Archiwum

St Saviour’s Church

 

 

Markhouse Road was still Markhouse Lane when plans were made for a new church. The area was still sparsely populated, although the years of rapid growth were beginning. This part of Walthamstow was to remain one of the poorest local areas, and it is notable that many of the new houses were smaller and more cheaply built than others in the town.

 

St Saviour’s started as a mission church, but was soon adopted as a parish church. Richard Foster, a City millionaire who was one day to fund the building of St Barnabas Church less than half a mile away, was one of the patrons.

 

The church was built in the Gothic style, with most of the details copied from thirteenth century churches. The services held there have always been in the high church tradition, with a great emphasis on formality and ritual.

 

By 2016 the roof was in a bad state and the church on the Buildings at Risk register. Most recently a programme of restoration work has begun.

Queens Road Station

Queens Road Station from above

Queens Road Station was opened to passenger traffic on 9th July 1894 – the line had opened to goods trains a week before on 2nd July. It was part of a line that ran from Stratford into Saint Pancras Station

The building of the line, originally called the ‘Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway’ had been a source of argument from the first proposals to build it. The local paper, the Walthamstow Guardian, had said in 1890

‘A direct line to Victoria is what is wanted to make Walthamstow in all respects complete’ (19th April 1890)

This was perfectly true, though local residents would have accepted a route to Kings Cross as a poor second best. There were many local meetings , generally in favour of a passenger line to ease overcrowding on the Chingford Line and provide competition for the current service.

They were promised by the local investors, especially Courtney Warner, a line that would run almost entirely passenger trains through an area that was already becoming densely populated with small houses, taking passengers into Kings Cross, well to the west of the Chingford Line’s terminus in Liverpool Street.

However, the Midland Railway company, one of the main backers of the plan, wanted a rail route for goods trains from the docks at Tilbury, through East London, into Central London. This is what was eventually built, with a big interchange at Stratford, terminating finally at St Pancras. The passenger service was a very poor second to the freight traffic. In recognition of the fact that the line was running through areas that were already heavily built up, a great deal of the line is on arches – it is one of the most elevated train lines in London.

Other lines were proposed in the last years of the century, but none got enough money backing to be built. It was not until well into the twentieth century that the Gospel Oak to Barking passenger service (part of the original line) became more prominent; a connection to Victoria had to wait until the coming of the Underground .

The Dyson Family

The family had lived in the village for many generations, and were descended from John Dyson, who was the parish clerk in the 1750s, and a man of some local importance. But in later years most of the Dysons were farm labourers, earning little and living in rented cottages with no protection against eviction.. As the nineteenth century went on, wages dropped and work was scarce, and many farm workers left their homes and went to London or other cities in search of a job.

Henry Dyson’s father, another Henry, had had a good job as a farm bailiff, but there was no work in the district for his son. We do not know exactly when or why the younger Henry decided to move to Walthamstow – it may be he had heard there was plenty of local work – and the distance of forty-five miles would have been manageable. He married a Hoxton girl, Emma Rance, at St John’s Church, Walthamstow in Walthamstow in 1883 – they were both only nineteen years old – and they went to live in Chapel End. Their eldest son, yet another Henry, was born the next year, the first of a family of ten.

Life in Walthamstow did not go well for Henry and Emma. By around 1900 they had no work and no money, and had no other choice than to enter the Workhouse in Leyton. It was there that their sixthson Walter was born in April 1901. They stayed there for at least two years, and their second son, George, was sorry to leave, as he had appreciated having warm clothes and enough to eat, and remembered the teacher at the school he attended as having been kind and encouraging. In 1903 the family moved to Birdbrook in Essex, near where Henry’s father was now a farm bailiff, and it seems that he was now able and willing to help.

In 1911 the family (the parents and eight of their children) were living in a four-room cottage in Birdbrook, where Henry and his three elder sons were all farm workers. But just before the beginning of the First World War the Dysons returned to Walthamstow, where Henry now found work as a general labourer and a home in Beaconsfield Road. His eldest son had now become a professional soldier, but the younger children, including George, moved back to Walthamstow with their parents.

George was to have several different jobs after he returned to Walthamstow. He started out as a carter for Peter Robinson, delivering goods from the West End department store all over the London area. From this he went on to a series of labouring jobs, and then took the step of learning a skill – that of wall and floor tiling, after which he became self employed.

In 1923 George married. His bride was Amelia Elizabeth Peckham. Amelia was a widow – she had married sailor William Peckham in 1915, but he was reported missing, believed killed after his ship the HMS Coquette was sunk by a mine from a German submarine. Amelia then had to endure seven years of uncertainty before her husband was officially declared dead. Family legend has it that Amelia and George were waiting to marry for several of those years – the wedding was on 5th August 1923 at St Barnabas Church after which the newlyweds went to live in Queen’s Road. After about four years they moved next door, where they remained for the rest of their lives, bringing up their four children there.

