1760, recently |
refurbished and now visitor centre for Wanstead Park
• The ruins of the Grotto, now being renovated.
|Ruins of the grotto, today|
• The lakes and waterways and eco-systems within Wanstead Park (see below, for details).
For more information about Wanstead House and Park, including publications, videos and events, contact the excellent Wanstead Parklands Community Project