During the 1930s depression, life was hard for a great many people, including the Dysons. George worked hard as a tiler, but all too often his clients either did not pay him for months, or sometimes, at all. So Amelia, as well as bringing up four children and looking after the house, earned some money by scrubbing steps and cleaning houses. One of her jobs was cleaning at the Synagogue (now a Mosque) opposite. Meanwhile George gave up on tiling, and took any job he could find, from labouring to road sweeping to sorting pig food at Low Hall Farm during the Second World War. He was too old to be called up, but served as an Air Raid Warden. Both George and Amelia lived to a great age – their grave is in Queen’s Road Cemetery only yards from where they lived for so many years.

Their daughter Eileen, now a great grandmother, lives in the house where she was born, within a mile of where she went to school, worked as a pattern cutter, was married, and where her own children went to school.

Arthur Spencer

Art trail panel 9 memory map

Arthur Spencer was the second youngest of the six Spencer children. The father of the family, Willi am Spencer, was a Hackney man – he and his wife, Charlotte, lived in Rushmore Road before moving to Walthamstow in about 1904. The older children in the family were born in Hackney; Arthur and his youngest sister Alice, in Walthamstow.

William was a skilled window blind maker, with a good job at a shop in Walthamstow High Street. It is likely that the family moved here so he could take up the new post.

The Spencers soon found a newly built house to rent in the Queen’s Road area- 104 Longfellow Road. They were to stay there for more than thirty years.

The children went to Thomas Gamuel school, just round the corner from home. Arthur was bright and enjoyed school, but remembered many other details of his childhood. He had lots of free time.

Arthur belonged to the Band of Hope youth club attached to the Boundary Road Baptist Church so that he could go on the summer outing to Yardley Hills each year. They travelled by train, then walked to a local farm where they ran races – Alfred once won a box of watercolour paints as a prize – then had tea at long tables.

There were several sports grounds in the area – a favourite of Arthur and his friends was at Chingford, where they travelled by tram. Often they spent the 1/2d return fare on sweets, and walked all the way home.

In the autumn Arthur and his friends took large bags to Epping Forest, where they collected acorns to sell to the pig keepers in the alley off Hoe Street – the man there also kept cows and was one of the local milkmen.

There were plenty of places to play in the immediate neighbourhood – a special favourite was a large naturally occurring pond on the corner of Beaconsfield and Longfellow Roads, where local children took home made boats and rowed them. If the children had money to spare, they would spend one penny on a cinema ticket on a Saturday, and a further penny on sweets from a market stall.

Sundays were everyone’s day off – the working week then included Saturday mornings. So there was much to fit into Sundays. Charlotte Spencer, the mother of the family, made cakes to add to packed lunches during the week. The children were sent on errands, and their father made toffee for everyone. None of the family went to church, although Arthur remembered they would have the kitchen window on Sunday mornings and enjoy hearing the church bells of St Saviour and St Barnabas.

Arthur was to live in Walthamstow all his life. When he was an elderly man he wrote a memoir of his childhood, and drew maps of the area as he remembered it when he was growing up.

Even though Arthur was clever and could have gone on to a senior school, his family wanted him to go out to work and start earning a wage as soon as possible. So he had to stay in the top class at Thomas Gamuel School for seven terms, repeating lessons he knew by heart and waiting until he was old enough to leave. The same thing happened to Arthur’s sister Ada.

When he got to school leaving age, Arthur went to work in a shop in Walthamstow High Street at a wage of five shillings a week. His working hours were 8.30am to 9pm during the week, Saturdays 8.30am to 11pm. He remembered walking home from work in the early hours of Christmas morning, with a five shilling “Christmas box” in his pocket.

And that is where his memoir ends. Arthur died, still in Walthamstow, in 1991, aged eighty six. It would be good to find out what else he did with his life.

J Hitchman and Sons

Hitchman's Milk Float

From all the evidence, most Edwardian families needed a lot of milk – for cocoa and for tea as well as the milk puddings and custard that were so popular in the days before yoghurt.

In the early years of the twentieth century, Walthamstow was a good place to set up a dairy. There was a big population of people to buy the milk. And there was still a good supply of land on which to keep the cows to provide the milk.

J Hitchman and Sons had been started by John Hitchman when he bought Chestnuts Farm in 1867, and was to expand and continue until finally becoming part of the vast Unigate empire in the 1960s. Hitchman’s were still keeping cows in the Walthamstow area in the 1920s.

But Hitchman’s was only the largest of many local dairies. Another, in Hoe Street, kept pigs in a stye behind their premises – they were fed on the buttermilk, and the pork and bacon produced was locally famous. The dairy installed a coin operated dispensing machine so their customers could have milk at any time – you had to bring your own jug.

Arthur Spencer remembered the milkman coming round four times a day in Longfellow Road. It was the same man each time, working a fourteen hour day.

Not all milk was delivered – some of the many local shops were dairies, selling milk, cream, butter, cheese and eggs. One of these was at the end of Somerset Road – in 1901 the shop was run by Philip and Alice Lazell and Alice’s sister Rachel. The family also lived in the flat behind the shop, with their two small children.

Many milkmen were self employed – house advertisements of the 1890s often suggest that premises with side access and a shed would make an ideal base for a roundsman, who would need to provide and house his own cart. Some carts were horse drawn, but many were smaller, and pushed by the milkman himself.

The first milk women made their appearance in the first years of the twentieth century. This was a responsible job, but not one that needed specific skills or much training, and the coming of the First World War meant many women took over milk rounds.

104 Longfellow Road

Census 1911 Spencers 104 Longfellow Rd

Arthur Spencer

Arthur describes his home as having two large bedrooms upstairs, a front room, known as the parlour, kitchen and scullery, with an outside lavatory and a garden. The rent was four shillings and sixpence a week, with the first two weeks free because work was still going on in the gardens. All the walls were freshly painted ready for the new residents.

What Arthur does not describe is how eight people managed to live in this small space.

Until the new houses were built in 1904, a stream with watercress beds had run along what was to be the line of their back gardens. The area was only just ceasing to be rural.

School Gamuel Road 1905

Like most local houses, 104 Longfellow Road was terraced and made of brick with a slate roof. There was a small front garden with a path leading up to the front door and a larger, long back garden.

By the beginning of the twentieth century many new houses were being built with bathrooms – but Longfellow Road, like many in the Queen’s Road area, was built as cheaply as possible for the “buy to let” market of its day.

Queens Road Cemetery

Queen's Road Cemetery in 1905

For centuries Walthamstow’s dead were buried in the graveyard of the parish church of St Mary. There was easily enough space there to provide burial places for the needs of a small town.

In later years, with the arrival of Nonconformist churches and chapels in the eighteenth century, each had a burial ground for their own congregation. And as Walthamstow grew, three new Church of England churches were built, each with a graveyard of its own.

In 1870 the local authority agreed in principle to set up a new cemetery. The first thing they did was to appoint a committee, and this began to meet regularly to discuss the project.

After many meetings and some arguments, and after rejecting a number of suggestions as impractical, the committee finally agreed to buy eleven acres of land near Markhouse Common for £5,000. The owner, a Mr Innes, had asked unsuccessfully for an extra £500. The price included the timber, plus a right of way from Hoe Street to the site.

The committee now started to meet once a fortnight – there was a lot of organise. They decided the cemetery should be divided into two sections, one for members of the Church of England, the other for everyone else. Similarly, there were to be two chapels, one for Anglican (that is, Church of England) services, the other, for Nonconformists, that is, all other Christians except Roman Catholics (who had a church and graveyard in Shernhall Street).

By this time there had long been a Jewish community in the area, and they had had synagogues and burial grounds since the early eighteenth century – there were several in Hoxton and Hackney. The first mosque in England was to open in 1924, in Southfields. In the late nineteenth century there were a few people in Walthamstow who may have been Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs – but they do not seem to have settled here permanently.

So two chapels were going to be enough. The committee decided there should also be a caretaker’s house and various outhouses, and that the cemetery should be fenced all round, with impressive wide entrance gates and main pathway.

It was also agreed that the Coroner’s Court should meet at the cemetery whenever an inquest into an unexplained death was necessary. So a meeting room was added to the list of requirements. Six architects were invited to tender for the work, and A J Reed was awarded the contract – the cost was not to exceed £2,250.

The committee attended to every detail of the preparations, from advertising for and interviewing candidates to be caretaker (John Walter Amey got the job) to giving instructions for rounding up the cows that kept invading the site and eating the newly laid turf.

They prepared posters with the prices of different kinds of grave space, and placed advertisements in the local paper. Queen’s Road was laid out and surfaced with gravel. And finally, on 6th October 1872 the cemetery was ready, and official photograph was taken to mark the occasion.

At this time some funerals were very elaborate and expensive, involving many carriages drawn by black horses with black harness decorated with feathers, coffin bearers in black top hats swathed with veiling, and dozens of wreaths. For the funerals of people who had been well known locally, most of the neighbourhood would line the route of the procession. And there would generally be a reception after the burial, with special food and drink. Poorer people often put themselves into debt to pay for a “proper send-off” for a loved one.

And if funerals were elaborate, for those who could afford it, memorials were splendid. People wanted to show not only how much they loved their dead relative or friend, but also how important the family was, and what good taste they had. Most grave markers were in the shape of a cross, a pillar, or were a simple stone slab with an inscription. But In some Victorian cemeteries, for example Highgate, there are many memorials the size of small houses, with space for up to a dozen coffins.

At Queen’s Road there is only one such mausoleum, that of Harriet Hooker. Few people in the area could afford this kind of memorial. Indeed, only the moderately well off could afford any kind of stone for the grave of their loved one. However, it was not long before several monumental masons were in business in Queen’s Road.

Those who could do so, also paid to have the grave looked after. There were soon up to eleven people working at the cemetery. Most of them were gardeners – there were greenhouses on site, and families would pay a subscription to have a grave planted up with flowers each season.

Most graves, like that of Annie West were unmarked. The cheapest graves, especially those of the many children who died, had up to ten burials in them. And they were resold and reused after a set number of years.

When the cemetery was new, there were paths between the graves, and mature trees had been left in place. As time went on and space grew short, all but a few of the paths were used as grave plots, and many of the trees were felled.

Some of those who died in the two World Wars have their graves here, and many of these are marked with a special stone.

Now there is no more burial space left in the cemetery. And because there is a lot of gravel in the soil, many of the gravestones have subsided into the ground, meaning they now stand at odd angles. There are no longer any gardeners, and the chapels have not been used for services for many years.

But many people visit and tend graves. And this is a place that holds clues to the stories of thousands of people. Some of them are retold on this website.

The Chestnuts, Hoe Street

The Chestnuts exterior courtesy of Waltham Forest Guardian

The beautiful original staircase and plasterwork are also still in place, as are some of the fireplaces and other features of the 1740s, having survived more than 250 years of changes of owner and of use.

Like many other Walthamstow mansions, this one started out as a family home but changed hands quite frequently as its owners made and lost City fortunes.

The Chestnuts 19C drawing

One of the last families to live here were the Reads. John Francis Holcombe Read was a City entrepreneur by trade, but his real love was music. Read, who played the viola himself, devoted much of his money to bringing music to Walthamstow – he built the Victoria Hall, where many of his own compositions were performed. As Read devoted more time and money to music, his fortune was largely spent and he had to move to a smaller house.

The Chestnuts and its garden and grounds were sold to the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway Company – the house narrowly escaped demolition as the final route for the railway line runs a few hundred yards to the west.

The Railway company did not need the house, and looked to sell it, but by the 1890s it was too big for any of the people who were coming to live in Walthamstow to buy as a home. So it was bought by the local authority, and became a mental hospital for women – it was known as the Chestnuts Branch of the Brentwood Lunatic Asylum.

In the 1930s, the Chestnuts became a commercial school for girls, where shorthand, typing and book keeping were taught. And later again, it became an evening school.

Now the house is temporary housing for students and others while the local authority decides how best to restore and use it on behalf of the local community to whom it belongs.

Belgrave Road

Belgrave Road 1912

Much of the land was bought by Henry Casey, a prosperous City merchant tailor who, although he worked on a smaller scale than Courtney Warner, was one of those who made a fortune from the development of Walthamstow. By 1901 Casey, his wife and children were living at the Priory, Forest Road – a large house with extensive gardens, where they employed a nanny for the children and a cook, parlour maid, housemaid, coachman and gardener.

The plots of land that make up Belgrave Road were sold in the 1890s, and built on as soon as possible. The houses were almost all constructed to one of only two patterns; those in the southern section of the road had black and white paths and stained glass sections in their front windows; those in the northern section had multi coloured paths and fruit and flower patterns in the plasterwork around the front doors. The houses had a front parlour, a kitchen with a Kitchener range, a scullery, outside lavatory and most had three bedrooms upstairs. All had small front and long back gardens.

By the time of the 1901 census, Belgrave Road was complete and most of the houses were lived in. We know that perhaps nine out of ten of them were rented out – they had been built as buy to let investments. Some of the landlords were professional developers who kept the houses so as to get the best return – as the years went on, some of these houses were offered to tenants to buy. Many others were local people who might buy three or four houses, live in one and rent out the rest.

The people who came to live in the houses were a mixture of commuters and whose who were working locally. In Belgrave Road in 1901, there were clerks in businesses from a stockbroker’s to railway offices, shop workers, a silk weaver, a journalist, a scattering of teachers and a number of printers. A few worked in the building trades – there was a carpenter, a bricklayer and a plasterer. There were few unskilled labourers, and only one person in the area had a live-in servant. The vast majority of households consisted of a married couple and their children, with up to ten people living in a three-bedroom house. Wives stayed at home, but adult daughters went out to work.

One local couple, Len and Babs Finney, live in the house where Babs grew up; her grandparents were living two streets way in 1911 – several neighbours live in the houses their parents or grandparents moved into early in the last century. Another lady, now a widow, lives in the home she came to as a young bride from Cyprus in 1947.